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Soar to greater heights
A review of Alpha 7R IV for bird photography

Ever since switching to Sony in 2018 during the release of the FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS, Sony’s Alpha 9 has been my go-to camera for bird photography. As that was also my only Sony camera, I was looking to add another high megapixel full-frame sensor camera with a useful APS-C cropping to my photography gear.

Hence, the Alpha 7R IV was a natural choice.

Incredible details

To some, the sheer file size of a 61 MP RAW can be a put-off. But the Alpha 7R IV allowed me to highlight incredible feather details of Pasir Ris Park’s resident Stork-Billed Kingfisher without getting too close. Aside from respecting nature, shooting from a distance created a deeper depth-of-field (DOF) to capture the necessary details of the surroundings. I didn’t need to drop the aperture, which in turn would require compensation in the form of lower shutter speed or higher ISO. With a low MP camera, it would not have been possible to obtain this level of details at the same shooting distance and focal length. 

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s Real-time Eye Tracking with animal eye locks on Stork-Billed Kingfisher on branch.

Alpha 7R IV | 1200mm | f/10 | 1/80 sec | ISO 100 (approx. 5x crop)

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s 61 megapixels retain high resolution even after approx. 2x crop of Stork-Billed Kingfisher on branch.

Alpha 7R IV | 1200mm | f/10 | 1/80 sec | ISO 100 (approx. 2x crop)

Silent shooting with Sony Alpha 7R IV leaves Stork-Billed Kingfisher undisturbed on branch. Perfect for bird photography.

Alpha 7R IV | 1200mm | f/10 | 1/80 sec | ISO 100 (actual frame)

The Common Kingfisher is a much smaller bird and was perched relatively far away. However, the Alpha 7R IV displayed no issue in capturing the bird and its feather details. 

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s 61 megapixels retain high resolution even after approx. 5x crop of Common Kingfisher on branch.

Alpha 7R IV | 1200mm | f/11 | 1/100 sec | ISO 320 (approx. 5x crop)

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s image sensor supports wide AF coverage and precision focusing of Common Kingfisher and its surroundings.

Alpha 7R IV | 1200mm | f/11 | 1/100 sec | ISO 320 (actual frame)

The Grey-Headed Fish Eagle may be a larger bird than the two kingfishers, but it was perched at least twice the distance away around 30 metres. Fortunately, the atmospheric conditions were favourable enough for me to capture the bird’s details in high-def.

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s Real-time Eye Tracking with animal eye locks on Grey-Headed Fish Eagle on branch.

Alpha 7R IV | 1200mm | f/9 | 1/200 sec | ISO 100 (approx. 6x crop)

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s 61 megapixels retain high resolution even after approx. 2.7x crop of Grey-Headed Fish Eagle on branch.

Alpha 7R IV | 1200mm | f/9 | 1/200 sec | ISO 100 (approx. 2.7x crop)

Silent shooting with Sony Alpha 7R IV leaves Grey-Headed Fish Eagle undisturbed on branch. Perfect for bird photography.

Alpha 7R IV | 1200mm | f/9 | 1/200 sec | ISO 100 (actual frame)

Shooting In APS-C Crop Mode

The great thing about shooting in APS-C crop mode is that when paired the Alpha 7R IV with the FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS, the focal length is equivalent to a 600mm F2.8.

This allows for excellent light ability to capture detailed shots of birds in flight at a resolution of 26 MP. 

Sony Alpha 7R IV offers high-res image of approx. 26.2 megapixels when shooting flying Common Kingfisher in APS-C crop mode.

Alpha 7R IV | 400mm | f/2.8 | 1/4000 sec | ISO 640 (1.5x APS-C crop mode, approximately 600mm equivalent)

Reliable AF

When the Alpha 7R IV was announced, I had reservations about its AF ability to track fast-moving birds in close flight. After getting my hands on the camera, I realised just how needless those doubts were. The Alpha 7R IV produced shots with mind-blowing details even when it’s on the wide AF setting.

Fast flying movements of Grey-Headed Fish Eagle shot with Sony Alpha 7R IV’s enhanced subject-tracking performance.

Alpha 7R IV | 400mm | f/2.8 | 1/2500 sec | ISO 640 (1.5x APS-C crop mode, approximately 600mm equivalent)

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s 61 megapixels retain high resolution of flying Grey-Headed Fish Eagle even after shot in 1.5x APS-C crop mode.

Alpha 7R IV | 400mm | f/2.8 | 1/2500 sec | ISO 640 (1.5x APS-C crop mode, approximately 600mm equivalent)

Fast Hybrid AF allows Sony Alpha 7R IV to capture flying Grey-Headed Fish Eagle in remarkable detail.

Alpha 7R IV | 400mm | f/2.8 | 1/2500 sec | ISO 640 (1.5x APS-C crop mode, approximately 600mm equivalent)

Shooting At High ISO 

As with all high MP cameras, noise control in high ISO is always a challenge. For the Alpha 7R IV, I recommend not to crop fully in to achieve results that are pleasing and acceptable at ISO 1600. For even better results, I would suggest shooting below ISO 1600.

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s Real-time Eye Tracking with animal eye locks on flying Grey-Headed Fish Eagle.

Alpha 7R IV | 600mm | f/5 | 1/3200 sec | ISO 1600 (tight crop)

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s burst shooting speed of up to approx. 68 images nails the perfect shot of flying Grey-Headed Fish Eagle.

Alpha 7R IV | 600mm | 1/3200 sec | f/5 | ISO 1600 (moderate crop)

Sony Alpha 7R IV’s 61 megapixels retain high-resolution even moderate crop of flying Grey-Headed Fish Eagle.

Alpha 7R IV | 600mm | f/5 | 1/3200 sec | ISO 800 (moderate crop)

Weather Sealing

There are numerous online reviews that highlight concerns on the weather sealing in Sony Alpha cameras.

Take that with a huge dose of salt!

Personally, I have shot under the rain with my Alpha 9 on several occasions and had no qualms about its performance. The same applies for the  Alpha 7R IV — I would store the camera in a dry box at home and had no issues shooting under the rain.

Sony Alpha 7R IV is tardy in wet conditions. Grey-Headed Fish Eagle in rain with approx. 3.8x crop, captured by Sony Alpha 7R IV.

Alpha 7R IV | 400mm | 1/250 sec | f/2.8 | ISO 100 (approx. 3.8x crop)

Silent shooting with Sony Alpha 7R IV leaves Grey-Headed Fish Eagle undisturbed in rain. Perfect for bird photography.

Alpha 7R IV | 400mm | f/2.8 | 1/250 sec | ISO 100 (actual frame)

Alpha 9 or Alpha 7R IV?

I've been asked this question often, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to address it.

My take: Both cameras have their own strengths and capabilities, but each is not a backup for the other. It boils down to the individual shooting style. For me, I usually prefer to nail the initial shots with the α9 before improving it with a high MP camera like the Alpha 7R IV, if the shooting conditions permit.

Regardless of which you choose, you can't really go wrong with either.

Disclaimer:
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Sony Singapore.

Howard's Gear

Alpha 7R IV

Alpha 7R IV

ILCE-7RM4

SEL600F40GM

FE 600mm F4 GM OSS

SEL600F40GM

SEL400F28GM

FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS

SEL400F28GM