Two new full frame mirrorless cameras – Sigma FP and the Sony a7R IV

Written by Gary on July 17th, 2019

The full frame mirrorless market place is becoming increasing difficult to decide upon which system to jump into as each offers something different but none offer everything you need – see my previous post on this.

We have Nikon’s Z system which only has entry level enthusiasts cameras at present without some of the features pros need and with a Eye detect AF that is still very immature compared to Sony as it seems to detect eyelashes instead of the iris, and a strange initial line up of lenses. A potential big advantage of the Nikon mount is that it can use almost any lens ever made including Sony FE and potentially, Canon RF – the question will be – how well will the AF work with these lenses. We now just have to wait and see what Nikon can do with their cameras and what native lenses they decide to bring out and whether they will be affordable.

Canon with their new RF mount has been introducing some ground breaking lenses which will be far more functional and optically better than their dSLR versions (in particular, the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2) but it has only introduced uninspiring entry level cameras and none have in-camera sensor shift image stabilisation which is now an expected feature in cameras.

Add to this the new medium format mirrorless camera with image stabilisation, the Fujifilm GFX100S with its “relatively” affordable 100mp medium format image quality and one can see there is pressure on the full frame camera manufacturers.

The new Sigma FP L mount camera

Last week Sigma, which has joined the L-mount alliance with Panasonic and Leica, announced a camera from left field – their pocketable Sigma FP full frame mirrorless camera which is designed to be the heart of a powerful, modular videography kit and allows Cinema RAW video output. You can read more about this interesting camera on my wikipedia page.

In addition, it is likely Sigma will be bringing out other interesting cameras in this mount such as a Foveon sensor for those Foveon fans.

Now that 3 companies are making cameras and lenses (and Sigma has a substantial arsenal of lens designs ready to go), the L-mount may become quite competitive – especially for videographers.

The new Sony a7R IV

Yesterday, Sony announced their 4th generation of the Sony a7R series, the Sony a7R IV which obviously targets professional photographers who need the highest resolution possible to allow their images to be utilised in a variety of ways by their clients through cropping of different parts for different output purposes.

The main differences over the Sony a7RIII are:

  • 61mp sensor instead of 45mp – this takes the pixel density and pixel size to that approaching Micro Four Thirds, but somehow Sony have maintained a high dynamic range of 15 stops for stills.
  • a new 5.76mdot EVF with 60 or 120fps refresh rate (the latter has lower resolution) – presumably the same as on the Panasonic S1/S1R
  • sensor pixel shift HiRes mode now produces 16 shot 240mp output images
  • improved shutter, grip and weathersealing around battery and card doors which have been an Achilles heel for the previous models
  • slightly greater PDAF coverage of 74% of the frame instead of 68%
  • advanced Real-time Tracking plus Real-time Eye AF for still image recording
  • new ‘Focus Priority’ mode allows camera to acquire AF at wide open aperture at a cost of increased shutter lag
  • Real-time Eye AF and Touch AF Tracking functionality for movie recording
  • anti-flicker mode
  • new Multi Interface Shoe™ with new digital audio interface delivers the high-quality sound recording with Sony’s new microphone and XLR microphone adapter
  • USB-C now has double transfer speed
  • both SD card slots are now UHS-II
  • 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi for improved tethering

Issues with the Sony a7R IV:

  • very large file sizes means storage issues and slower and more frustrating post-processing and one would be hard pressed to see the difference between a 45mp image and a 61mp image – you generally need to double resolution to be able to see a substantive difference.
  • what will high ISO performance be like if pixel size is now approaching that of Micro Four Thirds? 60-100mp makes sense on a medium format camera with its larger sensor – but what will be the image quality costs of such high pixel density on a full frame sensor size – we will have to await testing.
  • no option for lower resolution full frame files with lossless compression – but you can use their lossy compression files or use a 26mp APS-C cropped sensor mode
  • video features lag well behind peers and are little changed from the a7RIII with only 8bit output, the Super35mm modes are cropped more than one would like (1.6x in 24p and 1.8x in 30p) while the full width mode uses binned pixels, and no 4K 60p mode, plus rolling shutter is likely to be a major issue.
  • menu system apparently unchanged and this is in need of a change
  • seems you still can’t get your 5th finger to hold the camera which makes adding a grip more of an ergonomic necessity with larger, heavier lenses.
  • LCD is still only a tilting LCD not swivel and no good for vlogging
  • no electronic shutter faster burst modes – presumably due to slow sensor read out time as the sensor is full frame with 61mp and unlike the Sony a9 it is not a stacked sensor.

Sony has certainly upped the ante on Canon and Nikon and especially at the price point of $US3499 it will be challenging them head on and at the same time the 61mp and the 240mp HiRes mode will likely decrease the move of pros to 100mp medium format cameras.

Sony has obviously decided to leave the video capabilities to minimalistic levels given the slow sensor read out to allow for a new version of their Sony a7S series which targets videographers – but they will be having to compete with Panasonic and Sigma now for this market.

This camera will be popular for pros and gear-heads but the far majority of us do not need that resolution for all our photos and having to store all those files and have the fun taken out of your photography with the slow and frustrating post-processing experience will be a cost you have to factor in – most of us would probably be better off with a 20-24mp camera for most uses, but some without budget issues would perhaps like this camera for special uses.

As usual, I have a wiki page for the Sony a7RIV which I will update with links and resources as they arrive.


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