Sony a7r V — Am I Upgrading?
No, I Am Not
If you have been following my site for a while, you know I am a Sony photographer. I own numerous Sony cameras, including the a7 IV, A1, and a7R IV. In addition, I have a large collection of Sony lenses that I count on to deliver the images that I want.
I’ll be sharing in an upcoming article why I consider the Sony a1 the finest digital camera I have owned. It’s really an amazing camera and has allowed me to take some amazing images. But today, I will let you know what I think of the newly released Sony a7R V.
Much of my work over the last few years has focused on landscapes from around the world. The a7R III and now the a7R IV have been my go-to cameras for this kind of work.
Recently, Sony announced the successor to the a7R IV and as a result, it kind of put me in a pickle. I am one of the first to run out and buy the newest camera and other technologies. Most of the time, I don’t even think twice about it — I just call Phil at Roberts Camera and tell him to put me on the list.
I don’t know if it is because I am becoming older or wiser, but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t pick the phone up and make that call when the a7R V was announced. It’s not because the a7R V isn’t attractive with some of its new features. It’s because those new features weren’t compelling enough to me for the kind of photography I do.
Before I go on, I have to say that I am noticing that camera companies don’t seem to be talking to photographers these days as much as they are talking to videographers. While I do a little bit of video work, I leave most of that to Michael Durr, PhotoPXL’s video producer. I am a still photographer or just a photographer. It seems to me that camera companies have forgotten that. Just about all specs highlight video capabilities as the big thing. These kinds of cameras, in my opinion, are about taking pictures. If I want to shoot video, I’ll buy a video camera (and Sony makes quite a few nice video cameras).
I don’t care about video specs. I know for a fact that many of the photographers that attend my workshops don’t care about these specs either. All of us care about photography specs and whether the camera can work well for the kind of photography that we do.
I’ll say that the new Sony a7R V is impressive with its AI focus tracking and predictive focusing, but that really doesn’t matter for the kind of photography I do, or many of the photographers I know. That doesn’t mean it might not be a good choice for you, though. It is that I am doing just fine with the Sony a7R IV that I presently have.
For nearly half the photos I take, I use a tripod to photograph landscapes. I have time to select and move the AF point to where I want to focus and then wait for the right light before making my exposure. Nothing is moving except the leaves in a gentle breeze, clouds moving across the sky, or a crashing surf.
For the most part, I am not tracking a subject. And, if I let the Sony a7R IV track the subject, I shoot just fine and nearly 100% reliably. When I take the camera off the tripod, I usually set the camera to manual and select the shutter speed that will work well for what I’m shooting as well as the f-stop. I put the ISO to auto and take my pictures.
Between the great capability of the a7R IV for high ISO performance, as well as its excellent image stabilization, I manage to take some excellent images. I can’t think of one instance where I needed faster Auto-Focus than the camera has today or where even predictive subject tracking would play a role in my photography. The human and animal AF for the camera works great. Do I really need a car, train, or airplane detection?
I have been bouncing around in a Zodiac shooting walruses, polar bears, and birds, as well as glaciers and icebergs using the system I shared above and the AF, hits the spot where I place the AF point. Using continuous AF tracking, I manage to hold the focus and get my shots.
All the new features of the a7R V sound incredible and I am sure depending on the photography you do, it could be a step up from the a7R V but not by much. The a7R IV is already such a good camera that you need to make a really good argument to convince me to upgrade. Feel free to put your comments in the forum if you have a compelling argument.
Now, if Sony would have announced all the specs of the a7R V and changed the sensor from 61mp to say 90mp or more, then I would have been in line right away. Not that I need more megapixels, as I am making great 30×40 and larger prints from the a7R IV files. Most of my prints are usually no larger than 17×22. But, who wouldn’t want a few more megapixels?
I think we have reached a point in technologies across the board where making an upgrade to a new product each time one is announced, is no longer as appealing as it was five years ago. For example, Apple just released a new series of iPads. I am working on the previous version of iPads and they’re already really fast and handle just about anything I can throw at them. Many of my computers are the same way. The differences in performance aren’t that great for me to purchase a new device when new models come out.
Actually, there is a point where it’s hard to even see performance differences. And, I am not sure we will really see or need many of the things that upgraded cameras or machines can deliver when what we are using today is already pretty damn good.
There isn’t one camera maker out there that isn’t making great cameras these days. It doesn’t matter whether I shoot with a Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad, Leica, or any other camera. They are all really good and do a pretty good job of delivering excellent performance and specs. We may never even use many of these specs. Also, I have never had anyone who has purchased any of my images ask me what I shot it with. Enjoy the camera you have and just take pictures. Not one new feature from the spec list will make you a better photographer. Only you can do that.
The bottom line is, does the camera you have today work for you, and does it deliver the kind of images you want? For me, the a7R IV and the a1 deliver great files and allow me to make great prints. I am blown away by the way each of them performs and am quite happy when I see the images loaded on my computer.
The next challenge for me is to decide if I should upgrade the Fuji cameras that I have. I use the Fuji APS-C cameras for a lot of my work. Presently, I have an X-H1 and an X-T4. These two cameras have performed quite well and I love them. From what I can tell, I may be more likely to upgrade these two cameras to an X-H2 and X-T5, than I am to upgrade to the a7R V. Fuji seems to have tailored these cameras to photographers. I’ll let you know in the near future which direction I take.
Yes, I suffer badly from GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). I have done a lot to curb that addiction and I really think for me and my photography, I am making the right choice to stick with what I presently have. Maybe the Sony a7R VI will be more appealing to my needs.
I will say this though. If you are shooting with any Sony camera other than the a7R IV, then an upgrade to the a7R V would be something you should consider. For its price of US$3498, the value is there and frankly, the price is pretty reasonable. You could go to UsedPhotoPro and trade in a few old cameras and then turn around and have the credit applied to a new camera at Roberts and walk away with a pretty good deal.
The Final Word
Sony, Canon, and Nikon are producing some great cameras and you will have to decide — no matter what brand you work with — to upgrade sooner or later. In my case, this time around I have chosen to upgrade later. I think I have chosen wisely, which is quite an accomplishment since I have seemed to curb my impulse to purchase at the drop of every new camera announcement.
Maybe I am getting smarter in my old age, or maybe it is that camera companies aren’t delivering as compelling a reason for me as a photographer to make the jump to the next model.
I have no remorse about this decision and maybe I’ll just have to go out and buy a new lens, just so I can say I bought something. Maybe it is time for you to consider purchasing a new printer and start to make some prints of the files you have worked so hard to produce.
Thanks, Sony, for making such good cameras that I can sit this round of upgrades out. I anxiously await the a7R VI. I can only imagine what that camera will be like. Let the rumors begin.
If you are interested in reading a review and watching a video, I highly recommend my friend, Gordon Laing — check out his website. Also, check out my friends Chris and Jordon on DPReview TV. They are always informative and entertaining.
I hope to get a review unit in the near future and compare image quality with prints.
Thank you for reading.
Photography is my passion and has been for 50 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of picture taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can, hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through photoPXL.com, this site, as well as Rockhopper Workshops, and other projects, as well as teaching as Artist In Residence at the Indianapolis Art Center.