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The latest digital camera and digital imaging reviews from Digital Photography Review.
  1. Chris and Jordan are enjoying some well deserved time off this week, so we're taking a trip in the wayback machine to revisit the launch of Canon's original full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS R. Give it a watch to see how far Canon's mirrorless line has come.

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    Product images by Richard Butler

    The Sony a7R V is the fifth generation of the company's high-resolution full-frame mirrorless series, offering a series of improvements and refinements over its predecessor.

    Key specifications

    • 60MP BSI CMOS sensor
    • Improved AF with subject recognition
    • In-body stabilization rated at up to 8.0EV
    • Continuous shooting at up to 10fps with flash (JPEG or Lossy compressed Raw)
    • 8K/24p or 4K/60p video (both with 1.24x crop)
    • Full-width 4K up to 30p
    • 10-bit 4:2:2 video options, including S-Log3, S-Cinetone and HLG
    • Fully-articulated rear screen on tilt-out cradle
    • Reduced-size Raw files (26MP/15MP)
    • Focus bracketing mode (with stacking via computer)
    • Multi-shot pixel shift high-res mode with motion compensation (via computer)
    • Sensor-shift dust removal and close shutter with power off option
    • 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi
    • UVC/UAC USB-standard video for use as webcam

    The Sony a7R V is available at a recommended price of $3899, body only. This makes it $400 more expensive than the Mark IV was, at launch (itself a more expensive camera than its predecessor), though supply chain shortages and inflation will account for some of that increase.




    What's new?

    The Sony a7R V is built around the same 60MP BSI CMOS full-frame sensor as the Mark IV was, but Sony says the new processor allows it to use the full extent of the sensor's capabilities in a way the previous generation camera couldn't. The company wouldn't be any more specific in its claim, making it difficult to assess.

    Whatever's being done, the a7R V is able to offer a wider range of capabilities than the existing camera.

    Bionz XR processors

    Much of what the a7R V offers over its predecessor stems from the more powerful processors in the new camera. They bring a series of functions, as well as a much improved menu system. Sony also talks of a processor dedicated to crunching the complex AI-trained algorithms used for focus, exposure and white balance.

    Enhanced AF

    The power of the new processor significantly enhances the camera's subject recognition capabilities. The a7R IV had the ability to recognize and prioritize people, their faces and eyes, but the V takes this much further. It gains a system designed to better recognize human subjects but also trained to recognize a wide range of non-human subject types.

    The human recognition system has been trained to recognize a wide selection of body parts so that it can identify bodies in a complex variety of poses, to make the tracking of your chosen individual more robust. In this instance the camera has found the subject's eye, even though it's not really visible.

    Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II @ 70mm | F2.8 | 1/60 sec | ISO 2000
    Photo: Richard Butler

    Besides Humans, the camera's AF system will now recognize Animals, Birds, Insects, Cars & Trains and Aircraft. Interestingly, there are separate modes for Animals and Birds as well as a combined Animal/Bird option. Your subject type can be selected from the main menu, the Fn menu or a custom button. The list of subjects accessed via a custom button can be tailored to include only the modes you use.

    Each individual recognition mode has a series of parameters that can be modified, with control over how far from your chosen AF point the camera will search for a subject, how willing it is to refocus to other subjects, and how sensitive or tolerant the actual recognition will be. On top of this is a choice of whether the camera focuses on Eye/Head/Body, just Eye/Head or just Eyes, for humans, animals or birds.

    It's a frankly dizzying number of options, but presumably most photographers will only depend on one or two of the recognition modes and hence will only need to spend the time fine-tuning the way the camera reacts to their chosen subject(s). All detection subjects are available in both stills and video modes.

    Improved stabilization

    More processing power and more sophisticated algorithms offer a significant boost to the camera's in-body stabilization system, helping it deliver a rating of 8.0EV in industry standard tests. This has been achieved without combining in-body and in-lens stabilization, as many other brands do (Sony's system uses either in-body or in-lens movement for each axis of correction, never both together). This should mean that the higher performance is maintained with non-IS lenses.

    As always, IS tests conducted using the CIPA methodology are somewhat simplistic and can significantly overstate the real-world effect, but such a high rating is only likely to be achieved in a system that works well in practice, even if you don't necessarily experience a full eight stops of benefit.

    Small Raws

    The a7R V offers a broader range of Raw file sizes, for circumstances in which large numbers of 60MP full-detail Raws would be overwhelming. In addition to the full, Uncompressed option, the camera can shoot Large, Medium or Small Lossless Compressed files. There's also the option of Sony's (slightly) damagingly lossy 'Compressed' Raw.

    Medium and Small Raw files are downsampled versions of the full image. There's also the option to capture cropped APS-C Raws

    The Medium and Small Raw files are 26MP and 15MP downsampled versions of the full image (so are presumably tonally lossless, not entirely spatially lossless), which therefore have more detail than images shot with 26 or 15MP cameras (see the Image Quality section below). There's also the option to capture cropped APS-C 26MP images (or downsampled 15MP versions of this crop).

    Multi-shot high resolution mode

    16-shot Pixel Shift high-res image, combined using a beta of Sony's Imaging Edge suite of software. The motion correction option has done a good job of correcting the foliage blowing around at the top of the image. Slight camera movement means this image doesn't show the mode's full potential.

    Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II @ 28mm | F9.0 | 1/400 sec | ISO 100
    Photo: Richard Butler

    As the 'R' is the company's high-resolution model, it offers a tripod-based multi-shot pixel-shift high-resolution mode. It in fact offers two options. There's a four-shot mode that captures red, green and blue information for every output pixel location, giving greater chroma resolution and avoiding the softening effects of demosaicing Bayer images. There's also a 16-shot mode that shoots four Bayer-cancelling quartets of images at slight offsets, relative to one another, to boost the overall capture resolution to 240MP.

    Both these modes require that the images be combined in Sony's Imaging Edge Desktop software, the latest version of which detects subject movement between images and corrects for this motion. It's performed well with the less-than-perfectly-steady examples we've tested it with.

    Focus bracketing

    The a7R V becomes the first Sony to have a focus bracketing function built-in. It's selected as a Drive mode and you can select the 'step-width' between the different focus distances and the number of shots it takes (up to 299). In the menus you can choose whether the camera continues to focus further beyond the current point or whether it focuses both nearer and farther than the current point. Exposure smoothing, exposure delay to allow flash recycling and the option to save bracketed images to a separate folder are also options.

    As with the pixel-shift mode, if you wish to stack and combine a set of focus bracketed images, you'll need to use Imaging Edge Desktop or other off-camera software.

    Faster Wi-Fi

    The a7R V's Wi-Fi now offers 2 x 2 MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) compatibility. This means it should be able to use parallel channels of communication to other MIMO devices. This helps the camera deliver wireless tethering despite its large file sizes. The Wi-Fi can still be used for sending and receiving files to smartphones and it worked well for us using the current version of the Imaging Edge Android app.

    Continuous shooting with flash

    The a7R V can shoot at up to 10fps in JPEG or lossy Compressed Raw modes, with the rate dropping to around 7fps in the higher quality Raw modes. The buffer allows for up to 583 Compressed Raw files. With compatible flashes it can use its P-TTL flash metering at this highest burst rate. Flash users will appreciate the camera's ability to record separate ISO and shutter speed settings when a strobe is in use, making it easy to switch back and forth from natural light shooting.

    The shutter is rated to last for 500,000 actuations, but a maximum sync speed of 1/250 sec suggests it's not the same mechanism as the one used in the a1.

    In addition there are anti-flicker modes that sync the shutter to the bright point in conventional lighting, and a mode that allows tiny factional shutter speed adjustments for use with high-frequency flicker that you might experience with LED lighting.

    10-bit video

    As with the other cameras built around the Bionz XR processors, the a7R V is able to capture 10-bit video, which helps deliver much more flexible Log footage or high dynamic range 'HLG' footage.

    The a7R V can capture UHD 8K video at up to 25p from a 1.24x cropped region of its sensor, capturing native 7860 x 4320 pixel footage. Alternatively it can record UHD 4K footage at up to 30p from its full sensor width. There's also the option to capture 4K at up to 60p from the 8K region of the sensor or 6.2K oversampled 4K from the APS-C / Super35 region of the sensor.

    There's significant rolling shutter in 8K mode and in the oversampled APS-C 4K modes. It's better in the camera's full-width 4K modes but it's only really in the cropped 4K/60p setting that we'd consider it well controlled.

    The camera has the same heat-dissipation technology as the a7S III, in this case allowing it to record 30 minutes of 8K if the temperature limits are relaxed.

    Resolution Frame rates Sensor region Codec Bitrate Bit-depth/sampling
    UHD 8K 25/24p 1.24x crop XAVC HS
    • 400
    • 200
    10-bit 4:2:0
    UHD 4K 60/50p 1.24x crop XAVC S-I
    • 600
    10-bit 4:2:2
    XAVC HS
    • 200
    • 100
    10-bit 4:2:2
    • 150
    • 75
    • 45
    10-bit 4:2:0
    XAVC S
    • 200
    10-bit 4:2:2
    • 150
    8-bit 4:2:0
    25/30p

    Full-width or
    APS-C / Super 35 (1.52x) crop

    XAVC S-I
    • 250/300
    10-bit 4:2:2
    XAVC S
    • 140
    10-bit 4:2:2
    • 100
    • 60
    8-bit 4:2:0
    24p* XAVC S-I
    • 240
    10-bit 4:2:2
    XAVC HS
    • 100
    • 50
    10-bit 4:2:2
    • 100
    • 50
    • 30
    10-bit 4:2:0
    XAVC S
    • 100
    10-bit 4:2:2
    • 100
    • 60
    8-bit 4:2:0
    *'24p' is actually 23.98p and is only available with the camera switched to NTSC mode.

    Like the a7S III and FX models, you get a choice of XAVC formats for capture. XAVC S and S-I provide Long-GOP or All-I H.264 options, while the XAVC HS mode uses H.265 compression. The near-final S-Cinetone profile or S-Log3 profiles are available, along with 10-bit HLG capture for playback on HDR displays.

    Active SteadyShot mode, which adds electronic stabilization – using a constantly changing region of the sensor to provide a greater magnitude of shake correction – is available up to 4K/60 mode, and adds a further 1.16x crop (1.09x additional crop in APS-C mode).

    The a7R V also records the camera's gyro data as you're shooting, allowing digital correction to be applied to footage (including 8K capture) using the company's Catalyst software.

    The camera includes the other video features introduced in recent Sony cameras, including the Focus Map display, Breathing Compensation and the option to add shot marks as you record. A '16-bit' Raw video stream can be output over HDMI for capture as ProRes RAW by an Atomos Ninja V or V+.

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    How it compares

    The Sony's most direct rival is Canon's excellent EOS R5, while Panasonic's S1R and Nikon's Z7 II also aim to satisfy the high-end, high-resolution niche. But perhaps its greatest competition is likely to come from its predecessor, either in the form of existing users pondering whether to upgrade or if Sony follows its usual pattern of continuing to offer its existing model at a lower price.

    Sony a7R V Canon EOS R5 Sony a7R IVA Panasonic Lumix S1R
    MSRP (body) $3899 $3899 $3499 $3699
    Sensor res. 60MP 45MP 60MP 47MP
    Image stab. 8 stops 8 stops 5.5 stops 6 stops
    LCD type Fully articulating with tilt Fully articulating Tilting Two-way tilting
    LCD size/res 3.2" / 2.1M-dot 3.2" / 2.1M-dot 3" / 2.36M-dot 3.2" / 2.1M-dot
    EVF res / mag
    (equiv.)
    9.44M-dot
    0.9x
    5.76M-dot
    0.76x
    5.76M-dot
    0.78x
    5.76M-dot
    0.78x
    Burst w/AF 10 fps 12 fps / 20 fps mech/
    e-shutter
    10 fps 6 fps
    Video highest res/rate 8K/24p
    (1.24x crop)
    10-bit
    8K/30p
    10-bit
    4K/30p
    8-bit

    4K/60p
    (1.09x crop)
    8-bit

    Additional tools
    • Intervalometer
    • Focus bracketing
    • Multi-shot high res
    • Intervalometer
    • Focus bracketing
    • Intervalometer
    • Multi-shot high res
    • Intervalometer
    • Focus bracketing
    • Multi-shot high res (in-cam)
    Mic / headphone socket Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
    Wi-Fi 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 2x2 MIMO 2.4GHz, 5GHz 2.4GHz, 5GHz 2.4GHz, 5GHz
    USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps)
    Battery life (rear LCD) 530/440 shots 320/220 shots 660/530 shots 380/360 shots
    Weight 723g (25.5oz) 738g (26oz) 665g (23.5oz) 898g (31.7oz)

    The specs put the a7R V squarely on par with the Canon, but with greater resolution, battery life and a more flexible screen. But it's the comparison with its predecessor that matters most to anyone already invested in the system. The new camera is faster in every way (including its Wi-Fi and USB connections) and has the company's most advanced AF yet as well as the expected upgrades such as a nicer viewfinder.

    A spec table can't convey how much more sophisticated (and complex) the new camera's autofocus system is, but neither does it convey that the video capabilities may not prove quite as impressive as the numbers make them look, depending on your tolerance for rolling shutter.

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    Body and controls

    The a7R V uses a body that's very similar to that of the a7S III, which is itself an evolution of the a7R IV's body. That means the buttons and dials will all be in fairly familiar places for existing users, but there have been a few enhancements along the way. As you'd expect of a camera at this level it has a magnesium alloy case that's designed to be dust and moisture resistant.

    The camera's grip and dials are very, very similar to those of its predecessor, but the [REC] button has swapped places with one of the numbered Custom buttons so that it now sits on the camera's top plate, just behind the shutter button.

    On the front of the camera you can see the pale white circle of the camera's white balance sensor, used to help give less jumpy Auto White Balance performance, particularly in video mode.

    Look at the ports and you'll find it still has the flash sync terminal offered by the a7R IV, but now joined by the full-sized HDMI port of the a7S III. The USB C port has also been upgraded to the USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) standard, making it much faster to transfer files off the camera. The USB socket can also, via an adapter, allow the camera to connect to an Ethernet LAN.

    The biggest change, though, is the inclusion of a tilting cradle behind the fully-articulated rear screen. This means you can tilt the screen forward, out of the way of the mic and headphone ports before extending the articulating screen, or you can flip the screen outwards and just use it like a conventional tilting screen, if you prefer.

    The a7R V's viewfinder has also been improved, compared with its predecessor. The finder optics increase the magnification to an impressive 0.9x and it now uses a 9.44M dot (2048 x 1536 pixel) OLED display. You'll need to engage the 'Display Quality: High' option to get the panel's full resolution when shooting, and the resolution will then drop as the camera focuses, but it gives a very good high-res view of the world. There's also a high 'Finder Frame Rate' option, but this locks the EVF to its standard res mode.

    Card slots

    As with other recent Sony cameras, the a7R V has two dual-format card slots. These can accept either UHS-II SD cards or the small CFexpress Type A cards that only Sony currently uses. There are no modes or functions that demand the use of CFe cards on the a7R V, but their faster write and read rates make the camera feel a little more rapid, especially when shooting at 10fps.

    Menus

    One of the most obvious changes with the Mark V is the use of Sony's new menu system, with options arranged as vertical tabs with sub-categories that expand to show sub-menus. We've found this to be a huge improvement over the older system, making it easier to anticipate where options can be found and requiring much less need to memorize locations.

    The a7R V also gains the interactive settings tab we first saw on the FX30. This displays all the camera's key settings on a page that lives near the top of the menu. The page is analogous to the 'Quik Navi' panel on early Alpha models, and exists as a sub-menu of a category called 'Main,' which makes it a little easy to accidentally navigate away from. In video mode this panel spills over to two pages.

    As with previous Sony cameras there's also a Fn menu that can be customized with up to 12 options and separately configured for stills and video shooting. There's also a 'My Menu' tab at the very top left of the menus in which you can save all your most-used menu options, if you want fast access to a particular parameter.

    Battery

    The a7R V uses the same NP-FZ100 battery as Mark III and newer a7 cameras. These are 16.4Wh batteries that power the a7R V to a rating of 530 shots per charge when using the rear screen or 440 shots per charge using the viewfinder.

    As usual, numbers derived using the CIPA standard test tend to under-represent how many shots most people will actually get from the battery. We typically consider double the rated number to be a reasonable expectation and more than this if you shoot a lot of bursts.

    The battery can be powered over USB, so long as there's a battery present. A powerful enough USB PD charger will allow the camera to charge while being operated.

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    Image quality

    Studio Scene

    Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you'll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.

    The a7R V shows a comparable level of detail to that of its immediate predecessor, putting it ahead of its full-frame rivals but behind the likes of Fujifilm's GFX 100S. There appears to be no low-pass filter, so there's a risk of aliasing and false color in high-frequency, high-contrast details. It's a little noisier than its rivals, which becomes more apparent at very high ISOs.

    Excellent sharpening means the JPEGs make the most of the detail difference between the a7R V and its full-frame peers whereas, conversely, sophisticated noise reduction helps reduce the noise differential between models. JPEG color is good too, as our real-world shots attest. Magentas aren't as saturated as those of Canon, and there's a slight hint of peach to pink 'skintones,' while the mid blues are richer than the other cameras here, giving a punchier look to daylight skies. Oranges appear a touch more saturated, which could explain why the yellows lean slightly that direction, rather than green, but these differences are within the realms of the margin of error that 1/3EV exposure steps give, when trying to match lightness between cameras. The critical thing is that real-world use bears out the positive impression we got from our test scene.

    Downsized Raws

    The a7R V offers Medium and Small sized Raw files taken from the full area of the sensor. Sony doesn't specify how the size is reduced but the test scene suggests that the camera is using the full 61MP image as its starting point, not line-skipping or pixel binning (false color is occurring at the same frequencies on smaller-res shots as on the full-res shot).

    This results in images that are much more detailed than a camera natively shooting those smaller resolutions would produce (the A7R V's 26MP Raw vs 26 and 24MP cameras in this instance). There's no inherent noise benefit to shooting downsized Raws, though: high ISO shots in challenging light fall a little behind the performance of lower pixel-count rivals. The results are essentially the same as downsizing the 61MP images yourself; if anything they look slightly worse in our test scene as they were sharpened at 61MP, then downsized, whereas the Medium Raws were sharpened at 26MP res.

    Overall we'd say the reduced Raw option is mostly valuable in terms of saving output time and card/storage space when you know your output doesn't require full resolution. Just consider the prospect of missing a full-res version of a great shot when you engage the mode: your 26MP Raws will look better than those from a 26 or 24MP camera, but you'll never fully recover all 61MP of detail.

    Pixel Shift mode

    As with the last few a7R cameras, the V offers a pixel shift high-resolution mode. There are two options: four shots that just cancel out the effect of the Bayer filter pattern, sampling every color at every position, or a 16-shot mode that does the same thing four times with slight offsets to capture the detail between the original pixel positions. In both instances the Raws have to be combined using desktop software.

    As before the 16-shot mode can deliver very impressive levels of detail if your tripod and subject are static. The noise-averaging effect of combining so many exposures also boosts image quality. As seen further up the page, the a7R V gains an option to correct for some camera and subject movement. This tends to mean less high levels of detail in areas where there's been some movement, but avoids the crosshatched glitches that the mode was formerly prone to in much real-world shooting, making it a far more useful tool outside the studio.

    Dynamic Range

    Digging in the shadows of the files to look for the limits of the camera's dynamic range shows a slight increase in noise compared with its predecessor. The difference is so small that we can't completely rule out differences in Raw converter profiling or some tiny impact from using the lossless compressed Raw mode. Either way, it's a difference in the extreme deep shadows that you'll only notice in side-by-side comparison.

    There's plenty of scope for pulling up base ISO shadows if you've had to reduce exposure to capture highlights (with much of the noise stemming from the reduction in exposure).

    As usual for a modern Sony Semiconductor sensor, it's a dual conversion gain design, so the lower ISOs (below ISO 320) are slightly noisier than the higher ones. In low light situations where there are bright details such as neon signs that you want to capture, there'll be little noise cost to shooting at ISO 320 with the same exposure as you'd use for a higher ISO, then lightening the results. In such circumstances you'll retain around one stop of additional highlight information for every stop of additional ISO you decided not to use. It's an awkward way to work, though, so is only worth using if your creative vision demands it.



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    Video handling

    The a7R V makes it a little easier to access and control video than its predecessor. Most prominently there's the dedicated Stills / Video / Slow & Quick switch beneath the main mode dial, making it simple to jump between modes, but there are also two pages displaying settings near the top of the menu (though it's weirdly easy to minimize them or scroll away from them by mistake: they'd arguably be better as a replacement for the Fn menu).

    The tilt/articulated rear screen and dedicated stills/video switch make the a7R V that bit more friendly for video capture.

    As before, you can choose which settings persist across from stills to video shooting, meaning you can decide whether details such as exposure settings, color modes and function button assignment are shared or distinct. This lets you tailor the behavior to your needs, if you're jumping back and forth between modes at a wedding shoot, for instance.

    Details such as time code are present but, perhaps appropriately, it lacks production tools such as EI exposure modes and the ability to directly apply LUTs onto your footage in-camera, which Sony's FX30 offers.

    A new and somewhat inconspicuous option is now available to assign a custom button to initiate tracking autofocus in video mode. This allows you to select a subject to track without requiring the use of the touchscreen, and is a massive improvement for EVF users.

    The improved IBIS system brings smaller benefits to video shooters than photographers. While substantially better when trying to keep the camera static, it still lags behind the competition when panning or walking while recording. The 'Active Steadyshot' does improve things, though it comes with a crop and the IQ penalty that necessitates. You can also use the gyroscopic information to stabilize the footage in post with Sony's Catalyst Browse software, but that adds an extra step to your post-production workflow and, again, necessitates a crop.

    Video autofocus

    Autofocus is probably the most compelling aspect of the a7R V's video feature. It's currently the system that's best able to track the subject you ask it to, and its human/face/eye recognition mode is especially dependable at keeping focus on the individual you've asked it to prioritize. This makes it particularly useful as a tool for photographers who shoot a bit of video, as it significantly reduces the need to learn how to manually pull focus when you switch to video mode.

    For those people who are comfortable manually focusing, the Focus Map option gives a useful quick indication of where the point of focus is, giving a pixelated overlay that indicated the area in front of the focus plane in blocks of increasing red tones and the area behind in increasingly blue.

    Overall the a7R V does a good job in providing the tools to support video capture, once you've familiarized yourself with all its options. However, this isn't the same as saying it's a good video camera.


    Video performance

    Our studio scene still only really tells you about detail capture and color rendition: it can't show the impact of temporal noise (or temporal noise reduction) or rolling shutter (measured, below). But what it shows is that the full-width 4K, which doesn't use all the sensor's pixels, isn't as detailed as the footage taken from an APS-C/Super 35 crop, which is produced from 6.2K capture. Using a cropped region means the need for shorter focal lengths if you need a wide-angle view and imposes around a 1.2EV noise / image quality cost.

    The addition of 10-bit capture options makes the S-Log3 profile much more usable than on previous a7R models. The greater bit-depth is a much better match for the fairly extreme Log curve, meaning there's much less risk of posterization banding when it's then graded into a final look.

    The headline-grabbing 8K footage is as detailed as you might hope (though again comes with a significant crop), but the very high degree of rolling shutter will limit the types of subject and camera movement you can use it for. Conversely, the 4K/60 footage created by sub-sampling the same region has well controlled rolling shutter but noticeably less detail and more aliasing than the more detailed 4K modes.

    Crop factor Rolling shutter time
    UHD 4K Full-width (sub-sampled) 18.6ms
    APS-C / S35 mode 1.52x crop 30.9ms
    UHD 4K 60p 1.24x crop 15.0ms
    UHD 8K 24p 1.24x crop 38.1ms

    Despite the addition of 8K capability, we don't see video as the a7R V's strong point. While it's true that the camera can output 8K or high-speed 4K video, most of its modes are subject to significant crops, significant rolling shutter or both. If high-res photography is your priority and you only need occasional video clips, the camera will do well (the full-width 4K is more than good enough for most purposes), but if you want high-res and high speed stills and video from Sony, you'll need to pay the Stacked CMOS premium for the a1.

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    Autofocus

    The a7R V's autofocus system somehow manages to be almost overwhelmingly complex yet also extremely useable in that most of the time you can simply ignore that complexity. As usual for Sony, the underlying AF system provides five types of AF area and then Tracking variants of each option, if you're in AF-C mode.

    On top of this you can choose a subject recognition mode, which will engage if the subject under (or near) your chosen AF point is the type of subject you've asked the camera to recognize.

    Each of these modes can be individually tuned, to define how far around your chosen AF point the camera will search for a subject, how persistent it will be in trying to track your subject and how sensitive it is to the specific subject type. You can also tell the camera to just focus on eyes, or just on eyes or faces, to reduce the risk of the camera focusing on the wrong thing.

    You can assign function buttons to activate AF tracking while that button is pressed, to cycle through the subject recognition types or to cycle through which parts of the currently selected subject the camera should track. The list of subject types can be modified so that you only have to cycle through the subject types you might be trying to capture.

    As I say: almost overwhelmingly complex, but with access tools that make it very quick to use with familiarity.

    The a7R V's AF can focus very consistently on human eyes, allowing you think about composition, exposure and interacting with your subject, rather than worrying which AF point you're using.

    FE 20-70mm F4 G @ 70mm | F6.3 | 1/80 sec | ISO 320
    Photo: Richard Butler

    The good news is that, for the most part, you don't need to think about or edit much of this at all. Choose AF-C and a small tracking AF point and the camera will track whatever you point it at pretty well. Specify that you want it to focus on Humans (just faces and eyes, perhaps) and it'll do extremely well. In our practice focus didn't always perfectly hit the subject's pupil but it's only the camera's high pixel count that allowed us to see any imprecision: we can't think of another camera or AF method that would have delivered better results.

    We didn't have much luck with the Bird recognition mode (we found they had to offer very picture-book-like silhouettes to the camera before it would recognize them), but this performance may well improve if birding is your thing and you can take the time to tune the recognition sensitivity.

    This is perhaps the a7R V's strongest feature: the ability to tune it to deliver the results you want. Once learned and configured, we think it's probably the most effective AF system currently on the market, but getting the very best results is likely to require that commitment to working our how you want to use the camera.

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    Conclusion

    Pros Cons
    • Impressive levels of detail
    • Extremely good dynamic range
    • Powerful AF system to support high resolution
    • Extensive video options with good support tools
    • Tilt + articulate screen brings significant flexibility
    • Well-placed dials and control points
    • Interface allows simple stills/video/stills switches
    • Extensive customization
    • Excellent battery life
    • Wi-Fi works well
    • Motion correction option makes pixel-shift mode vastly more usable
    • Added detail capture (inevitably) reduces as light levels fall
    • Crops and significant rolling shutter limit many video modes
    • Extent of customization options is dizzying
    • Autofocus capabilities bring significant complexity to achieve very best results
    • New status screen displays easy to navigate away from or minimize, inadvertently
    • Pixel-shift images need to be combined in desktop software

    The a7R V is a confidence-inspiring camera to use. Mount a good lens on it and you get that sense that Nikon's D850 used to give: anything that goes wrong is your fault, not the camera's, and it'll do everything it can to make sure nothing goes wrong.

    Like the D850 it builds on a camera that was already good, and still improves almost every detail (stills/video switch, menus, video capabilities, screen, faster card slots) to end up being a significantly more complete camera. In that regard it feels like something of a milestone in Sony's camera history: one where very few 'if only...'s jump out at you.

    Even without the focus stacking or pixel shift modes, it's hard to argue with the a7R V's credentials as a landscape camera.

    Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II @ 24mm | F14 | 1/100 sec | ISO 100
    Photo: Richard Butler

    It's a camera that can excel in a wide range of applications, from landscapes to studio portraits, weddings and events to product photography, even if it's not (nor is it meant to be) the all-rounder that the a1 is. The technology to deliver that combination of high resolution and high speed isn't yet available at this price level.

    But for the countless pros and enthusiasts who want high resolution and don't need the fast bursts and video of the a1, the a7R V is a superb camera. Canon's EOS R5 is perhaps the better stills/video camera, thanks to its better controlled rolling shutter, and Fujifilm's GFX 100S offers a level of detail and image quality that even this extremely good sensor can't. But the autofocus performance of the Sony and the breadth of the E-mount lens range are likely to see it consistently deliver the results across a wider number of situations than either of those cameras can.

    The autofocus benefits from some setup time but quickly becomes a case of set-and-forget once you've tuned it to your liking. Ultimately it's the autofocus performance that helps you get 61 megapixel's worth of detail in such a high proportion of your shots, which ends up being the most compelling advantage over its predecessor.

    The a7R V isn't intended as a travel camera, but there are certainly occasions on which it would be useful to be able to re-convert the Raw files in-camera. Sony is the only major brand without such a function.

    Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II @70mm | F8.0 | 1/320 sec | ISO 100
    Photo: Richard Butler

    The benefits of 61MP of detail start to slip away as the ISO rises: an inevitability that gets reinforced if you instinctively zoom in to a pixel-level view. But compared at the whole-image scale, there's no real downside to the extra pixels until you're shooting in extremely dark situations. The pixel count also helps explain why the a7R V's video performance isn't quite as impressive as the spec list makes it sound.

    If your photography benefits from high levels of detail capture, the a7R V is a camera that will do all it can to help you get the results you want, and those results can be spectacular.

    Scoring

    Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about what these numbers mean.

    Sony a7R V
    Category: Semi-professional Full Frame Camera
    Build quality
    Ergonomics & handling
    Features
    Metering & focus accuracy
    Image quality (raw)
    Image quality (jpeg)
    Low light / high ISO performance
    Viewfinder / screen rating
    Performance
    Movie / video mode
    Connectivity
    Value
    PoorExcellent
    Conclusion
    The Sony a7R V is a high resolution mirrorless camera, combining an excellent sensor with a powerful autofocus system in a body refined over multiple generations of improvement. It lends itself to a wide range of photography, from portraiture and landscape work to wedding and events. Its cropped, slow readout 8K video is the only real weakspot in an otherwise hugely capable camera.
    Good for
    A broad range of photography requiring high resolution.
    Not so good for
    Work that puts equal emphasis on video and stills.
    92%
    Overall score

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    Sample gallery

    Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter/magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review); we do so in good faith, so please don't abuse it.

    With thanks to London Camera Exchange (Gloucester) for the use of a tripod for the pixel-shift images.

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  3. The Canon EOS R6 Mark II may not look like a big upgrade looking at the specs, but a huge number of small improvements add up to a much more capable camera than its predecessor. After weeks with a production model, Chris and Jordan present their final findings.


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    Canon EOS R6 Mark II sample gallery from this episode

  4. Topaz Photo AI's user interface is extremely clean, straightforward and approachable, with just a handful of controls per tool and most of the work done automatically by AI algorithms.

    If you want the ability to fettle your artworks to perfection, applications like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, DxO Optics Pro, Capture One and others give you access to a vast selection of controls with which to tweak to your heart's content. But what if you have a batch of photos to process and just want good results with a minimum of fuss? That's where Topaz Labs' latest offering, Topaz Photo AI, comes in.

    Photo AI forgoes the complexity found in most photo editing apps, instead aiming to do the grunt work for you. It does so thanks to a clever Autopilot function that analyzes your images, identifies their subjects and image quality shortcomings, then uses that information to apply intelligent corrections with as little user work involved as possible. The underlying technologies come courtesy of Topaz's well-received DeNoise AI, Gigapixel AI and Sharpen AI applications.

    Key features

    • Works with both Raw images and pre-rendered JPEGs
    • Outputs DNG Raws for continued processing or ready-to-use JPEGs, TIFFs or PNGs
    • Can function as a standalone app or a plugin for Photoshop and other apps
    • Locates your subjects and identifies image quality defects automatically
    • Corrects noise, blurring and lens distortions
    • Upsamples low-res images to higher resolutions using AI algorithms
    • Locates faces in your images and improves their visual quality
    • Autopilot tool leaves little work beyond tweaking masks and adjusting strength sliders
    • No subscription necessary

    Available now for both Windows and macOS, Topaz Photo AI is priced at $199. That's a $60 discount over Topaz's individual AI-powered apps, with a more streamlined workflow to boot. Let's take a look at what Topaz Photo AI has to offer!

    A clean and simple interface with a couple of quirks

    As you'd expect given its fuss-free approach to editing and its complete eschewing of features like photo management, Topaz Photo AI has an exceptionally simple and clean user interface. It can function either as a standalone app or as a plugin for other applications like Adobe Photoshop. If launched standalone, you can load images either by dragging and dropping images onto the app, or browsing your drives, from which you can load them individually or in groups.

    Once an image is loaded, Photo AI will scan it for subjects, human faces and image quality shortcomings, then automatically generate the corrections it thinks your photo needs.

    In the standalone app you'll see a filmstrip of all your open images beneath a preview of the current image. Curiously, though, the filmstrip will only show thumbnails for JPEG images. Thumbnails aren't generated for Raw files even after you've opened and previewed them full size; this is something I'd like to see changed in a future version.

    The filmstrip thumbnails at the bottom of the screen show the filters applied to each image, with green dots indicating images that have Autopilot's suggested settings applied. Curiously, though, it lacks thumbnails for Raw images, making it more tedious to quickly relocate a particular shot.

    Raw support is pretty broad, covering around 1,200 cameras, camera backs, drones, phones, tablets and other current devices said to be compatible. (The biggest omission is for the Nikon Z9's 'High Efficiency' Raws, for which support is planned but not yet available.)

    At screen right, you'll find a panel containing an image navigator and just a handful of controls with which to tweak the automatic corrections. Up top, a menu bar gives access to mask, brush and zoom controls, as well as allowing you to change preferences, including whether the program functions primarily using your CPU or available GPUs.

    Raw support is pretty broad, covering around 1,200 cameras, camera backs, drones, phones, tablets and other current devices

    There are two things to note when you load multiple images. First, the program won’t automatically process the full queue of images; you must switch to each one to begin the processing. That means you'll need to wait a few seconds when switching between images on first load, although corrections for all images in the filmstrip are at least remembered once they've been viewed full-screen for the first time.

    Second, Photo AI will forget its chosen corrections when the file or program is closed; the corrections aren't stored to disk in a database or sidecar file. The processing will be regenerated if the image is reloaded in future. So it pays to export images whose corrections you like.

    Topaz Photo AI can not only output images as raster images like JPEGs or PNGs, but also as DNGs for continued processing in another application.

    Final images can be output as JPEGs, TIFFs, PNGs or DNGs, giving you a choice of baking the final image straight away or handing off a partially-processed Raw file for continued work in another app like Photoshop. You can set Photo AI's default to output a DNG Raw if your input file was Raw, or retain the existing filetype otherwise.

    Robust automatic subject detection – but refining masks can be tedious

    As soon as Topaz Photo AI has finished scanning your photo for subjects and faces, you can confirm what it found by hovering your mouse pointer over the Autopilot's subject and face fields. The subject is highlighted on both the image navigator and the image itself with a red mask, and each face detected is marked with a yellow box.

    I found the face detection to be surprisingly robust, recognizing even faces that occupied a tiny area of the image and that were partially obscured or in side profile. Although there's no way to manually select an undetected face, you can deselect those the algorithms found if they're unimportant to you.

    Selected faces are highlighted with a yellow box. Detected faces can be quickly deselected if you don't want them altered.

    The subject detection does a pretty decent job when the subject of the photo is clear, such as in portraits, but its selections can be a bit more hit-and-miss with things like landscapes or street scenes where the subject doesn't stand out from its background so clearly. In these cases you can switch the algorithms from 'portrait' to 'landscape' mode, or modify the mask manually.

    You're not directly reshaping your mask with a brush, though; instead you're selecting 'chunks' that the algorithm has detected within the image for addition or subtraction, with four different chunk sizes available. For minor adjustments this works fine, but if you need to make a significant change to the subject area it can get a bit tedious, and I found myself wishing that a fully manual refine brush was also available.

    Topaz Photo AI's automatically-generated subject masks are often fairly accurate, but sometimes stray onto the background, as between the spokes above, or have holes in their coverage, as with the headlight. The tools for brushing areas of the mask in or out can be a bit tedious to use, but do the job with a little effort.

    Autopilot lightens the workload, but lacks some important features

    After subject and face detection have been completed, the Autopilot algorithms kick in to analyze the image for defects such as noise, soft focus, motion blur and low resolution, before suggesting changes appropriate to the image. Automatic correction for lens distortion is also applied by default, although this can be disabled if you prefer. Overall Autopilot really couldn't be any easier and works very well.

    Topaz Photo AI Adobe Photoshop DxO PhotoLab

    What's missing, though, is any way to correct for exposure and white balance issues. In my example above, both Photoshop and PhotoLab started from the same underexposed, cool-tinted image but allowed me to fix it in just a couple of clicks. In contrast, Photo AI won't fix either exposure or white balance automatically, even for images with significant under or overexposure, extreme dynamic range or blown color casts. Nor is there a way for the user to fix these things manually.

    This, frankly, is the program's biggest shortcoming and something I'd very much like to see addressed in future versions. For now, it means that realistically, you're still dependent on Photoshop or another similar program to work alongside Topaz Photo AI. But if your shot is correctly exposed and has good white balance, Topaz AI does a great job for almost zero effort.

    Excellent and quite swift noise reduction with almost no effort

    If there's one thing for which Topaz Labs is best-known, it's probably the company's noise reduction algorithms, which are also available separately (and with a bit more user control) in the standalone DeNoise AI app.

    Out-of-camera JPEG Topaz Remove Noise Normal Topaz Remove Noise Strong DxO DeepPRIME DxO DeepPRIME-XD

    I find DxO PhotoLab's DeepPRIME XD to yield just slightly better results, but there's no denying that the latest iteration of Topaz' algorithms are very good indeed, and they're also rather swifter than the very processor-intensive DxO algorithms. The Raw Remove Noise AI tool in Photo AI can yield surprisingly clean and usable results even from very noisy images, while still doing a pretty good job of holding onto the fine detail.

    With that said, for my personal tastes I felt that the defaults can be a bit too strong on noisier images, giving images a slightly 'plasticky,' over-smoothed look and introducing some noticeable artifacts, particularly in repeating patterns. But you can dial things back with the strength and detail sliders, or just switch from the 'strong' preset to 'normal' to get more natural results.

    Topaz AI will still sometimes sacrifice some of the finest details to the algorithms, though, so if a shot doesn't really need noise reduction it's worth turning this tool off entirely.

    Out-of-camera JPEG Topaz Remove Noise Normal Topaz Remove Noise Strong DxO DeepPRIME DxO DeepPRIME-XD
    For reference, here's the full-size image with Topaz Photo AI's normal noise reduction applied.

    Surprisingly capable motion and lens deblurring

    I actually found Topaz Photo AI's deblurring to be even more impressive than its noise reduction with the right subjects, although there's definitely still a caveat or two.

    There are three different sharpening modes: Lens Blur, Motion Blur and a catch-all Standard mode, and much as for noise reduction you have just two sliders with which to adjust the strength of the effect. You can also select whether sharpening is applied just to subjects that were automatically detected/manually masked, or to the image as a whole.

    No sharpening Sharpen lens blur

    With motion blurring in particular, the algorithms can make a surprisingly blurry shot potentially usable, although as is typical of AI algorithms, they struggle most to convincingly regenerate fine text, which is something we humans are much better programmed to recognize. They also seem a bit confused when there's complex motion, as in wheels, which through most of their circumference are moving in a different direction to that of the car itself.

    For example, in my race car image below, the sponsor decals look a bit funky when viewed closely, and the wheels seem out of round; otherwise, however, the cars look much crisper than in the very blurry original image. For more subtly motion-blurred shots like the cycle race below, the improvements are even better, with even small text appearing noticeably crisper while remaining totally readable.

    No sharpening Sharpen motion blur No sharpening Sharpen motion blur

    The only other issue I noticed with this tool was in ‘subject only’ mode when, as it sometimes does, the subject detection fails to identify a contiguous subject: things can then wind up looking a little funky. To see what I mean, look at the rider's left arm in the bike shot below. By default, the subject detection failed to separate the rider's upper thigh and part of the handlebars from the background and so didn't sharpen these.

    I could, of course, have manually added them to the mask with a dozen or so clicks to have them sharpened too, but the quirky brush tool makes that harder than need be for some subjects. For shots like these, it's often easier to just disable subject-only mode than fighting to get your subject accurately selected.

    No sharpening Sharpen motion blur, subject only Sharpen motion blur, full image

    Face recovery is impressive with the right subjects, but has its stumbles

    Face recovery can be a bit of a mixed bag. It yields its best results for smaller faces in the scene where there's not much detail to work with, and here the results are sometimes surprisingly good – but not consistently so.

    In the crops below, for example, you'll see some facial features that were almost lost in the original shot to a combination of noise and low resolution. Recreating this facial detail by hand would involve a lot of work, but Photo AI fixes it with zero effort and in a matter of seconds.

    But while it often does a great job, it struggles sometimes with faces that are obscured by noise, yielding blotchy results, as you can see with some of the other faces in my examples.

    Uncorrected faces Corrected faces
    Uncorrected faces Corrected faces

    And for faces where there's plenty of detail to start with, it has a tendency to yield an overly-smoothed look with unnatural, plasticky skin. You can reduce the strength of the effect to help with this, but not on a per-face basis, only with an overall slider for the image.

    Where it has the most difficulty, though, is with faces that are moderately to strongly defocused. Here, facial features sometimes look very unnatural after filtering, and these can also tend to stand out too much from the rest of the image since unlike their surroundings at the same distance they're rendered quite crisply.

    The tool would have been more useful in these cases if it could better mimic the surrounding noise and bokeh levels while improving the underlying details. Thankfully, Photo AI automatically disables face recovery most of the time when its results aren't up to snuff, and when it fails to do so it can be manually disabled for each individual face in the scene.

    Uncorrected face Corrected face
    Uncorrected face Corrected face
    Uncorrected face Corrected face

    On balance I found face recovery to still be a useful tool, but more so when dealing with low-res images from older cameras. With shots from today's high-res cameras, if a face is low-res enough to be worthy of recovery it's probably small enough to be considered insignificant in the overall scene (unless the photo is heavily cropped first), somewhat limiting the tool's utility.

    Enhance Resolution brings new life to older, lower-res photos

    The final feature of Topaz Photo AI, Enhance Resolution, promises to resurrect your older photos from lower-resolution cameras, and to allow for larger print sizes or more extreme cropping even with high-res shots from modern cameras. It does this by intelligently upsizing the image to higher pixel dimensions. You have a choice of three different operating modes (Natural, Graphics or Low Resolution) and can opt for four different sizes (1x, 2x, 4x or Max), but otherwise the algorithms run entirely without user intervention.

    Curious about that last size option? The Max setting is effectively 6x when used on smaller images, but it won't stray beyond a limit of around 32,000 pixels on the longer side. (And if your input image is sufficiently high-res that it would have gone beyond that size even at the 4x setting, you'll get a choice of just 1x, 2x or Max instead.)

    Enhance Resolution, Low-Res mode, 1x Enhance Resolution, Low-Res mode, 2x Enhance Resolution, Low-Res mode, 4x Enhance Resolution, Low-Res mode, Max

    Even with a pretty low-res source image, this gives you the ability to generate some very large output files indeed. For example, taking a shot from my decades-old Canon PowerShot G1, Photo AI can generate anything up to a 116.5-megapixel image from an original that's just 1.2 megapixels. With a really high-res camera like the Fujifilm GFX 100S, you're able to generate single-shot images that are approaching three quarters of a gigapixel in resolution!

    Obviously, there are limits to what the AI algorithms can do. You can expect some noticeable artifacts when upscaling images at the highest resolutions. And as usual these are especially noticeable when there's man-made detail like fine text or logos in your source images.

    Enhance Resolution, Natural mode, 1x Enhance Resolution, Natural mode, 2x Enhance Resolution, Natural mode, 4x Enhance Resolution, Natural mode, Max
    Note: The full-sized version of the Max resolution image is too large for our CMS, so we've linked to a 100% crop at the highest resolution we could manage rather than the full image. Warning: extremely large images!

    But I found myself surprised by how usable the results were, especially when dealing with low-res input files and subjects with more random detail like foliage, fur and the like that more easily hide any defects. Even with fine text in the scene I found the 2x setting was typically pretty usable, and for landscapes, nature shots and the like I could definitely see myself using the 4x position quite regularly.

    Enhance Resolution, Natural mode, 1x Enhance Resolution, Natural mode, 2x Enhance Resolution, Natural mode, 4x Enhance Resolution, Natural mode, Max

    Conclusion

    With Photo AI, Topaz Labs has set out to make a program that can resolve common image defects like low resolution, noise and blurring from defocusing or subject motion in a very easy-to-use and yet robust manner requiring minimal user intervention. And in many ways, it does the job very well indeed.

    I found myself particularly impressed by its deblurring and resolution-enhancing tools, both of which achieve quite difficult tasks with little more than a few mouse clicks. While I found the face enhancement technology to be more hit-and-miss in real-world use, when it works it feels almost magical. And let's not forget the noise reduction. While I don't think it's quite as powerful as that from rival DxO Labs, it's much faster to use and still does a far better job than many rivals. (And it simply blows in-camera noise reduction out of the water.)

    A far bigger issue is the lack of exposure and white balance tools, automatic or otherwise.

    To be sure, there are some rough edges as well. While its face detection is excellent, subject recognition and masking could still be better, even if it frequently does well enough to suffice. I'd also like to see better mask refinement tools, and more intelligence in deciding when faces are too blurry for meaningful recovery. And please, Topaz Labs: give us thumbnails for our Raw files and figure out how to pre-process queued files before we switch to them if the computer is sitting idle anyway!

    A far bigger issue is the lack of exposure and white balance tools, automatic or otherwise. Given that all of the other features are about resolving defects in your images, it feels curious indeed that such commonplace tools aren’t available here. Perhaps Topaz Labs has reasoned that its customers likely already have Photoshop or some similar app, and they do certainly ease the path to using their program in parallel with others by making it function as a plugin and by exporting in DNG format.

    But that brings us to the other main sticking point: At around $200, this is quite an expensive application for one with a relatively limited remit and feature set. For just $20 more you could have the top-of-the-line DxO PhotoLab 6 Elite Edition, or you could instead save around $40 on PhotoLab 6 Essential and have a far broader image editing and management toolbox than Photo AI can offer.

    I have to add that this program has an exceptionally fast pace of development, with very regular updates to fix bugs and improve the feature set.

    Or you could go with the 800lb subscription-ware gorilla in the room and get 10 to 20 months subscription to both Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, depending upon how much storage you opt for. (Or get bags of storage with Lightroom alone.) Again, these all offer far more utility for your dollar, as do others like Skylum Luminar Neo or On1 Photo Raw.

    Still, if you need the features it has to offer and would appreciate its hands-off, automated ethos, there's definitely a lot to like here in spite of some shortcomings and a high pricetag. And I have to add that this program has an exceptionally fast pace of development, with very regular updates to fix bugs and improve the feature set. I fully expect to see it continue to evolve quickly – far more so than subscription-ware rivals like Adobe – and perhaps one could make the argument that that's worth paying a bit more for.

    In summary, I can happily recommend Topaz Photo AI if you can justify its cost, have a need for the automated corrections it does offer, and already have a good companion app. If you are in need of a one-size-fits-all tool though, $200 is going to be a bigger ask. If that's the case, you may want to hold off for now until Photo AI has enough features not to need a companion like Lightroom or its many rivals.

    What we like What we don't
    • Extremely easy to use and mostly works automatically
    • Clean, simple and logical user interface
    • Excellent camera and lens support
    • Optional, automatic lens corrections
    • Very good (and pretty quick) noise reduction
    • Deblurring tools work surprisingly well
    • Resolution enhancement gives new life to old shots
    • Very reliable face detection, even with partial or lateral/oblique faces
    • Great performance and stability overall
    • No subscription needed
    • Very actively developed
    • Lacks some very basic features like exposure or white balance correction
    • Doesn't show thumbnails for Raw files
    • Face recovery can produce strange or artificial-looking results, especially in bokeh
    • Automatic subject masking has a tendency to leave 'holes' in objects
    • Mask refinement tools can be a bit tedious to use
    • Rather pricey given it really needs accompaniment from a more fully-featured app
  5. The Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G has an incredibly useful zoom range, from ultra-wide to short telephoto. What if any compromises have been made to achieve this? Chris and Jordan went to Kananaskis to find out!


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    Sony 20-70mm F4 G sample gallery from this episode

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