#880. Monday Post (22 Jul 2019) – The Sony Empire strikes back: A7R IV (and website news)

By philberphoto | Monday Post

Jul 22
ZM 35 f:1.4 Mont-Saint-Michel: who says more pixels don’t allow for useful cropping?

Sony own a major Hollywood film studio. Thus they know film history. After they’d established the market for FF mirrorless, they watched their competitors, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic even, come out with products specced and designed so similarly it was impossible not to see them as clones. Clones going after Sony, as in The Attack of the clones.

Loxia 25mm Good for Flowers in flight (FiF)

But the attack of the clones is episode II of the Star Wars saga, and Sony know the whole story. So it is only logical that they hit back, or rather strike back! Once competitors had released products and staked their claims, mirroring Sony’s offerings (a 24Mp all-purpose medium-priced camera, and a premium 40Mp+ resolution demon), they have now changed -once again- the rules of the game.

Loxia 25, at work in Saint Malo harbor

Enter the one camera no-one expected: the Sony A7R IV. Previously, Sony had divided the market in 5 segements. The entry-level, made up of previous-generation bodies (you can get a new FF mirrorless for less than US$ 1000 today, but not the latest generation). The all-purpose, with their current 24Mp A7 III, the resolution machine, A7R III with 42Mp, the noise demon A7S II, and the sports king of the hill A9.

ZM 35. Leon Trotsky was here!

Rumours spoke of an A7S III (logical, since this was/is the missing item in the “III” generation), and/or the A9 II (improved from the A9, important for pros to use Sony at the 2020 Olympics in Japan. Not a peep about A7R IV. Especially when the “III” generation is still competitive enough to give Sony NĀ°1 rank in FF camera market share and in mirrorless market share.

ZM 35. So good at finding the light in the dark…

So what do the specfications tell us that the A7RIV has that is “worth” breaking the codes? In a word: everything. First, and most spectacular, 61Mp resolution. I know not all of us/you believe that this is even a good thing. But it is certainly spectacular, although, technically speaking it is not a surprise. 61Mp in a FF sensor is the same pixel density as 100Mp in the “small MF” sensor of the Fuji GFX 100, and in the 150Mp in the “large MF” sensor of the latest Phase One cameras. As both sensors are made by Sony, it stood to reason that Sony could release a FF sensor of the same density….

Loxia 25. When in doubt, go Loxia!

But there is more. High resolution cameras have until now been hampered by their high pixel count in speed terms. You need time to write these large amounts of data to your card. So it was, you had to choose between resolution and speed. Typically, high-speed cameras (Canon 1-series, Nikon Dx series, Sony A9) couldn’t break the 20Mp barrier in order to break the 10 frames-per-second one. And 40Mp+ cameras could hardly speed past 6 fps. Not so with the A7R IV. Not only 61Mp, but also 10fps. That is fast. Almost as fast as the fastest cameras on the planet before the A9’s blistering 20fps. Meaning, very simply, that the time you had to choose between speed and resolution is over. You get both. Very impressive! And you get a state-of-the-art AF system, with eye-AF for humans, and for animals, for stills as well as for video. Wow! And you also get a 26Mp APS/C camera, which will be greatly appreciated by those who want as much reach as they can get, for birds in flight for example.

Close-up and personal with Loxia 25. And cropping, a lot of cropping…. need more pixels…

You also get lots of other goodies in the A7R IV, meaning Sony have taken care of gripes users had with previous models (at least, if you believe Sony’s press blurb), and upgraded various bits and bobs (better resolution EVF, better video specs, better weather-sealing, better ergonomy). But that is not all. The last blow is massive. It is the price. In that it is not massive. In fact, it is the same price as the introductory price of A7R, RII, RIII, take or leave. Meaning you get the improvements at no increase in sticker price. I can hear the groans of pain coming from MM. Canon, Nikon and Panasonic, whose clones now look decidedly overpriced and/or underspecced.

Loxia 25. Bike shot of the day. And cropping helped (get my drift?)

But it is not only the clone-makers who will feel the might of Sony’s counter-attack. Think Fuji, or Leica. Fuji had just introduced a 5000$+ mini-MF machine, the GFX50R, that they called “Super FF” to pick off high-end sales from the mirrorless clone customer base. Easy pitch: larger sensor, more pixels = better camera. Oops. Now they have to explain why 50Mp on a Super FF camera are better than 61 on a FF camera, and “better enough” to justify a 35% higher price, no stabilization, and, and, and…

ZM 35. Mont Saint-Michel. Not cropped. And it shows….

As for Leica, they continue to plow their own furrow, but every advance Sony make does isolate them a little bit more. At some point a comparison with the car world applies. Yes Rolls and Bentley do luxury vehicles rather than compete on specs. But they do keep their specs reasonably current relative to state-of-the-art. Leica do not. It remains to be seen how long they can keep this going. They are letting 100 people go, and hiring 40 software engineers. That is an indication of where they want to go in the future.

ZM 35. Anyone sees a longer lens in my future?

All told, I am not sure Sony’s new entry is a major strategic move. It smacks more of a very aggressive tactical one, putting every one of its competitors under even more pressure. It also makes one wonder where the market is going, because the benefits of increased resolution and speed level off at some point and become irrelevant, if not negative. My guess is that the next step needs to be disruptive, with, for example, different sensor tech, for which Sony already have patents, like curved sensors, organic sensors, Foveon-like sensors, etc.

ZM 35. So good, it can even shoot ghost boats….

In the interim, the extra effort Sony have made will force reactions from competitors, most likely moving prices down. And that is all good for us…

Loxia 25. Finish with a flowerish…

PS: my hand is twitching. Deep inside me, there is something that says: if Ahab had had a better (tougher) ship, Moby Dick couldn’t have sunk her, and he (Ahab) might have prevailed. Pequomodo may be about to get an upgrade…

 

A biased counterpoint and some website news (Pascal ranting again)

 
One camera to rule them all … and in the darkness, bind them.
 

It will come as no surprise to regulars that this announcement leaves me ice cold šŸ˜€ To me, it is the triumph of the quantitative over the qualitative. Which is probably in the top 5 reasons why humanity at large is so miserable (quantitative thinking, not the camera itself ;). But wait and see?

The French have a saying that goes “seule la victoire est belle”: only victory matters. And a victory it undoubtedly is, from a tactical point of view. These days, however, winning rarely means having the customer’s best interest at heart. Or society’s. There are exceptions but they are few and far between. Think Facebook and Google … tearing the world apart in a effort to concentrate wealth in the hands of a chosen few. I like Sony. I don’t want Sony to be like that.

What troubles me is that, to my biased eyes, this camera is taking the whole industry in the wrong direction. Not only Sony customers, but the rest of the sector too.

 
 

I can already hear the shrieks of outraged fanboys in the other camps. So all other manufacturers still standing and able to will have to follow in the insanity of the jack-of-all-trades super-computer camera.

Today, you can buy a Z7 and be happy for the rest of your life, but that doesn’t matter. Until something radically different comes along, the arms race continues, chucking the whole industry in the wrong direction for the next 3 years. Shiny.

All things considered, cross that initial ice cold part and make it mildly annoyed. All I’m hoping is that some of the asphyxiated also-rans will have to think outside the box to survive and will deliver some real innovation. My breath is flowing freely. Long live Dick slayer, I guess.

 
 

Website updates

 

Still, peeing against the winds of “progress” wasn’t my reason for barging into Philippe’s Monday Post. Here’s an update on some evolutions on the website, in response to the various needs and requests collected šŸ™‚

Comments: The commenting system has been updated to load comments only when you reach the bottom of the text, in order to accelerate the load time of the page. A lazy load insures you only load more as you move further down the list, for the same reasons. You can now upvote some comments if you feel they are particularly useful to future readers. I deactivated the downvote feature because life is short. I am trying to allow image uploads in the comments but the component that enables this seems to be conflicting with others. More news soon.

Look and feel: The design is more or less final, with some colour tweaking still needed. But the homepage won’t always be the same as the blog page. I’m working on a layout that will allow quick access to all sorts of content such as gear reviews, location maps, …

Font: Thanks to Sean, the font on this site is now easier to read. It isn’t one of the officially tested dislexia-oriented fonts because they appear to be inefficient and none were easily available, but it is one that simplifies and accelerates reading nonetheless.

Content: Some of the “cornerstone” content of the site, which is currently hidden away in old posts, is being grouped into chapters and tutorials. A course creation component has been added and several courses are being written.

 
 

Galleries: A gallery module is now up and running. A test gallery has been published until our real galleries are completed. Expect updates and examples in the next Monday Post. Those galleries are being created to support the Pwintshop project mentioned a few months ago and also to sell prints. Our prints, your prints … More on this soon.

Donations: in response to the multiple suggestions to add donation buttons, made in comments or via email – thank you, thank you, again – I have set up a page explaining how you can help DS grow. Part of this is donating, to support the costs nearing 5 figures over the years. But there are many other non-financial ways as well šŸ™‚ All is explained in the new Friends of DS page.

Michael and others suggested a section on photobooks. Being a relative ignoramus on the subject, I love the idea but can’t work it alone. Is anyone interested in helping with that. Help would be in the form of little reviews of books. If enough people read enough books, we can start something meaningful.

 

Need Help?

 

I’d like to start a Q&A section. You probably have a question someone else knows the answer to. And you probably have the answer to someone else’s question. Let’s make those questions and answers meet.

It’s always hard to be the first to raise their hand. So I’ll start with a print related question:

I’m printing with a Canon printer and have uploaded some paper profiles to the computer. It’s easy to set up the page, chose the paper, soft proof in Lightroom to see what the print will look like. But, to actually print, you have to select one of the Canon papers known by the printer (not the actual paper I’ll be using and have loaded the profile for) Some 3-party papers (Hahnemuhle in my case) tell you what equivalent Canon paper settings to chose in the printer. But why do I have to chose a Canon paper? Why can’t the printer use the Hahnemuhle profile I uploaded to Lightroom? Consider me puzzled. Any pointers?

If anyone in the know can help, that would be great. Others, do you have any other questions we can relay in a future Monday Post?

 
Maman. Louise Bourgeois
 

Finally, several of you have suggested a critique forum for photographs. You’d send in photographs and other readers could make a constructive critique of it. I love the idea of that.

So, welcome to the new Triple C section of the website: Collaborative Constructive Critiques. Again, let me start to get the ball rolling. What do you think of the picture above (which you will soon find in a new lens review)? What’s good, what’s bad, what do you like, what would you have done differently?

You can send in your own photographs to the usual address pascal dot jappy at gmail dot com. I will publish them in Monday Posts so that other readers can comment on them. Please keep their size reasonable (< 2000 pix long side) and please provide a title for easy identification. As usual, all comments will be moderated, so this will always remain a safe environment in which to open up. Looking forward to your pics šŸ™‚

Cheers to all.

 
Email: subscribed: 4
  • Dallas Thomas says:

    Another excellent article and photos, I’m presuming there will be another 4 episodes??

    • pascaljappy says:

      Of Sony A7Rn announcements, I hope not šŸ˜€
      Of website updates and new ways to connect, I hope so šŸ˜€

      Cheers

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I’ve never thought of photographing a spider in a mirror – brilliant shot! ++++
    Papers – Epson would like to behave like that too. I get a colour gamut/profile for the papers I use, from a technical expert in Victoria – it costs around AUD$200 per paper type, but since I use mainly one of two papers, I can spread that over several thousand photos and it doesn’t make much difference. There was a time when they outlawed that kind of behaviour in this country – but like all countries, big business got to the politicians and I don’t think the law survived – it’s a kind of blackmail that is designed to deprive you of freedom of choice – and I don’t see any reason why a printer manufacturer should have the right to deprive you of the right to choose what paper YOU want.
    Web site – design. I know comments are moderated, but is it possible for us to be able to access our own comments, to make corrections to errors? – I seem to be incapable of attaining fluency in this language, and I’m forever seeing stupid mistakes in comments I’ve made. It’s not just embrarassing – it’s unhelpful to the others.
    Today – well actually today I CAN’T by a Z7 – I already spent that cash, buying my pigeon pair (the D500 and the D850), and with that, I shall be happy for the rest of my life. I did think about this at the time – I could have got a brilliant price on the Z7 when I took the fateful step. But several things stayed my hand.
    1 – I need (not “want”) both formats – FF & HF.
    2 – The adaptor is a compromise – and like all compromises, it promises less than “best”.
    3 – I’ll be long gone (quote from George Dubbya!) before they have the same array of lenses that I have for my two cams, already. In fact it’s entirely possible they never will.
    4 – Unless I win Lotto I couldn’t afford to replace all my existing glass with Z mount lenses, even if there were equivalent lenses across the range.
    5 – If I had the extra, I think I’d prefer to spend it exploring something different, like SIGMA’s Foveon sensor range – as they say in the classics, the person who stops learning has ceased to “live” – and buying a new generation of Nikon junk, straight after completing the process with the Nikon junk I already have, doesn’t seem to me to be a step along the path. I am already doing it with Nikon junk.
    6 – As Philippe is suggesting, what’s the offer from the Z7 camp anyway? – how does it best what’s now on offer from Sony?
    7 – Where’s all this taking us? – have a look at Ming’s latest, on “modularity”, which is in a similar vein.
    8 – Nik already has enough of my cash – it’s time someone else bought stuff from them. I’ve had my turn, been served, and gone home to use the gear I bought. Unless there’s been a corresponding plummet in birth rates, there must be a huge wad of potential new photographers out there somewhere.

    • pascaljappy says:

      So you think there isn’t a technical reason behind the imposed paper choices? That’s even worse! I’d never seen it that way.

      You’d need to be logged into the website back office to correct your comments. All contributors have an account. It’s easy to do but takes a while. I couldn’t do that for tens of thousands of people. However, if you find a mistake, just leave a second comment with the correction. I’ll correct the first and won’t publish the second šŸ™‚

      Z7, D500, A7R2, same thing. The A7r was deeply flawed and needed an update. The A7R2 is plenty good enough but still slightly flawed. It needs better, not more. All I’m saying is that the new generation of super hi-res cameras will make you buy new computers, new cards and new lenses, and you won’t see the difference in real life. Sensors reached a quality plateau, years ago. Now, it’s all aout cramming more data.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Yes, the timing of this 60Mpx Sony is probably good tactics, but isn’t it just a bit more of the same?

    Sony are ahead with features – and with time as they have been able to sell cheaper to make mirrorless cameras at prices competing with DSLRs. Canikon and Panasonic now don’t have that advantage – but have more experience with what photographers need…

    I think the new Sigma FP is an interesting approach, with a future Foveon version you can have the advantages of both sensor types with the same lenses.

    ( Ming Thein’s latest article expands on the modularity of the Sigma FP:
    https://blog.mingthein.com/2019/07/22/modularity/ )
    – – –

    Pascal,
    for any print related question also try the forum
    https://www.printerknowledge.com
    They have several technically experienced participants.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Kristian,

      yes, to me as well, it feels like a lot more of the same. We might see some marginally better IQ but we’ll for sure need more powerful computers, more cards, more electricity … To me this feels like the opposite of where society is going. And certainly not a way of capturing the minds of the younger generation that is fleeing to phones and film cameras … Shame.

      However good the Sigma turns out to be, the fact that a system is open makes it interesting. It is the bane of our hobby that this software accepts those files but not others, this camera agrees with those lenses but not others …. Ugh!!! There is absolutely no valid technical reason for it. It’s just antiquated segmentation. So, now, the winner takes all mentality has divided the size of the global pudding by 100. Well done? Great strategic thinking. Big fish in a tiny tank.

      Thanks for the print tip, Kristian šŸ™‚

  • John W says:

    I’m going to duck the Sony thing completely. I don’t have any experience with the system so don’t feel equipped to make any comment on their new Big Dog. Instead I’ll go directly to my thoughts on Pascal’s image.

    My first reaction is “WOW!! Great image”. But look closer. How is it composed and constructed. The shape of the spider is clearly the dominant element in the image and the symmetry with the reflection definitely enhances it. Three things bother me:

    1 – the line of the pools edge is like a laser punching through the body of the spider and detracts from
    the overall feel of the image.
    2 – the placement of the pool edge leaves a lot of distant background in the image which tells me
    nothing about the spider and IMHO adds nothing of value to the image.
    3 – the leg and reflection on the left vanish into the trees there, leaves them truncated and violates the
    symmetry of the image. Hopefully this is loss of contrast in the web image and things are better in
    the original.

    I would have liked to see the camera lowered and moved slightly to the left to raise the edge of the pool a bit higher and separate the legs from the trees on the left, then crop the top of the image down to the pool line accentuating the reflection with just a bit of the body and the legs in the top of the frame. I think that would make a stronger punchier image.

    Just my two cents worth.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi John, great comment, thank you.

      The statue is in a pool in a local wine making chateau that doubles as an art center. I highly recommend a visit. I’ll try your suggestion when I next visit. And come at a different time of day as well. It’s easy to move to the left from that position. And maybe I can also find a spot from which it’s possible to move lover without the reflection of the hills eating into the relfection of the statue.

      The lens is … a little soft. Deliberately so. It’s a portrait lens, soon to be reviewed and lacks punch a little bit. I’ll take a more biting one with me next time šŸ™‚

      Thanks again.

  • Michael Fleischer says:

    Back in 2010, I bravely switched from film (Contax + Zeiss lenses) & bought my first digital camera – a Nikon D300S and yes rather late in the digi-evolution I know ;-)…!
    My final choice of poison between 3 systems (Sony/Canon/Nikon) where based on the ergonomi, ease of menu system (haha) and most importantly – how it feelt when in my hands and also
    handling!

    I think that is so important and if a camera makes you feel confident and inspires you to make/create
    pictures then that (hopefully) growing friendship is a winner.
    We can all lust for technical improvements/more this & that etc…but in the end like anything else – does your system inspire you – makes you want to hone your skills?

    Be content because then that is the right thing for you (at least temporally) and also remember it is still just a piece of equipment, and no – not perfect (it never will be – such a concept doesn’t exist
    in the real world) but perhaps an living extension of your visions by proxy
    rather than ego comforting!

    Pascal, about the reflective spider art piece, I think it works really well in black&white and brings
    a nice uneasy tension feeling to it…
    As suggested above, moving some to the left would free the composition and perhaps a little
    more tonal separation of spider against the background and less vignette as well as
    less depth of field but still maintaining some clue…overall a little more spider definition! šŸ˜‰
    I would also try to place the right background pole along the spiders backpart so that the wire would imitate a silk thread…alien invasion?

    Thank’s for sharing
    your work…

    Cheers,
    Michael

  • Kakalotli says:

    The same day sony published his new baby, i was mute … do i need 61 mpix? i have the a7ii and the a7rii, it results that with the first i have feeled very comfortable, i make landscapes but i am in a stage in which the colors matter me more in my composition that details them; and when i do portrait the a7rii allows to see until the facial fine hair and the pores, it’s a monster. who uses the raw of a 42mpix camera knows that you must also have a cpu that supports them and lenses with which to take off a powerful sensor, i use the loxia and specify for 42mpix … how the clients feel now when 2 years ago they buyed the “best sony resolution” with their a7riii? how will they feel in two years when a camera comes out with 82mpix? i want to buy that camera with 61mpix, but something also tells me that i don’t need them …

  • Werner says:

    I love to talk and discuss about photographs and not about gear (that’s just information for me). Don’t you think this kind of discussion is just boring and always the same ?

    • philberphoto says:

      Dear Werner, if you look at my comment to Adrian’s brilliant post, you will see where my heart lies. Close to yours, it seems. On the other hand, if you look at the DS pageviews, gear posts are, by far, the ones that get the most views. If we chased viewership and readership, we’d specialize in those. We don’t. What we do, is to a large extent, write for each other, on as many different subjects as possible. With a lightness and a sense of fun which we hope is perceptible by readers, and which shows we don’t take ourselves seriously. After all, we are hobbyists. If there are subjects which are close to your heart and which you think deserve more recognition and exposure than they are getting on DS, there is a wonderful way to correct that ASAP. Contribute! We’d be more than pleased to show your art, which I know from another forum, and which I greatly admire.

      • Werner says:

        You are right about your replay, there is nothing wrong talking about gear , just sometimes it gets close to confessions or to other dogmatic statements (i dont say it happens here at DS) and i am a bit tired of that in general – so sorry for choosing DS to get rid of my emotions…
        If i find some calmer times i would like to contribute a short story about our last Tuscany trip in May (write me if you are interested )
        LG Werner

        • pascaljappy says:

          Dear Werner, no need to apologise. I feel gear is going nowhere too. At least not going where it should be. And that all this constant quantified turf war is tiring and pointless.

          We would be delighted to publish one of your articles on Tuscany!! We’re trying to talk more about locations and photographic techniques and less about gear. Your post will be very interesting. I have seen your photographs elsewhere and they are really beautifull.

          Looking forward to it šŸ™‚

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