This is just a quick compare between the Sony a7r mark iv, the Panasonic S1R and the Nikon Z7, all top of the line, flagship photo-centric photography cameras. The Canon EOS R is not in this category, which is why it was not considered. Soon Canon will release their photo-centric pro camera, and I look forward to that camera. For now, we just have these big three, high-resolution photo cameras, (that also shoot great 4k video, but photo first, video second). Sony wins for now, but it’s only summer 2019, more cameras are on their way. Also, the Sony a7r mark iii is now discounted to 2500.00, which is an amazing camera and easily competes with the Panasonic S1R and the Nikon Z7, and beats both in price and affordable lens selection (without adapters).
Today, Sony announced an amazing new full-frame photography camera that outperforms its already amazing flagship photography camera. The a7r mark iv is a 61Mp camera! I just want to let that sink in.. The previous Sony flagship photography-centric camera, the a7r mark iii, with 47Mp outperformed its competition, and now, with 61Mp it evergreens that performance for years to come. For the first time ever, a 3 layer pixel shift option, allows each pixel to capture Red, Green and Blue, all three primary colors of light, instead of previously each pixel only capturing only 1 color at a time and surrounding pixels capturing the other primary colors. Pixel shift is for non-moving subjects and 3 photos can be combined into one 240Mp image! UPDATE: The RGB pixel shift takes 16 images, 4 Red, 4 Green, 4 Blue and 4 B&W (for contrast), then combines them into one image; essentially it’s like combining 4 images into one, but with 3-layer RGB pixel shift, so each pixel of the final image expresses all colors. In theory, the colors will be 3x more expressive than any other camera, including medium format. Combining the 240Mp 3 layer pixel shift technology, with Sony’s new back-illuminated sensor, the a7riv can capture up to 15 stops of dynamic range, making it an ideal camera for landscape photography. Currently, the 240Mp RAW file can only be edited in Sony’s custom editing software, which is not the easiest program to navigate. Neither Lightroom, Capture One, nor Photoshop can combine these photos into one edit.
The new Sony a7r iv photo-centric mirrorless camera has 567 phase detect auto focus points, covering 74% of the sensor and in APS-C mode, uses 325 AF points, with 100% coverage, which translates to a 26Mp image. The a7r iv can capture full-frame 61Mp photos at surprising 10 frames per second, which is insane! The mark iv uses the fast processors from the a9 to allow for such large photo size image to be captured at such a high frame rate, up to 68 images in the buffer at a time. The wireless technology in the a7r iv has improved as well, so much so that it can wirelessly tether to a computer, no cables needed whatsoever; this is huge for studio work.
Eye-detect auto focus and animal eye detect AF are available in both photo mode, and for the first time, also available in video mode. Keep in mind that the a7riv is capable of good quality video, but it is not a video-centric camera and is not a cinema camera. The video quality is still 8bit 4k at only 100Mbps, but it is now capable of quality Full-Frame video due to recording in 6k and downsampling to 4k, unlike the a7r iii, which suffered in FF, but was fine in APS-C mode. This all hints to the upcoming a7siii, Sony’s video-centric camera in the $3000.00 price range, coming soon in 2019, stay tuned..
The Sony a7r mark iv will be available in September 2019 and will cost $3500.00.
Here is a great video of Sony product manager, Mike Bubolo, talking in-depth about the a7r iv; video created by Adorama TV:
Traditional 645 film Medium Format differs in size from modern Digital Medium Format sensor sizes. Traditional Medium Format began with 645 (6×4.5: 56mm x 41.5mm or 2 ¼”x 1 ⅝”) and increased in size all the way up to 4×5 Large Format (4”x5” or 102mm x 127mm). Just as with Medium Format film sizes, digital sensors vary in size as well and is dependent on many factors including sensor design and manufacturing, camera body, projected use, professional customer demand, future camera line, etc.
Traditional Medium Format meant better quality. Creating a print from a larger negative meant enlarging it less, yielding sharper results, with greater color depth and dynamic range. Digital Medium Format also yields a higher quality than full-frame; the sensor pixels are larger, letting in more light, and providing finer detail. Also enlarging provides better results as well. These are general qualities and the precise results will vary by manufacturer of the sensor and the ability to process the image in camera and with on-board camera software, using a format that can still be interpolated for existing software. To conclude, generally speaking, a larger sensor is (typically) better. BUT, there are exceptions, and you have to compare apples to apples. The main reason this is can never be a black and white statement is technology is constantly changing how sensors and cameras capture light. All things being equal, with top quality lenses, a 47Mp full-frame camera may yield similar results as a lower-end, 50Mp Medium Format camera. But a medium-quality, 50Mp Medium Format camera will eclipse a 30Mp full-frame top-tier camera any day of the week. Fuji has really pushed the envelop in bridging the gap between the high-functionality of full-frame/crop-sensor cameras with the quality of a Medium Format sensor. The Fuji GFX 50R is only 4000.00 (body-only) bring Medium-Format to the masses. Previous Medium-Format cost over 40,000.00 and were basically in-studio only cameras. The Fuji GFX 50S & 50R were the first Medium-Format cameras that functioned more like a DSLR and could easily take photos outdoors for landscapes and even street photography. Fuji pushed the envelope again recently with the release of the GFX 100, a 102Mp Medium Format camera with a stabilized sensor and the ability to shoot quality 4k video.
Hasselblad has followed suit with their more affordable X1D Medium Format camera that can be used outdoors for landscapes and outdoor portraits. Hasselblad is now owned DJI, who saw the potential in helicopter hover software for drones, where no one could, and has since dominated the drone market. Expect more great things from Hasselblad.
Fuji is now calling this camera’s sensor “Large Format,” which goes against every convention. The Phase One and Hasselblad 100Mp cameras have larger sensors and are still called, “medium-format cameras.” Large format starts at 4×5 (inches, or 102mm x 127mm), which is twice the size of the GFX 100 sensor. Fuji’s reasoning is the GFX 100 has 4k video, image stabilization and other features that differentiate it from the competition, so marketing it differently makes sense to Fuji, but not to everyone else. Arri, Hollywood’s favorite cinema camera company, recently released their “large format sensor,” which is slightly larger than 35mm full-frame, so the cinema/ video world is changing the naming convention, especially for hybrid cameras, such as the GFX 100. The GFX 100 is an amazing camera and blows the competition away as far as features and will encourage everyone to bring medium format cameras out of the studio and into the field, also at a ¼ of the price, but I, for one, will not be calling it “large format,” until it has a minimum 100mm x 100mm sensor.
Leica S (Typ 007) 37.5Mp 30mm x 45mm sensor
MamiyaLeaf645DF+ with Credo Digital Back 50Mp 44mm x 33mm sensor
Hasselblad H6D-400c MS 100Mp 53.4mm x 40.0mm sensor
Hasselblad X1D-50c 50Mp 43.8mm x 32.9mm sensor
Phase One XF IQ3 100Mp 53.7mm × 40.4mm sensor
Phase One XF IQ4 150Mp 53.7mm x 40.4mm sensor
Phase One Medium Format cameras have the largest sensors, closest to traditional 645 format (min. traditional medium format size). Phase One sensors produce the most beautiful, realistic images, mostly due to their “trichromatic sensors.” Most experts agree that they are the best. The Phase One “Achromatic” interchangeable sensor is amazing as well.
Looking to the future, both Nikon and Canon have new (2018) mirrorless cameras with “extra space” between lens mount and sensor. It is possible that both companies are planning to release Medium Format cameras in the future. Canon has hinted at this with their RF lenses, with quality up to 8k, “lenses to last the next 30 years.” The possibility of more Medium Format cameras on their way is exciting, however, the new Canon RF lens mount is 55mm in diameter and the Fuji GFX lens mount is 65mm. Is 55mm diameter enough for a Medium Format sensor? The new Fuji GFX 100 is revolutionary because it functions with the speed of a full-frame mirrorless camera, but at 100Mp Medium Format quality. The future will always be higher quality photography, and Medium Format will take us there.
Medium format traditionally means 120 or 220 film which provided the following negative sizes:
6×4.5 56mm × 41.5mm (2 ¼” x1 ⅝”)
6×6 56mm × 56mm (2 ¼” x 2 ¼”)
6×7 56mm × 67mm (2 ¼” x 2 ⅝”)
6×9 56mm × 84mm (2 ¼” x 3 ½”)
Perhaps “Digital Medium Format,” or “Micro Medium Format,” would be a more correct way of referring to anything larger than a full-frame 35mm (24mm x 36mm) sensor.
Large Format (film photography)
4×5 102mm x 127mm (4” x 5”)
8×10 203.2mm x 254mm (8” x 10”)
(the above were the most common sizes)
Ultra Large Format (film photography)
11×14 279.4mm x 355.6mm (11”x14”)
16×20 406.4mm x 508mm (16”x20”)
20×24 508mm x 609.6mm (20”x24”)
(images courtesy of B&H, Phase One, Hasselblad and…)