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Sony A7R IV Looks Flawed for My Purposes: Appear to Lack Focus Stacking Support and Lossless Compressed RAW

After having enjoyed the Fujifilm GFX100 for some weeks, it will be disappointing to downgrade to the Sony A7R IV, a camera that needs a lot of review attention in a few weeks. The idea of putting in the same or more effort so I can capture 60MP on a much smaller sensor instead of 100MP on a larger sensor is just not appealing—well the GFX100 spoiled me.

CLICK TO VIEW: Sony A7R IV + Highly Recommended Lenses (landscape oriented)

The Sony A7R IV already looks flawed for my purposes. It will no doubt be a solid upgrade over the Sony A7R III, but fixable crappy problems should have been fixed a year ago in a firmware update on the A7R III. I hope I am wrong on both points.

Is the Sony A7R IV really going to force me to manually execute the focus stepping needed for focus stacking? The fact is, you CANNOT make full use of the camera resolution without focus stacking for numerous purposes, so I see stacking as a core feature.

Is the Sony A7R IV really going to lack lossless compressed raw and require the use of uncompressed raw for maximum quality? This would be lame—nay, pathetic given how technically straightforward it is. Sony, please get your act together and incorporate a lossless compressed format for raw files—failure to do so costs customers money and time—this state of affairs is just unacceptable, particularly in a 4th generation camera.

Not only does a lossless compressed raw file format cut the space required out in the field for shooting (I would have run out of space with the GFX100!), download time is much faster, storage on the computer is hugely reduced, backup times and data verification times are shortened etc.

Recently, I returned home with 700GB of lossless-compressed Fujifilm GFX100 RAF raw files; with Sony, this would have been 1.4TB (twice the size) for no reason at all. That is beyond stupid, but that’s what the A7R IV does from all I can tell.

Sony A7R IV

Why automated focus stepping is critical

If working with the GFX100 reminded me of one thing, this is it: the ability to bang off a 7 or 13 or 23 frame focus stack in a few seconds is a HUGE operational win, even if I have to shoot the last infinity frame manually (GFX100 bug). The wins are multiple and important:

  • Fast automated focus stepping reduces issues from lighting changes between frames, which the stacking process in effect sees as detail changes—a huge PITA that causes the need for excessive retouching. So getting the stack done fast is a huge help.
  • Fast automated focus stepping reduces issues from movement, such as wind or water or clouds. Again, this saves a ton of time by less need for retouching.
  • Fast automated focus stepping eliminates the risk of error between steps. A single error ruins many a stack.
  • Fast automated focus stepping can in effect focus on thin air or on things which cannot be focused on, at least not accurately. Such frames are critical in many cases to avoiding haloes around edges; getting it wrong causes severe problems in some cases.
  • Fast automated focus stepping is critical at dusk, where it is too dark to focus at all, except up close with the aid of artificial light. Having to focus manually makes stacking very difficult, requiring estimation, which is extremely error-prone.
  • Fatigue factor: having to manually focus is fatiguing for a 10 frame stack, let alone 40 of them over the day. My eyes get tired and are not always at 100%.

There you have it—focus stepping has to be built-in (half-assed PlayMemories app is not a solution), it has to be automated, built-in, and do it right.

Dr S writes:

"Even Fujifilm’s cheaper "X" cams (APS-C) have focus stepping and it is well-implemented.

If Sony wants to deem their A7x cameras as professional they need to provide at least the one professional-level feature landscape photographers.......and macro shooters truly need. Why they don't is a mystery.

And maybe, in a strange way the fact they don't provide lossless compressed raw is connected to focus stepping. .....rapid devouring of camera memory.

Sony, it is time to come to the plate!

DIGLLOYD: Sony has no issue with buffer size that I can tell. The Fujifilm GFX100 does slow down drastically around frame 18 when shooting a FOCUS BKT series.

Glenn K writes:

I too have crapped on Sony for not implementing lossless compression... but I recently heard an interview with Fujifilm engineers (I need to track it down again) where they said they typically got 10-20% compression of raw files.

What raw sizes are you actually seeing out of the Fujifilm GFX100? Uncompressed should be 200MB. If they are averaging 150MB+, then maybe lossless compression isn't really worth fretting about.

DIGLLOYD: uncompressed Fujifilm GFX100 raw files are 209.6MB each (MB = 1000*1000), whether 14-bit or 16-bit and regardless of crop ratio (camera always records the entire sensor). The Fujifilm engineers perhaps do not understand their own excellence; see the lossless-compressed space savings from 4811 raw files shot over 2.5 weeks with the GFX100.

Below, am I supposed to stand around for nine 30-second exposures, refocusing manually for each in dim light (very difficult) and paying very close attention to minimize the time? That’s a huge win for the GFX100 and any camera that automates the process and a huge stupidity for Sony.

Pre-Sunrise View Looking South, High Above Patriarch Grove
f8 @ 30.0 sec electronic shutter focus stack 9 frames, ISO 100; 2019-08-17 05:39:18
Fujifilm GFX100 + Fujifilm GF 23mm f/4 R LM WR @ 18mm equiv (23mm)
ENV: Outcrop above Patriarch Grove, altitude 11650 ft / 3551 m, 45°F / 7°C
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, distortion corrected, vignetting corrected

[low-res image for bot]
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