Earlier this week Sony quietly released very minor upgrades to its Sony A7R IV and Sony A7R III mirrorless cameras – these upgrades were so small, they caused a fair bit of confusion, particularly for anyone who's been thinking of buying one of the high-resolution Alpha cameras.
If you missed the news, the updated Sony A7R IV (which has the same name, but a different ILCE-7RM4A model number) and Sony A7R III (called the ILCE-7RM3A) were revealed this week in Sony's YouTube video (opens in new tab). The two cameras bring a few small changes, most notably a new rear LCD screen.
On both cameras, this display now has a more modern 2.36-million dot resolution, rather than the older 1.44-million dot displays on the current models. Otherwise, the only other changes are that the USB port has been changed to USB 3.2 to match the Sony A7S III, and there's no longer a Sony logo beneath the LCD monitor.
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- Read our in-depth Sony A7R IV review
So why exactly has Sony launched these subtly different A7R IV and A7R III models, and does it really matter? Those new LCD displays could be a decent improvement for reviewing images, so it's certainly worth bearing in mind if you're in the market for one of these cameras – particularly as Sony has told us that the new models aren't available yet.
When we asked how the stock of the old and new versions of these cameras will play out, Sony told us: "The current models will still be available to purchase, in line with retail stock. We don’t yet have an on-sale date for the new model."
In other words, retailers will likely be running through the rest of their current stock of the Sony A7R IV (called the ILCE-7RM4) and Sony A7R III (ILCE-7RM3), before the new versions go on sale.
To help shed more light on the upgrades, we also asked Sony if it had any comment on the reasons for their arrival – in particular, whether or not they're related to the "severe shortage of key parts" that Sony revealed it was experiencing back in December 2020.
Sony told us: "We have updated the Alpha 7R III and Alpha 7R IV in response to customer needs, as we always strive to provide the best technology." It's the kind of response we expected from the camera giant, even if it doesn't quite add up. After all, the flagship Sony A1 (which arrived in January) has the same dated 1.44-million dot LCD screen that appears to have been deemed not advanced enough for the older A7R IV and A7R III. Cue the shrug emoji.
Wait and see
Still, despite the slightly strange announcement of the new Sony A7R IV and A7R III models, the minor nature of their upgrades mean it's not necessarily a huge deal for prospective buyers.
Those new LCD screens actually have a slightly negative affect on the new models' battery lives, which have dropped by ten shots compared to the current cameras. Some photographers, particularly those who spend most of their time in the electronic viewfinder, may actually prefer a lower-res rear screen for that reason.
But if you want those new 2.36-million dot LCDs, it'll be worth waiting for the new versions of the cameras to land – just make sure you check with the retailer that you're getting an 'ILCE-7RM4A' version of the Sony A7R IV or an 'ILCE-7RM3A' for the A7R III.
Either way, the cameras will be otherwise identical to their 'predecessors' in terms of their sensor and processors, which wasn't the case the last time Sony did a similar move. In 2019, it launched a Sony RX100 VA – a modified version of its Sony RX100 V compact camera – which actually came with a new Bionz X Processor that powered several new features. While a new LCD screen will be a nice bonus for some photographers, it's not quite in the same league as that kind of processor upgrade.
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