NOTE: Feel free to leave your thoughts and any questions below…

I’ve had a Sony a7R 5 for a few months now. I don’t like to write too much about any software or camera right away, because it takes a while to really feel comfortable with them. But after 3 months I have used the camera enough that I thought it was time to take a look. I’ll talk about some of the features, but I’m also going to talk about how it compares to my Sony a1 because that’s been my favorite camera to date.

As we get started, just remember the Sony naming system for Full Frame cameras. That way if I mention other cameras you’ll have an idea what they are.

If it has an “R” in it that’s the big Resolution camera (a7R 5, a7R 4, etc…). If it doesn’t have the “R” (a7 4), then it’s their medium resolution camera. Usually similar features to the “R” cameras but less megapixels and less costly. If it has an “S” then it’s Sony’s video cameras. And of course the Sony a1, which doesn’t have any other versions since that was the first.

Links to Gear – If you decide to purchase anything links are below and I’d appreciate the click. I do get a small affiliate commission from B&H which helps put the kids through college 😉

Sony a7R 5 (Click Here)

Sony Alpha 1 (Click Here)

Sony 200-600mm (Click Here)

Sony 24-105mm (Click Here)

Camera Settings, Editing, etc…

The photos below are all edited in Lightroom Classic with basic tone and cropping. Most were also put through Topaz Photo AI for basic noise reduction. No photo here had any more than 60-90 seconds spent on it.

I’ll try to mention settings, but generally if it’s a wildlife photo it was shot with the 200-600mm lens. I use Manual Exposure Mode, the Continuous AF mode, the Zone AF Area, and auto ISO with the aperture set to the lowest the lens will go to (usually f/6.3 for the 200-600mm). If it’s a landscape it was shot with my Sony 24-105mm, in Aperture Priority at f/16 and ISO 100. Those settings and lenses pretty much account for 99% of my photography.

Who is the Camera For?

I think the camera is a great fit for landscape, nature, wildlife photographers in general. I also know a lot of portrait and wedding pros that use the “R” series so that they can crop in if they ever need without always changing lenses, or to have a big print for clients.

The big draw to the “R” series of camera is the megapixels. The real advantage is for people that want big images. For me, with landscapes, sometimes having all of those pixels means I can shoot a little wider (not ultra wide angle though because distortion would look odd) and crop in later, rather than changing lenses. And for wildlife, it comes in handy because we can rarely ever get as close as we want.

Sony a7R 5 + 200-600mm | f/6.3 | 1/3200th | ISO 100
Sony a7R 5 + 200-600mm | f/6.3 | 1/3200th | ISO 400


Just like the Sony a7R 4, the R5 resolution is 61 megapixels. Considering that most people no longer print, let alone print that big, it seems like a lot. And if you’re a landscape or nature photographer that mostly shares their photos online, it definitely is.

However, if you shoot wildlife then having that extra room to crop is huge. Just look at the photos below. You can really crop in tight, and still get a very detailed photo.

And sometimes, with landscapes, I’ll have a 24-105mm on and I see something a little more intimate in the distance where I’d normally have to put a longer zoom on. Well, with this, I can typically take the shot and crop in if I need.

Sony a7R 5 + 200-600mm | f/6.3 | 1/3200th | ISO 400
Sony a7R 5 + 24-105mm | f/16 | 1/60th | ISO 100

Auto Focus

The Auto Focus in this camera is insane. I usually refer to it at “stickiness”. How sticky is the AF point once it locks on to something. If you’ve followed me at all for the last 2 years, I constantly say that the Sony a1 is the best camera I’ve ever held. And it still is. However, the a7R 5 comes REALLY REALLY close. In some cases, it may even beat it.

The Auto Focus in the Sony a1 is amazing and set the standard for every manufacture’s camera after that. The problem is that it cost $6500. That’s just prohibitive since most people that follow me, photography is a hobby (albeit a serious one). If I asked my wife if I could spend $6500 on golf clubs you’d likely hear the “GONG!!!” of the frying pan hit my head from several states away 😉

Sony a7R 5 + 200-600mm | f/6.3 | 1/2000th | ISO 320

The problem was, I didn’t care for the a7R 4 for wildlife, so the only thing I could recommend as an alternative was the a74. However, you only got 33MP as opposed to 50mp. And for wildlife, that extra ability to crop really helps, not to mention the frame rate.

Now that we have the a7R 5 at $3900, I have a great alternative to the Sony a1 ($6500). Definitely not cheap, but hey… it’s 2023 and absolutely NOTHING is cheap.

When it comes to the AF system in this camera, I didn’t notice any difference in stickiness from my a1. It’s really hard to get an apples-to-apples comparison when shooting a moving subject like a bird. So I switched back and forth between the two often, and both of them are equally as good to my eye. The a7R 5 does have a few more AF subject detection modes like Animal/Bird combo, Car/Train/Airplane, and Insect (yuck!). In my tests they all performed just as good as the people and animal detection I’ve used before.

Sony a7R 5 + 200-600mm | f/6.3 | 1/3200th | ISO 100

Sony does say that the a7R5 has “subject tracking” and it talks about a bunch of “AI” stuff that I know the Sony a1 specs didn’t talk about. So who knows? If you’re looking for a definitive/official answer to which AF is better, you won’t find one. All I can say is that in my opinion after using both, the a7R 5 has at least as good (if not better) AF and tracking than any Sony camera I’ve used.

And if that’s not good enough for you, then let’s just role play for a minute. The Sony a1 came out nearly 2 years earlier. The “R” series is one of Sony’s best selling camera lines. So if you were Sony, would you cripple the new camera to be worse than a 2 year old camera? Or would you make it better? I’m nowhere near as smart as them, but I know what I’d do 🙂

Lastly, just to show you how good the AF is, the eye on this hawk is razor sharp (horrible photo, but it makes a point). For an AF system to pick up focus as fast as it did in this photo, and keep it on the bird with as cluttered a background as you see, is pretty remarkable.

Sony a7R 5 + 200-600mm | f/6.3 | 1/3200th | ISO 640

More About Eye AF

People ask a lot about the Eye Autofocus. And I’ll often hear about some one saying it didn’t engage if the bird was flying erratically. Here’s my thought. I don’t really care about Eye AF for birds in flight. They’re usually far enough away that if the camera focuses anywhere on the bird, it will be acceptably in focus and very sharp. For birds in flight, I just want stickiness in my AF. I don’t care where on the bird the focus point is.

However, for perched birds and animals it’s different. If we don’t have Eye AF, then we often see the AF get stuck on things around the animal, as in the photo below. It’s really cluttered and most AF systems without Eye AF will pick up one of those branches instead. Now, you can change focus areas to something smaller and point it at the bird, and recompose. But that’s exactly why I love Eye AF – you don’t have to do that anymore. No more focus and recompose. Just get the bird in the AF area and the camera is really good at finding the eye, and letting you compose the photo any way you want.

Image Quality

Next up we have Image Quality. For me, I can’t really notice much difference from its predecessor, the a7R4. Sony has always been known to be one of the top cameras for image quality, so I’ve just come to expect it and this camera is no different from what I can see.

That said, I do find the Sony a1 seems to perform just a little better at higher ISO settings which is to be expected. The a7R5 has more megapixels. And usually what comes with that is more noise. However, it’s barely noticeable for me, and I’d happily use it knowing that we have the best noise reduction software we’ve ever had in history – and that noise is gone in about 20 seconds.

Sony a7R 5 + 200-600mm | f/6.3 | 1/1000 | ISO 400
Sony a7R 5 + 24-105mm | f/8 | 1/60th | ISO 100

Frame Rate

If you’re a wildlife or sports shooter, then this could be important to you. The frame rate of the a7R 5 is 10 frames per second. For most situations that’s fine. If you shoot landscapes and portraits or still life, then it’s more than enough. However if you shoot fast moving subjects, then it can be slow compared to what you get in, say, the Sony a1 (up to 30fps).

Sony a7R 5 + 200-600mm | f/6.3 | 1/3200th | ISO 320

I have mixed feelings on this because I rarely shoot my Sony a1 at 30fps. It’s just too much, and fills up the card too fast, as well as being too time consuming to go through and pick keepers from all those photos. So most of the time I end up shooting at 10 or 20fps. But if I’m in a situation where I think there could be really great action happening, then sometimes I up it to 30fps. For example, sometimes I take an outing with DVWildlife to shoot eagles. Because those eagles are so fast and you just never know what they’re going to do, and action shots you’ll get, I often switch to 30fps for those outings. But for most of my wildlife photography, 10fps is plenty – though I wouldn’t mind at least the option to shoot 15-20fps.

Sony a7R 5 + 200-600mm | f/6.3 | 1/3200th | ISO 400

Bulb Timer

All I have to say here is it’s about time. Bulb timers where around in some cameras 8 years ago and I’ve always hoped Sony would add it. It’s really useful for night shots or long exposure photos. Before having the feature in camera, you’d have to press the shutter once to start the exposure and once to end it, or use a remote of some sort. And you’d have to keep track of the time.

Now with the Bulb Timer, you can set it to anywhere from 2 to 900 seconds. It’ll even give you a delayed start as well as show you a countdown timer on the screen so you know where it’s at. Thank you!

Focus Stacking

Sony also added a Focus stacking feature. I don’t actually do focus stacking with my landscapes and I’d argue with most photos being shared online today that most people don’t need it. But it seems to be a highly requested feature. So if that’s something you wanted, now you have it.

Software Update via Memory Card

This is such a silly thing, but Mac users will be jumping up and down over this. Now you can put new firmware updates on to the memory card and update the camera. Sony never made this easy and made it even harder for Mac users. I just updated two Sony a1’s last month and it took me nearly 30 minutes to even figure out how to get it started, because you have to jump through hoops to get it moving. Double Thank you!

Ergonomics and Menus

I’m not the guy to go to for this stuff. I have a very “suck it up and figure it out” attitude for it. These cameras are multi-thousand dollar electronics made for the absolute highest level of professional. The internet and reviewers love to talk about how bad cameras feel in your hand, or complicated menus, while they show horrible uninspiring photos of a squirrel in their weed-overridden backyard 😉

For me, the camera is a piece of equipment. None of them feel great in my hand, but I adapt to whatever I hold. No menu system in the world is awesome, but we figure it out. So, for me, these things don’t factor in to my choices at all. I understand that for you it may be different, but it’s just not something I can talk passionately about because I don’t care. It feels like a camera, and any other camera I’ve held from any manufacturer.

And the menu feels like a menu developed by engineers who speak a different language – like all of them do. However, it is the same menu as on my Sony a1 though, so there was no learning curve.

Buttons and Dials

The setup for the a7R5 is similar to previous versions. However, it is different from the a1 in that it doesn’t have a physical dial on the camera to change Focus Mode or Frame Rate (Drive modes). I’ve grown to really like having that on the top of my camera. But I think it’s mostly convenience because after shooting the a7R 5, I can’t say it’s bothered me that much.

Also, the exposure compensation dial doesn’t have +1, +2, etc… written on it. Unlike previous models where you turned it a certain number of clicks right or left to dial + or – in, this doesn’t stop. You can keep turning it and I guess they figure you’re usually looking at the EVF when you do it to dial in what you need. It doesn’t bother me, but it was just different to look at when I first got it, since every camera I’ve used for 30 years has something written on that dial.

Oh, and it has a better articulating flippy screen. I don’t vlog or do video with the camera, where I have the need to turn the screen to face front, but some people do. I do tilt the screen out and up so I can hold the camera down to the ground, and still see what’s going on, but that’s been around for a while.

Final Thoughts and Who Is It For?

My final thoughts are that the a7R5 can replace my Sony a1 for wildlife. Will it? I haven’t decided yet because I’ve been so in love with that a1, and it’s hard to let go. But shooting with it over the last 3 months, I can’t say that I’ve missed anything from the a1 other than that dial on the top of the camera I mentioned earlier.

But as a wildlife, landscape and nature photographer this camera has everything I need. And for the first time in two years, if you took away my Sony a1, I wouldn’t cry like a baby now that I have this 🙂

Who is it for?…

If you’re a wildlife photographer who doesn’t own the Sony a1 already, and you want a camera that is almost as good as it in every way, then you’ll love this one. Or if you are a wildlife and overall outdoor photographer, and want a backup to your a1, but don’t want to drop another $6500 then this is a great backup.

If you’re a landscape photographer who doesn’t already own the Sony a7R 4 then this is a no brainer. If you do own the a7R 4, the focus stacking and Bulb Timer can be HUGE features for you, so maybe you’d upgrade if you need those. If not, I think you could stick with your r4.

PS: Landscapes – Heck, even if you have an older camera, you really wouldn’t need to upgrade as a landscape photographer (sorry Sony, don’t hate me). It’s just that cameras have not improved much if you just shoot landscapes and still life. That’s why I don’t talk a lot about it. I’d gladly shoot the same camera I had 10 years ago, and I could make EVERY BIT as good a landscape photo as now. We don’t need much from Auto Focus or ISO or frame rate for still subjects, and as far as I can see image quality today is pretty much the same as it was 5-6 years ago.

And if you own a the a7R 2 or 3, or the a7 series (or even the crop sensor a6000 series), then this would be a great upgrade if you need the extra megapixels. And if you do own the a6000 series, you’ll definitely see an image quality improvement with this camera.

As always, thanks for stopping by and I hope this helped. Feel free to leave any questions or thoughts below. Enjoy!

Links to Gear – If you decide to purchase anything links are below and I’d appreciate the click. I do get a small affiliate commission from B&H which helps put the kids through college 😉

Sony a7R 5 (Click Here)

Sony Alpha 1 (Click Here)

Sony 200-600mm (Click Here)

Sony 24-105mm (Click Here)


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