The 42.4Mp Sony A7R II has been very popular, especially with landscape photographers who want a comparatively small and light camera that can capture plenty of detail. Now, a little over two years after the A7R II’s announcement, Sony has unveiled the A7R III and on paper, it looks like a great upgrade.
I’m going to lay my cards on the table, I’m pretty excited about the A7R III. I love shooting with the A7R II, I like its small size, the shallow depth of field made possible by the full-frame sensor and the level of detail that it captures.
I’ve also been impressed by the Sony A9 and its incredible autofocusing capability, but I can’t really justify its cost and, if I’m really honest, I’d like a few more pixels.
So now the Sony A7R III has come along and it looks like a very tempting high-resolution powerhouse. It offers the same pixel count as the A7R II, but we’re told that image quality has improved with better noise control and colour.
What’s more, there’s a new Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode that shifts the sensor by 1-pixel distance between shots as four images are captured. The camera then automatically composites these files into one image made up from 169.6Mp worth of data and outputs a 42.4Mp file with greater detail and better tonal gradation. That looks like a good way of getting more detail without creating absolutely massive files.
When I tested the A7R II I found that I could shoot bands in low light and even quite fast moving subjects, but my hit rate wasn’t as good as I can get with a DSLR like the Canon 5D Mark III. Sony has improved upon the A7R II’s AF system for the A7R III. For a start, it’s kept the number of phase detection focus points on the sensor the same as on the A7R II’s – 399, but the number of contrast detection points have been vastly increased to 425.
Perhaps more significantly, the sensor has a front-end LSI and this helps double the readout speed, which is good news for focusing. In fact, Sony says that the A7R III can focus around at about twice the speed of the A7R II in low light. That’s music to my ears.
More good news for my low-light shooting tendencies is that the Bionz X processing engine has been enhanced and this enables more complex noise reduction algorithms to be applied so that there’s 1-stop reduction the level of noise in images. I’m looking forward to putting that to test.
I found the A7R II’s image stabilisation (IS) system very good, in fact, when I was using the FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS lens at the 200mm point, I was able to get around 1/3 to 1/2 of my images sharp at 1/15 sec (that’s at 100% on-screen). Since then the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has come along and raised the bar considerably. I’ve been able to shoot perfectly sharp images to 2 or 3-second exposures with it when I’ve used a wide-angle lens.
Sony is claiming 5.5EV shutter speed compensation for the A7R III. That’s the difference between a 1/500 sec exposure and 1/10sec. It’s going to be interesting to test it when I get my hands on a review sample.
Sony corrected one of my bugbears of the A7R II with the A9 by introducing a mini-joystick for setting the AF point. I’m delighted to see this has also appeared on the A7R III as it makes life easier.
It’s also good to see a My Menu screen that allows easy access to your most frequently used features, that should help speed-up access to some of the more buried options.
I’m pleased to discover that the A7R III’s screen is touch-sensitive. Ideally, I’d like to be able to use this touch-control to navigate the menu and make setting selections, but as on the A9 this doesn’t seem to be possible. However, it should be useful for setting AF and checking images.
I’ll hold-out for a firmware upgrade to enable menu navigation because when I interviewed Yosuke Aoki, Vice President and Head of Digital Imaging Group at Sony Europe, a few months back he hinted that this might come for the A9.
I think keeping the pixel count of the A7R III the same as the A7R II, but working on improving image quality is a sensible move by Sony. I also think that the specifications and handling improvement offer enough to make the new camera of interest to those who invested in the A7R II.
There have been rumours that Sony will announce a high-resolution version of the A9 called the A9R. Whether or not this is still to come, time will tell, but for the moment I’me very pleased that the A7R line has been developed. It will, after all, be more affordable than the A9R is likely to be.
Sony says that the A7R III will go on sale in November, I can’t wait to get hold of a sample to test it.