Sony A7R III Snap Verdict
While it has the same pixel count as its predecessor, the 42.4Mp Sony Alpha A7R III makes some major enhancements on the camera it replaces. As well as improve handling, there’s faster shooting, more decisive focusing and better image quality. Consequently, the Sony A7R III is a phenomenal camera. It’s serious competition for DSLRs like the Nikon D850.
For Sony A7R III
- High-quality full-frame 42Mp sensor
- 10fps continuous shooting
- Silent shutter possible at 10fps
Against Sony A7R III
- Limited use made of the touch-screen
- Complex menu that could still be better arranged
- Only one SD slot is UHS-II compliant
What is the Sony A7R III?
Announced on the 25th October 2017, the Sony Alpha 7R III (widely known as the A7R III) is a full-frame compact system or mirrorless system camera with the Sony FE lens mount. With 42.4 million effective pixels, it has the equal highest resolution of the Sony A7-series. That’s the same pixel count as its predecessor, the Sony A7R II.
The Sony A7R III is aimed at enthusiast and professional photographers. Its high resolution gives it particular appeal to landscape, still-life and commercial photographers.
Sensor and Processor
The 42.4Mp Sony A7R II has been very popular, especially with landscape photographers who want a comparatively small and light camera. Now, a little over two years after the A7R II’s announcement, Sony has unveiled the A7R III.
Like the A7R II, the A7R III has a back-illuminated Exmor R sensor with 42.4 million effective pixels. This has a gapless microlens design to boost light sensitivity and dynamic range.
Unlike the Mark II, the A7R III’s sensor has a front-end LSI. This, together with the enhanced BIONZ X processing engine, delivers a 1.8x increase in processing speed and a range of performance enhancements. Notably, Sony claims a low sensitivity (ISO) dynamic range of up to 15-stops.
There’s also a new Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode that shifts the sensor by 1-pixel distance between shots as four images are captured. These files can then be combined into one image made up from 169.6Mp worth of data using Sony’s new Imaging Edge software. The end result is a 42.4Mp file with greater detail and better tonal gradation.
More good news for anyone with low-light shooting tendencies is that the Bionz X processing engine has been enhanced. This enables more complex noise reduction algorithms to be applied so that there’s a claimed 1-stop reduction the level of noise in images.
As a consequence, Sony has given the A7R III a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100 – 32,000. There are also expansion settings that take the range to ISO 50 – 102400.
When I tested the A7R II, I found that I could shoot music bands in low light and quite fast moving subjects. However, 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 instance, the number of contrast detection points has also been vastly increased to 425. However, the number of phase detection focus points on the sensor the same as on the A7R II’s (399).
As I mentioned earlier, the sensor has a front-end LSI. 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.
In addition, Sony says it has made the A7R III’s Eye AF twice as effective at detecting and tracking eyes. It even works with moving subjects.
Thanks to the enhanced processing engine and on-chip LSI, Sony has been able to double the continuous shooting rate of the A7R II for the A7R III. This means it’s possible to shoot at up to 10fps (frames per second) with the new camera. If you want a live view of the scene, however, you’ll have to drop to 8fps.
It’s possible to shoot up to 76 jpeg or compressed raw files in a single blast.
The maximum shooting rate is possible with continuous autofocusing and exposure metering. Consequently, the A7R III is an attractive option for sport and action photography.
Furthermore, the electronic shutter means that the 10fps shooting rate can be used completely silently. This opens up the range of shooting opportunities. Wedding photographers can shoot in the church without fear of ruining the moment. Portrait photographers can capture candid images more easily and sports photographers can photograph golf swings and tennis serves without being ejected from the tournament.
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 using 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.
Viewfinder and Screen
Sony has given the A7R III the same 0.5-inch type OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) as the A9. This means there are 3,686,400 dots at work. According to Sony, the EVF is twice as bright as the A7R II’s.
In its standard setting, the EVF has a frame rate of 60/50 fps (NTSC/PAL). This can be boosted to 120/100fps for a smoother view of moving subjects.
The screen on the back of the camera has also been borrowed from the A9. I’s a tilting 3-inch TFT LCD touchscreen with 1,440,000 dots with White Magic technology. The touch control can be used to set AF point when images are composed on-screen. And with the Touch Pad function enabled, when looking in the viewfinder.
As we’d expect from Sony, it’s possible to shoot 4K (3840 x 2160) movie. In Super 35mm format it’s possible to shoot in 5K (15MP) with oversampling for better quality 4K output.
In a move that will perplex A9 shooters, the A7R III comes with S-Log mode. This means it can output very flat footage that’s better suited for grading and multi-camera set-ups.
There’s also an HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) picture profile that results in footage that has wider dynamic range without grading.
If slow motion video is your thing, the A7R III can shoot Full-HD (1920 x 1080) footage at up to 120/100p (NTSC/PAL).
Video, even 4K, may be recorded internally to one of the two SD cards or externally to via an HDMI connection. Disappointingly, only one of the card ports is UHS-II compliant.
One common gripe about the A7R II is its battery life. Under CIPA testing conditions its NP-FW50 battery only lasts for around 290 shots when the viewfinder is in use. When the screen is used for composing images, battery life extends to 340 shots. Meanwhile, with movies in normal use, there’s a 50min life when the EVF is used. It’s a 55min life with the screen.
If you’re shooting movies continuously those figures extend to 95mins whether the viewfinder or the screen is used.
Sony has given the A7R III the same NP-FZ100 battery as the A9. This gives a life of 530 stills with the viewfinder or 650 shots with the LCD.
The normal movie recording figures are 100min with the viewfinder and 115min with the screen. And with continuous recording, 180mins with the viewfinder or 190mins with the screen. That’s a huge improvement in battery life, but heavy users are still likely to want to carry a second battery or two just in case.
Sony A7R III Key Specifications
|Camera name||Sony Alpha 7R III|
|Date announced||25th October 2017|
|Price at launch||£2,808/$3,199 (body only)|
|Sensor size||Full-frame (35.9 x 24mm)|
|Effective pixel count||42.4 million|
|Lens mount||E (FE)|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100 – 32000 expanded to ISO 50 – 102400 for still images|
|Autofocus system||824-point Hybrid (399 phase detection points, 425 contrast detection points)|
|Maximum continuous shooting rate||10fps|
|Maximum video resolution||4K (3840 x 2160)|
|Storage||Dual Slot SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II compatible)|
|Viewfinder||0.5-inch type OLED with 3,686,400 dots|
|Screen||Tilting 3-inch TFT LCD touchscreen with 1.4K dots and White Magic|
|Dimensions||126.9mm x 95.6mm x 73.7mm|
|Weight||657g / 1lb 7.2 oz with battery and card|