Sony A7 III Review
|Full model name:||Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 III|
(35.6mm x 23.8mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 51,200|
|Extended ISO:||50 - 204,800|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 sec|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
5.0 x 3.8 x 2.9 in.
(127 x 96 x 74 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Sony A7 III specifications|
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Sony A7 Mark III Review - Now Shooting!
02/26/2018: Gallery Images posted
03/15/2018: Field Test posted
04/09/2018: First Shots posted
05/22/2018: Video Features & Analysis posted
07/04/2018: Performance posted
07/11/2018: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality posted
Sony has filled the last gap in its full-frame lineup with the A7 III. With a newly developed full-frame 24.2-megapixel back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor, the same advanced autofocus engine found on the lauded A9 and A7R III, and 10 frames per second (even in fully silent shooting mode), there is quite a lot to unpack with Sony's latest professional mirrorless camera. Some might be tempted to label it "prosumer," but it may just challenge how robust a camera can be and still be given that moniker.
Sony A7 III Key Features
- Newly developed full-frame 24.2MP back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor with Evolved Image Processing
- Wide ISO range of 100 - 51,200 (expandable to ISO 50 - 204,800 for still images)
- 15 stops of claimed dynamic range
- Autofocus system features 693 phase-detection AF points covering 93% of image area, 425 contrast AF points and Sony's fast and reliable "Eye AF"
- Continuous Shooting at up to 10 fps with either mechanical shutter or Silent Shooting and full AF/AE tracking
- 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization with a 5.0-stop shutter speed advantage
- 4K UHD video with full pixel readout and no pixel binning across full-width of full-frame sensor
- The longest rated battery life of any mirrorless camera at 710 shots per charge
- Dual SD card slots
- SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.1 Gen 1) USB Type-C terminal
Camera Body and Design
If you've held a Sony Alpha camera, you probably have noticed that they tend to follow a very similar design path. Even when they are different, like the subtle body changes to the A9, the general aesthetic is the same. Holding the A7 III feels exactly like holding the A7R III...because they are exactly the same. From a body design perspective, it is impossible to visually tell the A7R III and the A7 III apart aside from the model number on the front and back of the camera.
If you're new to the body and want to compare it to the A7 II, the biggest and most noticeable difference is on the back of the camera, where Sony removed the AF/MF and AEL switch and changed it to a joystick/toggle. This same change was made on the A7R III and allows you to more easily navigate a menu or adjust focus points while shooting. Though the A7 III has a touchscreen and the control wheel on the back of the camera are useful for most of the things you might find yourself needing the joystick for, it's still an addition that many customers asked for and therefore Sony delivered.
Other changes include moving a few of the custom function buttons around and relocating the video record button, which used to be up near the shutter button, to the rear of the camera to the right of the EVF.
Speaking of the EVF, the A7 III features a high-resolution, high-contrast, fast-start XGA OLED Tru-Finder with approximately 2.3 million dots for extremely accurate, true-to-life detail reproduction. Standard or High display quality settings are available for both the viewfinder and monitor as well. The Mark III's EVF is also noticeably larger than the Mark II's, with a magnification of 0.78x versus 0.71x.
The new camera also features what Sony is calling 'My Menu' functionality, which allows up to 30 menu items to be registered for instant recall when needed. You can also apply star ratings to your still images through the camera controls for easier image playback and review, and edit the first three characters of all still image files. Additionally, there is a total of 81 functions that are assignable to 11 custom buttons, and the camera is both dust and moisture resistant.
The A7 III and its 24.2 megapixel sensor
Opting for a smaller and more manageable 24.2-megapixel sensor, the A7 III is equipped with a back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor that is paired with a front-end LSI that Sony says effectively doubles the readout speed of the image sensor, as well as an updated BIONZ X processing-engine that boosts processing speed by approximately 1.8 times compared to the A7 II.
These components work together to allow the camera to shoot at faster speeds while also enabling its impressive ISO range of 100 - 51,200 (expandable to ISO 50 - 204,800 for still images) and an overall 1.5 stop improvement in image quality over the A7 II. The camera also features the same ~15 stops of dynamic range at low sensitivity settings found on the A7R III, that Sony says ensures outstanding overall performance at all settings and in all shooting conditions, with significant advancements in accurate color reproductions of skin tones and the vibrant natural colors.
The A7 III can also output 14 bit RAW format even in silent and continuous shooting modes, and is equipped with a 5-axis optical image stabilization system that results in a 5.0-stop shutter speed advantage.
Bringing A9-like autofocus performance to the table
The A7 III features a level of AF performance that borrows much from the success of the A9 and A7R III, and has been greatly improved over that in the A7 II. The camera has 425 contrast AF points that work with a 693-point focal-plane phase-detection AF system inherited from the aforementioned A9. This innovative AF system covers approximately 93% of the frame, ensuring reliable focusing and tracking for even the most difficult to capture subjects.
AF response and tracking has also been greatly improved in the new camera, with almost twice the focusing speed in low-light conditions and twice the tracking speed compared to the previous model as a result of the faster image sensor readout. This allows complex and unpredictable motion to be captured with far greater precision and accuracy.
Sony has also added their Eye AF feature to the A7 III, which works even in AF-C mode. Eye AF is a very useful feature that allows you to lock on and track a subject's eye while they are in motion and even through obstructions. Other additional improvements in focusing flexibility include using the aforementioned joystick for moving focusing points quickly, the addition of touch focusing capability, AF availability in Focus Magnifier mode, and an "AF On" button.
Fast to shoot and with an impressive buffer
The new A7 III is equipped with an updated image processing system that allows it to shoot full resolution images at up to 10 fps with continuous, accurate AF/AE tracking for up to 177 Standard JPEGs, 172 Fine JPEGs, 163 Extra Fine JPEGs, 89 compressed RAW images or 40 uncompressed RAW images, according to Sony. (Unfortunately, there's still no lossless compressed RAW format.) This high speed mode is available with either a mechanical shutter or a completely silent shooting, a feature we saw first in the A9 and has been brought to the A7R III and now the A7 III. The camera can also shoot continuously at up to 8 fps in "live view" mode with minimal lag in the viewfinder or LCD screen.
Sony listened to customer feedback, and allows you to access many of the features of the A7 III even while it is writing large groups of burst images. You can access the "Fn" (Function) and "Menu" buttons, image playback and several other menus and parameters including image rating and other sorting functions. Sony also added an on-screen prompt to show you how many images remain to be written.
Additionally, if there is fluorescent or artificial lighting present in a shooting environment, users can activate the Anti-flicker function to allow the A7 III to automatically detect frequency of the lighting and time the shutter to minimize its effect on images being captured. This minimizes any exposure or color anomalies that can sometimes occur during burst shooting and/or at the top and bottom of images shot at high shutter speeds.
Full frame, high quality 4K video
The A7 III brings many of the video features found in the A7R III to the table, including 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels) video recording across the full width of the full-frame image sensor, using a full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect about 2.4 times the amount of data required for 4K movies, oversampling it to produce high quality 4K footage.
An HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) picture profile is available on the A7 III as well, which supports an Instant HDR workflow, allowing HDR (HLG) compatible TV's to playback 4K HDR imagery.
Further, both S-Log2 and S-Log3 are available for increased color grading flexibility, as well as Zebra functionality, Gamma Display assist and proxy recording. The camera can also record Full HD at 120 fps at up to 100 Mbps, allowing footage to be reviewed and eventually edited into 4x or 5x slow motion video files in Full HD resolution with AF tracking.
Upgraded storage options, connectivity & battery life
Sony's newest full-frame camera is equipped with a variety of enhanced capabilities that were first implemented in the A9 and then again in the A7R III. These include dual media slots, with support in one slot for UHS-II type SD memory cards (the second slot supports UHS-I SD or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, and in cases of dual writing, top write speeds are limited to the slowest card). You also have a variety of options for storing content in each of the cards, including separate JPEG / RAW recording, separate still image / movie recording, relay recording and more.
The A7 III is also is capable of seamlessly transferring files to a smartphone, tablet, computer or FTP server via Wi-Fi (with NFC) and now includes Bluetooth, while also offering a SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.1 Gen 1) USB Type-C terminal for increased flexibility in power supply and faster image transfer speed during tethered shooting. The camera still has a Multi Micro-B USB 2.0 port, Micro HDMI (Type D) port, 3.5mm stereo microphone jack (with power), 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, Multi Interface Hot Shoe, and an IR remote receiver.
Battery life has been greatly extended as well -- with a CIPA rating of up to 710 shots per charge when using the LCD monitor or 610 shots using the EVF, the A7 Mark III offers the world's longest battery life of any mirrorless camera (without a battery grip). The new camera utilizes Sony's Z-series NP-FZ100 battery pack that has approximately 2.2 times the capacity of the W-series NP-FW50 battery utilized in the A7 II. This is the same battery that brought excellent battery life to both the A9 and A7R III. In-camera charging is supported and an AC/USB adapter is provided, but a dedicated battery charger is not included.
Sony A7 III Pricing and Availability
The Sony A7 III began shipping in April 2018 for about $2,000 USD for the body and $2,200 in a kit with the FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens. In Canada, list price is $2,600 CAD for the body and $2,800 for the kit.
Sony A7 III Field Test
A great all-rounder with full-frame image quality and a sensible pricetag
Fast-forward to today, though, and 2018's Sony A7 III no longer feels like the entry-level, full-frame camera which it still is. Sure, it retains much the same 24-megapixel resolution as its predecessors, and bears quite similar styling as well, but it suddenly feels like a much more complete package thanks to a very convincing upgrade in the performance department, as well as a profusion of useful new features.
The basic model, decoded
In introducing the A7 III to journalists attending the recent WPPI show in Las Vegas -- myself included -- Sony called its new creation "The Basic Model", a moniker which was met with perhaps a little confusion from press and public alike. I think perhaps a little subtlety was lost in translation here, but I believe what Sony was getting at was that the A7 III no longer leaves you with the impression that something is still wanting.
Sony A7 III Video Features, Specs & Analysis
Full-frame 4K video shooter offers lots of features for $2000
4K, Full HD and Frame Rate Options
In NTSC, the Sony A7 III offers two different 4K frame rates at two different bitrates: 30p and 24p, at 100 Mbps and 60 Mbps. For the same length of shooting, you can expect to save a little bit less than half the total storage space between the two and in most cases you won't likely notice any dip in quality.
Sony A7 III Image Quality Comparison
See how the A7 III's IQ compares to similarly priced competitors
NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page...
Sony A7 III Print Quality Analysis
But how does it look on paper?
Much like Sony's flagship 24MP A9 mirrorless camera, the A7 III offers fantastic results with it comes to print quality. Sporting a similar imaging pipeline to the A9, the Sony A7 III is capable of amazingly-large 30 x 40-inch prints from expanded low ISO 50 all the way up to ISO 800. The largest size we print at is 30 x 40 inches, so up to ISO 800, you're really limited by how much you want to push the resolving power of the A7 III's 24-megapixel sensor. At 30 x 40 inches there is a slight bit of pixelation if you look closely, but given the viewing distance for such large prints, you're not likely to have any issues with perceived quality. As the ISO rises, the A7 Mark III displays very well-controlled noise, which results in rather large prints despite the rising sensitivity. At ISO 6400, for example, the Sony A7 III offers a pleasing 13 x 19-inch print and even manages a usable 5 x 7-inch print all the way up to ISO 51,200. The A7 III's two expanded ISOs, however, are best avoided for prints, as they are simply too noisy to produce usable prints.
In the Box
The Sony A7 III body-only retail package as tested contains the following items:
- Sony Alpha ILCE-7M3 camera body
- NP-FZ100 Lithium-ion battery
- AC-UUD12 AC Adapter
- Body cap
- Eyepiece cup
- Accessory shoe cap
- Micro USB cable
- Shoulder strap
- Warranty card
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