How does the new A7R III stack up against its stiffest competition?

Compare the A7R III vs the Nikon D850, Canon 5D Mark IV & Fuji GFX

by Jaron Schneider

Looking at specifications alone, the A7R III does some truly impressive stuff. Thanks to a faster processing system and improved circuitry, Sony was able to fix a major complaint with the A7R II in this latest iteration: autofocus speed and accuracy. And in moving things around in the body, they fixed a couple more issues as well: bigger battery and a second memory card slot.

Finally, Sony updated the software to allow access to menus even while the camera is writing to a memory card (outside of accessing Drive settings). This was a major annoyance that has also been amended.

With these adjustments, there is very little one can point to that is holding the A7R III back. With 42 megapixels firing at 10 frames per second with intelligent continuous autofocus, on paper, it looks like it is capable of far more than most cameras currently available.

FE 24-105mm f/4 G: 57mm, f/7.1, 1/200s, ISO 100

During a Sony shooting event that we were invited to shortly after the camera’s announcement, we had a couple of hours hands-on with the A7R III in a studio environment. There, we decided to see how it stacked up against a few of its major competitors: the Canon 5D Mark IV, the Nikon D850, and the Fuji GFX.

Each of those cameras offers either most or some comparable specs to the A7R III (the Fuji being the furthest away since it isn’t exactly a fast shooter or quick to autofocus). However, we thought it worth looking at how they handled an identical lighting situation with identical camera settings and comparing pure sensor performance.

[Due to the RAW profile for the Sony A7R III not yet being available, we are comparing JPEG images. The Nikon D850 image was converted from RAW with ACR default settings.]

For the following images, we photographed a model at 50mm at f/5, 1/40 second, ISO 250 and auto white balance (the lighting for this set was constant light, and because we wanted to keep the ISO as low as possible while also using a relatively closed aperture, we were shooting at a lower-than-desired shutter speed). For the Canon, we were using the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II. For the Nikon, we were using the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 E VR. For the Sony A7R III, we used the new FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens. Finally, for the Fuji GFX, we used the GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR. All four cameras were set to their default picture modes, and all four were placed on a tripod that was equal distance from the subject.

You can view each of the images at full resolution here: Canon 5D Mark IV; Nikon D850; Sony A7R III; Fuji GFX.

Below we took a 100% crop of just the model’s right eye and set them side by side to compare the sensors.

5D Mark IV Nikon D850 Sony A7R III Fuji GFX
(Click image above for 1:1 size)

Firstly, we noticed that the skin tone reproduction on each of these at auto white balance all gave us a unique result. We will leave it up to you which one you think looks best, but if nothing else it’s worth noting how each of these cameras sees skin tone.

The main outlier here is the 5D Mark IV, which due to its lower resolution and optical low pass filter shows considerably less fine detail than the other three cameras in this test. From a pure sharpness point of view, all three of the other cameras outperform the 5D Mark IV.

From there, it’s almost a matter of preference which of the remaining three does the best job with sharpness, and a lot of that has to do with color. The A7R III has a crispness to the blues in the eye that the other two seem to lack, resulting in a sort of grey overtone from both the Nikon and the Fuji. What may be the most impressive is how well the new Sony FE 24-105 f/4 hangs with Nikon’s new 24-70mm and Fuji’s 63mm.

Because the Sony A7R III has such a far more advanced autofocus system than its predecessor, Sony was eager to show how it handled following focus with a quickly moving subject. One of their shooting stations gave us a powerful Profoto Air strobe that could fire at the A7R III’s 10 frames per second, and challenged us to photograph dance sequences.

Part of what makes the A7R III, and its brother the A9, pleasant to use is the visual feedback you get when in continuous autofocus. Because it’s a mirrorless camera, the viewfinder can actively show where it is focused as the focus is moving. It’s a type of feedback that you don’t get out of the Nikon or Canon, even though those both do have active autofocus that follows subjects. Sony’s just feels more hands-on. Additionally, the autofocus points that Sony has access to in continuous autofocus are basically across the entire field of view. Outside of using the dual pixel sensor and live view on the Canon, you don’t see this kind of tracking across a sensor (and using live view slows your shooting down with the Canon).

Canon 5D Mark IV

I encourage you to take a look at the sequence of images captured on the A7R III, and compare them to what we captured in the same setup with the Canon 5D Mark IV.

Sony A7R III

Both cameras do keep focus rather well (the Canon may have missed a frame or two, but so does the A7R III on occasion) and follow the subject well, but you get more images out of the sequence on the A7R III thanks to its faster frames per second speed.

Taking a step back, it’s seriously impressive what Sony has done here to where we feel comfortable comparing it to both the 5D Mark IV and the Nikon D850 as well as the Fuji GFX. These are different cameras for different purposes that excel at different things, especially the GFX. The fact that the A7R III can hang with all three of them with a brand new lens (that is not even listed as top-tier G-Master optic) is strikingly impressive. We will, of course, be doing more testing with the A7R III in the weeks to come, but right now it looks like it is capable of quite a bit, and possibly earning the place of the most versatile full frame camera on the market.


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