Successor of the Alpha 7R II, resolution specialist within the Alpha range, the Sony A7 RIII (Alpha 7R III) continues to slowly evolve this product category.This full-frame hybrid camera Sony A7R III has revealed its secrets to us.
As a preamble, remember that our measurements were made in program mode and leaving the device to make its own settings. Although this test is aimed more at a beginner amateur profile, the results obtained are still valid if you are more experienced. Be aware, however, that they are likely to be optimized in manual mode.
The Sony Alpha 7R III is therefore the third model of the Alpha 7R series, itself from the Alpha 7 family. Sony indeed declines its Alpha 7 series in S and R versions, each with its own particularity. The S models (for Sensitivity) stand out for the promise of neat performance in low light, while the R models (for resolution) offer megapixel-doped sensors. The A7R III incorporates a 42.4 megapixel (7952 x 5304 pixel) full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor, associated with a Bionz X image processor, allowing in particular to shoot 14-bit RAW files. This camera offers a shutter speed between 1 / 8,000 and 30 seconds, a sensitivity range up to ISO 32,000 and expandable up to ISO 50 – 102,400, or a burst of up to 10 fps with tracking AF / AE. Like its predecessor, the Sony A7RIII’s autofocus system combines a 399-point phase-detection system, ideal in the dark or in low-contrast situations, and a contrast-detection system, which is generally faster in situations common. However, the latter shows a big improvement with the increase in the number of detection points, from 25 to 425 for the A7R III. The device also allows 4K video capture at 30 frames per second. The case features a 3.66 million dot OLED viewfinder, 1.44 million dot LCD display, and two SD card ports (UHS-I and UHS-II).
What you will learn
Better designed, but …
In terms of design, the Sony A7 RIII draws most of its improvements from the A9, including the joystick for selecting autofocus points, an AF-on button on the back of the case and a good record button. better placed right next to the latter. However, when we wanted to cut the recording without taking our eyes off the viewfinder, we almost always had to press the AF-on button. In addition, if the ergonomics have been improved, we still have a preference for that of the Nikon D850, direct competitor of this Sony A7 RIII.
In fact, the Nikon offers more settings via physical buttons. With the Sony A7 RIII, you often have to go through the menus. However, given that it is equipped with a touch screen (vertically orientable and offering a definition of 1,440,000 points), one could say that navigation will be able to be done in this way. Well no, you have to navigate via the central directional cross which wastes a little time. Moreover, the touch does not allow you to navigate in the image gallery or zoom in on the photos. For example, deleting several photos at once is really tedious while in touch, it would have been much more comfortable. It’s a shame, this feature is ultimately only used for tuning. In short, a very anecdotal touch screen for improved ergonomics and menus.
Also, the A7R III’s Oled finder may have 3,686,400 points, which is considerable, but we still prefer the good old optical sights. Of course, the viewfinder of the A7R III remains quite effective, especially as it is comfortable thanks to its satisfactory eye relief, but it has flaws logically absent on optical viewfinders of SLRs, equipped with mirrors.
Otherwise the grip is very good, the finish is, unsurprisingly, extremely clean and the compactness of the device (126.9 mm wide x 95.6 mm high x 73.7 mm deep) very appreciable. Note that its weight of 657g is quite high however for its size. Other appreciable elements, the connection is quite complete (two SD card ports, a micro HDMI port, a micro USB and a USB-C, micro and headphone jacks in mini jack as well as a flash plug), and more modern than that of the D850. The A7R III is indeed the first device on the market to have integrated a USB type C port.
We had complained about the sluggishness of the shutter on the A7RII and were pleased to see that it got better. But we understand why Sony emphasizes the presence of an electronic shutter. Indeed, despite our precautions, the image stabilization could not attenuate the vibrations, even in 1/20 s. This is where the electronic mode is needed, but also when you want to shoot quietly.
Taking photos with the A7RIII offers a sensation of speed and responsiveness similar to that of the A6500. The continuous autofocus is generally precise, with some hiccups in object tracking, despite the addition of a 295-zone contrast detection system in addition to the 399-point phase detection inherited from the A7RII. For its part, the AF-S is very fast. We also greatly appreciate the fact that the focus is done regularly when aiming without having to press the shutter button halfway. It may seem like a detail, but it’s still very practical in use. If you’re zooming in quickly on an object, you won’t need to press the shutter button to focus. Also note that manual focus peaking assistance is very effective.
In continuous shooting mode, it is not just an improvement but a big leap that Sony made with this A7R III, going as far as doubling the speed. When the previous version was satisfied with a burst mode at 5 jpeg per second, the manufacturer manages with this model to reach ten images per second. Specifically, we clocked it at 9.5 fps on average with a Kingston Canvas Go micro SD card (90MB / s read and 45MB / s write). On the other hand, we found the processing of the images rather long during long exposures, and if the camera turns on and off quickly, there is sometimes some latency in the menus.
Autonomy is finally up to professional standards thanks to an NP-FZ100 battery, also inherited from the A9. We were able to shoot 1000 photos, so there is a huge improvement on this point which was one of the main flaws of the previous model.
Status quo on image quality
Given that it is equipped with the same 42.4-megapixel full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor as the A7R II, it’s no surprise that the III takes pictures of comparable quality. The images are very sharp, as we could see when looking at the result on a Dell UP3218K 8K monitor (275 dots per inch) where we could appreciate the level of detail, especially on the edges. Unfortunately, we also noticed some compression artifacts that don’t show up on an Ultra HD display.
That being said, the overall image quality remains superb, even at high ISO sensitivities. The noise handling is simply excellent, slightly better than that of the Nikon D850 according to our sensitivity test. You can easily go up to ISO 12800 while maintaining a completely satisfactory noise level, it’s a real pleasure, and it did us a service given the minimum aperture of the lens lent by Sony.
The colors are superb and quite natural. Also, while the 42-105mm f4 lens is sharp, we moderately like its bokeh characteristics. The fact that we had to use this specific lens probably influenced our perception because when testing the A7RII we used different Zeiss lenses. For its part, the automatic white balance is also very good, we took a few pictures during the snow episodes in Paris and the result was excellent without us needing to touch the settings.
For the rest, especially 4k video, the quality is identical to that of its predecessor. We regret a slight crop, the focal length is a little longer in video but it’s not too disturbing. What is very appreciable, however, is the fact of being able to film in silence, which is not the case with the D850. We also regret the absence of 4: 2: 2 10 bits and 4K limited to 25 images per second, it’s a shame for a device intended for professionals.
The other important points
Otherwise, one of the new features of the Sony A7R III is its Pixel-shift mode. Four shots are taken half a second apart, one pixel apart, thanks to the sensor’s shift image stabilizer. This captures a full pixel of each primary color rather than reconstructing them from the checkerboard-shaped color filter array. Next, Sony PC software is used to combine the shots with a more precise range of colors. As you might expect, this is not done for moving subjects but primarily for studio photography where the A7R III competes with slower medium format cameras. So processing on a computer is not a problem.
Finally, note that the device supports HDR HLG. The Hybrid-Log Gamma standard allows SDR and HDR images to be combined in a single video stream. This is also the HDR playback format for Sony televisions, and is preferred for HDR TV broadcasts / reports. The A7R III is the brand’s first camera to integrate it and it’s a welcome novelty.
Conclusion Sony A7 RIII
Correcting many defects and limitations of the Mark II generation (in particular the autofocus speed), Sony propels this A7R Mark III to the top of the competition: the shots are of impressive quality, the AF with eye tracking is a lethal weapon for portraiture, and PixelShift mode allows the camera to approach medium format sharpness on still subjects in the studio. We add to that a super comfortable ISO range, the burst at 10 fps, an extremely generous definition of 42 Mpix or a high quality 4K video mode. So many assets that are able to seduce even professionals as the range of possibilities is incredible with this single unit.
- Highlights Excellent image quality even at ISO 12,800
- satisfactory responsiveness
- complete connectivity with a USB-C port
- very good autonomy
- silent mode
- highly efficient manual focus assist
- interesting pixel-shift mode
- HDR HLG
- Cons Improved ergonomics and navigation
- almost useless touchscreen
- 4: 2: 2 10-bit step in video
- 4K videos limited to 25p