In today’s post, we will compare two full-frame mirrorless cameras in Sony’s Alpha lineup, the Sony A7 Mark III and the Sony A7R Mark III. Sony has long tailored their alpha full-frame lineup towards different demographics of shooters. Today, we will help clarify the differences between these two similar, yet very distinguishable, mirrorless cameras. Which one is ultimately the best choice for your specific needs? Do you seriously need the “higher-end” body? Let’s find out.
Size & Dimensions
At first glance, these cameras are entirely indistinguishable. In size, dimensions, and weight, they’re the same. Both cameras measure 127 x 96 x 74mm and weigh approximately 650g.
Physical Controls & Ergonomics
In controls, both cameras are also mostly identical. The most notable changes are the R features a third custom shooting mode, C3, on its Mode position dial. The 7, however, only offers two, C1-C2. The addition of another custom shooting mode further allows users to customize the camera to their needs. The R now also features a locking Mode wheel as well, though we don’t see this as a particular necessity on digital cameras. Rarely, is the Mode wheel “accidentally” changed, even when transporting the camera in a carry on bag. Outside of these changes, the cameras are identical, however.
Both cameras also feature AF joysticks for immediate tactile control over AF point selection and menu navigation.
Both cameras offer an OLED electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage and x0.78 magnification. Their differences come in resolution; in this case, the R provides the distinct advantage of the superior viewfinder. It delivers 3.69 million dots, compared the 7’s 2.36 million dots. During use, the difference is substantial, even to the untrained eye. The R offers that much better-resolving ability, especially when critically manually focusing, and it delivers a better viewing experience overall.
The R also takes advantage when comparing their rear screens. Both feature the same 2.95-inch TFT touchscreen, as Sony calls it, and deliver the same level of articulation. But, their resolutions differ, and again, we see the R offering slightly better resolution, now at 1.44 million dots compared to 921k dots. While there may not be as great of a falloff in resolution in this area, the difference is still noticeable, though much more subtly during regular use. Outside of this, both cameras LCDs offer touch focus and touch to shoot.
The R also dominates in image quality and resolving ability with its enormous 42.4 CMOS sensor. Hands down, sensor resolution, is the most notable separator between both cameras. The R delivers nearly a 45% increase in resolution over the 7’s standard 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor. Now, the drawback here is this: to take advantage of the larger sensor’s full capabilities means that you need higher quality lenses. Unfortunately, the lenses we’re talking about here start at $2,000. Ouch. That increases the actual starting price point of this camera significantly. Secondly, larger sensors also increase file size and storage demand, significantly compared to the 7. Each RAW file from this camera is upwards of 2-3 times larger than equivalent RAW files from the base model, which means you will surely need an extra hard drive to store the same number of images.
Both cameras offer identical frame rates, bit rates, and codecs. Both can shoot 4K video up to 30 frames per second (100 Mbps) and 1080p up to 120 frames per second (100 Mbps). However, the R lacks any additional crop when shooting 4K video at 30 frames per second, were doing so on the 7 results in a 1.2x crop.
Another area the cameras separate is in their autofocusing systems, an area the 7 takes the lead, offering the superior system. In this case, the 7 inherits the same system from Sony’s flagship a9 camera, allowing it to deliver a whopping 693 point hybrid contrast/phase-detect system that provides 93% coverage over the entire imaging area. The R, however, only offers a 399 point system, almost a 45% reduction in total coverage in comparison. This increase in coverage allows the 7 to deliver incredibly robust autofocusing, both in speed and accuracy, which both function to reduce any need for focus recomposing. Both cameras do, however, have face and subject tracking, which works well even if an object temporarily obscures the subject.
Both cameras use the redesigned Sony FZ-100 battery, which supplies far superior longevity compared to previous iterations of batter used in the lineup. However, as we’d expect, the R provides slightly reduced battery life due to its larger sensor offering only 650 shots per charge compared to the 7’s 710 life.
User Interface & Menus
There are no differences between the cameras user interfaces, submenus, or main menus.
The R can do Pixel Shift Multi Shooting in full RGB detail. Essentially, this mode takes advantage of the camera’s image stabilization to shift the sensor slightly between four exposures, which you must then combine in post to achieve superior fine detail and reduced presence of moire available from this mode. Not a revolutionary addition, but it’s incredibly valuable if you shoot architectural, still life, or product photography.
Both offer identical continuous shooting speeds of up to 10 frames per second. No difference there. Instead, the difference lies in their buffer depth and overall buffer performance. In this case, the lower resolution sensor of the 7 series allows the camera to offer a slightly deeper buffer due to the smaller file sizes. It delivers 177 JPEG and 89 RAW images, compared to the R’s 76 JPEG and 76 RAW.
Both cameras offer 5-axis in-body image stabilization. However, the R features a slightly refined iteration of this system, which now delivers a 1/2 stop improvement in stabilization over the 7. Now the system is rated for 5.5 stops instead of just 5.0 stops.
Both cameras have headphone inputs.
Both cameras have microphone inputs.
Both cameras are fully weather sealed.
Both cameras have built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for pairing to smartphone devices. With that, both support image transfer and full remote shooting functionality.
Both cameras feature dual SD card slots and provide ample customization in their configuration. The card slots themselves are also identical. Slot 1 is UHS-II compatible and Slot 2 UHS-I.
Both cameras support USB charging.
The R has a dedicated Flash Sync port (a.k.a Sync Terminal), which allows the camera to connect directly to compatible flashes making it the ideal choice for those needing this functionality. The 7, lacks this particular input.
So which is best?
Well, overall, the Sony a7 III makes the better all-round shooter and one that borrows the most successful features from both Sony’s professional video and imaging lines. As you can see from the majority of the sections of this particular comparison, both cameras are mostly identical. Sure, the a7R provides better displays, a higher resolution sensor, and some niche functionality over the base model. But, the reality is that the R aims are a very specific demographic of users. While the added resolution offered by the R is certainly beneficial, the truth is that most users don’t need this amount of resolution for their specific shooting needs. Of course, it’s nice to be able to crop without any loss of detail and have more flexibility in creative reframing options with fewer penalties during editing. But, even for printing a billboard, 24-megapixels is still sufficient. So then, who is the R ultimately designed with in mind? Well, it’s superior resolving sensor makes it the ideal choice for anyone desiring the absolute best-resolving ability and still prowess Sony has to offer to date. It also an excellent choice for anyone who’s professionally shooting the following: high-end beauty/fashion, landscapes, architecture, product, or still life photography. These medium specifically are the ones that benefit the most from the high performing sensor, as these all demand the increase in resolution, eventually. From a video standpoint, however, both cameras are virtually identical. The R provides slightly crisper footage, but it isn’t crucial in most circumstances. For users who need the Sync terminal to connect external flashes, well, it’s your only option, so you will have to go with the higher-end.
Nonetheless, the base model remains the better choice overall and provides the best value. The money saved from purchasing the R can serve well towards purchasing industry-leading glass or other critical accessories instead. It makes an all-round better choice to meet the demands of an ever-changing industry and the best of the two cameras.