Sony A7iii Review

Introduction

Sony’s 24.2-megapixel full-frame a7 III marks one of the most anticipated Mirrorless cameras to date. While not as specialized as the sporty a9, as high-resolution as the a7R, or as video orientated as the A7S. It represents a more well-rounded offering in Sony’s Alpha 7 lineup of full-frame cameras tailored to the broadest demographic of photographic mediums possible. Released initially spring 2018, it took the world by storm. It lives as one of the limited mirrorless cameras in later years to have a backlog of orders following the initial launch.

It marks a competitor to the Nikon D750 and Canon 6D Mark II. Sony classifies this camera as their entry-level “basic” model. However, on paper, this camera is far from basic. It’s specifications rival that off flagship digital SLRs of only a few years prior and the perfect choice for the multimedia shooter. Even so, the specification doesn’t always correspond to legitimate performance out in the field. In today’s post, we ‘re-discover the initial hyper surrounding this initial camera release and dive deep to address how the real-world performance measures up.

Sony-Alpha-7-III--camera-body

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Sony A7iii?

Pros:

Image Quality:

It has an impressive continuous burst rate of 10 fps, in both mechanical and silent shutter modes. This improvement doubles the performance of the predecessor, which only had 5 fps. These figures even outperform the Nikon D850 flagship. Not only that, but the buffer of this camera is also excellent 177 JPEGS or 40 uncompressed 14-bit RAW files in a row without stuttering. 

Sony claims a 1.5 stop improvement in image quality over the predecessor. Previously, Nikon’s D750 was the golden standard for what we’ve come to expect from a 24-megapixel sensor. However, with the release of this camera, Sony has taken the reign and revolutionized our expectations. This camera surpasses the D750 in low performance, dynamic range, and sharpness. It provides an impressive 15 stop dynamic range when shooting stills, making it best in class and even outperforming the newly released Panasonic S1. The dynamic range of this camera now competes with the D850 flagship. Overall, this camera delivers the best dynamic range, even achievable in traditional SLRs. 

 

 

Images are sharp, and colors are accurate now, especially in rendering skin tone. Rendering true colors have proven to be problematic for Sony in the past. However, with this iteration, this problem is resolved. Sony’s tweaked the color science with this newest generation of a7 series camera, finally improvement on the color rendering of reds, which aids significantly in the rendition of skin tones. Previously, skin tones had a yellowish tint, which made then look quite odd without post-production. In all, this is a much-needed improvement that makes the color rendering straight out of camera akin to Canon and that much more natural. Nice job!

In all, it delivers more true colors with better noise handling than any of their cameras to date. 

While this camera lacks the resolution of its higher and counterparts, 24 megapixels is the preferred choice for working professionals. Especially ones that still have an anti-aliasing (AA) filter as it reduces post-processing time significantly. While this camera does have an AA filter, the reality is that image quality surpasses even the a9, which lacks an AA filter.

Video Quality:

This sensor records at 6K resolution and then downsamples to 4K. The result is excellent video quality with ample sharpness, accurate color rendering, and superb dynamic range. This camera delivers an impressive 14 stops of dynamic range when filming in 4K. When shooting 4K UHD, it shoots at 30p at 100 Mbps, while 1080p FHD it shoots at up to 120p. Shooting in both 4K 24p and 1080p 120p occurs with a full sensor readout! Yes. Finally, no crop, this is usually a downfall of most mirrorless cameras. The lack of a crop makes shooting in both formats an entirely new experience. As far as video is concerned, this is the best Sony has today until the A7S III arrives. 

It experiences little rolling shutter, especially when compared to the a7R.

It features Sony’s S-log, Cine, and HLG profiles. These profiles expand the available dynamic range and deliver flatter footage that lends itself better to color grading in post-production. 

Low Light Performance:

Low light performance is another resounding strength of this camera. This camera packs a native ISO from ISO 100 to 51,200. It is well equipped to deliver excellent photos and videos up to ISO 25,600. Interestingly, even at higher ISO, images still retain shadow details, contrast, and color rendition though ISO 12,800 noise begins. 

Focusing Performance:

It inherits the same 693 point phase-detect AF system from flagship Sony a9, now with 93% coverage of the imagining area as well. This system tracks subjects relentlessly. Sony’s Eye Detect algorithm is particularly useful, as well. It maintains precise focus on the subject’s dominant eye even if they’re moving and at shallow Depth of Field. The same applies to continuous AF when filming; it’s both confident and fast. However, its focusing transitions are not as natural or smooth as a modern Canon camera with Dual Pixel AF. In all, this is Sony’s best system to date and outperforms even the a9 in this regard. If you’re someone who once believed focus performance was the critical element mirrorless cameras lack, it’s time to sell your gear and consider upgrading. This amount of coverage means out workflows are more streamlined as we will no longer be forced to focus recompose. Instead, you can compose, and the camera automatically tracks a subject no matter their positioning in the frame. Not only that, but a recent firmware update also adds fulltime Eye AF also extends to tracking animals as well.

Battery Performance:

Battery performance on this camera is excellent. It delivers an impressive 710 shots or 2.5 hours of 4K recording. To date, this camera offers the greatest battery performance seen in a compact mirrorless camera. Compared to both the Nikon Z6 (310 shots) and Canon EOS R (340 shots), this camera stands tall as the new standard for the longevity achievable in a mirrorless camera. While inherited from the Sony a9, this battery delivers the best performance in a Sony camera to date. The implementation of the newly re-designed NFZ battery overcomes a significant limitation commonly found on previous alpha seven bodies. 

Display & Viewfinder:

You can use the 3-inch tilting touchscreen LCD as an AF joystick when composing via the viewfinder. The area used is also fully customizable, as well.

It inherits the EVF from the previously released a7R II, which has a resolution of 2.36 million dots, 100% sensor coverage, and 0.78x magnification. This viewfinder delivers excellent viewing, even when shooting in bright sunlight conditions. 

User Interface:

It features a “My Menu” tab, which is fully customizable and, once set up, allows users to have a central location to find commonly used settings. Initial familiarization and setup with this camera are rather complicated, as there are many settings to change. But, once you get through the initial blunt of familiarizing yourself with the camera, it will become easy. 

Physical Interface & Ergonomics:

While it’s gained a little bit of weight over the predecessor, it’s still quite light for a full-frame camera coming in at only 650g. However, the increase in size is well managed to allow the camera to feature a deeper and more recessed grip. It also features the same larger capacity FWZ battery from the Sony a9. In all, it borrows several successful elements from the a9, which combine to deliver the best handling Alpha seven series camera to date. 

It has a dedicated AF joystick. A feature also inherited from the a9.

Sony moved the video record button to the back of the camera as opposed to recessed into the handle. This small improvement makes hitting the record button in a pinch far easier.

It has two custom shooting modes, M1-M2, which are immediately accessible on the mode dial. 

It has four dedicated function buttons, C1-C4.

Niche Features/Extras:

It has built-in 5-axis image stabilization. It’s updated to deliver a half a stop gain over the predecessor and now offers a whopping 5 total stops of stabilization. The stabilization is excellent, though it is not to the levels seen in Panasonic’s GH5 or the Olympus EM10. However, it allows users to shoot handheld at a ½ second. 

It shoots HDR. 

It has a microphone input port.

It has a headphone input port. 

It has a USB-C port, which supports the faster 3.1 file transfer speeds as well as USB charging.

It has both Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC, which allows it to connect remotely to Sony’s PlayMemories app for wireless file transfer and remote shooting. 

It has dual SD card slots.

It is fully weather-sealed. 

It has a Super 35 (APS-C) crop mode as well as Clear Image Zoom. These combine to deliver a 3.5x crop into the current lens when shooting still. Alnertivately, they offer 3.0x when filming 4K, all without any loss in detail. Know, however,  APS-C mode will reduce the sensor’s resolution down to 10-megapixels, but resolving quality and sharpness are unchanged. 

Cons:

Image Quality:

A consideration, banding occurs when shooting fast bursts using the silent shutter mode. Now, this is very situational and typically only occurs when shooting under fluorescent lights. However, this is only a minor yet necessary trade-off, consider traditional SLRs don’t have silent shooting whatsoever. 

Video Quality:

Users will experience a slight 1.2x crop when filming in the 4K 30p format. Thankfully, this is significantly less than the competition and in most circumstances, is only a mild difference. 

This camera only shoots 8-bit 4:2:0 color internally. With that, if you require heavy color grading in post, look elsewhere. For this reason, shooting in sLog2 is best, rather than sLog3 or HLG, as color grading will be limited. 

When shooting 4K via HDMI out using an external monitor, the rear LCD blacks out, but the external monitor doesn’t display camera settings. This means you will still have to look at the LCD to see camera settings. Not only that, but you also lose face detect AF. 

The video record time is limited to the industry standard of 29 minutes and 59 seconds. If you desire unlimited record time, look elsewhere. 

Focusing Performance:

A caveat, this is not necessarily a con, but a consideration. The focusing system only focuses down to f/11. However, starting at f/8, you will begin to experience inconsistent focusing, starting with the outer edges of the field, as the system begins to reach its maximum. As you continue to stop down, focusing performance will degrade to a point where it is completely lost. If you find yourself shooting in low light or in-studio environments where you want more depth of field, this will be a challenge for you. So keep this in mind if you plan on using autofocus.

Display & Viewfinder:

The 3-inch LCD only tilts and lacks a fully articulating screen, a requirement for vloggers.

The display only has a refresh rate of 60 Hz, as opposed to 120 Hz found on both the A7R III and a9. 

User Interface:

The menus are not optimized for touch input, though the main LCD is a touchscreen. The touchscreen implementation is lacking and still only functions as an AF touchpad and navigating images in playback. 

Features Removed:

It lacks a built-in time-lapse function. Not only that, but Sony has also canceled the in-camera app story with this generation of cameras. With that, users wanting this functionality will have to perform this manually via an external intervalometer, which makes this process unnecessarily inconvenient. Alternatively, you can shoot in 720p HD and set the frame rate to 1 fps, which also replicates this effect, though at a lower resolution. 

As soon as an external monitor is connected, face tracking AF is lost. So, unfortunately, this negates this camera is a complete all-in-one package for vlogging, as Sony penalizes us for connecting an external monitor. 

Remote shooting via the Play Memories app is severely undeveloped and primitive in feature set compared to the competition. Only basic camera settings are adjustable. Focusing is not one of them. 

While the camera has dual SD card slots, only one of these is UHS-II compatible sadly. 

Is the Sony A7iii a good starting camera?

Yes. This is an excellent starting camera. Its faults are limited, and none of them are significant in all actuality. This is a camera that revolutionized our expectations of what was possible in a mirrorless camera at this price-point. The reality is, this camera comes at a price where it competes with many APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sized cameras, notably the Panasonic G9 and Fujifilm X-H1. But, we have to stop and ask ourselves a question here. Why exactly should we get these smaller sensor cameras if, for the same price, we can get a full-frame camera? Not only that, but we also get the perks that accompany full-frame along with it, primarily greater depth of field, dynamic range, and low light performance. This camera is sure hard to beat, considering the value offered at its price. Nikon, Canon, and any other manufacturer for that matter should cower in fear from the release of this camera. It’s priced to sell and inherits many pro-level features that’ll make it fly off the shelves into the hands of consumers. 

What are the best lenses for the Sony A7iii?

General Photography: 

FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS

Specifically for Macro Photography:

FE 90 mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS FE 50 mm F2.8 Macro

Specifically for Landscape Photography:

FE 16–35 mm F4 ZA OSS

Specifically for Portrait Photography:

FE 28-70 mm F3.5-5.6 OSS
FE 50mm F1.8
FE 85mm F1.8
FE 70-200 mm F4 G OSS

Best bundles for the Sony A7iii

sony a7 iii bundle

Is the Sony A7iii a good camera for you?

Absolutely. While its the lowest level iteration in the alpha seven series of full-frame cameras, it surely isn’t basic. Its body is feature-packed, and those features are well executed. While lower on the totem pole, it is more than sufficient for most user’s needs. And, quite frankly, so much so they won’t even require an upgrade for years to come. This camera delivers with the best 24-megapixel sensor at this price to date. It seriously doesn’t get much better than this. 

Previous Sony shooters, especially A7 users, should seriously consider upgrading. It makes an excellent choice for an upgrade. 

Filmmakers transitioning to full-frame should also seriously consider this camera as well.

Non-Sony shooters should also seriously consider this camera. At this price, it entirely blows away the competition. It’s well-equipped and versatile for a myriad of different creative mediums. With excellent imagining performs and best in class focusing performance, you can go wrong. 

This is also an excellent tool for weddings, journalisms, or sports photographers shooting only moderates amount of action. The silent shutter and superior continuous burst rate performance will guarantee you don’t miss that critical moment.

Quite frankly, current digital SLR shooters should ditch their cameras regardless of the system. However, this makes an excellent choice for that transition. Sony’s had a long-standing tradition of continuous improvement to their lens selection. And now, over the years, third party manufacturers are also releasing lenses and adapters for the E-Mount platform. In all, it created a lens mount that delivers among the largest versatility to date. Outside of the Sony a9, this is the best platform a viable to adapt non-native lenses while still retaining AF performance. 

In the end, this is undoubtedly a home run release on Sony’s part. Sure, it’s the entry-level point into this particular series. However, it’s performance rivals that of the flagship cameras released just years ago. With this kind of price, there’s no question why this camera had so much excitement and hype surrounding its original launch. The bottom line, this is a camera that thoroughly lives up to the hype and one to watch in 2019.

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Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
4.1

Summary

While its the lowest level iteration in the alpha seven series of full-frame cameras, it surely isn’t basic. Its body is feature-packed, and those features are well executed. Sure, it’s the entry-level point into this particular series. However, it’s performance rivals that of the flagship cameras released just years ago. With this kind of price, there’s no question why this camera had so much excitement and hype surrounding its original launch. It’s the camera that revolutionized our expectations of what was possible in a mirrorless camera at this price-point. The bottom line, this is a camera that thoroughly lives up to the hype and one to watch in 2019.