Welcome to a new year and a new review of a new camera. Say hello to Sony’s latest full-frame mirrorless body the Sony a7R III. The Sony a7R III can now be purchased as a kit with Sony’s brand new FE 4/24-105 G zoom lens. On the surface you would be hard pressed to notice any difference between the new Sony a7R III and its predecessor the Sony a7R II. Both cameras have 42MP sensors with 4K video options. Both cameras look identical with only millimeters of size difference. The Sony a7R III does have a $300 price increase over the Sony a7R II. So is this camera worth the upgrade? Here are my thoughts, you can judge for yourself.
My first photo with the Sony a7R III was an enlightening experience!
Sony a7R III Does Move Forward
You will notice some similarities between my test of the Sony a9 and this test of the Sony a7R III. While the Sony a7R III does appear to be a linear move from the Sony a7R II, it seems to be more of an inclusion of Sony a9 features than anything else. The sensor of the Sony a7R III appears to be the same sensor as the Sony a7R II. However, Sony has expanded the focus capability of the Sony a7R III. The Sony a7R III also has more 4K video options than its predecessor. Quite possibly the biggest added feature is the Sony a7R III’s ability to shoot 10FPS stills compared to the Sony a7R II’s 5FPS. The faster shooting rate allows this camera to become more of a crossover camera than the Sony a7R II.
It allows you to create a very high resolution photo for capturing great detail, but then also gives you the ability to capture action with its 10FPS continuous shooting mode.
Every little nuance is captured with the a7R III's 42MP Sensor.
Sony a7R III Auto Focus
The faster frame rates have upgraded the auto focus system in the Sony a7R III. You cannot have a faster motor drive without giving a camera the ability to focus on that faster action. This camera does get its own autofocus sensor now similar to the Sony a9. However it is still does not have the 693 Phase Detection Points of the a9. The Sony a7R III has 399 Phase Detection Points, which doesn’t cover your entire viewfinder like the a9. The updated autofocus on this camera performs very similar to the a9 though.
This camera went rogue for me when I tried to manual focus though. Yes, there is an option to turn on focus peaking and even an auto zoom viewfinder feature. This feature zooms into your selected focus point and allows for easier manual focusing, but I still blew many of manual focus shots. I think this is directly connected to the EVF though. In my Sony a9 test I felt that the viewfinder resolution was lacking and this camera is no different.
I am not sure why Sony’s viewfinders don’t seem to work for me. I thought the Leica SL was far better when I tested it and I am currently testing the new Leica CL which also seems much easier to see through than the Sonys. In addition, the Leica CL viewfinder has less resolution than the Sony a7R III at 2.6 million dots, but still has a much sharper look to me.
The Sony a7R III’s viewfinder is up from the Sony a7R II as well. It now matches the resolution of the a9. The viewfinder also stays on when shooting at 10FPS. So this camera is a much better action photographer camera too. Again though, the viewfinder resolution just doesn’t match up. Maybe its the type of screen that Sony is using compared to other companies like Leica and Fujifilm?
Battery life was one of the major critiques that many photographers had of Sony’s earlier mirrorless cameras. This is proof that Sony is really listening to what photographers want. Camera battery life of the Sony a7R III is up significantly – estimated at 530 stills verses 290 of the Sony a7R II. So now you can halve the battery count in your pack if you are upgrading to this camera from its predecessor.
Sony FE 4/24-105 G zoom lens
The new FE 4/24-105 G zoom lens is amazing! I know that doesn’t really tell you anything, but this thing competes with Leica lenses for build quality. Unlike Leica lenses though, it’s definitely made with some plastic, but the lens is tight. No loose parts what-so-ever out of the box. The zoom may actually be a little too tight. I do like the fact that it doesn’t feel at all loose though. It may be a standard kit lens focal length, but couple it with the Sony a7R III’s 42MP resolution and you have some pretty finite detail in your photographs.
One other thought here is that the f/4 aperture lens is slower than the f/2.8 cousin. While this lens is missing that extra stop, the Sony a7R III’s sensor is well equipped for you to up your ISO to compensate.
Sensor noise is exactly what we have come to expect from Sony – low. Noise doesn’t really come flooding in until ISO 51,200! This is using Capture One Pro to process out the photos though. I chose this direction because Capture One is shipped with all Sony cameras.
The 42MP image size does slow Capture One Pro down a little when compared to the 24MP files size of the Sony a9.
Other Points of Note
Weight! The Sony a7R III with the FE 4/24-105 G zoom lens attached, card in camera and battery on board tipped my scale at 2.76 pounds. The Canon 1DX II with EF 24–105mm f/4L IS II USM weighed 6.8lbs. That is a monstrous 4 pound difference! So the gains here are pretty remarkable if you also include camera volume in your backpack. To further help with your camera buying decisions, the Leica SL with the VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 f/2.8–4 ASPH. zoom lens weighed 4.3lbs. As photographers the options are becoming more and more limitless.
Back button autofocus. I had trouble using the back button for autofocus on the Fujifilm X-T2. Sony eliminates that problem for me. They have the button in the opposite location as the Fuji and it is also raised from the camera body profile so it is easier for your thumb to find it.
Larger body size. The Sony a7R III is a larger body than the Fujifilm X-T2 too so it fits better in my gangly Sasquatch hands.
What is clear about my now 5th camera test in recent months – mirrorless is here to stay, if not take over the entire camera marketplace. As a photographer, why would you want to carry more weight and a system that has you needing a larger backpack, when the mirrorless systems of today will fit in your wife’s purse. Companies like Canon and Nikon seem so resistant to change here. I am not sure why at this point. It is very clear to me that I now have many options for the future of my photography.
Who is This For?
The Sony a7R III is for any photographer wanting a high-resolution, detail oriented camera, that includes speed. Though I believe Sony over did it with the 20FPS of the a9, I think the 10FPS of the Sony a7R III is a much workable camera. The slower frame rate is extremely competitive for today’s action camera marketplace. It doesn’t hold the $4,499.99 price tag of the a9, yet provides you with everything a pro photographer would need for $3,199.99. In fact, the kit with the FE 4/24-105 G zoom lens from B&H is just shy of the a9 body-only price tag.
Sony a7R III – Positives
42MP sensor for extreme detail.
10FPS drive speed.
Separate autofocus sensor for faster autofocusing.
Fantastic image quality.
View finder does not go black during sequence shooting.
Sony a7R III – Negatives
Large file size slows down processing software and potentially requires more storage.
Electronic viewfinder needs more resolution.
Manual focus doesn’t work well for me – better viewfinder would help.
Get You Some of This.
Sony a7R III Kit.
Purchase your very own Sony a7R III & FE 4/24-105 G zoom lens kit from B&H Photo.