The predecessor of the A7R II was already sealed against dust and splashes. But with the Sony A7R III, this has been implemented even further. We didn’t test that by taking the camera apart, because Kolar Vison has already done this for us (see: Sony A7R III weather sealing). We tested the camera without any problems in the freezing cold (-20 degrees) above the Arctic Circle. The weather resistance can thus be improved even more. Especially the lack of a gasket around the battery cover is a concern. Remember that no competitor of the A7R III is completely watertight. Olympus, closely followed by Panasonic, makes cameras that are extremely well sealed against splash water. Some common sense when using electronic equipment in the rain is still necessary to prevent malfunctions.
DESIGN, BUILD QUALITY AND ERGONOMICS
The design of the camera has hardly changed compared to the A7R II. However, the grip has been adjusted slightly (read: gotten bigger). This not only improves the ergonomics, it also created room for the bigger battery and – also very important – the dual card slots. The lower one is suitable for fast UHS-II cards; the upper one only for UHS-1 SD cards. The large door on the side also has its own lock so you can’t accidentally push it open with your hand. Furthermore, a number of buttons are slightly adjusted, and the A7R III has a joystick on the back for selecting the autofocus point.
SCREEN AND VIEWFINDER
The viewfinder of the A7R III is a generation better than the one on the A7R II. The resolution has been increased from 2.36 to 3.6 megapixel, and you can really see that difference in the use. It is just a little less pixelated. That’s certainly nice for people who are switching from a DSLR to a system camera. The screen on the back still only tilts and doesn’t turn. But it is now touch sensitive. Unfortunately, the touchscreen only works for selecting the autofocus points. That works pretty well, but it’s still strange that Sony hasn’t used the touch ability to operate the very extensive menus.
MENU AND SPECIAL FEATURES
The menu structure has improved a lot compared to the A7R II. The first two tabs in the upper bar contain choices for both shooting and filming on the A7R II. With the A7R III, the first tab now contains photography settings and the second one is mainly for video. Furthermore, the A7R III has been given a ‘my menu’ tab that you can fill with the settings that you use most often.
HIGH RESOLUTION AND IMAGE QUALITY
Sony A7R III night shot (2000 ISO, f/2.8, 10 sec)
The dynamic range is so big that you can make the dark parts so much lighter that it looks as if the picture was taken during the day, without being bothered by noise. Together with the Nikon D850, the Sony A7R III offers the highest dynamic range of all the cameras we have tested.
The A7R III has the same number of pixels as the A7R II, namely 42 megapixels. But the new A7R III does have a high-resolution pixel-shift mode, in which the camera takes four pictures, with the sensor slightly shifted each time. These shots can subsequently be combined with special software from Sony into a single image. This gives every pixel the full color information and no interpolation of the Bayer pattern of the sensor is required. In practice, this produces a bit more sharpness and a complete absence of the chance of moire. The usual way to fight moire is to soften the image in the camera with an anti-alias filter or to make the image slightly blurry locally afterwards. With the A7R III, this is no longer necessary in high res mode, and you always get the best out of the camera. For architectural photographers who suffer from patterns in brick or metal façade profiles or studio photographers who suffer from moire in fabrics, this is a godsend.
NOISE AND DYNAMIC RANGE
Sony A7R III night shot (12.800 ISO, f/2.0 0,5sec)
Noise is always a combination of the signal-to-noise ratio of the sensor and the processing by the processor of the camera. The A7R III seems to have improved both slightly compared to the A7R II, but do not expect any shocking differences, and it’s very difficult to spot it.
The Sony A7R III has become a lot faster than its predecessor. It now takes ten images per second, both with the ordinary shutter and with the electronic shutter. It’s only half as fast as the A9 with the electronic, silent shutter, but twice as fast with its ordinary shutter. The A9 then only gets five images per second. If you want to follow subjects, you have to ensure that your viewfinder image keeps being refreshed. Then the speed drops to a still respectable 8 frames per second. Action photography is now certainly possible with the A7R III.
Like the A7R II, the III can film in both full-HD and 4K. For 4K, the camera uses a slightly larger 5K that it downsamples to a 4K file. This makes the sharpness and detail optimal. AVCHD and XAVC-S are available as codecs. You get the best quality in XAVC-S. The bitrate can then be 100 Mbps. Slow motion is possible in full-HD (1920×1080 pixels) at 120 frames per second. In contrast to the A9, the A7R III does have all the video options, including the option of using log profiles. Internally, the camera can write in 8 bit 4:2:0 and external 8 bit output via HDMI is possible in 4:2:2.
An important improvement of the A7R III compared to the A7R II is the autofocus. The III has 399 AF points with phase detection and 425 points with contrast detection. Together, they ensure that both the C-AF and the eye-controlled autofocus have been improved. Tracking of fast-moving subjects is now slightly better than with the previous model. You notice the biggest change in portrait photography. That has become a lot easier with the A7R III. Where the old model sometimes struggled to focus well on the eye or to hold the focus for a whole series, the A7R III finds an eye of the model with the greatest ease and keeps the focus on it particularly well, even if you move the camera or if the model moves.
CONCLUSION: REVIEW SONY A7R III
- High image quality
- Good battery life
- Double card slots
- Improved autofocus
- AF joystick
- In-body image stabilization (IBIS)
- Weather resistance can be better
- No automatic dust filter
- Touchscreen not for menu selection