On Trial: Sony A7 Iii

Sony’s quest for dom­i­na­tion of the in­ter­change­able lens cam­era busi­ness con­tin­ues with its lat­est A7 series gen­er­a­tional up­grade. The Mark III ver­sion of the ‘en­try-level’ A7 model bet­ters its pre­de­ces­sor in just about ev­ery way.

Camera - - CONTENTS -

The third-gen ver­sion of Sony’s A7 full-35mm for­mat mirrorless cam­era of­fers an ap­peal­ing com­bi­na­tion of per­for­mance, speed and af­ford­abil­ity – a bench­mark for what­ever Nikon and Canon may be cook­ing up for this cat­e­gory.

It’s an in­di­ca­tion of how well ex­e­cuted Sony’s A series full-35mm mirrorless cam­eras were right from the start that all the orig­i­nal mod­els are still avail­able close to five years af­ter their launch and now af­ter third-gen­er­a­tion up­grades for the orig­i­nal A7 and A7R. This has en­abled Sony to mar­ket a wider range of bod­ies (num­ber­ing nine right now) with an en­try-level price now at $1499 which is a lot cheaper than any­thing in the D-SLR world (ex­cept for Sony’s own A77 II). It’s all about mak­ing con­verts and, once you’re com­mit­ted, you’re very un­likely to go any­where else ex­cept up­wards through the FE mount sys­tem.

If you’re al­ready an A7 user who skipped the Mark II up­grade, you’re prob­a­bly about ready for the A7 III, but this model is also tasked with con­tin­u­ing to lure en­thu­si­ast-level users away from their D-SLRs. As with all the A7 mod­els and the A9, the big deal is the small­ness of the bod­ies de­spite hous­ing a full-35mm sen­sor. From among the full-35mm D-SLRs, only Nikon’s D750 gets close and it’s still nowhere near as petite as even the slightly more bulked-up Mark III cam­eras. Of course, it’s pretty much all aca­demic when it comes to the lenses be­cause the 35mm imag­ing cir­cle is the same ir­re­spec­tive of the cam­era con­fig­u­ra­tion, but you’re still ahead with the more com­pact mirrorless bod­ies. Af­ter you’ve been us­ing one for a while, it’s sur­pris­ing just how bulky a D-SLR feels in com­par­i­son.

The A7 III is de­signed to make such com­par­isons even more re­veal­ing as the third-gen­er­a­tion up­grades in­clude a new sen­sor, pro­ces­sor, elec­tronic viewfinder and aut­o­fo­cus­ing sys­tem plus a much faster con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing speed, in-body im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tio and, of course, 4K video record­ing.

The styling is vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to that of the A7R III and the A9 which is a lit­tle more pur­pose ful­look­ing than the ear­lier mod­els thanks to the matte black fin­ish and big­ger hand­grip. The new bodyshell com­prises mag­ne­sium al­loy cov­ers and chas­sis with weather seal­ing to pro­tect against dust and mois­ture. The LCD mon­i­tor screen is ad­justable for tilt and has some touch con­trols (mostly re­lated to aut­o­fo­cus­ing) while the EVF is a 1.3 cm OLED-type panel with a res­o­lu­tion of 2.359 megadots and a mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of 0.78x (35mm equiv­a­lent). The con­trol lay­out con­tin­ues to be based around a main mode dial with front and rear in­put wheels, a sec­ond dial for ap­ply­ing ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion, a nav­i­ga­tor wheel/key­pad and var­i­ous func­tion but­tons (a num­ber cus­tomis­able). As on the A7R III and A9, a joy­stick-type tog­gle con­trol (which Sony calls the “Multi-Se­lec­tor”) has been added pri­mar­ily to al­low for the eas­ier and quicker se­lec­tion of AF points (now that there’s a great deal more of them), but which can also be used for var­i­ous nav­i­ga­tional du­ties.

The bat­tery is the same high­er­ca­pac­ity NP-FZ100 2280 mAh ‘In­foLithium’ pack that’s used in the A7R III and A9 and ex­tends the shoot­ing range to around 710 shots. It can be recharged in-cam­era via the USB port and the A7 III is also com­pat­i­ble with the op­tional VG-C3EM bat­tery grip which ac­com­mo­dates two NPFZ100 packs.

There are now dual mem­ory card slots with a proper latched cover for the com­part­ment. One slot is ex­clu­sive to the SD for­mat and the other com­pat­i­ble with both SD and Mem­ory Stick Duo de­vices. As on the A7R III, only the for­mer is UHS-II speed com­pat­i­ble while the lat­ter is re­stricted to UHS-I. The file man­age­ment op­tions are si­mul­ta­ne­ous record­ing to both cards (either stills or video clips), split JPEG and RAW or split stills and movie clips, copy­ing and au­to­matic over­flow. The A7 III has Sony’s ‘Multi In­ter­face’ hot­shoe – which is de­signed to ac­cept var­i­ous other ac­ces­sories be­sides a flash unit – but un­like the A7R III, it doesn’t have a PC ter­mi­nal for flash sync. The rest of the in­ter­faces are the same though, and com­prise both mi­cro USB 2.0 and Type C USB 3.1 Gen. 1 ports (the lat­ter also en­abling teth­ered op­er­a­tions) and both a stereo au­dio in­put and an out­put (3.5 mm mini­jacks for each). Wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity is via WiFi with NFC and Blue­tooth LE.

ON THE IN­SIDE

The in­side story starts with an all-new, 25.3 megapix­els ver­sion of Sony’s ‘Ex­mor R’ BSI (back­side il­lu­mi­nated) CMOS sen­sor which has an imag­ing area of 23.8x35.6 mm and a sen­si­tiv­ity range equiv­a­lent to ISO 100-51,200 (ex­pand­able to either ISO 50 or 204,800). The ef­fec­tive pixel count is 24.2 mil­lion which gives a max­i­mum im­age size of 6000x4000 pix­els. JPEGs can be cap­tured in one of three im­age sizes and three com­pres­sion set­tings at either the 3:2 and 16:9 as­pect ra­tios. RAW files are cap­tured with 14-bit RGB colour and either com­pressed or un­com­pressed. RAW+JPEG cap­ture can be with any con­fig­u­ra­tion of JPEG size and qual­ity. The cam­era will also au­to­mat­i­cally crop to the ‘APS-C’ for­mat if an E mount lens is fit­ted. By the way, this sen­sor re­tains an op­ti­cal low-pass fil­ter - al­though it’s com­par­a­tively weak - to bal­ance op­ti­mum res­o­lu­tion with some fil­ter­ing for moiré pat­terns (but only hor­i­zon­tal).

It’s mated with both a new front-end LSI pro­ces­sor and an up­dated ver­sion of Sony’s ‘Bionz X’ main pro­ces­sor, both of which con­trib­ute to a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in shoot­ing speed thanks a faster data read-out and sub­se­quent pro­cess­ing. This en­ables con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing at up to 10 fps with frame-by-frame ad­just­ment of the aut­o­fo­cus­ing and ex­po­sure (and with either the fo­cal plane shut­ter or the cam­era’s sen­sor­based silent shut­ter). And yes, 14-bit RAW cap­ture is pos­si­ble at 10 fps. Bet­ter still, con­tin­u­ous live view fram­ing (i.e. with no black­outs be­tween frames) is avail­able with only a small re­duc­tion in the shoot­ing speed to 8.0 fps. Burst depths are quoted as 163 frames for JPEG/large/ex­tra-fine cap­ture, 89 com­pressed RAW files or 40 un­com­pressed RAW files. All are big in­creases over the pre­vi­ous two ver­sions of the A7.

The new LSI also de­liv­ers a big im­prove­ment to the sen­sor’s sig­nal-to-noise so Sony is again quot­ing a very wide dy­namic range of 15 stops at the lower ISO set­tings. This is one ben­e­fit of the sen­sor’s ‘Dual Gain’ de­sign which gives two base ISO val­ues – one at ISO 100 to op­ti­mise the dy­namic range when shoot­ing in brighter con­di­tions and the other at ISO 640 to re­duce noise when shoot­ing in low-light sit­u­a­tions.

IN­TER­EST­INGLY, THE A7 III HAS SONY’S MOST SO­PHIS­TI­CATED HY­BRID AUT­O­FO­CUS­ING SYS­TEM YET – WITH A MAS­SIVE 693 PHASEDIFFERENCE DE­TEC­TION POINTS GIV­ING 93 PER­CENT FRAME COV­ER­AGE.

In a nut­shell, at ISO 640 or higher, am­pli­fi­ca­tion of each pixel’s out­put (which is how the high ISO set­tings work) is per­formed on the sen­sor, en­sur­ing a very low level of noise at the read-out stage.

The ad­di­tion of in-body im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion via sen­sor-shift­ing is a big plus given the rapid­ly­ex­pand­ing num­ber of non-Sony FE mount lenses be­com­ing avail­able, many with­out op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion. The A7 III’s IBIS pro­vides five-axis cor­rec­tion and up to 5.0 stops of shut­ter speed com­pen­sa­tion when shoot­ing hand-held.

In The Frame

In­ter­est­ingly, the A7 III has Sony’s most so­phis­ti­cated hy­brid aut­o­fo­cus­ing sys­tem yet – com­bin­ing the 693 phase-dif­fer­ence de­tec­tion points from the A9 and the 425 con­trast-de­tec­tion points from the A7R III. The PDD points pro­vide a mas­sive 93 per­cent frame cov­er­age which means bet­ter track­ing per­for­mance as well as be­ing able to lock on to sub­jects lo­cated right at the very edges of im­age.

The faster pro­ces­sor also en­hances the track­ing re­li­a­bil­ity, in­clud­ing in low-light sit­u­a­tions, and de­liv­ers shorter re­sponse times with bet­ter ac­cu­racy than be­fore. In fact, suf­fi­ciently so as to al­low for the ad­vanced ‘Eye AF’ func­tion which locks onto a sub­ject’s eye for sub­se­quent track­ing which is then main­tained even if the sub­ject then looks away or the face is par­tially hid­den for a few mo­ments. Low light sen­si­tiv­ity ex­tends down to -3.0 EV (at ISO 100 and f2.0) and there’s a built-in LED il­lu­mi­na­tor for low light/con­trast as­sist. Switch­ing be­tween the sin­gle-shot and con­tin­u­ous AF modes can be done man­u­ally or left to the cam­era when it’s set to ‘AF-A’.

Aut­o­fo­cus point se­lec­tion can also be per­formed man­u­ally or au­to­mat­i­cally, the for­mer via one of five area modes called Wide, Zone, Cen­tre, Flex­i­ble Spot and Ex­pand Flex­i­ble Spot. The Flex­i­ble Spot op­tions al­low the fo­cus­ing zone to be ad­justed to one of three sizes – small, medium or large – to bet­ter suit the sub­ject mat­ter. In the Ex­pand mode, the sur­round­ing points are au­to­mat­i­cally se­lected if the sub­ject starts to move. Con­tin­u­ous AF is sup­ple­mented by a ‘LockOn’ func­tion which works with any of the area modes to pro­vide more re­li­able track­ing. A fo­cus point or area can be reg­is­tered for in­stant re­call which is use­ful when shoot­ing the same scene or sub­ject on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Ad­di­tion­ally, it can be set to switch po­si­tion au­to­mat­i­cally when the cam­era is turned to the ver­ti­cal po­si­tion. The face de­tec­tion AF al­lows for both face recog­ni­tion and left/right eye de­tec­tion.

As on the A7R III, there’s a to­tal of four pages de­voted to AF set-up and func­tions (plus yet an­other page de­voted to the var­i­ous as­sists), and these in­clude fine­tun­ing for the track­ing sen­si­tiv­ity with a choice of five set­tings from ‘Locked On’ to ‘Re­spon­sive’. Ad­di­tion­ally, the sin­gle-shot and con­tin­u­ous modes can be pri­ori­tised for either achiev­ing fo­cus or en­abling shut­ter re­lease, or a bal­ance of both.

Man­ual fo­cus as­sist is pro­vided by a mag­ni­fied view (up to 5.9x) and a fo­cus peak­ing dis­play which can be set to red, yel­low or white with three lev­els of sen­si­tiv­ity (high, mid or low). The fo­cus mag­ni­fier can be set to op­er­ate con­tin­u­ously or for pre­set timed du­ra­tions of either two or five sec­onds. It’s also avail­able to as­sist with de­ter­min­ing sharp­ness when us­ing aut­o­fo­cus­ing.

Aut­o­fo­cus­ing per­for­mance used to be a key D-SLR ad­van­tage, but in var­i­ous ways the lat­est­gen­er­a­tion mirrorless cam­eras – and es­pe­cially the new Sony Al­pha mod­els – have moved ahead both in speed and ac­cu­racy. We crowned the A9 as the king of the ILC aut­o­fo­cus­ing sys­tems, but the A7 III is ac­tu­ally bet­ter again and so puts an end to that short reign.

Light­ing the Way

Ex­po­sure con­trol is based on on-sen­sor me­ter­ing with 1200 mea­sur­ing points and the choice of multi-seg­ment, cen­tre-weighted av­er­age, fully av­er­aged, high­light­bi­ased or spot mea­sure­ments. The spot me­ter’s size can be switched be­tween stan­dard or large, and either locked to the frame’s cen­tre or linked to the ac­tive fo­cus point or zone.

The stan­dard se­lec­tion of ‘PASM’ ex­po­sure con­trol modes is sup­ple­mented by a full-auto mode which per­forms sub­ject/scene anal­y­sis to fine-tune the ex­po­sure set­tings. Un­like the A7R III though, the A7 III also has a set of man­u­ally-se­lected sub­ject modes for Por­trait, Sports Ac­tion, Macro, Land­scape, Sun­set, Night Scene and Night Por­trait.

The over­rides for the auto ex­po­sure con­trol modes com­prise an AE lock (which now has a ded­i­cated but­ton), ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion of up to +/-5.0 EV (al­though, again, the dial is only marked to +/-3.0 EV with the ad­di­tional range ac­cessed in the ‘Ex­po­sure 1’ menu) and auto ex­po­sure brack­et­ing over se­quences of three, five or nine frames. For the first two, the max­i­mum ad­just­ment per frame is +/-3.0 EV while over nine frames, it’s +/-1.0 EV. Ex­po­sure brack­et­ing se­quences can be com­bined with the self-timer.

As noted ear­lier, the cam­era’s fo­cal plane (FP) shut­ter is sup­ple­mented by a sen­sor-based shut­ter which Sony only utilises

WHILE 24 MP MAY NOT LOOK AS GLAM­OROUS AS 42 MP, AS WE’VE SAID ON A NUM­BER OF OC­CA­SIONS, IT’S NOT SO MUCH ABOUT HOW MANY MEGAPIX­ELS AS WHAT YOU DO WITH THEM.

for either silent shoot­ing or ‘elec­tronic front cur­tain’ op­er­a­tion to min­imise vi­bra­tions (while still al­low­ing for flash pho­tog­ra­phy). The shut­ter speed range is 301/8000 sec­ond with flash sync up to 1/250 sec­ond and a ‘B’ set­ting for longer ex­po­sure du­ra­tions. Like its ‘R’ sib­ling, the A7 III gains flicker de­tec­tion and au­to­matic re­duc­tion for more even ex­po­sures when us­ing con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing un­der gas-ig­ni­tion (i.e. flu­oro) light sources. These ac­tu­ally switch on and off con­tin­u­ously, but at the mains power fre­quency of 50 Hz it’s largely im­per­cep­ti­ble to the hu­man eye. How­ever, be­tween the bright ‘peaks’ it can make quite a dif­fer­ence to both ex­po­sure and colour bal­ance so the anti-flicker func­tion ad­justs the shut­ter’s tim­ings very frac­tion­ally dur­ing a con­tin­u­ous se­quence to avoid this. It does slow the cam­era down, but not by much, and is ob­vi­ously a pretty handy fa­cil­ity to have when shoot­ing, for ex­am­ple, in­door sports.

Also handy is the op­tion of tweak­ing the au­to­matic white bal­ance cor­rec­tion which can be set to Stan­dard, White-Pri­or­ity or Am­bi­ence-Pri­or­ity. There are ten light­ing pre­sets – in­clud­ing for four dif­fer­ent flu­oro types – fine-tun­ing over the blue-to-am­ber (29 steps) and green-to-ma­genta (57 steps) colour ranges, or man­ual colour tem­per­a­ture set­ting over a range of 2500 to 9900 de­grees Kelvin. Three cus­tom WB set­tings can be cre­ated and auto white bal­ance brack­et­ing is avail­able over a se­quence of three frames.

Like the A7R III, the A7 III lacks an in­ter­val­ome­ter, a mul­ti­ple ex­po­sure fa­cil­ity and in-cam­era panorama stitch­ing, but none of these is nec­es­sar­ily a deal-breaker given what else is on of­fer.

The pro­cess­ing op­tions for JPEGs in­clude 13 ‘Cre­ative Style’ pic­ture pre­sets (with the op­tion of cre­at­ing up to six cus­tomised pre­sets), eight ‘Pic­ture Ef­fect’ spe­cial ef­fects, noise re­duc­tion is pro­vided for both long ex­po­sures and high ISO set­tings, ‘Dy­namic Range Op­ti­miser’ (DRO) pro­cess­ing and a se­lec­tion of multi-shot HDR modes. The DRO op­tions com­prise auto cor­rec­tion – based on the con­trast range of the scene – or five lev­els of pre­set cor­rec­tion. An auto brack­et­ing mode is also avail­able for the dy­namic range ex­pan­sion pro­cess­ing. The HDR op­tions also in­clude an auto mode – when the cam­era cap­tures a se­quence of three frames with the cor­rec­tion ap­plied au­to­mat­i­cally (again based on the bright­ness range in the scene) – and a se­lec­tion of man­u­ally-set ex­po­sure ad­just­ments from +/-1.0 EV to +/-6.0 EV, des­ig­nated ‘Level 1’ to ‘Level 5’.

In-cam­era lens corrections are pro­vided for vi­gnetting, chro­matic aber­ra­tions and dis­tor­tion.

In The hand

Don’t get too ex­cited about the touch­screen con­trols be­cause, as with the A7R III and A9, the im­ple­men­ta­tion is again lim­ited to aut­o­fo­cus­ing func­tions, namely the se­lec­tion (or mov­ing) of a fo­cus­ing point with a ‘Touch­pad’ op­tion which al­lows this to be done while us­ing the EVF. Touch con­trols aren’t even avail­able for brows­ing and cer­tainly not for any on-screen set­ting du­ties which are all done the tra­di­tional way. How­ever, there’s an ex­cel­lent ‘Quick Navi’ con­trol screen which pro­vides speedy ac­cess to a large se­lec­tion of cap­ture func­tions, us­ing the nav­i­ga­tor con­trols, with ad­just­ments made via one or other of the in­put wheels. The ‘Quick Navi’ screen not only pro­vides var­i­ous read-outs and sta­tus in­di­ca­tors, but also in­cludes a real-time his­togram, a dual-axis level in­di­ca­tor and an ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion scale. An al­ter­na­tive ‘Func­tion Menu’ con­trol screen is avail­able with the live view im­age and pro­vides quick ac­cess to up to 12 func­tions. The A7 III has the im­proved menu de­sign and lay­out that was in­tro­duced with the A9 and which uses colour-coded tabs for the chap­ters, page num­ber­ing (both dis­played and to­tal), more ex­ten­sive use of la­bels for groups of re­lated func­tions and a set of bar-type in­di­ca­tors to ad­di­tion­ally in­di­cate the dis­played page’s se­quence within the chap­ter. A cus­tomised ‘My Menu’ can be cre­ated to hand­ily col­lect the most­fre­quently used func­tions un­der the one chap­ter head­ing.

The con­trol cus­tomi­sa­tion op­tions con­tinue to ex­pand and, while there’s a to­tal of 13 con­trols with ad­justable func­tions, there are four Cus­tom but­tons (marked C1 to C4) which are truly mul­ti­func­tion and as­signed roles from lists which cover no fewer than 22 menu pages. Ad­di­tion­ally, the ‘C’ but­tons are separately as­sign­a­ble for stills, movies and play­back. The four quad­rants of the main nav­i­ga­tor wheel (a.k.a. the “Con­trol Wheel”) and its cen­tre but­ton also al­low for cus­tomi­sa­tion as does the ‘Func­tion Menu’ con­trol screen and, frankly, we can’t see any­body need­ing any­thing more. Two cam­era set­ups can be stored in-body and fur­ther four to a mem­ory card for sub­se­quent re­call when needed.

Both the EVF and mon­i­tor dis­plays can be con­fig­ured with guide grids (se­lected from a choice of three), a dual-axis level dis­play or a real-time his­togram (so not at the same time), the frame for the phase-de­tect AF’s cov­er­age (use­ful es­pe­cially for track­ing) and ze­bra pat­terns (with ad­justable lev­els set be­tween 70 and 100+) to in­di­cate ar­eas of over­ex­po­sure. The 100+ set­ting is the min­i­mum level set­ting and pri­mar­ily only shows ar­eas likely to cause some flare, and the thresh­old for blown-out high­lights is steadily de­creased with the lower set­tings. The viewfinder dis­plays cover the ex­po­sure set­tings, bat­tery level (in­clud­ing a per­cent­age re­main­ing read-out) and the ba­sic file set­tings (size and as­pect ra­tio). The mon­i­tor’s read-out dis­play in­cludes a much more com­pre­hen­sive set of sta­tus in­di­ca­tors or, al­ter­na­tively, just the im­age alone. In­ci­den­tally, the EVF is fully dis­abled once the mon­i­tor is tilted so there’s no dan­ger of it be­ing ac­ci­den­tally ac­ti­vated – and hence the mon­i­tor de-ac­ti­vated – should the prox­im­ity sen­sor in the eye­piece be in­ad­ver­tently cov­ered.

THE A7 III IS THE BEST VALUE ILC ON THE MAR­KET RE­GARD­LESS OF SEN­SOR SIZE OR DE­SIGN CON­FIG­U­RA­TION. DO ALL THE COM­PAR­ISONS YOU WANT… NOTH­ING ELSE GETS CLOSE.

The im­age play­back modes in­clude nine or 25 thumb­nail pages, zoom­ing at up to 18.8x with JPEG/large files and a slide show func­tion for auto play­back with ad­justable dis­play times. The im­age re­view screens in­clude a thumb­nail with both high­light and shadow warn­ings, a full set of RGB and lu­mi­nance his­tograms, and all the key cap­ture info, in­clud­ing the ‘Cre­ative Style’ pre­set and the DRO/HDR set­tings.

SPEED AND PER­FOR­MANCE

With our ref­er­ence mem­ory card – Lexar’s 128 GB SDXC UHS-II/ U3 (Speed Class 3) Pro­fes­sional – loaded into the A7 III’s faster Slot 1, a burst of 107 JPEG/large/ ex­tra-fine files was recorded in 10.553 sec­onds which rep­re­sents a shoot­ing speed of 10.13 fps. The av­er­age file size in this se­quence was around 17.5 MB and the buf­fer emp­tied al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter. Once again, we just picked an ar­bi­trary point to stop the tim­ing se­quence and the cam­era would have hap­pily gone on shoot­ing at 10 fps for a lot longer (which is, it should be pointed out here, twice as fast the pre­vi­ous two gen­er­a­tions of A7 mod­els).

As we noted with the A9, it was trans­fix­ing to watch the 693-points PPD aut­o­fo­cus­ing con­tin­u­ally, analysing the sub­ject and ad­just­ing the ac­tive points in­stantly to cover even very tiny shifts in the fram­ing dur­ing con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing.

Not sur­pris­ingly then, the aut­o­fo­cus­ing per­for­mance is truly su­perla­tive, en­hanced by the near full-frame cov­er­age and the very high num­ber of mea­sur­ing points which cov­ers both tiny sub­jects and tiny changes in a sub­ject’s po­si­tion. Fast mov­ing sub­jects – even those clos­ing in at a rapid rate – are fo­cused with con­sum­mate ease and con­sis­tent re­li­a­bil­ity. Even­tu­ally it was a case of see­ing how we might be able to trip up the A7 III’s aut­o­fo­cus­ing… hy­per­ac­tive dogs, er­ratic cock­a­toos and even wa­ter drops from a drip­ping tap; noth­ing got away. And, just sayin’, it’s less than half the price of the A9.

While 24 MP may not look as glam­orous as 42 MP, as we’ve said on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, it’s not so much about how many megapix­els, as what you do with them and Sony is get­ting

very good at squeez­ing as much imag­ing good­ness out of ev­ery one as pos­si­ble. The ex­tra-fine qual­ity JPEGs are ex­cep­tional with plenty of crisply-re­solved de­tail­ing, seam­lessly smooth tonal gra­da­tions and a wide dy­namic range (with­out re­sort­ing to ex­pan­sion pro­cess­ing). Colour and con­trast can, of course, be var­ied ac­cord­ing to the se­lected ‘Cre­ative Style’ pre­set and its ad­justable pa­ram­e­ters, but over­all the colour re­pro­duc­tion achieves a pleas­ing bal­ance be­tween ac­cu­racy and sat­u­ra­tion with, in par­tic­u­lar, bet­ter han­dling of the reds and paler skin tones than we’ve seen pre­vi­ously.

The wide dy­namic range trans­lates into en­hanced ex­po­sure lat­i­tude and more flex­i­bil­ity when shoot­ing RAW in low light (i.e. there’s more scope to un­der­ex­pose when us­ing the lower ISO set­tings and then se­lec­tively brighten the mid-tones and/or shad­ows post-cam­era with­out cre­at­ing ex­ces­sive noise). With JPEG cap­ture, the A7 III achieves a very good bal­ance be­tween def­i­ni­tion and noise re­duc­tion pro­cess­ing thanks to the ‘Dual Gain’ cir­cuitry de­liv­er­ing a much cleaner out­put to start with. There’s min­i­mal loss of sharp­ness or colour sat­u­ra­tion up to ISO 6400 and the im­age qual­ity is still very good at ISO 12,800 and 25,600, but with some no­tice­able soft­en­ing of finer de­tails. That said, we de­cided to try out ISO 204,800 just for the fun of it and while chroma noise was in abun­dance ev­ery­where, the shot would ac­tu­ally be us­able if kept small. While a num­ber of other cam­eras claim such strato­spher­i­cally high ISO set­tings, the A7 III is the first we’ve seen where the im­age isn’t a join-the-dots propo­si­tion. In terms of its re­al­is­tic high ISO per­for­mance though, the A7 III can claim an­other crown, easily bet­ter­ing any other full-35mm ILC avail­able (in­clud­ing its sib­lings).

The Ver­dIcT

We loved the A9 (and still do), but won­dered whether the A7R III was the bet­ter choice given its po­ten­tially more flex­i­ble com­bi­na­tion of high res­o­lu­tion and high speed… af­ter all, not ev­ery­body needs 20 fps, but then, let’s be hon­est here, nor does ev­ery­body need 42.4 megapix­els res­o­lu­tion either. So what about the A7 III which throws af­ford­abil­ity into the mix? Shop around and you should be able to sneak in un­der the $3000 mark which means – and let’s cut straight to the chase here – it’s the best value ILC on the mar­ket ir­re­spec­tive of sen­sor size or de­sign con­fig­u­ra­tion. Do all the com­par­isons you want… noth­ing else gets close, in­clud­ing the A9 and A7R III. For­get any of the full-35mm D-SLRs… too big… or too slow… or both.

Smaller than the small­est ful­l35mm D-SLR, the A7R III not only does 24.2 MP at 10 fps with full AF (and in 14-bit RAW, if so de­sired), it also de­liv­ers class-lead­ing AF and high-ISO per­for­mance, the best bat­tery life and both com­fort­able and ef­fi­cient er­gonomics.

It’s not per­fect, of course, but elim­i­nat­ing any­thing that would in­crease the pur­chase price (such as a higher-res EVF, for ex­am­ple), the only real com­plaint is the lack of more touch­screen con­trols. Other­wise, you’d have to say Sony has got the bal­ance ab­so­lutely right, with the re­sult that the A7 III is go­ing to be ab­so­lutely right for a great many pho­tog­ra­phers.

Mon­i­tor screen has tilt ad­just­ments only and the res is 921,600 dots which is start­ing to look a bit stingy in to­day’s mar­ket. ‘Quick Navi’ con­trol screen al­lows di­rect ac­cess to many cap­ture-re­lated func­tions and also in­cludes dis­plays such as a real-time his­togram and a dual-axis level in­di­ca­tor. New joy­stick-type con­troller is pri­mar­ily for AF point se­lec­tion, but can also per­form var­i­ous nav­i­ga­tional du­ties.

Hot­shoe is Sony’s ‘Multi In­ter­face’ mount so var­i­ous other ac­ces­sories can be pow­ered from here too. Main mode dial in­cludes two set­tings for cus­tom cam­era set­ups and the ‘S&Q’ (Slow & Quick Mo­tion) po­si­tion for ac­cess­ing a range of video fram­ing rates from 100 fps down to 1.0 fps. There’s a to­tal of four fully multi-func­tional Cus­tom but­tons, but var­i­ous other con­trols can also be cus­tomised to some de­gree. Ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion dial is marked to +/-3.0 EV, but up to +/-5.0 EV can be ac­cessed via the shoot­ing menu.

Live view screen com­po­nents in­clude guide grids, dual-axis level dis­play and real-time his­togram.

Aut­o­fo­cus­ing func­tions take up four pages of menus while the var­i­ous as­sists (above right) have a full page to them­selves.

The A7 III has Sony’s re­vised menu lay­out which is more log­i­cally or­gan­ised and quicker to nav­i­gate.

Check out how the aut­o­fo­cus­ing sys­tem is work­ing this sub­ject… talk about pre­ci­sion.

Re­play screen in­cludes a full set of his­tograms.

A big up­grade is the pro­vi­sion of dual card slots with one be­ing dual for­mat for SD and Mem­ory Stick Duo de­vices.

The A7 III’s ex­panded sen­si­tiv­ity runs from ISO 50 to 208,400 and while the im­age is quite noisy even at the max­i­mum set­ting, it’s still ac­tu­ally us­able pro­vided you don’t need a very big im­age. All these im­ages taken with the aper­ture set to f11 and the ex­po­sure time var­ied to com­pen­sate for the ISO ad­just­ments.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.