Sony Alpha 7R III
Sony’s new mirrorless powerhouse promises to be its most versatile professional-level camera yet. Andy Westlake takes a first look
andy Westlake takes a first look at sony’s new mirrorless powerhouse
IT’S FOUR years since Sony unveiled the world’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras in the shape of the 24MP Alpha 7 and 36MP Alpha 7R. A year and a half later we saw the updated Alpha 7R II, with a groundbreaking 42MP sensor, built-in 5-axis image stabilisation and a much-improved body design. Now it’s time for round three, in the form of the Alpha 7R III. Sony has decided to stick to what it knows best and kept to a familiar template, with a compact, SLR-styled body and central EVF. But the new model has taken the Alpha 7R II design and added many of the best features it debuted on the excellent Alpha 9 earlier this year, resulting in a very compelling camera that should give the Nikon D850 a serious run for its money.
The Alpha 7R III uses essentially the same 42.4MP full-frame sensor as that found in the Alpha 7R II, but almost everything else has been improved and updated. With the latest Bionx X processor and front-end LSI, the new camera has a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-32,000 that’s expandable to ISO 50-102,400. Sony claims it now offers fully 15 stops of dynamic range at ISO 100, which can be recorded into its 14-bit raw files even during continuous shooting.
Speaking of which, the Alpha 7R III is now substantially faster, being capable of shooting at 10 rather than 5 frames per second. It also has a considerably larger buffer, which means it can shoot 28 uncompressed raw files in a single burst, or 77 compressed raw or JPEG files. A new shutter unit promises low vibration, and is rated for 500,000 cycles, while a silent electronic shutter is also available.
Autofocus uses a hybrid system covering approximately 68% of the frame, with 399 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection points. Sony has incorporated
the autofocus algorithms from the Alpha 9, promising a ‘quantum leap’ in AF performance over the Alpha 7R II, with 2x faster focusing speed, and improved focus tracking and Eye-AF performance.
Like its predecessor, the Alpha 7R III is capable of recording 4K video at 30fps, using either the full width of the sensor or a Super-35 crop. Full HD recording is also available at up to 120fps, while microphone and headphone sockets are built in for better- quality sound recording. One interesting addition is 4K HDR using Hybrid Log Gamma, allowing high- dynamic-range playback on compatible TVs with no need for any additional processing.
Sony has added some useful new features, too. It’s now possible to protect images in- camera during playback, or assign them star ratings that should be recognised by Adobe Lightroom and Bridge. There are also dual USB ports – one Micro- USB and the other USB- C – so you can power the camera through one while using a cable release with the other.
Body and design
Measuring 126.9x95. 7x73. 7mm and weighing 657g, the Alpha 7R III is about the same size as its predecessor. It also has essentially the same top-plate control layout, but on the back it resembles the Alpha 9. So in a hugely welcome move, it gains an AF- on button and AF-area selection joystick (although disappointingly the focus area is still ‘highlighted’ in a near-invisible mid- grey). It also has a much better-positioned movie button and a larger, easier-to- use rear dial than before.
Like the Alpha 9, the Alpha 7R III employs a large, high-resolution 3.69-million- dot EVF, which provides a bright, detailed view. The LCD has been upgraded to 1.44-million dots with WhiteMagic technology for improved brightness, and is touch-sensitive for setting the focus point. Sadly, though, Sony has insisted on sticking with its relatively inflexible tilt- only approach. I’d have preferred to see a fully articulated design, like those found on other makers’ top- end mirrorless cameras.
With the Alpha 7R III, Sony appears to have done a really good job of developing the Alpha 7R II design. It’s added a sensible set of features from the Alpha 9, with the larger battery and revised control layout being especially welcome. Having had a little time hands-on with the camera, my first impression is that it feels snappier and more responsive, with autofocus in particular being considerably quicker. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on one for a full review.
Power The uprated NP-FZ100 battery is borrowed from the Alpha 9. It’s specified for 650 shots using the LCD, or 530 with the EVF, according to CIPA standard testing. Stabilisation Improved 5-axis in-body image stabilisation promises 5.5 stops of shake correction, which Sony claims is the most effective yet in a full-frame camera.
Accessories The Alpha 7R III is compatible with the same VG-C3EM vertical grip as that used on the Alpha 9. Twin card slots The Alpha 7R III now has two SD card slots, one of which is of the faster UHS-II type. Unlike the Alpha 9, the 7R III can automatically switch between cards when one fills up.
The Alpha 7R III maintains the compact size of its predecessors
The newly added touchscreen can be used to set the autofocus point