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

Amateur Photographer - - 7 Days -

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.

First im­pres­sions

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...

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...

The Al­pha 7R III main­tains the com­pact size of its pre­de­ces­sors

The newly added touch­screen can be used to set the aut­o­fo­cus point

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