Sony A7 II
Sony updates its ‘entry-level’ full-frame mirrorless camera, but the A7 III’s specs put it in a new league
Sony updates its entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera
Let’s do a quick stock-take of Sony’s Alpha 7 mirrorless camera range. While the Alpha 7 III is the eighth A7 model to be announced, in reality there are just three A7 product lines. The A7 is the basic allround model; the A7S is a lower-resolution, higher-speed action and video specialist; and the A7R is the flagship highresolution model for those who want the ultimate in quality.
Sony is continually updating each of these three main cameras with new versions, so the basic Alpha 7 model has just been upgraded to a Mark III. We say ‘basic’, but this camera is a long way from that. The A7 III might be the affordable entry point into Sony’s full-frame mirrorless range, but the technology and features in Sony’s new camera are so powerful that it’s left with no real rivals at this price point – and that includes DSLRs.
The A7 III has a 24-megapixel sensor, like its predecessors the A7 II and the A7. It’s a new back-illuminated design, however, for improved lightgathering, and is teamed up with a front-end LSI and Bionz X processor that produce much improved high-ISO performance, high-quality 4K video, and that impressive 10fps continuous shooting speed.
High-speed shooting isn’t much good without a buffer capacity to match. While the A7 III can’t compete with sports specialists like the EOS-1D X II or the Nikon D5, it is still capable of capturing up to 177 JPEGs, 89 compressed raw files or 40 uncompressed raw images in a burst.
To get 10fps shooting in a fullframe camera at this price is remarkable, but Sony has gone a step further by incorporating the autofocus technology from its flagship A9 sports camera. With 693 phase-detection AF points covering 93% of the image area, backed up by a further 425 contrast AF points, on paper this is just about the most powerful AF system on the market.
We should also mention the A7 III’s in-body five-axis image stabilisation, twin memory card slots, and incamera battery charging via a USB cable. (There’s a faster optional BC-QZ1 battery charger and a new NP-FZ100 battery with 2.2 times the life of the A7 II’s NP-FW50, yielding up 710 shots on a single charge).
The A7 III also shoots 4K video, as we’d expect from any new Sony
camera, and it’s captured across the full sensor width then downsampled to 4K resolution, so there are no annoying crop factors and no inefficient pixel-binning. If we listed every single thing this camera has, or does, or is capable of, there would be no room left to explore its handling and performance.
Build and handling
If there is a chink in the A7 III’s armour, it’s here. The A7 III is remarkably small for a full-frame camera. Unfortunately, Sony’s lenses – in particular its best ones – are not. As a result, the A7 III feels distinctly front-heavy with lenses you might choose to go with it, such as the Sony 24-105mm f/4 or the 24-70mm f/2.8.
It’s a shame, too, that there’s no dedicated drive mode dial or AF mode/area lever, as these are two of this camera’s top features. You can assign these controls and more to the four function buttons, however, so they are only a click away.
Apart from that, there’s really very little to criticise. The electronic viewfinder and LCD display don’t have the highest resolutions we’ve seen on mirrorless cameras, but they’re more then adequate. The rear LCD has a up/down tilting action, but does not swing out sideways. You can tap to position the focus point or drag it around the frame. Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of touchscreen interaction, you can use the rear thumbstick (multi-selector).
The A7 III’s menu system is pretty formidable, with no fewer than 35 screens split into five sections, plus a user-customisable My Menu. It can take a while to find the setting you need, especially if you’re modifying the camera controls or default behaviour, but thankfully most regular shooting settings can be accessed via a Fn button on the rear of the camera instead.
The A7 III really does have a premium-quality feel. It’s solid and weighty, the controls are precise and
With 693 phase-detection AF points backed up by a further 425 contrast AF points, on paper this is just about the most powerful AF system on the market
the exterior materials and finish feel first rate. It might be the cheapest of Sony’s thirdgeneration A7 models, but you wouldn’t know it.
The A7 III’s performance is very good. There is a little lag, or ‘tearing’, in the viewfinder at 10fps, but there’s also 8fps ‘live view’ mode with a more responsive display if you feel you need to track your subject properly. The autofocus system is impressive both for its frame coverage (far better than a DSLR’s) and its speed. It can sometimes lose contact with fast, erratic subjects in AF tracking mode and take a few frames to lock on again, but it takes some pretty wild subject movement for this to happen. As long as you can anticipate your subject’s movement and keep it in your selected focus zone, the A7 III does the rest. Following moving subjects requires skill on the photographer’s part too – it’s not all about the camera – and the A7 III’s range of focus areas and modes means there’s a setting for practically every situation.
As for the image quality, fine detail is rendered very well. Sony claims the new sensor and processing system offer a 1.5EV ISO/noise advantage over the old model, and JPEGs straight from the camera show remarkably good detail, saturation and contrast right up to ISO 12,800. Rod Lawton
The Alpha 7 III’s range of focus areas and modes means there’s a setting for practically every situation
1 2 1 Inside the grip is a new NP-FZ100 lithium-ion cell with 2.2x the battery life of the previous model’s NP-FW50 cell. 2 The A7 III has the same 24MP resolution as its predecessor, but with a new sensor that offers improved sensitivity and faster processing.
3 A multi-selector on the rear enables you to move the focus point around the frame, or you can tap or drag on the touch-sensitive display. 3
4 The top plate is clean and simple, but it’s a shame there are no dedicated drive mode or focus mode dials, as these are key features. 4
1 Noise Noise levels are low, one of the advantages of a relatively modest megapixel rating. 2 Detail rendition 24 million pixels is less than some rivals, but the A7 III still captures high levels of detail. 3 Dynamic range Dynamic range is very good indeed at ISO 100 and across much of the ISO range.
Above With rich, natural colour rendition and great detail, the A7 III suits all kinds fo subjects.
Left The A7 III is ideal for low-light shooting thanks to its low noise and inbody stabilisation.
Below The A7 III body is small, so a grip will help the balance when you use bigger lenses.