Sony A7 II

Sony up­dates its ‘en­try-level’ full-frame mir­ror­less cam­era, but the A7 III’s specs put it in a new league

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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.

Key fea­tures

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.

Performance

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.

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