Could the Sony a7R III be the mir­ror­less com­peti­tor for the Nikon D850? An­gela Ni­chol­son puts it through its paces

Digital Photograper - - Contents -

How does the next gen­er­a­tion of this pop­u­lar cam­era per­form?

Nikon is billing the 45.7MP D850 as two cam­eras in one, a high-res­o­lu­tion cam­era com­bined with a fast­shoot­ing model. The same can also be said for the Sony a7R III, as its full-frame backil­lu­mi­nated sen­sor has 42.4 mil­lion ef­fec­tive pix­els yet it can shoot at up to 10 frames per sec­ond with con­tin­u­ous aut­o­fo­cus­ing and ex­po­sure me­ter­ing – the D850 can hit 9fps with the op­tional MB-D18 bat­tery pack or

7fps as stan­dard. It’s worth not­ing, how­ever, that when you’re shoot­ing at 10fps (Hi+) with the a7R III, the viewfinder doesn’t show a live view and mov­ing sub­jects can be hard to fol­low; drop­ping to 8fps (Hi) gives a live view im­age. Sony has been able to achieve that fast shoot­ing rate by put­ting an LSI on the sen­sor, help­ing the en­hanced Bionz X pro­ces­sor de­liver a 1.8x in­crease in pro­cess­ing speed over the a7R II.

Like the cam­era it re­places, the a7R III has 399 phase-de­tec­tion AF points on its imag­ing sen­sor, but the num­ber of con­trast-de­tec­tion points has been boosted to 425, which means the vast ma­jor­ity of the imag­ing frame can be used for fo­cus­ing. In ad­di­tion, fo­cus­ing speed has been roughly dou­bled in low light in com­par­i­son with the Mark II cam­era. Sony has also en­hanced the Eye AF sys­tem, mak­ing it bet­ter at de­tect­ing and track­ing eyes – which is highly use­ful for por­trait and so­cial pho­tog­ra­phers.

While it’s Sony’s high­est-res­o­lu­tion mir­ror­less cam­era, the a7R III has an im­pres­sive video spec­i­fi­ca­tion with 4K

(3,840 x 2,160) ca­pa­bil­ity. In Su­per 35mm for­mat, which is smaller than full-frame, the cam­era ac­tu­ally records in 5K (15MP) and then out­puts in 4K to give bet­ter im­age qual­ity. In ad­di­tion, S-Log mode is avail­able to cap­ture flat footage with wide dy­namic range – some­thing that’s not pos­si­ble with the Sony a9. Al­ter­na­tively, it’s pos­si­ble to shoot us­ing an HLG (Hy­brid Log-Gamma) pro­file to pro­duce footage suit­able for view­ing on the new breed of HDR tele­vi­sions.

Sony has made the in­ter­nal frame plus the top, front and rear cov­ers of the a7R III from mag­ne­sium al­loy, and it gives the cam­era a

“Sony has put an LSI on the sen­sor, help­ing the Bionz X pro­ces­sor de­liver a 1.8x in­crease in pro­cess­ing speed”

good solid feel in your hand. There’s also seal­ing through­out in or­der to keep mois­ture and dust at bay.

Sony in­tro­duced a handy multi-se­lec­tor con­trol with the a9 that looks and works like a mini joy­stick, mak­ing AF point se­lec­tion much eas­ier when you’re look­ing in the viewfinder. Hap­pily, this multi-se­lec­tor has also ap­peared on the back of the Sony a7R III, and it’s just as use­ful.

Also like the a9, the a7R III’s screen is a three-inch, 1,440,000-dot unit with White Magic tech­nol­ogy. This pro­vides a good, clear view in all but the bright­est con­di­tions, and its touch sen­si­tiv­ity en­ables you to set the AF point or zoom in to check fo­cus with a tap

(or dou­ble-tap) on the screen. It’s a shame that Sony hasn’t made more use of the touch sen­si­tiv­ity, be­cause it would be handy to be able to nav­i­gate the menu and se­lect set­tings, or swipe through images us­ing it.

Sony is re­spon­si­ble for sup­ply­ing many of the sen­sors in cur­rent cam­eras, so it comes as no sur­prise that the a7R III has a high­qual­ity chip. Those 42.4 mil­lion pix­els en­able a high level of de­tail to be cap­tured, but per­haps more im­pres­sively, the a7R III is able to keep noise un­der con­trol very well. Even the re­sults at the top ex­pan­sion set­ting (ISo 102,400) are half-de­cent – not that we’d rec­om­mend us­ing that value un­less you re­ally, re­ally have to. In fact if you can, we sug­gest keep­ing to ISo 16,000 or lower, as this en­sures that there’s lots of de­tail with­out ex­ces­sive noise (or noise re­duc­tion).

Sony claims the a7R III has a max­i­mum dy­namic range of 15EV, and it’s cer­tainly

ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing a wide range of tones within a sin­gle im­age, which is great news for land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers. Fur­ther­more, if you un­der­ex­pose RAW files for any rea­son, you’ll find they have a lot of lat­i­tude and can be bright­ened by in ex­cess of +3EV and still re­tain good colour and noise con­trol, de­pend­ing on the cam­era.

In Wide, Zone AF or Lock-on Ex­pand Flex­i­ble Spot and Con­tin­u­ous Aut­o­fo­cus mode, the a7R III does a great job of iden­ti­fy­ing a mov­ing sub­ject and track­ing it, which makes tra­di­tion­ally dif­fi­cult sub­jects rel­a­tively easy to pho­to­graph. You may no­tice it stray­ing away from the sub­ject if it’s mo­tion­less, but it usu­ally gets it when it’s in mo­tion. If you want more con­trol and pre­ci­sion, how­ever, the Cen­tre and Flex­i­ble Spot op­tions are also very good for this pur­pose.

one area where the a7R III strug­gles a lit­tle is in ar­ti­fi­cial light. There are three Auto White Bal­ance op­tions: Stan­dard, Am­bi­ence and White. In the­ory, the White op­tion should re­move any cast, and while it may, there are oc­ca­sions when a Cus­tom White Bal­ance set­ting does a much bet­ter job. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to en­sure that you’re shoot­ing RAW files, as th­ese are far more able to stand up to ad­just­ment than the a 7R III’s high-ISo JPEGs.

“It’s ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing a wide range of tones within a sin­gle im­age, great news for land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers”

Left DUAL MEM­ORY CARD PORTS Dual SD card ports are a wel­come fea­ture on a fast-shoot­ing high­res­o­lu­tion cam­era

100% Inset

FAST AND AC­CU­RATE The a7R III’s aut­o­fo­cus­ing is fast and ac­cu­rate, mak­ing it use­ful for shoot­ing a wide range of sub­jects, in­clud­ing sport Above

TILT TO PREF­ER­ENCE The tilt­ing screen is use­ful for video and when you want to shoot stills from low to the ground


GREAT TONE Though colours are gen­er­ally good, keep an eye on the white bal­ance in ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing and con­sider a cus­tom value





This is the same 0.5-inch type 3,686,400dot OLED viewfinder as in the Sony a9


A wel­come ad­di­tion to the a7 se­ries, al­low­ing speedy AF point se­lec­tion




Press­ing the Fn but­ton re­veals the cus­tomis­able Func­tion Menu


This tilt­ing screen is use­ful when shoot­ing from low or high an­gles




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