SONY A7R III REVIEW
Could the Sony a7R III be the mirrorless competitor for the Nikon D850? Angela Nicholson puts it through its paces
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
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