With its full-frame sen­sor, 10fps con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing, pow­er­ful video fea­tures and an af­ford­able price tag, the Sony a7 III looks like the per­fect all-rounder

Digital Photograper - - Contents -

How does the third ver­sion of Sony’s a7 model fare when looked at as a com­plete pack­age? Is it the per­fect all-rounder cam­era, with an af­ford­able price tag to boot?

The a7 III is the third ver­sion of Sony’s en­try-level model, though the Mark III ver­sion is cer­tainly far from ba­sic.

The sen­sor shares the same 24-megapixel res­o­lu­tion as pre­vi­ous a7 mod­els, but has a newly de­vel­oped back-il­lu­mi­nated de­sign with a front-end LSI and Sony’s lat­est BIONZ X im­age pro­ces­sor for better light-gath­er­ing power and faster data pro­cess­ing. What these ad­vances mean in prac­ti­cal terms is an in­creased max­i­mum ISO of 51,200, or 204,800 in ex­panded mode, and con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing at up to ten frames per sec­ond, with a de­cent-sized buf­fer ca­pac­ity of 177 stan­dard JPEGs, 89 com­pressed RAW files or 40 un­com­pressed RAW im­ages.

This puts the a7 III in proper sports cam­era ter­ri­tory, es­pe­cially since it can also shoot at these speeds in com­plete silence, open­ing up a whole range of sports and sce­nar­ios where noisy cam­eras might nor­mally be banned.

The a7 III’s sports cre­den­tials are en­hanced by its ex­tremely pow­er­ful aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem, taken straight from the range-top­ping a9. It of­fers no fewer than 693 phase-de­tec­tion AF points spread across 93 per cent of the im­age area, and a fur­ther 425 con­trast AF points over a slightly smaller area to aid fo­cus ac­cu­racy fur­ther. It of­fers vari­able track­ing sen­si­tiv­ity in five steps, an ef­fec­tive eye AF mode for peo­ple shots that now works in con­tin­u­ous AF mode too, and a new Ex­pand Flex­i­ble Spot mode to keep a sub­ject in fo­cus even if it strays out­side the fo­cus area. You can even ad­just the aut­o­fo­cus drive speed for movie shoot­ing, se­lect­ing Fast, Stan­dard or Slow.

This is a re­flec­tion of the a7 III’s for­mi­da­ble 4K movie ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In­stead of sim­ply crop­ping the frame or us­ing ‘pixel bin­ning’ to pro­duce its 4K video, Sony uses ‘over­sam­pling’ in­stead so that video is cap­tured at full res­o­lu­tion then ‘down­sam­pled’ to 4K as it’s cap­tured and stored, in or­der to de­liver the high­est pos­si­ble qual­ity.

The Sony a7 III can also cap­ture high dy­namic range footage with an HLG

“The a7 III’s sports cre­den­tials are en­hanced by its ex­tremely pow­er­ful aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem”

(Hy­brid Log-Gamma) pro­file for an instant HDR work­flow via com­pat­i­ble TVs and other de­vices. Or, for videog­ra­phers who want to cap­ture high tonal ranges for grad­ing/edit­ing later, the a7 III of­fers an S-Log3 pro­file for a claimed dy­namic range of up to 14 stops – it’s the video equiv­a­lent of shoot­ing RAW files. The five-axis in-body im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion sys­tem is car­ried over from the a7 II and is now a stan­dard fix­ture in all of Sony’s a7 cam­era bod­ies, and here Sony claims it gives a five-stop shut­ter speed ad­van­tage. Sony has also in­tro­duced a new ‘Edge’ soft­ware edit­ing suite, con­sist­ing of three sep­a­rate ap­pli­ca­tions: Re­mote, for teth­ered shoot­ing; Edit for pro­cess­ing RAW files; and Viewer for view­ing, rat­ing and se­lect­ing im­ages.

The a7 III’s de­sign and lay­out will be in­stantly fa­mil­iar to any­one who’s used a

Sony a7 model be­fore. The body is re­mark­ably com­pact and neatly laid out for a full-frame cam­era, though this does mean it feels some­what un­bal­anced when matched up with Sony’s al­to­gether larger and bulkier lenses.

The top is pretty un­clut­tered, with just a main mode dial, shut­ter re­lease, ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion dial and C1 and C2 cus­tom buttons. There are two fur­ther cus­tom buttons (C3 and C4) on the back, plus a tilt­ing touch­screen dis­play, a four-way con­troller with a cen­tral OK but­ton and a spin­ning con­trol dial

around the out­side and – use­fully – an AF-ON but­ton and a thumb­stick for se­lect­ing the fo­cus point.

You can also choose the fo­cus point by tap­ping or drag­ging on the LCD dis­play, though this is about as far as the touch­screen in­ter­ac­tion goes. The screen also dis­plays cam­era set­tings and modes, but these can only be changed via the menus, buttons and di­als, not through di­rect touch-based in­ter­ac­tion. How­ever, given that two of this cam­era’s main strengths are its con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing and aut­o­fo­cus modes, it would be better if these had their own ex­ter­nal di­als and levers. And it’s a shame that only one of the mem­ory card slots is uHS-II com­pat­i­ble and not both. But Sony’s de­ci­sion to up­grade the bat­tery to its newer NP-FZ100 now gives a bat­tery life of 710 shots on a sin­gle charge. That’s un­ex­cep­tional by DSLR stan­dards, but ex­cel­lent for a mir­ror­less cam­era.

The a7 III’s per­for­mance lives up to its specifications. The aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem is so good that keep­ing mov­ing sub­jects sharp is as much a test of the pho­tog­ra­pher’s fram­ing skills as it is the cam­era’s AF tech­nol­ogy. It’s not quite per­fect, though. The screen dis­play at 10fps is very slightly slug­gish, and it’s eas­ier to fol­low fast sub­jects in the 8fps Live View mode. And while the fo­cus-track­ing mode does work well if the sub­ject move­ment is not too sud­den, it can some­times lose con­tact with more er­ratic sub­jects.

The im­age qual­ity is ex­cel­lent – bear­ing in mind that this cam­era has ‘only’ 24 mil­lion pix­els, and fine detail ren­di­tion is bound to suf­fer in com­par­i­son with the 42-megapixel a7R III. Where it ex­cels though is in its low noise, even at higher ISO set­tings, and great dy­namic range. We didn’t quite get the 15 stops claimed by Sony at low ISO set­tings, but it did hold on to shadow and high­light detail very well.

Sony has man­aged to re­ally hit the nail on the head with the a7 III’s spec­i­fi­ca­tion and pric­ing. Some might be dis­ap­pointed that the res­o­lu­tion stays at 24 mil­lion pix­els, but let’s remember that this is Sony’s ‘en­try-level’ a7. That makes its other specifications – in­clud­ing its ad­vanced aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem, 10fps shoot­ing and 4K video ca­pa­bil­i­ties – all the more ex­cep­tional.

“Im­age qual­ity is ex­cel­lent – where it ex­cels though is in its low noise, even at higher ISO set­tings, and great dy­namic range”



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