This is a Guest Post from Albert Dros. The article has been first posted at www.albertdros.com and fully reposted here with the author’s permission.
Sony A7III Hands-On Review & Tests
Last week Sony called me if I wanted to test the new A7III for a few days. Of course I would! Having been very busy with travelling and not spending too much time at home I wasn’t too ‘up-to-date’ on the announcement of the camera and what to expect. I am currently using the A7RIII and thought the A7III would just be an upgraded A7II. I got a bit more than expected. The A7III turned out to be an amazing all round camera that even beat my A7RIII on some levels. I was impressed. Here’s a review with some tests I did over the last few days.
I did a post on Reddit and asked if people were interested in me doing a bunch of tests and answering some questions. The response I got was overwhelming! There is so much interest in this new camera and it proves that Sony is really the one to watch right now. I’d like to thank Reddit for coming up with ideas. I’m sorry I couldn’t answer all of your questions but I tried to get to most. I have a very busy schedule currently and I just can’t afford to help everyone but I am sure all the other reviewers will do a fine job later on :)
DISCLAIMER: I received this camera early because I am a Sony Ambassador of Imaging. I am however always very honest in my recommendations and reviews.
NOTE: All of the images in this article are single exposures. Processing was involved in some of them. If not, it’s mentioned in the caption.
The Sony A7III in action during a very cold morning in the Netherlands.
The Last Few Days
So what exactly did I do the last few days? I was basically using the camera non stop from the moment I picked it up at the Sony office. I’m a landscape photographer so I went to shoot some landscapes in my comfort zone first. The feeling was very similar to my A7RIII as the body is almost exactly the same. I was lucky that the Netherlands had very beautiful weather and conditions over these days. We had cold temperatures that caused a lot of frozen scenery that we don’t get a lot normally. On top of that some of the canals in Amsterdam froze. It was quite magical as this did not happen for 6 years. After just having some fun with the camera I started to do did a bunch of tests that were mainly requested by lots of people online (with the help of Reddit and SonyAlphaRumors). As I had access to the camera I felt like this was a nice thing to do :)
When I first got my hands on this camera the first thing I noticed was that it looks just like my A7RIII. Not only does it look like it, it also feels like it. That’s nice, because I really liked the step up from the older generation of the A7 range mainly because of speed and the nice extra functions like touch screen and the menu system. I quickly set up the camera similar to my A7RII and went out shooting the next morning for sunrise.
Sony A7III, Sony Zeiss 16-35 @ 16mm, f/9, ISO 200, 0.4s. A beautiful sunrise at Marken, the Netherlands.
Sony A7III, Sony Zeiss 16-35 @ 16mm, f/22, 1/80s, ISO 100. Amazing ice formations that we rarely see in our country made for a beautiful scenery to test the camera on. As a landscape photographer, I was satisfied.
Sony A7III, Sony Zeiss 16-35 @ 16mm, f/10, 1/10s, ISO 200
As can be seen in the shots above, that are all single exposures the dynamic range is impressive. Sony says it’s about 15 stops. What I noticed compared to my A7RIII it is better in some conditions, but not in all. Sometimes boosting the shadows can generate more noise on the A7III than on my A7RIII, but I noticed that the A7III is better in recovering highlights. I’m not sure what’s going on here but all I can say for now is that the dynamic range is simply great.
Unprocessed raw file
A little note about the raw files:
Opening RAW files
There are currently no RAW conversation tools available to open the A7III Raw files besides Sony’s Imaging Edge software that unfortunately doesn’t let me export to DNG. I used a ‘trick’ similar to a trick I used when the A7RIII just came out by renaming the exif data in the files to that of the Sony A7II so that Lightroom ‘thinks’ I am working with the Sony A7II Raw files. This actually works and Lightroom now recognises the RAW files.
Use the following command line (in command prompt or terminal) if you want to rename all RAW files in 1 directory:
exiftool -sonymodelid=”ILCE-7M2″ -ext ARW -r DIRECTORY
I already applied this ‘trick’ to the RAW files you can download in this article, so you can just open them in Lightroom.
So let’s jump into this ‘thing’ that was always bothering people with the Sony cameras. Sure, they were great but the battery life was ‘shit’. That’s what people were saying. I didn’t make that much of a deal out of it as the batteries were always small and I could easily bring 6 with me. But they had a point. Ever since releasing the Sony A9 Sony put a new battery in their bodies. The following release of the A7RIII had the new battery, and now the new A7III has it as well. In short: Sony went from one of the worst battery life, to one of the best. I have done lots of travelling with my A7RIII. I have used it in Norway and Iceland in cold temperatures shooting for full days and not needing more than 1 battery per day. The A7III is rated even better. In the short amount of time I used the A7III the battery always lasted for way more than a day. I was shooting in -5 to -10c in mornings and used it almost an entire day. The battery life is simply fantastic. Glad to have that out of the way.
In the field
I’m a landscape photographer and I use this camera the same way as I use my A7RIII meaning I make use of the ‘new’ functions. Like I mentioned in my ‘first day with the A7RIII’ article, the new functions make me work faster. The camera is much faster than the old A7 models (A7RII, A7II etc). It boots faster, it processed the pictures faster to the card, it uses a buffer and you can still access certain functions etc. It just works faster. I use the touch AF all the time when I check sharpness in pictures. You can easily move the focus point with your finger which is very useful in general, but also for things like focus stacking. I use the autofocus during focus magnify to make sure my focus is always on point. This camera is a joy to use in the field.
After photographing a sunrise, I did some photography in our capital Amsterdam where the canals were frozen and people were ice skating. This hasn’t happened for over 6 years which was quite unique. Here are some shots:
Sony A7III, Sony 24-105 G at 69mm, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 100
Sony A7III, Sony Zeiss 16-35 f/4, 19mm, f/9, 1/160s, ISO 100
Sony A7III, Sony Zeiss 16-35 f/4, 16mm, f/9, 1/160s, ISO 100.
Here’s a crop of it:
Notice the nicely caught bird in the frame.
Sony A7III, Sony 70-300 G at 300mm, f/6.3, 1/250s.
This was taken at the end of the afternoon. It was a bit hazy and this couple skated very far upon the Markermeer. They were the only ones on the ice. It was quite dangerous to see as the temperatures were already above zero and the ice was melting. I personally really love this shot as they’re far out there, together. It gives me a sense of freedom.
Sony A7III, Samyang 12mm f/2.8 fisheye. f/5.6, 1/5s (hand held), ISO 1250.
I went to some canals in the evening as some were still nicely frozen.
Sony A7III, Sony Zeiss 16-35 f4 at 18mm, f/8, 30s, ISO 100.
Not all of them were frozen as the river cruise boats still have their routes. They’re just cruising through the ice. Here you see a path of a boat in the ice.
Going later into the evening I tried a bunch of higher ISO stills and video. The Sony A7III’s native ISO is 100. It can be lowered to 50 and maxed out to 200k.
Sony A7III, Sony Zeiss 16-35 f4 at 16mm, f/10, 1.6s, ISO 2000.
Ramping up the ISO shows the moving peaces of ice being sharp. This was a scene were boats kept coming every once in a while, leaving all the ice shards in the canals. The shot is a single exposure, processed in Photoshop. At ISO 2000 the Dynamic range is still impressive.
Sony A7III, Sony 90mm Macro, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 2500.
The A7III has absolutely no issues shooting at ISOs around 1600-3200. There’s hardly any noise. This shot was almost unprocessed. Download the full resolution file HERE.
Sony A7III, Sony Zeiss 16-35 at 16mm, f/11, 1/8s, ISO 3200. This is an ungraded RAW file.
And here’s the processed version of this RAW file. At ISO 3200, the dynamic range still allows me to do a lot without getting too much noise.
I Included a bunch of RAW files from this scene, from ISO 1600 to 12800 so you can play with it yourself. Get them HERE.
Now let’s ramp up the ISO a bit more. Here’s a portrait at ISO 16.000. Not 1600, but 16k!
Sony A7III, Sony 90mm macro, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 16.000
Sony A7III, Sony 24-105 at 57mm, f4, 1/60s, ISO 20.000 Shot hand held.
The quality is getting worse now.
Sony A7III, Sony 90mm macro, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 16.000.
The moon peaking through an old tree with a church in the background. I’d consider these shots usable for social media, but not for print.
Sony A7III, Sony 90mm macro, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 12.800.
ISO 12.800 has some grain but this can easily be fixed with noise reduction. The picture is still very sharp and not muddy. I consider ISO 12.800 very usable.
I didn’t shoot that much video but did a bunch of quick tests like shooting some video on high ISO. High ISO video looks very well and on par or close to that of the A7SII. Here is a test from ISO 3200 to 102400:
Here’s some short 1080p 100 fps footage:
Here’s a rolling shutter test on 4k and 1080p with both full frame and super 35:
As a landscape photographer I have to be honest: AF is not my specialty. However, I can say a couple of things about after having played with it:
The autofocus of this camera is fast and snappy. It also works quite good in low light situations. This is no wonder as they basically integrated the A9 autofocus in this camera (which is quite insane considering the price difference). With that, the autofocus of this camera is better than my A7RIII. It also has more points across the screen. I’d say that this camera is perfectly fine for sports. Shooting at 10 fps burst it does have blackouts.
As you can see with the tests above, this camera is a great all rounder. It has functions for everyone out there and does everything very well. With the new body making it’s way into the ‘entry A7’ line up having a dual SD-Card slot, insane battery life and all the new things the top of the line bodies have, it’s hard to say that this is an entry-level camera. It’s nice to see Sony has their top of the line models (that you pay the highest price for) like the A9 and A7RIII (and probably the A7SIII in the future) that are the absolute best in what they can do. But then you have this camera, the A7III that just does everything so extremely well.
Sports: 10 fps burst with similar autofocus of the Sony A9. They basically put the autofocus system of the A9 into the A7III. Sure the A9 shoots 20 fps without blackout. It’s top of the line for sports. But let’s face it: most people don’t need this. The A7III shoots 10 fps (with black out) with super fast AF. You can still easily shoot fast action or sports with this camera.
Wedding: This could arguably be the best wedding camera Sony offers right now. It has an extremely fast AF (which also works well in low light), it shoots 10 fps, and the higher ISO performance is (almost) on par with the A7SII.
Landscape: The Dynamic Range of this camera is amazing from what I have tested so far. Of course, the A7RIII is still the absolute top of the line for landscapes with it’s sharpness and pixel count, but again: not everyone needs this. The A7III does landscapes very well.
Comparing With The Other A7 range.
Now I’ve had a lot of questions from people to compare this camera to other Sony bodies. After having used this camera for a few days I can surely comment on most of this, so here’s a quick roundup:
A7III vs A7II: Huge improvement and upgrade in EVERY way. Basically the only thing that’s the same is the megapixel count. All the rest is much better: new body, better menu, dual sd card slot, extremely good battery life, new sensor, better Dynamic Range, better high ISO performance, faster in general, faster AF. This camera completely crushes the old A7II.
A7III vs A7RII : This could be a tougher one for landscape photographers. If you’re not ONLY shooting landscapes or high resolution portraits I’d say the A7III would be better. The A7III basically beats the A7RII on any level except for pixel count sharpness. The A7III does have a low-pass filter. So if you’re going for pure pixels and sharpness, the A7RII is still ‘better’. But on any other level – like I just summed up with the A7II comparison – The A7III wins.
A7III vs A7RIII : I’m a pure landscape photographer so I pick the A7RIII over the A7III. However, it’s crazy to see that it looks like the high ISO performance of the A7III seems actually better. And the Dynamic range looks on par. For astro I might actually pick the A7III (haven’t done extensive testing so not 100% sure).
Sony A7III, Sony 90mm Macro, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 100. Portrait on frozen Markermeer in the Netherlands.
Bottom line is that this camera is extremely good and you’re ‘only’ paying 2000 dollars for it. No other camera comes even close at that price. If you’re looking for a great all rounder camera the A7III is your best bet. I have had people calling this an ‘entry level camera’. I wouldn’t call it that. This camera is the absolutely best bang for buck you can get and it’s a great all rounder, for both amateurs and professionals.
Amazing all-round camera that no other camera comes close to in the price range.
High Dynamic Range
Very good high ISO performance, especially in video
New Sony body with dual SD-Card slot, new menu, and everything that comes with the new body.
Great autofocus (on par with the Sony A9)
Superb battery life. Sony went from ‘worst’ to best.
Camera much is faster than the ‘old A7 cameras’
Not So Good point
With all the rave in this article I do have something negative to say about this camera. The same has been the case with all of the models with the new body (A9, A7RIII). Sony, why oh why? Where are the apps? I loved the time-lapse app and the smooth reflection app. I always used them. Not having them anymore on my A7RIII, and not on the A7III makes me sad. I don’t really need the functions in the form of an ‘app’, but at least put them somewhere in the menu. Everybody makes timelapses nowadays, so I am hoping that Sony will implement these functions as a firmware update sooner or later.
One Last Thing
Someone on Reddit asked me to take a picture of a cat, if I had a cat. Well, I do! And she’s very beautiful although not always happy to be on photos. Here’s a 50% crop with me trying to focus on her eye. Sony still need to implement that Animal Eye-AF. This is not a joke as it could be very useful for wild-life photographers
Sony A7III, Sony 90mm Macro, f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO 100.
Hope you all enjoyed this article that I put together after 2 days of use of the camera. I’ll update it with news if I manage to find some time in the upcoming weeks. Feel free to ask questions or drop a comment! Thanks for reading and thanks for Reddit in participating in this article.
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