Let us save you a lot of time: If you’re in the market for a new camera this year and can afford $2,000 for a body, by all means, buy the new Sony A7 III when it goes on sale this April. It really is one of the best interchangeable lens cameras we’ve ever handled. It’s not quite the perfect camera, but it does so much so well we can almost guarantee you’ll love it. Like other Sony cameras, the A7 III has generated considerable hype — and like other Sony cameras, it completely deserves it.
One of the best interchangeable lens cameras we’ve ever handled.
The camera uses a 24.2-megapixel full-frame sensor, but it’s a new unit compared to the one found in the A7 II. It is backside-illuminated, meaning increased light sensitivity which improves both noise and dynamic range. The addition of Eye AF autofocus makes shooting portraits a total snap. There are many things to like about the new Mark III, but one of the best features is the 693-point phase detection autofocus system which is carried over from the $4,500 Sony A9. The new A7 doesn’t match that cameras impressive high-speed performance, but still puts out a very respectable 10 frames per second, which is more than enough for 99% of the shutterbugs out there. We captured airborne dune buggies and leaping dancers with barely a problem.
On the video side, the Mark III captures true 4K quality using the XAVC S format with full pixel readout and no pixel binning, which simply means the footage is outstanding. The Mark III is also geared for video enthusiasts as it has S-Log3 with 14 stops of dynamic range, as well as Hybrid Log Gamma support for displaying HDR content on compatible TVs. Our clips of acrobats, dancers, and dune buggies (quite a combo) looked great. After just a glance, it’s easy to understand why traditional camcorders have gone the way of the CD player (smartphones have also helped, but that’s another story).
Timing Is Everything
Sony brought a select group of journalists to Las Vegas to announce the A7 III in conjunction with the WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) show in February. It completely overwhelmed any news that came out of that event, including the new Canon M50. It even dominated the news from the big CP+ (Camera & Photo Imaging Show) get together in Japan that took place shortly thereafter, in March.
There’s a reason for this — the new A7 Mark III is appealing to serious enthusiasts and professionals alike. While some studio denizens and artists may require more megapixels, the new 24MP BSI chip is a clear winner, boasting up to 15 stops of dynamic range in RAW mode, while offering sufficient resolution for the majority of work.
In addition the body, Sony leant us two lenses and various other accessories for our hands-on demo. The glass included the 85mm f/1.8 prime ($549) and a G Master 24-105mm f/4 OSS zoom ($1,299). Not surprisingly, Sony gave us a battery charger. Sony mirrorless cameras are notorious for short battery life, a long-time complaint of ours and many others. However, the A7 III is rated at an impressive 710 shots per charge, according to CIPA standardized testing, the most of any Sony mirrorless model — and about double the exposures per charge of the A7 II. We shot bursts and videos galore, all while barely putting a dent in the power pack. Hats off to Sony for responding to consumers’ real-world complaints.
The new 24MP BSI chip is a clear winner, boasting up to 15 stops of dynamic range.
Even with the larger battery, the A7 III has a comfortable grip and handhold, but does weight about 100 grams more than the Mark II. There are very few major design changes from the classic A7 series with the familiar button placements that are initially a bit quirky, but relatively easy to master. The camera is very customizable, so you can place more commonly used commands in the most accessible positions. A good example how Eye AF defaults to the center OK button within the jog wheel on the back of the camera. The movie record key is a bit tucked away, too, but you can easily change such things to more convenient locations.
Sony is known for giving reviewers interesting subjects to photograph and this event was no different. The first day we had Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe impersonators and a showgirl — we were in Vegas, after all. There were also acrobats, which made for a great test of the 10 fps continuous shooting mode and new autofocus system. The more static subjects were good opportunities to see how well the Eye AF worked, and it it worked very well, indeed.
Our next round of subjects included dancers moving in the rain provided by the technicians and artists at our studio location. Again, focus and color was spot on. We also had our chance at some classic food porn photos at a nearby restaurant, in case you were wondering how well this camera performs in a routine Instagram situation. Short answer: Very well.
The next day it was on to dune buggies in the deserts of North Las Vegas, followed by a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon. To top things off we had good views of the dancing waters at the Bellagio hotel at the end of the day. It was all very cool, with loads of keeper photographs. We also shot over two dozen 4K video clips during our test period. They, too, were pretty amazing, with the camera handling focus quite well and detail and colors that were as lifelike as one could want.
Another feature we have to mention is the Mark III’s sensitivity rating. The native ISO is 100-51,200, but can be expanded down to 50 and up to 204,800. We shot many photos at the high end and were pretty amazed at the lack of noise and color shifts. This camera should be high on the list of available-light shooters, event and wedding photographers, and anyone else who needs great low light performance.
As we mentioned at the outset, the new Sony A7 III is a wonderful camera, and at $2,000 it is a relative bargain. Yes, two grand is not inexpensive, but if you’re in the market for an excellent all-around camera, you don’t have to look any further. Other full-frame cameras in this price range simply do not compete. We hated giving the camera back and can only look forward to getting another one in for a longer-term review.