Sony A7III Review – Does it live up to the hype?

Sony Alpha A7III appeals to both hobbyists and professional photographers with a well-thought-out design and incredible features to make the most of your photography experience. It belongs to Sony’s popular full-frame mirrorless camera range, and needless to say, it lives up to the name.

Sony A7R and A7S received several positive reviews for their brilliant performance and advanced specifications. However, the rest of the cameras, i.e., A7 and A7II, did not meet expectations. Therefore, users had high expectations from Sony A7III to fix the flaws and introduce innovative features to get back in the game. Fortunately, they were not disappointed as Sony A7III features high-end specifications from their signature cameras for an edge.

Specifications

LENS COMPATIBILITY: Sony E-mount lenses
SENSOR TYPE: 35mm full frame (35.6×23.8mm), Exmor R CMOS sensor
CAMERA FORMAT: Full-Frame (1x Crop Factor)
IMAGE STABILIZATION: Sensor-Shift, 5-Axis
ISO SENSITIVITY: Auto, 100 to 51200 (Extended: 50 to 204800)
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/8000 to 30 Seconds
Bulb Mode
NUMBER OF PIXELS (EFFECTIVE): Actual: 25.3 Megapixel
Effective: 24.2 Megapixel
VIEWFINDER TYPE: 1.3 cm (0.5 type) electronic viewfinder (color), XGA OLED
BUILT-IN FLASH: No
MONITOR TYPE: 7.5cm (3.0-type) type TFT

As we mentioned earlier, Sony A7III underwent significant improvements to boost its performance. The resolution remains the same as A7II, i.e., 24.2MP, but the upgraded sensor affects the overall image quality. With an illuminated back design and the latest BIONZ X image processor, Sony boasts an extended ISO range of 204800 compared to the previous range of 25600. As a result, the camera delivers a dynamic range of 15-stops.

Even though the electronic viewfinder isn’t one of Sony’s best, the 2.3 million-dot EVF with a 0.78x magnification is significantly better than its sister cameras. Moreover, there is a 5-axis built-in image stabilization system with a boosted performance of 5-stops. Furthermore, a 3.0-inch touch-sensitive tilt angle display allows you to browse through the gallery without any hassle.

Moving on, Sony A7III is capable of capturing stunning 4K videos: it records videos at 24p without pixel binning, after which the oversampled recording produces the final footage- a treat to witness. Moreover, it offers users an innovative Hybrid Log Gamma profile to playback the 4K footage on HDR-compatible televisions.

Design

As a previous Sony A7R III user, we found many similarities in design with a few additional tweaks to impress photographers. It features a multi-selector joystick instead of a much-preferred focus mode selector or mode dial, but the decent performance convinced us to compromise. The joystick improves handling and boosts the AF selection process while the additional AF-on button enhances back focusing: a pronounced button would make the process easier. A rear scroll wheel is positioned away from the body and slightly resistant to avoid accidental changes.

Sony A7III Design

Sony A7III is comparatively thicker than its sister camera with a robust build owing to the magnesium construction. The body, coupled with a refined grip and thorough dust/moisture sealing, allows photographers to operate the device without the fear of mishandling. Sony features a similar menu system to A7II, but the introduction of color-coded menus makes the course more comprehensive and more comfortable to move across. Moreover, the several custom buttons and accessible controls mean that you may hardly find the need to access the menu. There are 13 customization buttons, free to be assigned according to your usage. With the ‘Recall Custom Hold’ button, users can alter the settings according to the single tap scenario.

Furthermore, dual card slots are secured by a latch door compared to a single space in lower-end cameras. With one of them compatible with higher-speed UHS-II class cards and the other for an inferior counterpart, A7III offers a lot of flexibility to record and store data. We found the touchscreen of A7II brighter than the one here with RGB dots instead of RGBW. Due to losing the white dots, performance under low lighting conditions appears worse if not supported by the predecessor. The primary purpose of updating cameras is to make them better instead of worse; thus, Sony’s decision confused us to an extent. Moreover, the touchscreen lags quite a bit and is only suitable for AF control: menu navigation is more comfortable with the control buttons.

Auto ISO

Sony A7III features an excellent Auto ISO system to maintain its policy of Auto ISO implementation. It is incredibly reliable: all you need to do is specify your ISO range and the minimum shutter speed threshold. Additionally, zoom lens users can set the minimum shutter speed to Auto, whereas other photographers may assign ISO values and the shutter speed to custom buttons. Sony aims to provide an enjoyable yet hassle-free shooting experience, and Auto ISO is a prime example.

Focusing

It is easy to run out of words to appreciate the brilliant AF system accommodated by Sony A7III. The system is similar to their high-end signature camera Sony A9 and getting this feature at less than half a price is a victory for all budget photographers. With great 693-point phase-detect points and 425 contrast-detect points, we get 93% frame coverage and excellent low light performance. The system does not falter even at light levels as low as -3EV. Moreover, there are several modes to choose from to get a customized focusing performance. We find the results pretty impressive when using a refined AF mode, including but not limited to Flexible Spot M and continuous AF.

Sony A7III may not be the ideal camera for focusing on erratically moving objects, but the overall performance highlights the strength and reliability of the AF system. If anything, this is one of the best features of Sony. The Eye AF mode is a delight to work with while shooting portraits or covering an event: it immediately tracks the eyes and continues to focus on them irrespective of minor distractions. What else would you want?

One major issue with Sony A7III and A7RIII is stopped-down focusing. For people unaware of photography jargon, stopped-down focusing makes the camera initiate and focus on the shooting aperture while using the continuous AF mode. This translates to poor focusing as shooting tiny erratically moving subjects deprives the AF system of light and decreases phase separation. Moreover, the shooting aperture is problematic when stopping the lens down in backlit situations as the significant drop, in contrast, burdens the AF system.

Performance

Speed

As we mentioned earlier, Sony made several alterations in Sony A7III to satisfy the customers after their previous cameras in the range were met with upset customers and disappointing remarks. Fortunately, Sony exceeded its efforts by boosting the speed from a meager 5fps to a staggering 10fps. Moreover, they introduced the innovative Front End LSI processor for what we call a “breakthrough performance.” This feature single-handedly upgraded the camera’s overall potential with a brisk burst shooting rate, stunning image quality, and an impressive buffer capacity. The latter amaze the audience by shooting up to 89 compressed raw files or a whopping 177 JPEGS at 10fps than the previous rather underwhelming total of 52 JPEG files. Sony offers a diverse range of high-end features at a surprisingly modest price, and it’s a pity not to get your hands on it.

Fortunately, Sony A7III has an electronic shutter with a silent shooting mode to avoid any hassle during scenarios that require minimal attention while shooting. With the same incredible image quality and fast performance of 10fps, you can capture images to your heart’s desire without garnering unwanted attention.

Viewfinder

Sony features a 2.36M-dot resolution viewfinder that ticks all the requirements: large, bright, and extremely sharp. As long as you ignore the minor flaw, i.e., tearing while moving, you are good to go. With 0.78x magnification, it is better than the older versions but underwhelming compared to other releases of that era. Moreover, Sony’s other cameras do a better job at touchscreen integration in settings and navigation, but A7III’s decent rear display is not too disappointing.

Image stabilization

With a 5-axis, 5-stop image stabilization system, the camera allows you to work with low ISO settings and slow shutter speeds without sacrificing the image quality: we noticed no difference in the overall sharpness.

We conducted a minor test to check the effectiveness of the image stabilization system. Several images were shot, ranging from downward intervals of 2/3 stops to one above the focal length with a neutral density filter to maintain the aperture. There were four levels to rank each image’s performance with and without image stabilization: ‘unusable’ for severe distortion up to excellent for impressive sharpness. The results were similar to the Sony A7II: 2 2/3rd stops at the wide end and three 2/3rd stops at the telephoto end.

Battery life

The battery life is another area to feature a massive improvement. Sony A7III impresses the photographers with its 710 shots battery life compared to the previous low figure of 350-shots. Surprisingly, the battery life is even better than that of Sony’s flagship camera A9, so why pay the extra cost when we are getting better features at a significantly lower price?

Image quality

Sony A7III does a remarkable job at producing outstanding image results despite the modest specifications. We often compare the performance to Sony A9 because of striking similarities but a massive price difference, with A9 being a much costlier device. They possess a 24.2MP sensor and deliver images with a high level of detail and impeccable sharpness. There aren’t many possibilities of complaints unless you need A2 image printouts to require a heavier sensor. With a back-illuminated design, the ISO performance is incredible, with no distortion or noise hints at low ISO settings. The images maintain this standard up to ISO6400, after which we noticed subtle hints of luminous noise but without ruining the overall quality. We rated the results at ISO12800 as satisfactory, too, regardless of chromatic noise: A7III does a great job minimizing distortion, but you can correct any significant issues post-production.

Dynamic range

The dynamic range deserves appreciation for its flexibility: it manages to recover a significant shadow detail after increasing the exposure. The low sensor noise floor of Sony A7III contributes to the adequate base ISO dynamic range of 13.8 EV, allowing you to make substantial changes to your RAW images without ruining the quality. However, it is similar to the previous cameras in the Alpha range, so if your main focus is the dynamic range, Alpha A7 and A7II are equally great.

Editing images involves a process of maximizing exposure to separate the highlights worth saving. Fortunately, Sony does most of your work of determining the separation point by activating a combination of Hybrid Log-Gamma and the Zebra mode. It reveals the area worth preserving and simultaneously saves you from underexposing your images. As we mentioned earlier, A7III features a shallow noise floor resulting in photos without any visible chromatic or luminous noise: this helps in ISO amplification. With a dual-grain architecture, Sony offers dual ISO-variant ranges, i.e., ISO 640 to 51200 and ISO 100 to 500.

Raw capture

Sony A7III captures a significant amount of RAW detail through its modest 24MP sensor with excellent color rendition and impressive sharpness. The results appear better than the renowned Alpha A9 because of strong AA filters, proving that Sony A7III is a compelling camera with tonnes of potential. Sony A7III delivers incredible performance at higher ISO values with low-light images boasting in-depth shadow details and an excellent dynamic range. Part credit goes to the dual gain architecture that turns on the higher sensitivity mode when it calls for it. We consider A7III one of the best performing cameras in noise control with a significant improvement from its predecessor.

JPEG

If you are an old Canon EOS 6D Mark II user, you may find the red JPEG color remarkably similar to that of A7III. We regard Mark as a color benchmark, and with the red patch being an essential factor for skin tones, the portraits looked outstanding. However, the other greens and yellows appeared to have an unwelcome tinge, with greens looking bluish and yellows appearing greenish. Moreover, the Auto white balance could perform better as the greens seemed warmer than our preference under low lighting conditions.

Further on, A7III boasts an excellent context-sensitive noise reduction in the JPEG department: maybe the best system in the market as of now. It performed exceptionally well in areas of low-contrast detail with an incredible level of detailing and minimal haloing. The latter is a result of extensive radius sharpening, whereas the delicate details appear more accentuated.

Moir’e and Shutter effects

A rising trend in the camera industry is removing the anti-aliasing filter: a barrier in front of the sensor. Sony A7III only features a horizontal AA filter instead of horizontal and vertical to minimize the aliasing effect. Unfortunately, the results were sub-standard and seemed to get worse by adding the built-in profiles. Therefore, we recommend you opt for the moir’e profile on Adobe. On the other hand, Sony A7III is equipped with a fabulous electronic shutter that offers a silent shooting mode for scenarios where you would rather be more comfortable without any attention.

Video quality

Most cameras deliver exceptional image quality, but they falter when testing their 4K video capability. Luckily, this was not the case with Sony A7III, as it fulfilled its promise of delivering incredible 4K footage.

Apart from the detailed 4K footage, the camera features several elements for video recording purposes, which gives it an edge over rivals. With a sophisticated CMOS sensor, there is a better readout with high-definition and pleasing footage. The reason being that Sony initially records videos at 6K, utilizing every pixel for oversampling to produce the final version at 20p. However, videos at 30p undergo a 1.2x crop but appear highly detailed because of the oversampled 5K footage.

Furthermore, Sony A7III can record Log footage internally, unlike the high-end camera, Sony A9. The Log footage is further edited and graded to maximize the potential of the wide dynamic range. With A9 being a popular yet expensive videography camera, Sony A7III offers the same results and picture profiles at a severely discounted price. Moreover, it plays back 1080/120p footage in real-time and gives videographers two modes: Quick and Slow, which convert 120p footage to 120fps or 24fps, respectively. This proves great for cinematography. In case you are wondering, the two modes have no significant differences, but we recommend using the 120p capture mode. It has normal-speed playback compared to the constant slow-motion speed of S&Q. However, the latter is efficient at creating mini video clips: great for social media enthusiasts.

Additionally, throughout the recording process, Sony A7III helps you by offering focus peaking for manual focus users and zebra warnings to dial the right exposure. With the addition of headphones and microphone jacks, your footage will include high-quality audio as well. Sony strives to be there for its customers to make their recording experience and results worth remembering.

Similar to image tests, we put the camera through a rigorous test to analyze the video quality and Sony, as always, met its expectations. The video quality is impressive and worth competing with higher-end rivals. Moreover, each mode delivered high-quality 4K footage, but Sony did not meet our standards when it came down to 1080p recordings. It would be an exaggeration to label it disappointing, but our expectations were higher, considering the incredible specifications and outstanding image quality.

On the other hand, the rolling shutter is relatively better than Sony A6500 and almost the same as Sony A9. Even though it falters well while focusing on erratically moving subjects, it is not too obvious as in A6500: it is ideal for everyday shooting. Moreover, the performance improves by a fold after switching to 4K/30p or Super 35.

Sony’s AF system does a splendid job focusing on the subject and capturing it with the utmost speed and precision. But does the course live up to its reputation while focusing on videos? Well, the footage results are decent. However, most AF modes for capturing images are ineffective in the video department. There is a mediocre tracking mode, Centre Lock-On AF, that works after several taps and often not reliable. On the other hand, the customized AF area modes work well as long as you are not at a car racing event; Sony A7III does not shoot erratically moving objects. Moreover, the Wide AF area mode works as a make-shift face detection mode and is excellent at determining the subject.

Usage

One of the traits Sony A7III is known for is its versatility. With features compatible with numerous needs, this is the only camera you may need for years to come. There is a tilting display: great for shooting from a low level, whereas the touchscreen and joystick prove useful for AF point placement. Taking the AF system into account, A7III is an incredible option for wildlife photographers whose primary need is to immediately focus on their subject when the situation calls for it. Event photography is a delight with the brisk and precise Eye and Face detection modes: you no longer need to place yourself awkwardly to focus on the guests. Further on, the compact body, built-in wireless connectivity, and silent electronic shutter make A7III an ideal travel companion: take it along to capture your memories for minimal hassle and effortless social media sharing.

The verdict     

Sony A7III is an excellent choice for many photographers because it is versatile, easy to use with solid specifications, and has excellent image quality. It features elements from two high-end cameras in its full-frame mirrorless range, Alpha A9 and A7RIII, to bring together a powerful device to suit every photography need.

The brilliant 693-point AF system gives it an edge over the rivals, with the most expensive cameras failing to meet its standard. Moreover, the 24.2MP back-illuminated sensor and 10fps burst shooting speed deliver incredible shots throughout the ISO range. The polished design, inspired by Sony A7RIII, makes the camera a treat to operate: the accessible menu system, simple control layout, and thorough sealing enhance security and handling.

With an impressive dynamic range and the potential to record cinema-worthy 4K videos, it is impossible not to fall in love with Sony A7III. However, the overall features are a bit underwhelming compared to the other pricier cameras by Sony.

What do we like?

  • Minimal noise distortion
  • Reliable focusing system
  • Robust and well-designed body
  • High-quality 4K video capability
  • Long battery life
  • Several connectivity options
  • Fast burst rate

What we don’t?

  • Low-quality EVF display
  • Poor weather sealing
  • It needs a better touchscreen
  • It lacks a decent flash AF assist