The Sony Alpha Series
The Alpha series of cameras from Sony has been and always be Sony’s premium camera offerings. The Alpha series of mirrorless cameras are also the most sought after camera of their type in the market currently. It is not hard to see why.
The lighter and smaller than the usual offerings on the full-frame camera segment packs one of the best, if not the best sensor in the business. Their highly acclaimed A7S Mark II packs a sensor that is so good that it can see beyond what our eyes could event pick up in the dark. The A7R Mark II on the other hand works with so much details that it is almost print worthy (I said almost, because posters are mostly shot on Medium formats). The brand new A9 introduced earlier this year is one heck of a professional package that makes any high-speed photoshoot a breeze.
The Sony A7Riii (A7R Mark III)
Recently, Sony launched the replacement to one of their most highly acclaimed camera in their A7 series, the A7R Mark III. The third generation model of the highly acclaimed 42.2-Megapixel shooter comes with major upgrades that makes it better than ever before. A lot of the improvements obviously come from the features found on the Sony A9 professional camera. Implemented on an A7 model with a major overhauled 42.2-Megapixel sensor though, this could be the most remarkable full-frame mirrorless camera ever.
24 Hours with The Sony A7Riii (A7R Mark III)
Design and Build Quality
On first impressions, the camera is very similar to the camera it replaces, the A7Rii that we had only six hours with here. On closer inspection also the dimensions are pretty similar except that the Mark III is just slightly thicker than it used to be. That thickness does not add to the weight though, and it is necessary to house a bigger battery unit that is supposed to last doubly long compared to the older A7Rii.
The thicker handle also gives a sort of better feel to the grip area of the camera, it feels a lot more ergonomic despite my small hands. There is also a replacement of the record video button that is now sitting at the bottom right side of the viewfinder. That relocation makes the movie button much more accessible. In terms of design then nothing much has changed. The minor ergonomic tweaks though makes this feels like a more accomplished camera, a definite step forward.
As expected from the Japanese outfit the camera feels sturdy everywhere. The buttons have a certain satisfying and sturdy click to them. The shutter button is especially improved with a very distinct feel from half press to full press. The feel is much better than the Mark II overall. It somehow feels better built compared to the model it replaces as well (we did not think that it could get any better).
One of the most annoying things when using a Sony camera in my humble opinion would be scrolling through the seemingly incomprehensible settings menu. The menu page seems to have endless lists of options. Which might be great if you want nearly full control over the camera, like shutter type, viewfinder brightness and resolution, and many others.
For plain Jane and Joe though the settings page are far to complicating. The setup page is all over the place with no clear organisations and segmentation. To switch from auto shutter type to purely mechanical and electronic shutters you have to scroll through 9 pages of the second segment of the settings page. To get it working in silent shutter mode, you have to go through about 13 pages of settings menu. It is far too complex to just change one setting to the other.
Despite the complex settings menu though, the shooting screen is simple enough to understand. You can even have different sort information of the shooting screen and a completely different in viewfinder mode. Switching from Live View mode to Viewfinder mode is as simple as bringing the camera closer to your face. Obviously the viewfinder is a tiny digital display that compromises on resolution, but no complains there.
Overall, first time users of the A7Riii will take some time to get used to the camera. To master the camera’s full features and unleashing its full potential is not hard if you spend enough time combing through the settings page. When you do exploit the full power of this mirrorless camera though you get results like no other.
The Sony A7Riii packs just as much pixels as before; 42.4-Megapixel to be exact. With all the new features packed into the sensor, the image quality was breathtaking. I could not have anticipated better images than the previous A7Rii but it did produce better images in the right sort of lighting.
The amount of detail that is captured on that sensor is better than almost any full-frame sensor camera in the market. Especially when paired to the briliant 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens (85mm f/2.8 G Master for some) by Sony even amateurs can look like professionals.
The slow autofocus on the old A7 Series has also been fixed thanks to the same technology found in the A9. The Sony A7Riii is much faster and accurate now thanks to the new BIONZ X processor. That same processor and the improved Exmor R CMOS sensor also helps in the much improved low-light performance that the old A7Rii sorely lacks.
The Sony A7Riii shoots in 1080p Full HD out-of-the-box; that is if you do not mess with the settings. You see, the camera is capable of recording 4K videos at 25fps 100mbps in S-Log3 colour profile. To do that though You have to delve into the settings page and play around a little bit. Since the camera has 42.4-Megapixels it can benefit from Super 35 mode too (technically turning it into a APS-C sensor).
The new Sony A7Riii’s video recording capabilities have greatly improved with S-Log3 with more neutral colours and better detailing. More neutral colours though means more work on the editing process, but you get better results with a quick colour grade. The brilliant five-axis stabilisation that was brilliant on the previous A7Rii is improved on the A7Riii and therefore even better.
The sample below was shot entirely free-handed. The only stabilsation was from the 5-axis stabilisation built into the cam. The 4K video was also shot entirely on Super 35 mode. Only minor colour correction was applied to most of the footage.
The new Mirrorless Sony A7Riii packs a 2,280mAh battery within the grip area. Compared to the A7Rii, the new mirrorless champ has twice the battery capacity. It is not twice as big in size though so it is still a lightweight and compact package for the A7Riii. It is still bigger than the 1,020mAh unit you find on the predecessor though which explains the extra girth.
Sony says that this will last about 530 shots on a single full charge. We have not been able to exhaust the battery yet within 6 hours of on/off shoots so we will have to just take Sony’s word for it. The battery did last much longer than the older A7Rii for that matter. This time also Sony included a USB Type-C slot alongside the Micro USB slot so you can charge with either cables (no, dual port charging is not possible). This also means that you can still rely on plain powerbanks to power through a whole day of shoot.
The Sony A7R Mark III – The New King of High-End Full Frames?
The previous Sony A7Rii is most definitely one of the best, if not the best full-frame cameras that graced the market when it was launched. Even through its shelf life, it is regarded as one of the best investment a professional photographer could make in a new full-frame camera. Its lightweight, compact package is hard to beat while its image quality is beyond impressive.
It was too complicated to use though. Its batteries would last no longer than half a day of shoot. It would heat up while recording 4K videos too. There is also not enough lenses to justify switching to the Sony platform. Its low-light performance is quite rubbish too if you ask me.
The new Sony A7Riii though is a far cry from the camera it replaces. Its bigger battery, to start with, is better and last doubly longer – a whole day shoot is now possible on a single battery. It still does 4K video but in S-Log3 now instead of S-Log2. It does much better in low-light. Its autofocus is now actually usable and fast enough that you do not miss the moments. Images also look better somehow on the same sensor (could be the lens). Also Sony’s lens offering is expanding faster than ever so you have plenty of great choices now.
The camera though is still quite complex to operate if you do not know what you are doing. It still does not work with Adobe Lightroom CC for tethered shoots. The A7Riii does have a great range of selection in lenses, but it still is not extensive enough for most professionals. At MYR14,888 (Body Only) it is also more expensive than the older Sony A7Rii.
The price is justified though (not only due to the fact that MYR is actually weaker than before). The minor and major upgrades make it more appealing than the supposedly professional market Sony A9. It does everything that it did before, but even better.
Is it the best high-end full-frame camera though? That question can only be answered by you. In the end, it is up to preferences. The overly complex settings menu could be a turn off to plenty. The lightweight package could be a godsend feature for others.
To us though this gets our vote as the best. Its lightweight, compact construction suits our travel needs perfectly. The autofocus is better than ever, comparable now to Canon’s dual-pixel technology. Then there are the paired lenses, oh the lenses; they are awesome.
What do you think though? Comment below!
Also published on Medium.