After finally having some time in the field with Sony’s a7RIII I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on their high resolution performer.
Initially impressions were high when I received this last year. As with the a9 the body is nearly identical and a majority of the button layout as well.
My first thoughts:
Body ergonomics and size are very nice. Some have complained about the body not fitting well in their grip and having the pinky dangle aimlessly, which I can see happening for some. However I didn’t find this to be too bothersome. In addition I added a Really Right Stuff L plate to mine, so this was really a moot point on my end.
I do like the aestihiccs of Sony’s body . Sony has always had a strong vision with their design not only with their camera line but with all their electronics. I certainly think this carries over well to their Alpha lineup.
I do have one gripe though (as noted on the a9) and that is Sony’s lack of weather sealing on the bottom of the camera. Roger Cicala did a complete breakdown of this on Lensrentals which illustrates this particular shortcoming.
It’s not a deal breaker for me, but I know it has been for some, especially those working in critically demanding situations.
In all honesty, I’ve shot this body in days of down pour in the rainforest, some of the dustiest backroads, below freezing conditions and I’ve yet to have an issue. You just don’t want to set your camera down in a puddle of water, probably wouldn’t fair well.
That aside, the rest of the body is fully sealed much like the a9 and for most of us, this is sufficient.
Controls are nicely laid out, buttons are easy to press and everything is pretty much where you need it. I do like the customization, as you can prioritize certain buttons for certain features, really making things work for your own particular style of shooting. I do wish however they would move the menu button to the right side of the camera. If you are looking through the viewfinder and want to jump into the menu, you have to remove your eye and reach across with your right hand which just feels awkward to me.
So lets talk about what’s under the hood. Everything inside the a7rIII is specactular for the most part. The sensor is one of the best I’ve used for overall color rendition, resolution and dynamic range. I noticed the dynamic range and pleasant color rendition right away after reviewing my first shots with this camera. It handles high ISO noise very well and I’m comfortable shooting up to ISO6400 all day long. The dynamic range performance was also very noticeable in a positive way, being able to bring in so much more shadow detail than on some previous sensors I’ve used.
Not only is the performance of the sensor impressive but it also seems to repel dust extremely well.
As with with all mirrorless cameras there is no mirror to protect when changing lenses, leaving your sensor exposed to the elements. I’ve had no issues keeping the sensor clean, matter of fact I don’t think I’ve had to wet clean this sensor once since I’ve had it. Very good coating and sensor clean technology.
Performance seems to hit a sweet spot with me for this camera. It shoots ten frames per second which is completely adequate for almost all wildlife and fast moving subjects and it has some of the best autofocus I’ve used on any camera. Matter of fact the auto focus was one of the first things that caught my attention when I started shooting with it. Not only does it lock on and track subjects incredibly well, but how it handles busy and distracting elements was what impressed me the most. Tracking a moving animal through the brush or trees, following a bird in flight with busy backgrounds; all handled extremely well.
My only couple gripes I had with performance related more to the processing with Sony’s software and chip. The first thing I noticed was the seemingly long load times when formatting a card. It usually takes around 8-10 seconds to format a card (64gb Sandisk 300MB/s). Now this may seem like a trivial amount, but when you have amazing light changing or wildlife in action and your card fills up, that extra time you have to wait can be the difference in getting the shot. Most formatting I was used to on DSLRs and other systems was near instantaneous with maybe a second or two to accomplish. I imagine Sony will improve on this with future models or updates.
The other complaint I had was on a similar note. The ability of the a7rIII to capture sequences with a high buffer is nice, but it can relegate certain functions on the camera inoperative while it’s buffering. In real world shooting this can be prohibitive to workflow and it is something that needs to be improved on. One example I keep running into is switching from full format to aps-c mode when shooting wildlife. The a7rIII will give the appropriate field of view through the viewfinder when switching from full frame to aps-c and visa versa, but not when the camera’s buffering. The usual scenario will be me shooting bursts of wildlife in action and wanting to get some extra reach and recompose the scene, but unable to switch to aps-c mode as the camera is processing the preceding images. Again these might seem trivial on paper, but in the field these things are hiccups in the process of getting the shot.
Standout features that I love:
The main selling point of the a7rIII and what I love about this camera is it’s “do all” ability. It’s such a well rounded camera particularly with it’s 42 mp sensor providing superior resolution for printing and it’s flexibility to shoot in 18mp aps-c mode all the while delivering 10fps and industry leading auto focus.
If I had to travel with just one body, this is the one I would grab. When I’m out shooting wildlife and need some extra reach, I like being able to switch back and forth from full frame to aps-c. Sure you can do this in post, but to have real field of view though the viewfinder helps with composing for me.
After shooting Canon for around 20 years and using many other systems, the Sony a7RIII may be one of my favorite cameras I’ve used thus far. It’s the camera I always want to grab when going out.
While there are some considerations and gripes I have with some of the delay in it’s processor when dealing with the camera’s buffer and an omission of a weather sealing on the bottom, these aren’t deal breakers for me in such a well rounded camera that delivers outstanding files. I really like Sony’s overall system between bodies and lenses and in my first year of switching over to them, I am still extremely satisfied with my switch. I’m also looking forward to adding a couple of their recently announced lenses to my arsenal particularly their 24mm 1.4 and the wallet-draining 400mm 2.8 at some point.
These are just a few of my thoughts from being out there in the field. There are many other technical intricacies of the system, but hopefully this helps some of those that are choosing between Sony’s offerings or getting into mirrorless for the first time.
Craig Holtz says
I have read complaints about the menu system not being intuitive and difficult to work with. What is your experience? Also, I read that you cannot take more than a 30 second exposure. Is this correct?
Oh, can you explain to me why you’d switch between full format to aps-c mode when shooting wildlife.
hopefully this helps some of those that are choosing between Sony’s offerings or getting into mirrorless for the first time. YES INDEED, IT HELP VERY MUCH,
I DO NOT LIKE MY 2X 5SDR,
ALL BEST ,AMNON