Sony a7III Hands-On Review

Camera & Technology

March 5, 2018 ·

Kevin Raber

One Of The Best Camera Values Available Today

 

It’s been a few busy weeks with camera announcements. This past week, Sony shook things up with the announcement of the New Sony a7III. Along with 40 other content providers and colleagues, I was invited to Las Vegas for a secret camera announcement. To be upfront and open, Sony paid our way and provided us with a very jammed-packed few days of using the Sony a7III in real life (or as near real life) situations. The only thing Sony asked of us was to use the camera and share our experiences. 

I arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday and spent Monday at the WPPI Conference & Expo For Wedding & Portrait Photography at the Mandalay Hotel. This is the convention and trade show primarily for wedding and portrait photographers. The Wedding and Portrait Photographers International trade show is a once-a-year event primarily aimed at the social event photographer. There’s not a lot to report on the show and this is not the place to do it, but I found nothing earth-shattering that isn’t already out in the public domain.

The Sony booth at the WPPI show

On Monday night, however, they were expected to make the new camera announcement. Unlike other events here,  no major leaks came out about Sony’s upcoming announcement. Many of us guessed it would be a new A7 series camera, most likely the three.  And, frankly, we didn’t expect such big news. What could they possibly do to make this camera worth bringing 40 press people out to Las Vegas? Some of us were thinking it would be a new 6000 series camera, or a few even suggested medium format and even some, a larger megapixel a9. Going to these events makes it worthwhile except when rumors fly and one doesn’t know what to expect. Sony does a pretty good job keeping things under wraps.

They also know how to do a launch well; we were bused to a private location, which was a large rental studio. They served us food and drinks. They also used the deep throb of beating music and funky lighting to build up anticipation for the announcement. 

The moment finally came, and we were asked to take our seats. Sony is not a company that makes you sit through an hour-long presentation. They are quick and to the point. After a short introduction, they announced that there was going to be a change at the top level of CEO management and that the current CEO, Kaz Hirai, was going to retire and turn the reins over to the current CFO, Kenichiro Yoshida. Under Kaz Hirai’s leadership, Sony has come from behind to be one of the most recognized and profitable camera companies. It will be great to see what comes next.

Kaz Hirai (L) shakes hands with Kenichiro Yoshida (R)

After this brief announcement, Sony got down to talking about their advantage as a leader in sensor manufacturing. Sony has made considerable advances in sensor technology, and they made it very clear that this is the way of the future and also their advantage for the future. Thus, they used this as a segue into the camera announcement. By now, we were all sitting on the edge of our seats.

Kenji Tanaka then briefed us on the state of mirrorless cameras worldwide and especially on Sony’s position. It was quite evident with all of the graphs and charts that the mirrorless market is the place to be and the adoption rate is higher every year. A lot more can be said on this, but we’ll stay focused on the new camera for now. Kenji then announced the new Sony a7III camera with a new 24mp sensor and just about all the features you could ever ask for. He then handed the presentation off to Neal Manowitz, Vice President for Sony’s Digital Imaging for North America.

Neal took us through the features of the new Sony a7III, and it became evident that Sony listened to their customers and was releasing an incredible camera with an extensive feature set.

 

The Sony a7III with vertical grip

The Sony a7III is the newest camera by Sony featuring a 24mp sensor and many of the features of the recently released Sony a7rIII as well as the Sony a9. Unlike many camera makers who take away features to differentiate their cameras in the lineup, Sony surprised us by adding features and not crippling anything.

I dare say that the Sony a7III, at $2,000 USD, is one of the best camera values out there today. Over the next few days, we would find this out firsthand. I’ll list the specs below, but the Sony a7III starts off with a new 24.2 megapixel Full Frame sensor with an ISO range of 100-51200. There are 693 Phase Detection AF points covering 93 percent of the sensor. This is backed up by 425 Contrast Detection AF points. The camera can perform AFD in low light and has a fantastic lock on Eye AF, which has to be used to be appreciated. This is all topped off with a five-axis IBIS system, a more substantial battery capable of 710 exposures, dual card slots, 4K video downsampled from 6K, 14-bit RAW output. The AF is super fast borrowing from the a9. The rear screen is touch sensitive so you can control where AF should be and a lot more. There is a multi-selector (joy-stick), well placed for the thumb, which aids in focusing, an AF back button and a video button that has been moved for more comfortable use. The camera can shoot ten frames per second, and there is also a silent mode (I bet the wedding photographers of the world will like that feature). The EVF is super bright 2.36 million dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder. 

Let’s take a look at the specs and then I’ll get into some hands-on with images that I shot over the last few days. Before that though, I’d like to share a video that I made with Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography, YouTube channel.  We spent a bit of time talking about this camera, what it means and who it is for. I think it will explain a lot about this camera. Ted’s a great guy and if you like it swing on over and subscribe to his channel.  Don’t forget you can subscribe to the Luminous-Landscape YouTube channel too.

Video

 

Specifications

Lens Mount  Sony E-Mount
Camera Format  Full-Frame
Pixels  Actual: 25.3 Megapixel
Effective: 24.2 Megapixel
Max Resolution  24 MP: 6000 x 4000
Aspect Ratio  3:2, 16:9
Sensor Type / Size   CMOS, 35.6 x 23.8 mm
File Formats
Still Images: JPEG, RAW
Movies: AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, XAVC S
Audio: AC3, Dolby Digital 2ch, Linear PCM (Stereo)
Bit Depth  14-Bit
Dust Reduction System   Yes
Memory Card Type  SD, SDHC,  SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo, Memory Stick PRO HG-Duo
Image Stabilization  Sensor-Shift, 5-Way
AV Recording
Video Recording  Yes, NTSC/PAL
Video Formats
3840 x 2160p at 23.98, 25, 29.97 fps (100 Mb/s XAVC S via H.264)
3840 x 2160p at 23.98, 25, 29.97 fps (60 Mb/s XAVC S via H.264)
1920 x 1080p at 100, 120 fps (100 Mb/s XAVC S via H.264)
1920 x 1080p at 100, 120 fps (60 Mb/s XAVC S via H.264)
1920 x 1080p at 23.98, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94 fps (50 Mb/s XAVC S via H.264)
1920 x 1080p at 50, 59.94 fps (25 Mb/s XAVC S via H.264)
1920 x 1080p at 25, 29.97 fps (16 Mb/s XAVC S via H.264)
1920 x 1080i at 50, 59.94 fps (24 Mb/s AVCHD via H.264)
1920 x 1080i at 50, 59.94 fps (17 Mb/s AVCHD via H.264)
Aspect Ratio  16:9
Video Clip Length   Up to 29 Min
Audio Recording  Built-In Mic: With Video (Stereo), Optional External Mic: With Video (Stereo)
Focus Control
Focus Type  Auto & Manual
Focus Mode  Automatic (A), Continuous-Servo AF (C), Direct Manual Focus (DMF), Manual Focus (M), Single-servo AF (S)
Autofocus Points  Phase Detection: 693,  Contrast Detection: 425
Viewfinder/Display
Viewfinder Type  Electronic
Viewfinder Size  0.5″
Viewfinder Pixel Count  2,359,000
Viewfinder Eye Point  23.00 mm
Viewfinder Coverage  100%
Viewfinder Magnification  Approx. 0.78x
Diopter Adjustment  -4 to +3 m
Display Screen  3″ Rear Touchscreen Tilting LCD (921,600)
Screen Coverage  100%
Exposure Control
ISO Sensitivity  Auto, 100-51200 (Extended Mode: 50-204800)
Shutter  30 – 1/8000 Second  Bulb Mode
Remote Control   RM-VPR1, VCT-XPR10, VCT-VPR1, RM-SPR1, RMT-VP1K (Optional)
Metering Method  Center-Weighted Average Metering, Multi-Zone Metering, Spot Metering, Highlight Weighted
Exposure Modes  Modes: Aperture Priority, Auto, Manual, Movie, Program, Shutter Priority
Metering Range: EV -3.0 – EV 20.0  Compensation: -5 EV to +5 EV (in 1/3 or 1/2 EV Steps)
White Balance Modes  Auto, Cloudy, Color Temperature, Custom, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent (Cool White), Fluorescent (Daylight), Fluorescent (Warm White), Incandescent, Shade, Underwater
Buffer/Continuous Shooting  Up to 10 fps at 24.2 MP for up to 89 Frames in Raw Format,  Up to 10 fps at 24.2 MP for up to 177 Frames in JPEG Format, Up to 8 fps at 24.2 MP   Up to 6 fps at 24.2 MP,  Up to 3 fps at 24.2 MP
Flash
Flash Modes  Auto, Fill-In, Hi-Speed Sync, Off, Rear Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Wireless
Built-in Flash  No
Max Sync Speed . 1 / 250 Second
Flash Compensation  -3 EV to +3 EV (in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps)
Dedicated Flash System   TTL
External Flash Connection   Hot Shoe
Performance
Self Timer  10 Seconds, 5 Seconds, 2 Seconds
Connectivity  1/8″ Headphone, 1/8″ Microphone, HDMI D (Micro), USB 2.0 Micro-B, USB 3.0, USB Type-C
Wi-Fi Capable  Yes
Power
Battery  1 x NP-FZ100 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, 7.2 VDC, 2280 mAh
Operating/Storage Temperature  Operating  32 to 104°F (0 to 40°C)
Physical
Dimensions (W x H x D)  5.0 x 3.8 x 2.9″ / 126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7 mm
Weight  1.43 lb / 650 g

The Sony A7III is available at B&H Photo and Amazon

Shipments begin April 1st.

Hands On

I am already a Sony user and own a Sony a9 and a Sony a7rIII, a6500, RX100iv and the RX0. Also, I also own the 12-24mm, 16-35 G-Master, 24-70mm G-Master, 70-200mm G-Master 85mm G-Master and the 100-400mm G-master. I love Sony’s products. Most importantly, I love how they listen to their customers and improve their products on a fast and regular basis. So, I don’t want to be labeled a Sony Fan Boy, but I find their products have worked consistently for me and have delivered excellent image quality. Also to keep the record clear, I own a complete Fuji X system with lots of glass as well as the Olympus system and lenses. This gives me a full frame, APS-C as well as Micro 4/3 system, all mirrorless. All of our videos, for the most part, are made using the Panasonic G5. Yes, I travel and take a lot of pictures and love each of these systems. What I use is based on a number of factors but everything gets used a lot.

For this press event, Sony provided us with the Sony a7III, with a 28-105mm lens as well as an 85mm FE lens. I also used my personal 16-35mm G-master as well as the 100-400mm G-Master lens for some of the images shown in this article and gallery.

Getting Started

A few minutes after the camera announcement, I was handed a camera bag. We had numerous sets put together to try the camera with that evening, so I quickly set up the camera and got to work.

The Sony a7III looks identical in almost every way to the a7rIII (which I own). Thus, setting up the menus and camera was a breeze. For those of you who are interested, I completed a long and comprehensive tutorial on how to set up the Sony camera menus on the a7rIII and I suggest that this would be useful for this camera too.

One of the things being touted for this camera was low light – high Iso performance. The set-ups provided by Sony were all hot light setups. I decided to set up the camera on Manual with an f/stop of 5.6 and using auto ISO. This is a favorite way to shoot for me when shooting wildlife and other things that need a fixed shutter speed to stop action. With the IBIS, I felt I could shoot at 1/125th of a second without any issues. For some of the action scenes, I upped the speed to 500th of a second.

These settings are straightforward using the FN menu for Shutter type and drive as well as ISO. The front and rear dials control the shutter speed and ISO. These are customizable and can be reversed if you want. I set up the camera to shoot RAW and Fine JPEG. There are no RAW processors available yet, so everything in this article is from the camera as a JPEG. A bit of tweaking may have been done on some images. However, as you look at these shots, I think you can tell that with a RAW processor like Capture One, I could do a lot to increase shadow detail and the recovery of some highlight areas. The camera has a 15 stop dynamic range, so there should be no issues improving many of these images with a RAW processor like Capture One. I may repost these images doing a “before” and “after” once C1 is available.

If you are familiar with Sony A series cameras, you’ll find no real surprises here. There are some changes from the previous Sony a7II that I will mention. Looking at the rear of the camera, you will see that the video button that was on the right is now on the left, close to the viewfinder. It is much easier to turn on and off in this position. Next to this button is the new AF-ON button,  giving the Sony a7III a rear focus button. This is one of those buttons I have a love/hate relationship with. I still like using the half press on the shutter release button to set AF, but I’m finding I am using the rear AF button more and more. You can have both on at the same time, or deactivate either one,  depending on your preferences.

The AEL button on the right is self-explanatory. I don’t use it much, and thus, I’m usually setting it off a custom function. The FN button brings up a Quick Menu that allows you to set menus you use frequently. This is very convenient as it’s programmed so you can control what items will appear.

The control wheel is set for a push upward motion to change the display, sideways to set drive and or self-timer, and push right to set ISO. The top left C3 button is also a custom button that doubles as a protect file button in playback mode. The AF-ON button also serves as a magnify button in playback mode. You use the joy-stick or multi-selector to navigate the previewed image. The trash can button (which I hate, by the way) is also a custom button and can be set for whatever you want. In my video, I demonstrate this. 

Looking down on the camera, you have a front and read dial for shutter speed and F/stop. The on and off button is easy to use with your index finger. The C1 and C2 buttons are also customizable buttons. The big dial sets the mode for shooting. There is the standard P, A, S, and M as well as two banks of custom settings, movie mode, slow-motion setup, and scene select (like an art mode). The depot correction is right next to the viewfinder. The exposure compensation button is self-explanatory too, so there are no real surprises. Except for some different placements and the addition of the joy-stick, there is not much different from previous cameras.

The front of the Sony a7III. There are now 2 additional screws holding the lens mount to the camera.

The front of the camera sports a new lens mount that is expected to be stronger and has six screws instead of the previous four.

Shooting With The Camera

Camera operation is a breeze. I found the viewfinder to be very bright, and the AF was quite snappy (if I can use that term to describe AF). Using the FN button, you can select the type of focus. I set it up for continuous AF and Lock of expandable AF. 

Buttons are easy to reach and use. To kick in EyeAF while in C-AF mode you press the center button on the multi-function dial

The EyeAF on this camera is very impressive. When shooting some of the models, I would compose, use the joy-stick and position the focus post and, while holding the shutter release or AF button, I would lock onto my subject. If it was a person, the camera usually found the face and put a box around it. Then if I pushed the middle button on the rear dial, EyeAF would kick in, find the eye and lock onto it, and lock onto it, it did. It was very impressive to use this feature and see it perform. It was even more impressive to see the final results. For a portrait or wedding photographer (or fashion shooter), this function is worth the price of admission.

I shot nearly 950 images that evening and had a blast shooting. The sets they provided were cool, and I had the chance to try out a lot of features. Using my Manual settings and CF (continuous Focus) settings, I landed great in-focus photos almost all the time. The times I didn’t was due mostly to operator error (me). 

The Sony a7III now has two SD card slots

There is a cool feature where you can press and hold the FN button. This locks the dial on the rear of the camera and thus prevents me (especially) from inadvertently changing the setting. This is one of those gems you need to take the time to read about and practice, and in the end, you’ll see it’s worth a lot. How many times have you inadvertently reset Setting to something other than what you wanted?

During all my shooting sessions, the viewfinder was bright and very usable. The rear screen was not as bright, as I will explain below based on the time we went to the desert to shoot dune buggies.

Looking down on the camera you have the mode dial. custom buttons and exposure compensation dial. The front and read dials control the f/stop and shutter speed.

Note: There is a difference between rear screen and EVF on the a7III and a9.  The a7III has an EVF with 2.36m dot OLED and the a9 has 3.69m dot black-out free OLED.  The rear screen of the a7III has 922 dot 3 inch vs. the a9 1.44m dot tilt out screen.  You can see a difference, but the a7III is quite good and very usable.  

I tried out a few short clips using the video feature and was quite impressed. The Continuous AF worked great, and the videos looked good. I’m not a video guy, and frankly, Chris and Michael would prefer if I stay away from this area of testing. So, when we get a review camera, I’ll hand it over to Michael, and he will do some videos with it as he did in our RX0 review.

I can tell you that the camera offers full pixel readout with no binning. In essence, the camera records 2.4 the amount of data needed for 4K (approximately 6K) and downsamples to 4K. This apparently results in the best 4k video resolution possible. My fellow journalist colleagues who were shooting video with this camera were very impressed with the performance they were seeing.

 

One of the sets that we used to shoot sample images with the Sony a7III

We had several different shooting scenarios while we were testing these cameras. The first evening was kind of an action and fashion setup, as seen in some of the images above. The next day, we returned to the studio and had the chance to shoot a rain setup and more fashion. Then we did a culinary session that evening. The following day, we went to the desert to shoot dune buggies and then, in the afternoon, shot from helicopters. The following images are broken into these categories and captions with each explaining the shooting setup. 

I have also supplied a gallery at the end of this article where you can click on an image and see it at 100% size. 

Samples from Different Shooting Setups

Fashion Night

The following images were all shot and presented here as JPEGs.  I did do some cropping as well as some highlight and shadow recovery where I could and as well as I could on a JPEG.  I know what I can do with Capture One on these images and look forward to tackling the RAW files which I shot simultaneously with these images.  Phase One should have a new version of C1 ready by the launch in April.  I’m hoping for a beta version earlier. On each image below I ran them through Capture One and the software imprinted the metadata on the bottom of each image.  MAny of these images will be found in the gallery at the end of the article.  In this gallery, you can click on any image and view it 100%.

This was shot using EYEAF I kept the shutter speed high and was interested in seeing how noisy the image got. At ISO 5000 I think it is pretty clean
EYEAF is addicting once you start using it. Works like a champ.
Once again amazing EyeAF results. If I had capture One I know I could have pulled detail in the shadows. Will be fun to go back and rework this image.
I was shooting wide open on these as I wanted to see how well the EyeAF worked and what kind of DOF I got
ISO 12800. I was surprised at just how clean this ISO was. Very useable, making the auto ISO feature even more useful.
This was shot at 12800 ISO and directly into the spotlight. Was there banding – NO. I shot with the mechanical shutter though.
Another high ISO image. You can see these in the 100% gallery below.

Waterfall Setup

We arrived for our second shoot at the studio and we were presented with a very cool waterfall set.  There were a number of very good looking models that were athletic.  What more could a photographer ask for?  I played around with high shutter speeds, different f/stops, dragging the shutter, and shortening exposure to increase the length of raindrops and the effect of hitting the models.

What I was really surprised at was how well the EyeAF and Face Recognition software worked.  I’ll place a number of the images in the 100% Gallery at the bottom of this article.

Clcik on the image below to zoom in to 100%.  Clcik the upper left arrow to return to the article.   Note the 12,800 ISO.

 

Handheld 1/8th of a second. Yes, IBIS works great.
We had a lot of fun with this fellow. We asked him to dip his head in the water and swing his head back and to blow out water at the same time. So much fun and the focus locked on perfectly.

 

Fashion Setup Two

Evening Culinary Shoot

We had an evening out to dinner where we could spend some time shooting the dinner prep as well bartenders at work.  It was very low light and provided a chance to try out high ISO, IBIS, and slow shutter speeds.

Fellow web and YouTube content providers shooting one of the kitchen setups

ISO 12,800 is so usable even in real dark areas

Dune Buggy Fun

On our last day, Sony kept us very busy.  We did a dune buggy excursion out into the desert.  What I was amazed about in these conditions that the AF works so well.  In many cases, the dune buggy would jump over the hill and become instantly visible.  The AF caught right away and tracked it perfectly.  I did numerous tests of the Dune Buggy coming right at me or going across the frame.  The AF performed as good as the a9.  I wish I had the a9 though as 10 FPS was not fast enough in some cases.  Overall I really feel I got some good shots.  You can see some of these in the 100& gallery below.

 

Helicopters

We ended our day with a several hour helicopter flight.  Our flight went to Valley Of Fire with an overflight of Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas strip.  For this, I set the camera to Manual and set the shutter speed to 1240th of a second, f/5.6 and let ISO stay on auto.  The helicopter had the doors off so we were shooting with wind and vibration. The images look great and I really want Capture One to process the RAWs as I thinki there is so much more I could by working with the RAW.

 

We got to fly around Hoover dam a couple of times. I know Capture One could pull so much more from this image. Look for it on the home page once I can process the RAW file

Even shooting right into the sun there is detail in the shadow. This another of thoise shots that needs to be processed as a RAW

Final Thoughts

About a year ago, I wrote a Rantatorial titled, “If I Was A Betting Man.” In the article, I predicted good things for Sony saying that, if I were betting on which company would succeed in the photo business, I’d choose Sony to put my money on. Well, it’s a year later and I still feel this way, especially after all of the recent camera introductions.

 

5 axis IBIS

I was expecting not to be wowed at this event. After all, we were expecting a small incremental upgrade to the Sony a7II. Instead, Sony pulled out all the stops and released a feature-packed entry-level camera (for lack of better words). This camera is $2,000 USD and available in April. Orders are being taken at B&H and Amazon today. 

This camera changes the playing field for many. There are a lot of Canon and Nikon shooters out there waiting for a mirrorless camera. Many loyal to these brands know mirrorless is the future, yet neither of these companies has produced a worthy competitor to the Sony mirrorless line. Nikon and Canon are probably talking about a future camera, but to date, there is not even a mention of a camera with the feature set that Sony has.

 

Sony a7III with the NEW Flash

I have been using the Sony system for a while now and have purchased the Sony a9 and the Sony a7rIII. These two cameras with the line of G-Master glass I have bought gives me a formidable range of glass as well as versatility for almost any kind of photography that I do. 

I will not be purchasing the Sony a7III, but I know and have heard from many photographers who are planning to make the purchase. The Sony a7III is one of the best cameras available today for the price.  Since I already have the Sony a9 and the Sony a7rIII, the Sony a7III just isn’t needed. However, if I were a wedding shooter, or a portrait photographer or a serious enthusiast, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to buy this camera. The silent shooting capability will be great for wedding shooters not to mention super low light focusing and ISO performance. The portraits photographer will enjoy the EyeAF feature and will get hooked on just how good it is. 

If you shoot sports, the ten frames per second and 177 shot buffer will be a must-have. Also, the lock on Continuous AF is something that needs to be experienced. While I don’t think this one is as good as the Sony a7rIII, I would dare say it could give the Sony a9 a run for its money. 

The camera has a new and bigger battery allowing at least by specs 710 images per charge. I shot more than 900 pictures on one battery and still had 20 percent remaining. This is the same battery that the Sony a9 and Sony a7rIII use so it’s convenient to be able to interchange batteries if you have different Sony camera bodies. 

The new ergonomic features, like the multi-selector (joystick) read AF button, and new placement of the video button are all welcome changes. Did I mention the dual SD card slots? The one drawback is that there only one slot is UHS-II compatible. I wish both slots were, but it seems Sony has made one slot also compatible with their memory stick for the six people in the world who still use them. 

 

Some of the ports available

While we did not have inclement weather during our few days of testing, the camera is said to be Dust and Moisture resistant. I can vouch for at least the a9 and a7rIII working under harsh conditions as I have traveled to Antarctica recently and shot in some really crappy rain and pretty much soaked the cameras. I didn’t experience any malfunctions with either camera. I was especially worried about the long draw 100-400mm lens, but there were no issues.

Sony offers a battery grip for the camera, and I am a believer in these because I have big hands and find they help me hold the camera. Also, you get two batteries to work with as well as duplicate controls in the vertical position making vertical picture taking a lot more comfortable.

While I didn’t test the feature, this camera connects to your smartphone through the PlayMemories app. This is convenient if you need to remotely control the camera or need to share images on social media. It’s a rather simple job to set up and works pretty well. 

During testing, I shot under a wide variety of conditions. On one of our shoots, we were in the desert in very bright sunlight. It doesn’t matter what camera you have; this is always different. It was almost next to impossible to see the rear screen in the sunshine. The Sony a9 and the Sony a7rIII were a bit easier to read in these conditions, but they also have a Bright Sunlight screen setting. I didn’t locate the setting on this camera. The viewfinder was still OK, but I wear glasses, and that makes it difficult to see the viewfinder in bright light. 

I found a solution to this, and on my last few trips, it has worked great. I added a G-Cup EVF Eyecup (Sony a9 & a7 Series) to my Sony cameras. While somewhat obtrusive and large, it does a great job allowing me to see the viewfinder better.

G-Cup EVF Eyecup (Sony a9 & a7 Series)

I know there will be those people who will comment that the Sony camera doesn’t feel good ergonomically. For those folks, I say,  each to their own. I have had no issues with these cameras in everyday use, and they feel fine in my hands. There will be those that say Sony doesn’t have a good lens lineup. Well, think again. Sony has approximately 20 of their e-mount lenses, and now both Sigma and Tamron have made announcements of new E-mount lenses in their lineups. Also, it is public knowledge that Sony is coming out with a 400mm 2.8 lens this year. I’m sure they are working on a few more in the extended lens area, too. 

There are two areas that I believe Sony needs to address. First is the menu system, and second is the service.  I am part of the Sony Pro Service program, and for the few times I have had to use them, they were fantastic. However, I have heard from others that service, if you are not a pro, is not always the best. I know Sony is aware of this and is working hard to make this experience better. If there is one thing Sony does well, it’s listening to customers. They know their weak areas and are the first to admit they are trying to fix them.

The menus, however, are still a sore point with me and others. There is no excuse for a camera company that makes such a great camera to be crippled by such a complicated menu system. While the newer version of menus is a lot better than it was in previous models, there is a lot of room for improvement. So many camera companies have figured this out. I hope Sony does, too. For me, this will be as significant an announcement as a new camera when they design a more intuitive menu system.   

Meantime, if you need help understanding the menus, I have made an extensive menu video that should help you set up your Sony camera and understand the menus better. You can find this video, Sony a7rIII Menu System Setup Video, on our site. And, Sony, if you need help with ideas on how to make a better menu system, let me know because I have some great ideas.

In closing, I will tip my hat to Sony. They understand the market, their customers, and the competition and have strategically positioned their camera lineup, so it is attractive to a wide variety of photographic needs. They didn’t cripple or hobble the Sony  a7III and they released it at a fair price, considering its features and abilities. They addressed just about all if not all the issues that were part of the older line. It’s tough to find major flaws with this camera. 

So, what’s next? I think Sony will continue to improve on their cameras. Presently, the cameras are all 14 bit. With a more powerful processor, Sony could make a line of cameras capable of 16 bit. For image quality, a jump to 16 bit will be major. In simple terms, a 14-bit pixel can record 16,383 tones per pixel. A 16-bit file has 65,532 tones per pixel. This means that, especially in monochromatic captures, the color will be smoother because the pixel has more shades or color shades per pixel to work with.  This is a critical feature in defining the quality of an image. 

Somewhere along the way, we’ll eventually see a Global Shutter. This will be revolutionary in full frame capture. The rolling shutter days will be gone, and a new era of photography capture will be started. A Global Shutter essentially exposes the whole chip at once. It turns on and off in whatever time period is needed. Also, rather than dump data off to the side like many sensors do today, the data will pass straight through all at once.  We may be a few years away from this, but if there is a company that can pull it off, it will be Sony and their sensor division.

I am also predicting we will see a larger MP sensor in full frame, most likely occupying the Sony a9 chassis. Do you really think Sony is making G-Master glass to use on a 42 MP sensor? This will also be a major step and will narrow the division between the medium format, G size sensors, and full frame. Can you imagine a camera shooting around a 65 MP file at ten fps in 16-bit color? Here’s to hoping that someday we something like this.  Please remember this all speculation on my part, but here’s to hoping.

Considering what we have seen and what I think is possible in the future, I will still keep my bets on Sony. Once the other guys enter the marketplace, they will be in catch-up mode, and I am sure Sony is already taking that possibility into account.

It’s a great time to be a photographer. We have tools that, in my long career, I had never thought possible. Meantime, I remind you that while all this gear is cool and fun, out is even more fun to use it. So, get out there and shoot some photos. Challenge yourself with a project and enjoy of the features these cameras possess. I’ve never had so much fun.

The Sony A7III is available at B&H Photo and Amazon

Shipments begin April 1st.

Image Gallery

Please enjoy this gallery consisting of many of the images above.  By clicking on the image you will view a larger image and you can then zoom into 100% size.  Scroll around.  To return to the gallery click on the arrow in the upper left.

 


Kevin Raber
March 2018

Kevin Raber

Photography is my passion and has been for 45 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of pictures taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through Rockhopper Workshops and other projects as well as teaching at my Gallery in Indianapolis.

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