3 years after the release of the Sony A7 II (which we previously tested), Sony is revamping its full frame hybrid camera by releasing the Sony A7 III. This new Sony model follows in the footsteps of the A7R III (released last October) and shares some of the same functionality as the A9 and A7R III.
New 24-megapixel full frame BSI CMOS Exmor R sensor
Both the A7 II and the A7 III have the same sensor resolution: 24 megapixels. However, Sony has endowed this third version of its A7 hybrid with a full frame 24 Mpx back-illuminated (BSI) CMOS Exmor R sensor which has an advertised dynamic range of 15 IL. This sensor does not incorporate DRAM memory like the A9’s sensor, but the A7 III does use the same Bionz X processor for improved responsiveness and sensitivity. As a result, the A7R III has an ISO range of between 100 and 51 200 ISO (which can be extended to 50-204 800 ISO, and up to 102 400 ISO for video recording) and is able to take photos in 14-bit RAW format.
The Sony A7 III’s sensor still uses 5-axis stabilization and now offers up to 5 stops of compensation versus the 4.5 offered by the A7 II.
Burst mode of 10 images/s and more powerful AF
The A7 III’s many improved features are, in part, based on technologies developed for the A7R III and A9, such as a revamped autofocus system and faster Bionz processor (capable of processing data 1.8x faster than the A7 II according to Sony). Since it does not use the A9’s stacked CMOS sensor, the A7 III is able to capture photos in burst mode at a rate of 10 images/second (using its mechanical shutter and with continuous AF/AE) – for a total of up to 177 JPEG images, 89 compressed RAW images or 40 uncompressed RAW images. The A7 III also has an Anti-Flicker option which is handy for obtaining homogeneous shots in artificial lighting. If you are interested in taking photos silently, this camera is also able to take photos in burst mode via Live View at a rate of 8 images/second with reduced latency when using its LCD display or EVF.
The A7 III’s autofocus system (which provides 93% frame coverage) is based on the 693 AF point phase detection system inherited from the Sony A9 (which is much better than the A7 II’s 117-point phase correlation system or even the A7R II’s 399-point AF). Furthermore, 425 contrast detection points are used to augment this AF system’s focusing abilities. In addition to being more precise, the A7 III’s autofocus system is also faster than ever before: according to Sony, it is able to focus up to two times faster than the A7 II in low-light conditions (up to -3 IL).
Its 4D Focus technology makes it very efficient at tracking subjects in motion. The Sony A7 III is also equipped with the Eye AF feature – first introduced on the A7R II – which is able to maintain focus on a model’s eye.
Ergonomics and user comfort
As far as user comfort is concerned, the A7 III’s ergonomics were redesigned to take advantage of the improvements introduced by the A7R III: a deeper and more comfortable grip, a joystick on the rear side of the camera (for being able to quickly change the active AF collimator), an AF-ON button as well as a pivoting tactile display with 921 600-point resolution.
The A7 III’s OLED XGA Tru-Finder viewfinder now has a more comfortable 2.36 million-point resolution and offers 100% coverage at a magnification of 0.78x, making it one of the most comfortable electronic viewfinders on the market.
After taking a series of photos in burst mode, the A7 III does not lock up either; you will still be able to use the camera’s various buttons to perform other actions while the photos you have just taken are being saved.
Regarding user comfort, the A7 III’s improved battery autonomy is also noteworthy. It is capable of taking 710 photos (CIPA standard) on a single battery charge. This constitutes a “technical achievement” for a hybrid camera and is only possible thanks to Sony’s new Z series battery, the NP-FZ100, which has 2.2x times the capacity of the NP-FW50 battery used by the A7 II.
The A7 III is also equipped with a dual SD card slot, one of which is UHS-II compatible. This feature provides more choice regarding the way in which photos are saved (overflow, duplicate prints, JPEG on one card and RAW on the other, etc.). The A7 III also has the same WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity as previous models, making this camera easy to pair with other devices (in order to transfer files to a smartphone for example). The A7 III is equipped with a USB-C port for fast file transferring and for recharging the camera via USB. It also features a headphone and a microphone jack as well as an HDMI connector.
4K, Hybrid Log-Gamma, and Full HD 120p video
This mirrorless Sony camera is also very good at recording video. It is able to film in 4K UHD at 30p 100 Mbps by making use of the sensor’s entire surface area (which has a definition of 6K) and by oversampling the data stream in order to obtain more detail.
The A7 III is also “4K HDR ready”; by using an Hybride Log-Gamma (HLG) image profile, it is able to produce video files which are compatible with HDR TVs. Thanks to its S-Log2 and S-Log3 curves, zebra and focus peaking functions, and its ability to display audio levels, recording video with the A7 III is an enjoyable experience. What’s more, this camera is also able to film in 1080p definition at 120p.
Our first impressions of the Sony A7 III
Sony took advantage of WPPI (an international wedding photography event which was hosted in Las Vegas) to announce the Sony A7 III – a revamped version of the A7 II.
On paper, this new version of the A7 (which does away with the shortcoming we identified during our testing of the A7 II) looks very promising. Ever since its initial announcement, an assortment of high-quality lenses for the A7 III’s FE mount has been under development (lens manufacturers such as Tamron and Sigma have also started producing compatible lenses). From its performance characteristics, the A7 III appears to be a well-balanced and comprehensive hybrid camera which is also capable of recording high-quality video. This new version of the A7 no longer seems to have any problems with its electronic viewfinder or its responsiveness (which has been greatly improved). Nor is it one of those cameras that places more importance on its megapixel count than any other aspect of its design. The A7 III does, however, remain a very expensive camera and is retailing for 400$ more than the Sony A7 II did at the time of its initial release (in January 2015). We are very eager to get our hands on one of these cameras in order to be able to offer our own comprehensive test results.