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Hands-on: Sony A7R III review

a9 tech in a cheaper a7R chassis

Our Verdict

With a faster processing system, dynamic range improved over the mark II, a bigger battery and some sensible tweaks to the design layout, the Sony a7R III is a very capable and versatile shooter that’s snappier than its predecessor.

For

  • 10fps at 42.2MP
  • Fast AF performance
  • Improved dynamic range

Against

  • Limited touchscreen control
  • Battery life could be better
  • No XQD card slot

Four years have gone by since Sony launched its first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the 24MP a7 and the 36MP a7R. These were followed up by the 42MP a7R II a year-and-a-half later – and now, the third generation is here, with an impressive spec sheet that could see more photographers step away from their DSLRs.

For the Alpha a7R III, Sony has stuck to the basic design template that worked well for the a7R II, but added a few tweaks to handling and included some of the best technologies we saw in the a9, to give us a high-resolution, high-performing snapper that could compete with the likes of Nikon D850.

Read more: Nikon D850 review

Features

  • 42.4MP back-illuminated Exmor R full-frame sensor 
  • BIONZ X processor and new front-end LSI 
  • E-mount 
  • 4K video recording with full pixel readout, Full HD up to 120fps
  • 10fps burst shooting (with autofocus and auto-exposure)
  • 5-axis image stabilisation system with 5.5EV-stop compensation
  • 399-point phase-detect AF and 425-point contrast-detect AF systems
  • ISO 100-32,000 (exp to ISO 50-102,400 equivalents) 
  • 3in tilting touchscreen LCD, 1.44million dots
  • Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder, 3.69million dots
  • Two SDHC/SDXC cardc slots (inc. support for UHS-II in one slot)
  • Pixel Shift Multi Shooting Mode
  • 650-shot battery life
  • USB 3.1 port

The Sony Alpha a7R III features the same 42.2MP full-frame, back-illuminated (BSI) sensor as found inside the A7R II, and once again is lacks an anti-aliasing filter for better detail retention. It has, however, now been bolstered with improved technology. 

A brand-new front-end LSI – a type of image processing chip – not only increases the readout speed of the sensor, but also takes advantage of the latest BIONZ X engine of the a7R III, delivering processing speeds up to 1.8x that of the a7R II.

This increase in processing power makes the new camera capable of silent shooting at 10fps, and Sony also reckons it's possible to gain 15EV stops of dynamic range at low ISO sensitivity – a whole stop more than the camera’s predecessor.

Sony has brought the a9’s electronic viewfinder (EVF) over to the a7R III, which boasts approximately 3.69million dots, a 0.78x magnification and a 120fps refresh rate. It even comes with a dirt-repellent coating on the outside and a ZEISS T* reflection-reducing coating on the inside.

The tilting display at the back of the camera has also been given an upgrade, now with touchscreen capabilities and a 1.44m-dot resolution, as opposed to the a7R II’s 1.22million-dot display. Its touchscreen functionality, however, is limited to autofocus and enlarging images during playback.

Build and handling

Even though the basic design of the a7R III is the same as that of the a7R II, there are a few subtle changes. These include a multi-selector joystick, a battery that now promises around 650 shots (when using the LCD screen) and dual SD cards slots.

If you’ve used the a9, you’ll know how convenient that joystick is when it comes to controlling various settings and functions. It makes selecting AF points a lot quicker, and simplifies moving around a full-size image in playback. 

AF points can also be selected using the touchscreen, but there's a bit of lag between keying the screen and the camera registering this with the AF system, which makes the joystick the snappier option when shooting. Much like on the a9, the addition of the dedicated AF-ON button on the rear also improves handling.  

Read more: The 10 cheapest full-frame cameras you can buy right now

The grip of the a7R III is more pronounced than its predecessor’s, and it houses a much more powerful battery too. During our time with the camera we took over 200 shots in the course of a couple of hours, in both single-shooting and burst modes, and only dented battery life by just 20%. The larger grip also makes the camera sit very comfortably in the hand.

The a7R III also features Micro USB 2.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C ports, making it possible to operate the camera while being powered from a backup battery pack. It is important to know, however, that the power supply will only run the camera, not charge the battery.

Like the Sony a9, there are now dual SDHC/SDXC card slots in the new camera, but only one of them is UHS-II compatible. This means there's no support for XQD cards, even though Sony is now the sole manufacturer of this high-speed, high-capacity card format.

Sony has promised that the weather sealing on the a7R III has been improved over the a7R II, with protection against both dust and moisture, although, as with any camera, it’s best to take care when battling the elements.