Sony A7R III review

The Sony A7R III takes its predecessor's superb resolution and throws in 10fps shooting too – amazing!

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

The A7R III is so good, so powerful and so versatile. Its troubling body-lens size mismatch, and 530/650-shot battery life, which is good for mirrorless but poor next to a pro DSLR, means it just loses half a star from an otherwise perfect score.

For

  • Superb resolution
  • 10fps continuous shooting
  • 4K video options

Against

  • Body/lens size mismatch
  • Pro lenses are expensive
  • Battery life still not at DSLR level

Sony's latest full frame mirrorless camera combines the resolution of its predecessor, the A7R II, with the kind of high-speed continuous shooting performance you'd expect from a sports camera. It's designed for pro photographers (and videographers) who want it all – high-resolution, high-speed shooting and top-quality 4K video. It's not as fast as the sports-dedicated Sony A9 or the low-light video specialist A7S II model, but as a do-it-all jack of all trades, its specs are spectacular.

Of course, it was bound to happen. We knew Sony had the technology to combine high resolution with high frame rates from the moment it launched the Alpha A99 II, and then Nikon announced the D850 which pulled the same trick. For a long, long time pro photographers have had to choose cameras designed for resolution or for speed, but this is the latest of a new breed of camera that can deliver both.

The A7R III might not be the fastest Sony full frame mirrorless model – that's the A9 – but it combines resolution and continuous shooting speed in a way that surely makes it the most versatile A-series camera of all.

The A7R III might not be the fastest Sony full frame mirrorless model – that's the A9 – but it combines resolution and continuous shooting speed in a way that surely makes it the most versatile A-series camera of all.

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

Some might be disappointed that the A7R III’s sensor resolution is unchanged from the A7R II's at 42.4 million pixels, but this sensor is capable of outstanding quality and the improvements to the continuous shooting speeds are much more important, because the new model can top out at an amazing 10 frames per second at full resolution. Not only that, it can sustain this for up to 76 compressed raw files. This drops to 28 shots for uncompressed raw files, but we suspect any difference in quality is unlikely to be worth the drop in buffer capacity.

Frame rates grab the headlines, but without the buffer capacity to go with them they mean very little. If the A7R III had the buffer capacity of a typical non-professional camera, it would grind to a halt after a burst of just a couple of seconds. Instead, it can keep going for more than seven seconds, and that's a big, big difference for a professional sports photographer.  This camera has another trick – a completely silent mode which will allow photographers to shoot in situations where the machine-gun clatter of a regular DSLR would be banned.

The A7R III has dual memory card slots too, though despite the emphasis on speed, only one of these is UHS II compatible – a bit of a surprise given this camera's performance potential and, let's face it, its price.

The rear screen isn't fully articulating, but it does tilt up and down, which is the next best thing.

The rear screen isn't fully articulating, but it does tilt up and down, which is the next best thing.

The autofocus system has been designed to match this camera's continuous shooting performance, with a 399-point phase-detection array already seen in the A7R II combined with a 425-point contrast AF array inherited from the Sony A9. Sony says this system is up to twice as fast in low light, twice as precise for continuous focus tracking and reliable down to -3EV.

Sony says its in-camera 5-axis SteadyShot system has been enhanced to offer 5.5 stops of effective compensation, and a new NP-FZ100 battery offers 2.2x the life of the NP-FW50 battery used in the A7R II. That will be music to the ears of any long-time A7 users, who by now will be accustomed to carrying around a set of spares for longer shoots – or paying the price.

The video capabilities get a boost too, with a new HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) picture profile for an instant wide dynamic range movie effect without the need for grading on a computer, in addition to S-Log2 and S-Log3 modes.

The A7R III has one of the best full frame sensors around right now, and it's squeezed into a body far more compact than a full frame DSLR's.

The A7R III has one of the best full frame sensors around right now, and it's squeezed into a body far more compact than a full frame DSLR's.

Last but not least, the A7R III has a new Pixel Shift Multi-Shooting mode which takes a series of shots in quick succession with a 1-pixel shift between each to capture a special higher-resolution image file (as if this camera needs one) with full colour information for each pixel and reduced moiré in fine patterns and textures, though this requires a longer overall exposure and hence a relatively static subject and external processing on a computer. Similar technology has been used already on certain Olympus, Pentax and Hasselblad cameras.

In short, the A7R III is a substantial upgrade of the 'old' A7R II. The resolution is the same, but the continuous shooting speed has been doubled, with a buffer capacity and upgraded autofocus to match, and a series of other enhancements to make the new camera an altogether more powerful and versatile proposition for professional photographers, videographers and well-off enthusiasts.