Sony a7R III promises faster bursts, better focusing and longer battery life
Sony has announced the a7R Mark III, a 42.4MP mirrorless camera built around the lessons learned from its flagship a9 sports camera. The result is a high-res full frame camera capable of 10 fps shooting with more tenacious autofocus and many of the improvements existing a7R II users had hoped for.
The camera features essentially the same body as the a9, creating room for a focus point selection joystick, AF-On button, twin SD card slots, flash sync socket and, most importantly, that camera's higher-capacity battery. The new camera also gets the 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder from the a9, providing a 1280 x 960 resolution view. This gives you highly detailed images with high contrast and deep blacks through the EVF, particularly during playback.
The sensor is the same 42.4MP BSI CMOS chip as before, but a series of hardware and processing changes act to get more out of it.
A faster 'Bionz X' processor, along with the front-end LSI processor featured in recent Sony models, allows the camera to process more data, faster. This, in conjunction with a redesigned, low-vibration shutter mechanism, allows the new camera to shoot at 10 frames per second, with full autofocus, in either mechanical or electronic shutter mode. It can also do a6500-style 'live view' continuous shooting at up to 8 fps. It's not the blackout-free shooting of the a9, but the instantaneous 'live' frames at 8 fps can help you keep up with the action despite this being, in practice, simply 8 live frames per second with black frames inserted in between (which we're told is much like the a6500 we tested).
Continuous shooting bursts can last for 87 compressed or 28 uncompressed Raw files.
Sony claims 15 stops of dynamic range and 14-bit Raw capture across more of its shooting modes (including continuous shooting in uncompressed Raw and e-shutter mode, which prompted the previous camera to drop to 12-bit capture), though it still drops to 12-bit when shooting 10 fps compressed Raw. At the pixel-level, we're skeptical of the 15 EV claim and expect something more along the lines of the ADC bit-depth: 14 to 14.5 EV at best.
So, although the Mark III doesn't have the super-high throughput stacked CMOS design that we saw in the a9, Sony says the faster processing will give faster shooting speeds and even offer AF benefits: "more tenacious" subject tracking and Eye-AF than the existing a7R models to name a couple, even if not up to a9 standards. So how does AF stack up?
The a7R III retains the 399 point on-sensor phase-detect AF system of its predecessor, ensuring accurate and precise autofocus at the image sensor plane with no calibration whatsoever. Like with the a9, Sony has updated its low light AF rating, ensuring focus down to -3 EV with F2 lenses. Indeed, we've found Sony's ratings to be relatively accurate, with a F1.4 lens offering 1 stop faster performance (down to -4 EV), but slower lenses offering worse performance (-1 EV for F4 lenses). The a7R II predecessor focused down to -3 EV with F1.4 lenses, and reliably to -2 EV with F2 lenses.
Importantly, though, Sony claims twice as good face and eye detection and tenacity. That would be welcome, as we found Eye AF-C to be very jumpy, readily hopping between detected faces in the scene, on the a7R II. The a7R II particularly struggled in continuous drive modes. The a9 remedied this issue quite a bit, more tenaciously sticking to your original intended subject as you can see below, and even functioning very well even in 20 fps bursts. We hope the a7R II's algorithms allow for at least somewhat similar behavior. See how the a7R II and the a9 compare, above.
Official Sony a7R III sample images
Stable high resolution
As well as the more powerful processors, the a7R Mark III gains some of its capabilities from a completely new shutter mechanism. This is designed to be both fast and low vibration, with a braking mechanism designed to reduce the risk of shutter shock, to maximize image sharpness (although for shutter speeds longer than 1/1000s, electronic front curtain makes this entire issue moot). Sony says it will offer professional levels of durability, too, and says it expects it to last for at least 500,000 actuations.
The camera's IS mechanism also gets a boost with the 5-axis system upgraded to receive a 5.5 step rating, by CIPA standard testing. The full capabilities of the system remain available in video shooting, too, though we would've liked to see the option for additional electronic ('digital') stabilization for glide-cam like footage as well, as is offered on the RX100-series of cameras and some smartphones today.
10 fps high-resolution shooting, with flash
A potentially huge benefit of the 10 fps mechanical shutter is 10 frames-per-second shooting with flash, assuming your strobes can keep up. That puts the a7R III ahead of even the a9 in this respect. This is another example of Sony not afraid to cannibalize itself: it's offering technology advanced compared to its flagship, at a lower model-level.
For some users, like strobe dance photographers, this may be an immensely important consideration.
Although the body is essentially that of the a7R II, the Mark III gains some of the ergonomic improvements of the a9. This includes an AF-On button and joystick/multi-controller for positioning the camera's AF point. The camera's 3" touchscreen can also be used as an 'AF touchpad' when the camera is held to your eye.
The touchscreen can also be used to perform a controlled rack focus during video capture. Perhaps most importantly, the a7R III gains the new menu system of the a9, including the button customization of that model.
As with its predecessor, the a7R Mark III can shoot UHD 4K from the full width of its sensor but gets better results in Super 35 (essentially APS-C) crop mode. In crop mode the camera shoots using a 5176 x 2924 pixel region, which it down-samples to produce highly detailed 3840 x 2160 UHD 4K footage. Sony says the image quality of both types of footage is improved but that the quality differential between full frame and Super 35mm modes will remain. In other words, Super 35 will continue to (ironically) offer higher resolution, better dynamic range and low light performance than full-frame mode in 4K.
The a7R III gains the Hybrid Log Gamma feature we first saw in the Panasonic GH5, which essentially captures Log footage along with metadata that allows HLG-compatible HDR displays to correctly present the footage, without the need for post-processing. Display Assist, which gives a 'normal,' corrected preview while shooting in Log mode, is available when shooting HLG footage. SLog-3 has also been added to maximize dynamic range for users who do expect to grade their footage.
What's this ultimately mean to you? You'll be able to immediately capture high contrast footage while preserving both highlight and shadow detail, and then display this wide range of tones on a HDR display without needing to 'flatten' the output to fit into the display range of traditional monitors. It's all the benefits of HDR without all the flat-looking downsides of traditional HDR approaches.
The a7R III also gains the 1080p120 (100 in PAL mode) video capability that Sony has developed since the launch of the Mark II, along with the fast and slow-motion modes that stem from the feature. It also shoots XAVC-S Proxy, with the camera capturing both a high quality and a small, more easily editable proxy stream, simultaneously (a feature we first saw on the RX10 IV).
Pixel shift multi shooting mode
New to the a7R III is a multi-shot resolution mode that, much like the system in recent Pentax DSLRs, shoots four images and moves the sensor between each shot, so that each pixel position in the final image is captured with a red, a blue and two green pixels. This cancels out the side-effects of the Bayer color filter array, meaning that full color information is captured for every pixel. This has a noise benefit both from capturing multiple shots of the same scene, which helps average out the noise, while also reducing the additional softness and noise that usually comes from the demosaicing process.
However, unlike the system Pentax uses or the earlier, 8-shot process used by Olympus, the a7R III cannot assemble the final images in-camera. Instead four Raw files must be processed using a freely downloadable image processing application for PCs that Sony will offer. The camera must also wait between 1 and 30 seconds between shots for the sensor to settle, which is likely to exacerbate the problems of subject movement between the first and last shot.
As well as all these there are a series of smaller additions. For a start, the a7R III also gains an anti-flicker mode that monitors the strobing of artificial lights and shoots at the peak intensity, to avoid dark or inconsistently exposed photos. Unfortunately though, since sensor readout speeds aren't improved, we're not expecting any decrease in banding during full-silent shooting (e-shutter) under artificial lighting.
There are also twin USB sockets, a USB 3.1 type C connector and the microUSB port that is found on most cameras. The a7R III can be operated when charging over either of these sockets, meaning the camera can charge over a microUSB cable while also shooting tethered via USB-C.
As per the a9, the a7R Mark III has twin card slots, one of which is UHS-II compatible, while the other is the lower-bandwidth UHS-I standard.
Use of the larger NP-FZ100 battery increases the battery life by 2.2x, meaning a CIPA rating of 650 shots per charge when using the rear LCD or 530 shots per charge with the EVF. This can be increased another two-fold (or 4.4x extra life) using the optional VG-3EM battery grip, which it shares with the a9. We're eager to see how Sony fit this larger battery into a similar body size, as it's nothing short of impressive.
The a7R Mark III will be available from the last day of November at a recommended selling price of $3199.
Sony’s New Full-frame α7R III Interchangeable Lens Camera Delivers the Ultimate Combination of Resolution and Speed
Innovative Full-frame Mirrorless Model Offers 42.4 MP High-Resolution, 10 fps Continuous Shooting, Fast and Precise AF Performance in a Compact Body
- 35mm Full-Frame 42.4 MP1 Back-Illuminated Exmor R™ CMOS Image Sensor with Evolved Image Processing
- Continuous Shooting at up to 10 fps2 with either Silent Shooting or Mechanical Shutter and full Auto Focus/Auto Exposure tracking
- 399 phase-detection AF points covering 68%3 of image area, 425 contrast AF points and approximately 2 times more effective Eye AF4
- 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization with a 5.5 step5shutter speed advantage
- High Resolution 4K6 Movie Shooting with full pixel readout and no pixel binning7
- Completely redesigned for professionals, including upgraded Auto Focus, Dual SD Card Slots, Extended Battery Life, SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.1 Gen 1) USB Type-C™ Terminal and more
- Compact, Lightweight body at only 23 oz8
NEW YORK, Oct. 25, 2017 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced an impressive addition to their full-frame mirrorless camera lineup, the α7R III (model ILCE-7RM3).
Thanks to an evolutionary leap in image processing power and efficiency, the new α7R III combines a high-resolution 42.4 MP1 back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor with impressive shooting speeds at up to 10 fps2 with full AF/AE tracking, as well as beautiful image and 4K6 video quality, wide 15-stop9 dynamic range, high sensitivity with noise reduction of almost a full stop4 and more. With these immense capabilities and a compact, lightweight body, it’s an extremely versatile tool for photographers, videographers, multi-media creators and all other types of professionals that demand reliability, flexibility and versatility.
“We’re continuing to raise the bar for innovation in the imaging marketplace, in particular with our full-frame camera lineup,” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging for Sony Electronics. “As an industry, we are now entering the true digital age of imaging. The capabilities of the α7R III camera – silent shooting at 10 fps at full 42.4 MP resolution, extreme AF coverage and speed for both video and stills – exceed anything that is physically possible with a DSLR, making it an excellent symbol for this paradigm shift” He added, “It offers a level of customization, speed and stamina that will satisfy even the most demanding professionals, and ensures that they can take full advantage of this impressive tool to capture and create in ways they never could before.”
A New Level of Image Quality
The 42.4MP high-resolution, back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor utilizes a gapless on-chip lens design and AR (anti-reflective) coating on the surface of the sensor’s seal glass to dramatically improve light collection efficiency, resulting in high sensitivity with low-noise performance and wide dynamic range.
Sony’s new α7R III also features a new front-end LSI that effectively doubles4 the readout speed of the image sensor, as well as an updated BIONZ X™ processing-engine that boosts processing speed by approximately 1.8 times compared to the α7R II. These powerful components work together to allow the camera to shoot at faster speeds while also enabling its impressive ISO range of 100 - 32000 (expandable to ISO 50 – 102400 for still images) and massive 15-stop9 dynamic range at low sensitivity settings. This ensures outstanding overall performance at all settings and in all shooting conditions.
This new full-frame model was built without an optical low pass filter to maximize resolution, while also having the ability to output 14 bit RAW format even when shooting in silent or continuous mode. The camera is equipped with an innovative 5-axis optical image stabilization system that has been fine-tuned to support its high-resolution shooting capacity, resulting in a 5.5 step5 shutter speed advantage, the world’s highest10 compensation performance for an image stabilization system. There is also a new low-vibration shutter that reduces vibration and image blur in all modes, including the high speed 10 fps shooting, as well as several advancements in accurate color reproductions of skin tones.
High-Performance AF and AF/AE Tracking at up to 10 fps2
The innovative new α7R III full-frame mirrorless camera is equipped with a refined image processing system that allows it to shoot full 42.4MP images at up to 10 fps with continuous, accurate AF/AE tracking for up to 76 JPEG / RAW images or 28 uncompressed RAW images11. This high speed 10 fps mode is available with either a mechanical shutter or a completely silent shooting12, adding to the immense flexibility of the camera. The camera can also shoot continuously at up to 8 fps13 in live view mode with minimal lag in the viewfinder or LCD screen. These high speed options ensure that fast moving subjects can be captured with extreme accuracy and incredible image detail.
For added convenience, while large groups of burst images are being written to the memory card, many of the cameras key functions are operable, including access to the ‘Fn’ (Function) and ‘Menu’ buttons, image playback and several other menus and parameters14 including image rating and other functions that facilitate on-location image sorting.
Additionally, if there is fluorescent or artificial lighting present in a shooting environment, users can activate the Anti-flicker15 function to allow the α7R III to automatically detect frequency of the lighting and time the shutter to minimize its effect on images being captured. This minimizes any exposure or color anomalies that can sometimes occur at the top and bottom of images shot at high shutter speeds.
The upgraded focusing system of the α7R III is comprised of 399 focal-plane phase-detection AF points that cover approximately 68% of the image area in both the horizontal and vertical directions. There is also 425 contrast AF points, an increase of 400 points compared to the α7R II. This advanced system delivers AF acquisition in about half the time as the α7R II in low-light conditions, with tracking that is approximately 2 times more accurate as well. The acclaimed Eye AF feature is also approximately 2 times more effective, and is available when utilizing Sony’s A-mount lenses with an adapter16.
Additional improvements in focusing flexibility include AF availability in Focus Magnifier mode, focal-plane phase-detection AF support when using A-mount lenses17, an ‘AF On’ button, a multi-selector or ‘joystick’ for moving focusing points quickly, flexible touch focus functionality and much more.
High Quality 4K for the Video Professionals
The new α7R III is exceptionally capable as a video camera, offering 4K (3840x2160 pixels) video recording across the full width of the full-frame image sensor. When shooting in Super 35mm format, the camera uses full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 5K18 of information, oversampling it to produce high quality 4K footage with exceptional detail and depth.
A new HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) 19 is available on the α7R III that supports an Instant HDR workflow, allowing HDR (HLG) compatible TV’s to playback beautiful, true-to-life 4K HDR imagery. Further, both S-Log2 and S-Log3 are available for increased color grading flexibility. The camera can also record Full HD at 120 fps at up to 100 Mbps6, allowing footage to be reviewed and eventually edited into 4x or 5x slow motion20 video files in Full HD resolution with AF tracking.
Build, Design and Customization for Professionals
Sony’s newest full-frame camera is equipped with a variety of enhanced capabilities that give it a true professional operational style. These include dual media slots, with support in one slot for UHS-II type SD memory cards. Users have a variety of options for storing their content, including separate JPEG / RAW recording, separate still image / movie recording, relay recording and more. Battery life has been greatly extended as well, as the new camera utilizes Sony’s Z series battery that have approximately 2.2 times the capacity of the W series battery utilized in the α7R II.
The α7R III features an upgraded high-resolution, high-luminance Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder™ with approximately 3,686k dots for extremely accurate, true-to-life detail reproduction. The Tru-Finder, also found in the acclaimed Sony α9 camera, utilizes a ZEISS® T* Coating to greatly reduce reflections, and has a fluorine coating on the outer lens that repels dirt. It also has a customizable frame rate, with options of either 60 fps or 120 fps21 to best match the action. The LCD screen has been upgraded as well, with a resolution of 1.44M dots and WhiteMagic™ technology that improves viewing in bright, outdoor conditions. “Standard” or “High” display quality settings are also available for both the viewfinder and monitor as well. “High” takes advantage of the large amount of data read from the 42.4MP sensor to provide extra fine viewfinder and monitor displays for a more natural view. The new camera also offers a multi-selector joystick that provides a fast, efficient way to shift focus points, as well as an ‘AF ON’ button to activate autofocus when shooting stills or movies.
The new α7R III allows for convenient transfer of files to a smartphone, tablet, computer or FTP server via Wi-Fi®, while also including a sync terminal, enabling external flash units and cables to be connected directly for convenient flash sync. A SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.1 Gen 1) USB Type-C™ Terminal is also available for increased flexibility in power supply or connected accessories, as well as a faster image transfer speed when connected to a PC.
New “Imaging Edge” Software Suite and Pixel Shift Multi Shooting Mode
New with the α7R III is a software suite called “Imaging Edge” that extends the creative capabilities of the entire shooting process – from pre-processing to post-processing. “Imaging Edge” provides three PC applications called ‘Remote’, ‘Viewer’ and ‘Edit’, available for free download, which support live-view PC remote shooting and RAW development.
Also making its debut on the versatile α7R III is a new Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode, which takes full advantage of the advanced 5-axis optical in-body stabilization to create beautiful true-to-life, super-high resolution composite images. In this mode, the camera precisely shifts the sensor in 1-pixel increments to capture four separate pixel-shifted images containing a total of approximately 169.6 MP22 of image data. These four images can be composited together and processed utilizing the new “Imaging Edge” software suite. This ultimately results in a still image with overwhelming resolution and an unprecedented level of color accuracy, and is ideal for photographing architecture, art or any other still life photography subject with many intricate details and colors.
Pricing and Availability
The Sony α7R III Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Camera will ship this November for about $3,200 US and $4,000 CA. It will be sold at a variety of Sony authorized dealers throughout North America.
A variety of exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with the new α7R III camera and other Sony α products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, a site built to educate and inspire all fans and customers of the Sony α brand.
The new content will also be posted directly at the Sony Photo Gallery and the Sony Camera Channel on YouTube. Detailed information pages within Sony.com for the new products can be found at:
· (US) - α7R III Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Camera
· (CA) - α7R III Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Camera
1. Approximately, effective
2. Up to 10 fps in continuous “Hi+” mode, and up to 8 fps in continuous “Hi” mode. Maximum fps will depend on camera settings
3. Approximately 68% of the image area in both the horizontal and vertical directions
4. Compared to the a7R II, according to Sony testing
5. CIPA standards. Pitch/yaw shake only. Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens. Long exposure NR off
6. A Class 10 or higher SDHC/SDXC memory card is required for XAVC S format movie recording. UHS speed class 3 or higher is required for 100 Mbps recording
7. In Super 35mm mode.
9. Sony test conditions for still images
10. Among digital cameras with a full-frame image sensor. As of October 2017 press release, based on Sony research
11. “Hi+” continuous mode with UHS-II compatible SDXC memory card. Sony test conditions.
12. Some distortion may occur with fast-moving subjects of if the camera is moved sideways rapidly
13. “Hi” mode. Maximum fps will depend on camera setting.
14. Not all menu parameters can be edited while data is being written to the memory card
15. Only 100 Hz and 120 Hz flicker is detected. Continuous shooting speed may decrease. Flicker-free shooting is not available during silent shooting, BULB exposure, or movie recording
16. With SSM or SAM lenses only. Eye AF not supported for movie recording. AF-C can only be used when the “Phase detection” AF system is selected, but focus is fixed at the first frame during continuous shooting in any mode other than “Continuous: Lo” (Hi+, Hi, Mid).
17. With SSM or SAM lenses only. With the LA-EA3 mount adapter. Focal plane phase-detection AF not supported for movie recording. AF-C can only be used when the “Phase detection” AF system is selected, but focus is fixed at the first frame during continuous shooting in any mode other than “Continuous: Lo” (Hi+, Hi, Mid).
19. Connect this product to an HDR (HLG) compatible Sony TV via a USB cable when displaying HDR (HLG) movies
20. Sound not recorded. Class 10 or higher SDHC/SDXC memory card required
21. In NTSC. 50fps or 100fps in PAL
22. Image size after compositing is approx. 42.4 million (7952 x 5304) pixels.
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