Sony a7 III Review
Body and controls
The a7 III has gained some weight and width compared to the older a7 II, but it's still a compact camera, especially considering it has a full-frame 35mm sensor inside. It's also gained most of the ergonomic and controls revisions that we first saw on the a7R III, with a few exceptions.
Here are the main considerations regarding the a7 III's body, design and controls.
- The a7 III's bigger grip is more comfortable compared to previous-generation a7-series cameras
- The larger battery provides all-day shooting stamina
- Front and rear dials, and the rear jog dial, are more pronounced and easy to use
- Some buttons, especially the new AF-ON and AEL buttons could be bigger and offer more feedback
- Dual card slots, (although only one is rated for faster UHS-II memory cards)
- Viewfinder is same resolution as predecessor, looking a little low-res
- Reduced maximum screen brightness compared to predecessor
- Auto ISO implementation is industry best-practice
- Customization options can be daunting, but are incredibly useful
|Sony a7 II left, a7 III right.|
Improvements compared to the a7 II
Like the a7R III, the a7 III's deeper grip allows for a more comfortable handling while also making room for the larger battery. That larger battery offers 2.2 times the stamina of previous models, and will easily last you a day of heavy shooting. Dual card slots hide behind a latching door, with one of the slots supporting higher-speed UHS-II class cards, and the movie record button is in a more sensible spot. And just like the Sony a9 and a7R III, when you flip out the rear screen to shoot from the hip, the eye-sensor for the viewfinder is disabled, so you don't accidentally trip it and miss a shot.
There are now dedicated AF-On and AEL buttons instead of a toggle, though the buttons are a little too mushy for our tastes, and a joystick allows control over the position of the autofocus point. The front and rear control dials and the rear jog dial are all far more pronounced, and there's an extra custom button that defaults to rating or 'protecting' images in playback mode.
In other words, the control layout will be a little more familiar to users of midrange or high-end DSLRs than previous Sony a7-series cameras; for us, the autofocus joystick is one of the most important and useful additions to the camera.
What needs work
But of course, the a7 III is the 'basic' model, and so it couldn't include everything we love about its more expensive sibling the a7R III.
|The 2.4M dot OLED viewfinder on the a7 III is lower-resolution than the 3.68M dot one on the a7R III and a9.|
One gripe concerns the electronic viewfinder. While perfectly serviceable, it doesn't get the resolution bump of the a7R III, but the magnification has been increased through the use of new optics. While this does, predictably, make the viewfinder appear bigger, it also makes the image look more pixellated and if you move your eye around slightly to see the edges of the frame, you might also notice some optical distortions as well.
Touchscreen functionality still lags behind the competition.
Another gripe is that when using the AF joystick to move your AF area around, the area remains a dull gray color, and it can be very hard to see in both bright and dark shooting conditions. We wish it would light up orange, like it does when you drag it around using the touchscreen.
Speaking of the touchscreen, the a7 III's screen can't get as bright as that on the a7 II; instead of the RGBW (red, green, blue, white) dots on the previous model, the new camera makes do with only RGB, losing the white dots that add brightness for better use in bright lighting conditions. Additionally, the touchscreen functionality still lags behind the competition – literally. It's still laggy, and can only be used for autofocus control, not menu navigation or playback.
The remaining omissions are more trivial and less concerning; there is no flash sync port on the side of the a7 III, and the mode dial doesn't lock, though some on the DPReview team prefer this.
Notes on customization
Beginning with their professional sports-oriented a9, Sony has made some serious strides in the customization of its cameras, and the a7 III is no exception.
|These are just some of the options that you can enable - or disable - with a single button press on the a7 III.|
A total of 13 buttons on the camera can be customized, and each can have a different assigned function depending on whether you're shooting video or stills (playback has separate options too, but button choices are more limited). But our favorite options remain the three 'Recall Custom Hold' banks, which allow you to adapt to changing scenarios at a single button press.
The a7 III, like other recent Sony cameras, can take some serious time to set up to your liking, but it's absolutely worth it to do so.
As an example, you might be in aperture priority with single autofocus activated by the shutter button. But you can assign the AF-On button to switch to continuous autofocus, change the camera into shutter speed priority and then up the shutter speed and ISO value to quickly capture a moving subject - and when you release the button, it will revert to the same aperture priority mode it was in before you pressed it.
It's the same functionality that debuted on the Sony a9, as demonstrated in the video below.
You can also assign a number of buttons as toggles; in video, you can have Zebra warnings or Super 35mm crop modes toggle on or off at the touch of a button, for example. The a7 III, like other recent Sony cameras, can take some serious time to set up to your liking, but it's absolutely worth it to do so.
Sony's Auto ISO implementation represents current industry best-practice; with a reliable auto ISO system, you have one less exposure parameter to worry about for general shooting, and you can focus more on the photos you're taking.
On the Sony a7 III, you can specify both the minimum and maximum ISO values you want the camera to use, as well as a minimum shutter speed threshold. But for those using zoom lenses, you can also leave the minimum shutter speed set to 'Auto,' with options to bias it faster or slower than 1/(focal length). You can also assign the ISO range and minimum shutter speed to custom buttons, for easy changes on the fly. This allows you to adapt quickly based on, for example, subject movement - from taking an action photo of a sprinter at 1/1000 sec, to taking a quick portrait at 1/125 sec.
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