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Landscapes

Stitched pixel shift panorama.
Photo by Rishi Sanyal

The a7R III's wide variety of enhancements make it, on the whole, a very compelling landscape camera. First of all, the 42.4MP sensor it shares with its predecessor still offers a healthy quantity of pixels for large prints, while offering expansive dynamic range at its base ISO value of 100.

Another consideration for hardcore landscape shooters is likely to be portability. Sure, one can put up with a big, bulky body in the name of image quality, but with the compact a7R III, it seems you don't need to. One possible trade-off is that Sony's highest quality lenses are similarly sized to those of DSLR rivals, partially negating the size advantage.

The increased battery size means that you can bring fewer batteries with you, while in-camera USB charging means you can charge off of a USB power pack off-the-grid if necessary. The increased endurance would be great for shooting time lapses, but unfortunately, the a7R III lacks any such option - you'll need to bring an external controller for that.

Processed to taste using a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw and the Camera Neutral profile.
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G @ 57mm | ISO 320 | 1/250 sec | F8
Photo by Carey Rose

Weather sealing is also an important consideration for those working in harsh environments and inclement weather. Sony claims that the camera is weather sealed, but obviously, is not water proof. While we do not subject our cameras to torture tests, anecdotally, the gaskets surrounding the battery, card and port doors are far less substantial than we've seen on competing high-end DSLRs and mirrorless options. Additionally, button travel and dial-feel may be problematic for those needing to wear gloves while shooting.

By using the Hybrid Log Gamma option that's intended for video shooting, you can actually identify the ideal Raw exposure for images with high dynamic range - it's quite a handy 'hack,' and you can read more about it works on our features page. If you find yourself shooting static scenes often, Sony's new high-resolution pixel shift mode may be of value. The camera takes four images a minimum of one second apart, shifting the sensor by one pixel each time. They have to be combined on a computer using Sony's proprietary software, but we've already seen some of the potential benefits.

If you're an astrophotography enthusiast, you may have heard of the infamous 'Star Eater' noise reduction on the a7R II; basically, baked-in noise reduction in the Raw files at certain exposures can unintentionally remove smaller stars from the scene. There's some good news, though - it's not completely absent in the a7R III, but it is improved. We've got an in-depth look at it here.

Weddings and Events

Processed and cropped to taste in a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw using the Adobe Standard profile.
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G @ 105mm | ISO 2000 | 1/1000 sec | F4
Photo by Richard Butler

Weddings and events are demanding photography subsets for both camera and photographer. They involve subjects that are both moving and static, and require reflexes and responsiveness as well as careful planning. These situations have long been the realm of DSLRs, but mirrorless cameras have been making appreciable inroads for some time now.

The autofocus feature set and performance of the a7R III is highly impressive in most respects. Continuous AF performance using a zone or a chosen point (which you can move quickly with the joystick and rear screen) is near-instant. Single AF speed is more lens dependent, as the camera will go through a contrast-detect hunt to ensure pinpoint focus before giving you confirmation.

Eye AF has been measurably improved in the
a7R III relative to its predecessor, and is incredibly handy for staged and candid portraits.

Eye AF has been measurably improved in the a7R III relative to its predecessor, and is incredibly handy for both staged and candid portraits - and in our experience, works well even at the camera's highest burst rate of 10fps. Similar to most high-end DSLRs, the a7R III also allows you to customize three completely different sets of AF parameters to three separate buttons, while a fourth can be customized to Eye AF - these all allow you to quickly react to changing situations, given you've invested the time to set it all up.

One gripe we have is that Lock On AF, a form of subject tracking where you tell the camera your intended subject and let it do the tracking, is too unreliable to recommend using for critical moments. Wide AF does a reasonably good job of identifying subjects quickly and following them, but to be sure you've got focus where you wanted it, it's best to place an AF point over your subject yourself. And speaking of placing your AF point, it can be very difficult to see both for placement and during bursts. If you use Touchpad AF to move your point, it lights up orange, but does not when using the joystick. We hope this is fixed in a future firmware update.

Out of camera JPEG, cropped to taste.
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G @ 51mm | ISO 500 | 1/250 sec | F4
Photo by Richard Butler

The redesigned shutter mechanism on the a7R III gives you 8 fps with a 'live view' frame between shots, and 10 fps with a slideshow showing you the previously captured frame. Both work well, and are more than fast enough for all-important moments like the bouquet toss. That these both use a mechanical shutter means the a7R III can fire strobes at up to 10fps as well, but Sony's own on-camera flashes lack any sort of infrared AF assist beam, which allows competitors' cameras to focus even more ably in lower light conditions.

For users interested in a hybrid solution for both stills and video, the a7R III is a pretty good bet. Button functions can be customized depending on which shooting mode you're in, though the function menu only allows one bank of options. For users switching between the PASM and Movie modes on the mode dial, be aware that your exposure settings carry over between them - a problem if you're shooting the dance floor at 1/200 sec, but want 1/50 sec for some 24P video.

However, if you take the time to set up the custom '1, 2, 3' memory banks on the mode dial, you can designate an enormous amount of parameters, including your shooting mode (PASM, Movie, Auto, S&Q, etc.), your exposure options such as shutter speed and aperture, and more. It's an extra setup step for sure, but it's well worth it.

Formal Portraits

Out of camera JPEG.
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G @ 80mm | ISO 1000 | 1/160 sec | F4
Photo by Richard Butler

Formal portraiture, whether on-location or in the studio, often relies on absolutely critical focus - and it's here that the a7R III really shines.

With a total of 399 phase detection points, you can line up your composition and be fairly certain you can place an AF point where you want it. Plus, all of those points are on-sensor. This means focus is being taken from the image plane, so you can be all but certain focus will be accurate, and without any need to calibrate your lenses. We've seen this can be a problem with DSLR autofocus systems at resolutions this high.

If you're working with a single subject, the camera goes one-step further to make your life easier with Eye AF. Sony's improved this feature with each successive camera iteration, and the a7R III can comfortably follow an eye across the frame, with erratic movement, at 10fps, with 42.4MP of resolution. That's unprecedented. Plus, if you're utilizing Flexible Spot as an underlying AF mode, you can place that AF area over one of multiple subjects in your scene before you initiate Eye AF to indicate that the a7R III should track the eye of that particular subject out of all the rest.

Processed to taste using a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw.
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G @ 105mm | ISO 800 | 1/500 sec | F4
Photo by Richard Butler

As with weddings and events, shooting at 8 or 10fps with the newly designed mechanical shutter will allow you to capture just the right expression, even if you're working with strobes. The flash sync port adds an additional component of flexibility for someone working within an established studio setup, and the fact that you can use the two different USB ports for power and tethered shooting, respectively, is a nice touch.

Sports and action

Processed and cropped to taste using a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw.
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | ISO 100 | 1/5000 sec | F2.8
Photo by Rishi Sanyal

The a7R III is one of very few cameras we've seen to really bridge the gap between high resolution and high speed. Sure, Sony's own sports-focused a9 shoots faster bursts at 20fps, but comes with less resolution and far less dynamic range as well.

The a7R III's burst speeds come in at 8fps with 'live view' (a single live frame and fade-out inserted between shutter actuations) and 10fps with a slideshow of the most recent image captured. Some users will still find it's easier to follow the action with a dedicated sports camera like the a9 (no blackout) or Canon EOS-1D X II (very short blackout), but the a7R III's performance is likely to be more than satisfactory for most.

Unfortunately, the a7R III must finish writing images to the card before you can switch to any of its video modes.

Like the a9, the a7R III allows you to change exposure settings, utilize the function menu and enter playback while it's still writing images to the memory card. Unfortunately, if you're a hybrid stills / video action shooter, the a7R III must finish writing images to the card before you can switch to any of its video modes, including the slow-motion features offered in S&Q, and you also cannot enter the menus. Unlike mid-to-high level DSLR models, the a7R III still doesn't give you the sense that 'the camera is waiting for you' - but it's getting closer.

While the a7R III has dual card slots, only one is of the faster UHS-II type; if you're using the second card for backup, or if you're overflowing after your first card has been filled, write speeds slow down significantly. Compounding that, even with a fast UHS-II card in the right slot, write speeds pale in comparison to the CFast and XQD options from competing models. On the plus side, if you don't have a card reader handy, the included USB-C port will make for relatively speedy downloads directly from the camera.

Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw using the Camera Standard preset.
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G @ 105mm | ISO 125 | 1/1250 sec | F4.5
Photo by Carey Rose

As we've covered in our Weddings and Events section, autofocus options are incredibly versatile and customizable on the a7R III, and control updates like the AF joystick and touchpad AF make it faster to move your AF point around the frame. Unfortunately, the a7R III is a significant step down from the a9 in terms of Lock-On AF performance; when it works, it works very well indeed, but its performance is too inconsistent to recommend if you absolutely have to get the shot. Lastly, your chosen autofocus point can be incredibly difficult to see, whether you're shooting in bright light or in the dark.

For decisive moments outside the sporting arena, the a7R III makes for a great (if expensive) option for capturing the right expression on, say, an animated toddler using Eye AF, or other situations involving candid portraiture.

Travel

Processed and cropped to taste in a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw using the Camera Deep profile.
Sony FE 55mm F1.8 Zeiss | ISO 100 | 1/500 sec | F4.5
Photo by Carey Rose

As we've previously highlighted, this is always a difficult use case to consider. Some folks are happy to bring a double-grip DSLR with them on a casual trip, others want a 1"-sensor compact. Nevertheless, let's take a look at a cross-section of the a7R III in terms of features that we are confident will be of importance to the vast majority of traveling photography enthusiasts.

First off - the a7R III, along with the rest of Sony's a7 series, are the smallest full frame interchangeable lens cameras on the market (Sony's own RX1R II is the smallest fixed lens full frame camera currently out there). And while it's true that Sony's highest-end G master lenses aren't always appreciably smaller than their DSLR-system counterparts, the company does offer usefully compact lenses as well, such as the 12-24mm F4 G, 28mm F2 and 85mm F1.8. As a bonus, all three of those are more than sharp enough to handle the a7R III's 42.4 MP.

Out of camera JPEG.
Sony FE 85mm F1.8 | ISO 3200 | 30 seconds | F4
Photo by Carey Rose

In-camera charging, as well as the higher-capacity battery, will both be welcome enhancements for wandering world travelers. The built-in Wi-Fi with NFC works very well, and allows for quick and easy uploads to social media. If you're hoping to travel without a laptop or tablet, dual card slots will let you keep a running backup of your images, but a lack of in-camera Raw processing means you'll want to get your images as close to perfect as you can at the time of capture.

Video

The a7R III shoots seriously impressive video but it's not always the easiest camera to shoot it with, requiring a fair degree of learning, configuration and setup to gain access to its full capabilities. Users of all experience levels are likely to immediately appreciate the relocation of the [REC] button to somewhere you can actually reach.

For video beginners, autofocus works pretty well. If Tracking Sensitivity is set to 'Standard' the camera will tend to stay focused at the same distance if there's a sudden change in focus distance, decreasing the risk of abrupt focus hunts. This is especially valuable in Face Priority mode (one of the only ways of specifying a subject), where the camera won't hunt wildly just because your subject looks away.

The ability to configure custom buttons in video mode is hugely useful.

Steadyshot stabilization works reasonably well but can't match the rock-steady effect of cameras that offer digital and physical stabilization. The camera's habit of jumping to Super 35 mode is likely to be especially unwelcome for beginners, so we'd suggest setting "APS-C/Super 35" to Manual, rather than Auto. Hybrid Log Gamma offers a means of shooting for HDR displays without having to do too much extra work.

More experienced videographers will quickly find themselves more at home. The feature set: Focus Peaking, Zebra warnings, Log profiles with Gamma Display Assist to correct the preview is a pretty powerful one. The ability to configure custom buttons in video mode is hugely useful, letting you set buttons to punch-in to check focus while recording, or to swap between Super 35 and Full Frame modes.

Even the most experienced manual focus operator may find it worthwhile to experiment with the Spot Focus mode, given how easy it makes it to perform smooth, consistent focus pulls.

Most importantly, the camera's footage is really good, making whatever level of effort you're able to put into camera setup worthwhile.