Sony a7R Mark III review
At its core, the a7R III can be seen as a mashup of the best parts of its predecessor, the a7R II, and Sony's sports-shooting flagship a9. As with Nikon's D850 for DSLR users, the a7R III has the potential to be a 'Goldilocks' camera for those looking at mirrorless solutions. You get tons of resolution, great burst speeds, capable autofocus and impressive video.
In other words, there's an awful lot to like about the a7R III. Sony's clearly been listening to its users (and reviewers) and taken feedback to heart. But, for all the ways the a7R III impresses us, we still have the occasional quibble - no camera is perfect. Let's find out exactly how the a7R III stacks up.
Body, controls and features
At first glance, the a7R III looks pretty familiar - but spend any time with it, and you'll quickly find that all of the ergonomic refinements bestowed upon the a7R III make it far more enjoyable and engaging to use than its predecessor.
For starters, you get an AF joystick for placing your AF area, a dedicated AF-ON button, a chunkier rear dial and a deeper grip. Menus have gotten a refresh, and while they're still complex, they're far easier to navigate than before. The a7R III is almost infinitely customizable, whether you're looking for button assignments or memory banks that hold almost a complete set of camera options. This means that it takes a long time to get the camera set up to how you truly like it, but it is entirely worth it, and allows the a7R III to respond more quickly to changing situations than many mirrorless rivals.
|From top, a7R III, a9, a7R II.|
The bigger grip is a double blessing, as it hides a battery that has 2.2 times the capacity than its predecessor. The real-world impact of this is incredible: say goodbye to battery anxiety. A single battery should easily handle a day of heavy shooting, and though a spare is always recommended in demanding situations, we don't feel you need to fill your pockets with them for the a7R III.
Sony's touchscreen implementations have historically left us disappointed, but the a7R III takes a step in the right direction. It's more responsive than previous cameras, and the touchscreen customization options are extensive. It's still not as fluid an experience as you'll get on any of Panasonic's Lumix cameras, but it feels much less 'tacked-on' than before.
The dual card slots are a big deal for professionals, but they need a little refinement. You have to manually select which card you want to use for playback, for example, and only one slot is rated to work with UHS-II cards: meaning if you're using the second slot for backup, your write speeds can slow significantly. While the buffer is clearing, the camera is mostly operable, with the main exception being that you can't switch into video mode - this is a potential hurdle for wedding and event shooters that need to quickly capture video and stills of a single moment.
The a7R III gains a pixel shift mode, in which the camera takes four images, shifting the sensor by one pixel for each; the resulting files must be combined after the fact using PC-based software. Hybrid Log Gamma will make it easier to shoot video for HDR displays, and wireless connectivity is a strong point, though the a7R III still lacks in-camera Raw conversion. Additionally, the ability to add features via Sony's PlayMemories apps has been removed, including the Time-Lapse app - and since there is no built-in intervalometer on the a7R III, you'll need to purchase an external accessory if that's a feature you require.
|Processed to taste using a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw and the Camera Standard profile.
Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM @ 100mm | ISO 100 | 1/640 sec | F5
Photo by Carey Rose
The a7R III has the same 399-point phase detection autofocus system as the a7R II, though Sony is claiming increased speed and tracking performance thanks to new algorithms and better processing. This is a good thing, since the a7R III can shoot images twice as fast as its predecessor, and the AF system has to keep up.
If you use the AF joystick or Touchpad AF on the touchscreen to place your AF area manually, you'll be rewarded with an incredibly high hit rate, and incredible accuracy to boot. Unlike DSLR rivals, you won't need to calibrate your lenses to realize the full potential of the a7R III's 42.4MP of resolution. This is an absolute relief, and is just one less thing to worry about when you're out taking pictures.
Unfortunately, Lock-On AF is still problematic. We've experienced plenty of successes with it, but also plenty of failures. The bottom line is that it can be a great option for casual shooting, but for critical moments, steer clear. On the other hand, Sony's Eye AF is just magical. Mash the Eye AF button, motor away at 10 fps, and bask in the glory of perfectly focused shots of whatever subject you're photographing - a formal portrait, an erratic toddler, or even a furry friend (yes, we've seen it works on at least some dog breeds). Eye AF also works really well with adapted lenses, albeit at a max burst speed of 3fps.
|Out of camera JPEG, cropped to taste.
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM @ 70mm | ISO 1600 | 1/1000 sec | F2.8
Photo by Richard Butler
Thanks to the customization possibilities on the a7R III, you can easily map a variety of different autofocus modes - plus autofocus activation - to different buttons. This means you can have access to Lock-On for casual shooting, a flexible spot for crucial moments, Wide Area for when you just want the camera to do the work for you, and Eye AF for family and friends. Like the rest of the camera, the autofocus system on the a7R III can be overwhelming at first and takes some time to set up to your liking, but on the whole, it's supremely capable.
|Processed to taste using a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw and the Camera Standard profile.
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G @ 68mm | ISO 100 | 1/200 sec | F7.1
Photo by Dan Bracaglia
Since the a7R III uses the same 42.4MP sensor as the previous model, you can expect broadly similar (read: very good) performance in Raw. There's a slight improvement in noise at the highest ISO values thanks to some refined processing, and generally, detail levels are very good. Impressively, dynamic range is measurably improved, very nearly matching even the D850 at its base ISO of 64.
However, the JPEG engine is where Sony has been concentrating most of their efforts. Color is noticeably improved, particularly with skin tones, and most of the time, we found the auto white balance to do a good job - though you'll still want to dial it in manually in abundantly warm scenes, such as portraits at sunset. Sharpening is very good indeed, pulling out an impressive amount of detail, at the risk of some textures looking too sharp - we've seen this can be problematic in slightly out-of-focus areas of our images out in the real world. High ISO noise reduction is generally great.
|Out of camera JPEG.
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G @ 105mm | ISO 500 | 1/200 sec | F5.6
Photo by Dan Bracaglia
The Pixel Shift feature Sony's added to the a7R III can add impressive sharpness to a camera that's already capable of very detailed output. Everything gains a bit of 'crispness,' and there should be a reasonable improvement in noise and dynamic range as well. Unfortunately, Sony's current software doesn't provide any motion correction whatsoever - so for movement of any kind, you'll need to manually 'paint in' information from one of the single Raw shots. It's irksome enough that even slight movements in clouds can cause wonky looking cross-hatching. So there's promise here, but it needs improvement.
The a7R III is an extremely capable video camera, as well as stills. It offers 4K and 1080p capture from both the full width of the sensor, and with a Super 35 (basically APS-C) crop. The 4K footage is slightly better using that crop, as it's oversampling using a 5K region of the sensor, but both modes look good to our eyes. There's the option for recording 1080/120p footage that the camera can play back at either 24p or 30p, resulting in nice slow motion footage right out of the camera.
The in-body image stabilization does a reasonable job smoothing out some camera shake, but it isn't as smooth as some competitors, which are now using a combination of digital stabilization alongside physical. There is, though, a full suite of capture aids including Log profiles, Hybrid Log Gamma (which makes for easy log shooting for HDR displays), gamma display assist, Zebra warnings and focus peaking.
We've found that it's best to program your shooting settings into one of the custom memory banks on the mode dial for switching between stills and video shooting, as simply switching between the PASM modes and the Movie mode on the dial will carry over settings between them - not so handy if you're freezing motion with 1/500 sec shutter speed for stills, but need 1/50 sec for shooting video.
Lastly, autofocus in video is quite good - there is no subject tracking when shooting 4K, but using the 'Wide' AF area and letting the camera decide what to focus on works really well for run-and-gun shooting, and in this mode, you can tap to initiate 'Spot Focus' which allows for smooth focus racks. In 'Flexible Spot' mode, you can tap the screen to move a specified focus area wherever you choose.
The final word
|Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw using the Adobe Standard profile.
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G @ 105mm | ISO 4000 | 1/1000 sec | F4
Photo by Richard Butler
The sheer capability of the Sony a7R III is hard to overstate. With the sports-oriented a9, Sony was aiming for outright speed; the a7R III has inherited much of that, but offers far more resolution and dynamic range. Like the Nikon D850, the a7R III is a camera that you can shoot just about anything with, from landscapes to fast action.
There is a vast number of small improvements and refinements in the a7R III. From the ergonomics to the better organized menus, this is the most usable and engaging a7-series camera yet. The on-sensor autofocus system needs some work in terms of subject tracking, but in other autofocus modes, the a7R III makes it dead easy to get the most out of the 42.4MP of resolution it offers. Never before has shooting such high resolution files been so fun, or so painless.
The a7R III still can't quite match the feeling of immediacy that comes with using a high-end DSLR; the card write speeds can get in your way, and the learning curve for new users can be steep. But the fact remains that the a7R III is capable of gorgeous still images and video, and has the feel of an impressively polished product. In our opinion, this is easily Sony's best camera yet, and one of the best cameras we've ever tested. It's the most well-rounded mirrorless camera on the market today, and for that, it earns our highest award.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system
and what these numbers mean.
Sony Alpha a7R III
Category: Semi-professional Full Frame Camera
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
It's fair to say that the Sony a7R III is a great option for an incredibly wide variety of photographers. Offering great image quality, fast burst shooting speeds, high quality 4K video and a reasonably compact package, it's an incredibly well-rounded offering. The endless customization options can be daunting at first, but in the end, it's a camera equally at home capturing fast action one moment, and expansive landscapes the next.
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