Features

Hybrid Log Gamma

As touched upon in the previous Video Overview page, the a7R III can capture Hybrid Log Gamma footage. This is in addition to being able to shoot Log footage through the Picture Profile controls inherited from the company's pro video cameras (including S-Log3 mode, in this instance).

This is a broadcast standard developed by Japanese national broadcaster NHK and Britain's BBC, designed to display high dynamic range content. An increasing number of displays support the standard, which is intended as a simple way of creating HDR content, essentially shooting in Log but automatically presenting it however your TV can cope with it: as a normal looking image on older TVs but with greater highlight range when played back on an HLG-compatible HDR display.

HLG Mode as a hack for perfect Raw exposure

The incorporation of HLG shooting comes with an unexpected benefit - you can use it in stills mode to find an ideal exposure for your Raw files, to maximize the amount of light you can give the sensor before clipping the highlights. This is a method known as ETTR, or Expose To The Right.

Out-of-camera HLG JPEG Processed to taste from Adobe Camera Raw

It saves you from underexposing unnecessarily (thereby supplying the sensor with as much light as it can tolerate), and reduces the degree to which you'll need to pull shadows or boost exposure in post. In other words, your resulting image will contain less noise after processing.

Here's how it works:

Set one of your Picture Profiles to use 'HLG' for the gamma setting, enable Zebra highlight warnings, and set the Zebra level to 100+. Now increase your exposure until the moment you first see Zebra warnings. These settings, where you first see a hint of Zebra warnings, is your optimal Raw file exposure - it will be the brightest possible, but counterintuitively (since you're seeing the warnings), all highlights you want to capture won't be clipped.

This may not result in the ideal JPEG but it should be of particular value for landscape shooters wanting to capture high dynamic scenes, as it allows you to forego exposure bracketing. We're hopeful that this sort of method may point to the possibility of Raw histogram displays in the future, as opposed to the JPEG only histogram displays currently available.

Multi-Shot Mode

Like several other recent cameras, the a7R III offers multi-shot mode that uses the image stabilization system to move the sensor by one pixel between each of four exposures. This means that every pixel position is captured by a red, a blue and two green pixels, making it possible to render the scene in full color without undergoing the demosaicing step normally required. It's an idea that stretches back to 2007's Hasselblad H3DII 39MS.

The benefits are exactly as you would expect: a significant improvement in sharpness, since the camera isn't lowering resolution by deriving color information from neighboring pixels. There's also a slight noise benefit that comes from avoiding the calculations involved in demosaicing. Then there's the significant noise benefit that comes from combining four exposures of the same scene (and, since it's a noise advantage, it effectively increases dynamic range).

In terms of usability, though, the Sony implementation has several disadvantages, relative to the systems implemented by its rivals. Unlike the systems offered by Olympus, Ricoh and Panasonic, the a7R III cannot assemble the images in-camera, instead requiring the use of PC-based software. This isn't a major concern, since you're likely to want the levels of control that Raw processing gives you, if you're going to these lengths.

Secondly, and unlike the most directly comparable example in Ricoh's Pentax K-1, the Sony makes no attempt at correcting for motion, so you'll need to manually paint-in detail from one of the individual Raw files anywhere that there's any movement in the scene. This can even show up as (very) slight cross-hatching in clouds.

Thirdly, it's the only system that demands a pause between each image being taken. This delay (with a choice of intervals between 1 and 30 seconds), means that there are at least three seconds of additional movement in the images, relative to the Ricoh implementation. This is a significant disadvantage, in terms of what you can use the mode for, impressive though the quality can be.

As final considerations, Sony claims this mode can work with strobes, but with 1/13 sec being the fastest possible sync speed due to the electronic shutter. . And because of the nature of how the system samples pixels, any green and purple fringing that might be present on high-contrast edges is greatly exaggerated.

Connectivity

The a7R III comes with Wi-Fi with NFC and Bluetooth connectivity for pairing with compatible smartphones and Sony's PlayMemories app. In practice, it works very well - though the connection process can be a bit cumbersome at first with an iPhone, NFC works wonderfully for quick pairing with Android devices.

The Sony PlayMemories app as seen on Android, in Camera Control mode.

In fact, with zero set up at all (besides downloading the app), you can tap your Android phone to the a7R III when it's in playback mode, and the two will connect, transfer the image that was displayed at the time of pairing, and then the two will disconnect again. It's pretty slick.

Other functions include full camera control with a live preview, the ability to download images in batches or by date range, and location tagging of your images.

And that's it

While the a7R III has some interesting features, one that it doesn't have is the ability to add any more. The previous generation camera could run 'PlayMemories Camera Apps' downloaded from Sony. Some of these, such as the Timelapse app added functions that were useful even for the highest quality photography. These are no longer an option.