I was part of a small pool of press who received an a7R III for an afternoon and evening of shooting. What follows are my thoughts - an early review of the a7R III and the Sony 24-105 f/4 OSS G Lens.
The Sony a7R II was a warning shot to Canon and Nikon to stop underestimating mirrorless. The a7R II took the lessons learned with the original a7R and provided a high megapixel camera (42.4MP) with enough autofocusing power to easily work with many Canon lenses while offering the best dynamic range in its class, a stabilized sensor, and beautiful 4k video (not cropped)! The result is that over the last two years we have seen Canon and Nikon sales stagnate while Sony has moved into 2nd place, past Nikon. Though the a7R II sold well (and
) and did entice a noticeable portion of photographers away from their DSLRs, the A7R II was not perfect. It had several drawbacks - poor battery life, a single SD card slot, just 5fps paired with a small buffer that, when full, greatly reduces camera functionality and, with the sacrifices made for the smaller body, a less desirable in-hand feel which lacked a dedicated focus point selector. The menu was a mess too. And, a few more issues that caused pro photographers concern, not directly related to the camera, too many Sony repair center horror stories and a lack of native Sony glass. I can't offer a critique of the repair department at this time except to say that Sony has recently added
and clearly sees this as a priority. And, during the two years since the A7R II was released, Sony has released over a dozen lenses and now offers high-quality glass from wide to telephoto. Though, they are still missing some longer telephoto options and don't have much 3rd party support there either.
Hands-on with the Sony a7R III
https://youtu.be/FXejdcGKNIYThe AF improvements are huge! The a7R II AF does well but it wasn't something I would want to use to photograph any action or sports. Now, with the speed improvements in the a7R III, Sony states the AF is twice as fast as the previous model. This coupled with a greatly improved eye-AF system results in an incredibly capable camera that makes nailing focus easy. Again and again, I watched it accurately track erratically moving dancers and the eye-af worked great for nailing portraits of still or moving subjects - as long as an eye was somewhat visible. No, it wasn't perfect - I saw AF confusion a few times but overall the AF hit rate was much higher than a comparably priced DSLRs AND the eye-AF made it easy- I don't even need to move the focus point near the eye - the camera just finds it and locks on. The Sony A7R III is now a camera capable of handling real action.
Walking portraits - with eye-af focus was idiot proof and easily locked onto and tracked the eye closest to you.
Improved Ergonomics and Usability
The dedicated joystick (focus point selector) for selecting AF point and a touch to AF LCD screen make this camera MUCH more user-friendly. Along with a dedicated AF-on button as well as an AEL button (that I recommend you assign Eye-AF) greatly increase the usability of this camera. Overall, the ergonomics of this camera are improved, including the location of the record button. However, if you don't like the small grip size or feel that the space between grip and lens is tight on the a7R II or a9, you will still be disappointed as the a7R III is virtually identical to the a9 and feels the same in my hands. One item I noticed - the customizability of many buttons has been further improved with a huge list of assignable functions.Dual Card Slots! SD, not XQD. One is UHS-II, and I recommend Sony 64GB SF-G Series UHS-II SDXC. You can set the cards up to record RAW to one and JPEG to the other or stills to one and video to the other or simultaneous write (backup) or relay - as one card fills, it switches seamlessly to the other.Battery life has more than doubled from the Sony a7R II. The Sony a7R III uses the new A9 battery, the Sony NP-FZ100, which more than doubles battery life.I shot 1845 photos with the a7R III and 20 minutes of video - that used less than 50% of the battery! And, almost this entire time when I wasn't taking photos, I was playing with the menu and connecting to wifi. We should also see a serious improvement in cold weather performance (I will be testing the A7R III in Alaska in early December). Sony has also added a USB-C 3.1 port and the standard micro USB which means additional charging options while shooting, tethering or connected to a remote trigger or intervalometer. You can also use the a9 battery grip with the a7R III.The 10 FPS makes this a much more versatile camera making it capable of handling sports and action. Having the same speed silently with the electronic shutter is also impressive, though limited, as I do see some rolling shutter issues with moving subjects - this sensor cannot be read-off as fast as the a9 (which exhibits no rolling shutter in silent mode). The buffer and write speed to the card has been improved. In general, this is a much more responsive camera than the a7R II but, when you do fill that buffer up with uncompressed RAWS and shooting simultaneously to two cards, you will be waiting some time. I have only tested with two SD cards so will be reporting on this in more detail in my detailed review.
10fps of a spinning dancer
The viewfinder upgrade, now like the a9, is larger with a higher resolution screen and is bright and beautiful. It is a welcomed improvement.Image and video quality do not look drastically different from the already excellent a7R II. I will be testing more with side by side comparisons against the a7R II, Canon 5D Mark IV and Nikon D850 in the near future.The menu is still a bit of a mess, but borrowing from the a6500 and a9 systems it is now color-coded, with more helpful icons and a "my menu" section where you can place your frequently used items.No access to the play memories store - so timelapse fans will need to buy an intervalometer. BUT with the additional USB-C port you can charge the camera while running longer time-lapses. All other apps you may have used on the Sony a7R II or other models is not available in the a7R II. I do not know why they have made this choice.
Should You Buy the Sony a7R III?
I have spent only one day with the camera, but based on my experience, if you have been waiting for a Sony camera that can truly replace your DSLR or you are an a7r or a7ii shooter, this is a camera I can happily recommend. Should a7R II users consider upgrading? I have decided to upgrade based on the increased AF and usability of this camera. I love the a7R II image quality and for landscape or general travel it has been a fantastic camera but anytime I found myself shooting portraits or action (wildlife in Tanzania last year) I was frustrated with the usability of the camera - slow to move focus point, slow to respond after shooting a burst. The upgrades the camera provides in this area are enough for me to make the move. Pair the new Sony a7R III with the new 24-105 f/4 G OSS lens and you have a fantastically versatile camera.Videographers should you buy the Sony a7R III? - No, you should wait and see what the A7S III will bring - hopefully 4k at 60fps.Should you buy the a7R II or the a7R III - With only a slight difference in image quality it comes down to speed and useablity. Do you need the increased speed of AF and do you want a camera that is the more DSLR like in its control and operation? The existing Sony a7R II is still a fantastic camera and an excellent value.I love answering your questions and will be back with more hands-on and answers to your questions in the next couple of weeks. Be sure to watch the linked video and leave your question in the comments.
A FEW RAW FILES FROM THE SONY A7R IIISAMPLE IMAGES