Sony a7R III - Early Review vs a7R II

B&H Photo is including a free FAST SD Card with preorder! 

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

continues to sell well

) 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

Pro level repair centers in New York and LA

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 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

Sony A7RII Focus Point Selector

Sony A7RII Focus Point Selector

Custom buttons on the a7R III

Custom buttons on the a7R III

Sony a7R III Dual Card Slots

Sony a7R III Dual Card Slots

Sony a7R III Battery - Doubles Battery Life

Sony a7R III Battery - Doubles Battery Life

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

Upgraded a7R III Menu - now color coded

Upgraded a7R III Menu - now color coded


 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.

Preorder the a7R III from B&H Photo 


Matt Granger Quits Using Sony

In short he has had a series of pretty terrible repair & support issues which for a pro photographer can be an absolute deal breaker.  Now Matt is in Australia, I have heard from US Sony users that support is much better here but it is something I mentioned in my review of the Sony A7RII.  You can hear all of Matt's thoughts in the video below.

4.5 Reasons why the Sony A7R II is not ready for Wedding Photography What about the ONE card slot? Scroll down. 4.5 Reasons why the Sony is not ready for Wedding PhotographyOverall I love this camera but the thought of using it as a primary wedding camera is not something I can recommend.

  1. File size - Compressed Raw files are 40-60MBs. With the 2.0 firmware update coming in a few days this is going to grow significantly. With no option for small or medium format Raw files you end up with huge amounts of data. It would be nice to have a medium Raw option, that would quickly solve this issue.
  2. Speed - Buffer clearing can be slow, even with the fastest of SD cards. Shoot a quick burst of photos and you will be frustrated waiting to review those images.slow buffer clearing a7RII
  3. Focus point control.  The Sony A7R II Offers some awesome focus features - eye-detect, face recognition - they work and they work fairly well in many situations but there are still times at a wedding where you need to pick your focus point and you need to do so quickly and efficiently and the pad on the back and the dual dial setup is not efficient.  After two months of almost continuous use I still find it slow and cumbersome.
  4. Battery Life - The sony eats batteries like crazy. You can implement my battery saving tips for decent results as a travel and walk around camera but if you are using this as your main wedding camera it needs to be on and ready to go 100% of the time and there is not avoiding the amount of power that is going to take.  You are looking at a battery change every 2 hours. We often shoot weddings that last 10-12 hours.
  5. This is the 1/2 point.  Fast Glass. Sony has some excellent lenses. I have been reviewing the 55mm f/1.8 and the 90mm f/2.8 macro lenses and they are so sharp!! There are also faster lenses if you are willing to manual focus but we don't really have anything faster than f/1.8 that autofocuses and we don't have the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 70-200 f/2.8. Sony has promised 8 new FE lenses in early 2016 and I believe some of these will be faster lenses and the 24-70 and 70-200 bread and butter combination. - That's why I only give this a 1/2 issue.

Maybe you expected the one card slot to be on the list.  While we are strong advocates for using a system that provide redundancy and backup of precious wedding photographs I don't believe having only one card slot is a deal breaker or even a BIG issue.  I have had cards fail on me in several different cameras and I have never NOT been able to recover the images. And Sony's database, although annoying to create each time you insert a new card, does provide a good safety net.  I once removed a card while the camera was still writing and although I had to wait 15 minutes as the camera worked to recover the image I didn't lose a single image, not even the one it was trying to write when I removed the card.  I am impressed.Again, I want to stress I love this camera - it is fantastic and I can easily come up with several reasons why it does make an excellent wedding camera and so nicely pushes technology forward in the camera industry.  I will be back to share more along with some of my favorite wedding photos I have snapped so far this season with the Sony a7R II.If you are looking for the ultimate landscape camera- The Sony A7R II is awesome. Buy from Amazon or B&H Photo

Sony A7S II - Review Round-up

Summary: Sony A7S II provides videographers with amazing low light performance and 4K in body recording at significant savings versus Canon.  Preorder the Sony A7S II from B&H Photo | Amazon for $2998.00 - Shipping Oct 16th.FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS, M mode, 10 sec, F2.8, ISO12800, Manual white balanceSony has held several press conferences and hands-on demos over the last 24 hours and the reviews are starting to appear.  Form-wise it is identical to the Sony a7RII and A7II. The distinguishing feature of the Sony A7S series is the amazing low light performance.  This is really a video focused camera - read over the new features below to see why the A7RII is still a better hybrid (video and photos) choice for those that need both stills and video.The NEW features of the Sony a7S II

4K video with full pixel readout and no pixel binning in full-frame format (A7S only did 4K to external recorder)

Full HD 120fps recording and 4x/5x slow motion recording (60fps was max at 1080 with A7S)

S-Log3 Gamma and Display Assist Function (The S-Log formats are very flat, makes it difficult to judge focus - With Display Assist Function DAF - you get a graded preview in the viewfinder making it easier to judge focus)

In-camera 5-axis optical image stabilisation (same as Sony a7R II - makes handheld video possible, stabilizes any fast prime you want to use)

Upgraded autofocus system with 169 AF Points (but missing the Phase Detection AF system that gives that Sony A7R II fast and accurate focus with loads of lenses even in low light

Upgraded XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF - Same as Sony a7R II

Option for Uncompressed Raw files (coming to Sony A7R II soon)- Files are

Preorder the Sony A7S II from B&H Photo | Amazon for $2998.00Sony A7SII FE 90mm

Sony A7R II Review


Video Review

My Review of the Sony a7RII after using for a month, what I love, What I hate and some thoughts if this is the camera for you. is a work in progress. . .  

Helpful Links

Support my work -Buy the Sony a7R II from B&H PhotoI suggest you pick up the small but so sharp 35mm f/2.8 Lens - Buy from B&H PhotoRecommended Accessories:Sony 64GB SDXC - Supports 4K:Spare batteriesUSB Charger mentioned, NP-FW50 Dual Rapid Battery Charger for SonyCharge VIA USB Power from RavPower USB Battery: RAVPower 13000mAh BatterySmall tripod seen in video, used in Iceland: Pedco Ultralight Tripod 

Alternative Cameras -

Taking the features that I love about the Sony -

  • Excellent sensor with fantastic low light performance
  • Articulating LCD
  • Shoots 4k video that looks gorgeous
  • In body image stabilization useful for hand-held video and low light photography
  • Fast and accurate AF system
  • EVF
  • Smaller and Lighter (Unless I am packing the adapter and my Canon glass)

As I said in the review - it is difficult to find another camera that does all of this so well but it is expensive and lenses are relatively expensive too*  So if you are willing to sacrifice a feature or two I have some suggestions.Nikon D750 (My review)

  • Articulating Screen
  • Very good Sony sensor inside
  • Good video quality (not 4K though)
  • Great price with lots of affordable Nikon lenses to choose from
  • Additional Strength - Awesome battery life

Buy the Nikon D750 from B&H Photo for $1,996.95Buy a stabilized lens for your Nikon D750Panasonic GH4 (My review)

  • Articulating touch screen
  • Excellent 4k video in good light
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Small and MFT lenses are tiny
  • Affordable

Buy the Panasonic GH4 from B&H Photo for $1,397.99 ($100 instant savings)Sony a7II (My Review)

  • 1/2 the price of the Sony A7R II but still offers
    • Excellent sensor
    • In body image stabilization
    • Big, bright viewfinder
    • The grip and in hand-feel I like with the A7RII (the bodies are identical)

Buy the Sony a7II from B&H Photo for $1,698.00 ($100 instant savings)

Sony a7R Mark II in Iceland

I have now been shooting with the Sony a7R Mark II (a7Rm2) for most of the day here in Iceland (today was the meet everyone, wander about town and get settled into the hotel day, tomorrow (Aug 7th) we head out for some seriously beautiful landscapes.HARPASee more images from the Sony a7R IISony a7R II

  • AF is very good and improved over earlier Sony models
  • AF with Metabones is also excellent though I have seen some confusion, just once actually in lower light- will be testing more.
  • Image quality is excellent
  • Feel in the hand is wonderful
  • The control dials for aperture and shutter speed are smallish and I wish they were bigger and placed more prominently
  • 4K video - looks good, I have just shot a few minutes of clips, more soon on this.
  • Battery life is terrible, but you can use the camera while charging - so walking around with a USB battery attached to the camera looks silly but gives you much better battery life.

See more images from the Sony a7R IIIf you think you want one now. Put in a preorder now. B&H has over 1,000 preorders and only got a couple hundred in- most camera stores seem to be getting them in ones and twos.Order the Sony a7 R Mark II from B&H Photo VideoRecommended SD Card for Sony a7 R Mark II 

Sony A7R II - Focus Test with Canon Lenses

Gordon Laing at has had his hands on the Sony A7r II and share with us some focus speed samples with the camera and canon 24mm f/2.8 IS lens attached via Metabones. The results seem impressive.Preorders for this camera are now accepted. Shipping in Late July, Early August.Preorder from B&H Photo Video