Sony a7R III Review: An Exceptionally Well-Rounded Camera

@OutdoorPhotographyMagazine @WesPitts  @Sonya7R!!! Interesting and well-written review about the Sony a7R III by Wes Pitts, editor of Outdoor Photography Magazine. #WellRoundedCamera

 

The Sony a7R III is a very balanced camera, with advantages for both landscape and action photography, and excellent dynamic range.

Source: Sony a7R III Review: An Exceptionally Well-Rounded Camera

 

Sony a7R III Review: An Exceptionally Well-Rounded Camera

The newest full-frame mirrorless camera from Sony is particularly balanced, with advantages for both landscape and action photography
Sony a7R III, Sedona's Bell Rock Trail
Taken at sunset on Sedona’s Bell Rock Trail looking northeast, this image illustrates several features of the a7R III for landscape work. It’s shot handheld, taking advantage of the camera’s five-axis image stabilization, which provides up to 5.5 stops of correction. At ISO 12,800, the image does exhibit some noise, but it’s remarkably clean for that high of a setting. And the camera’s wide dynamic range is also on display here—impressive details were captured in the shadow areas of this low-light, high-contrast scene. Sony a7R III, Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 G Master at 18mm. Exposure: 1/125 sec., ƒ/16, ISO 12,800.

With its impressive dynamic range and generous 42.4-megapixel resolution, the full-frame Sony a7R III is an exceptional choice for landscape photography. Its ability to silently capture 10 fps with continuous auto focus and exposure makes it one of the better options for wildlife and sports action photography, too. It’s a very well-rounded camera.

We recently had the opportunity to work with the Sony a7R III in scenic Sedona, Arizona. Here are some of the standout features that place it among the top cameras available today.

Wide Dynamic Range

Sony rates the a7R III’s dynamic range at 15 stops. DxOMark.com, our go-to source for independent performance tests, essentially confirms this number, rating it at 14.7 stops, just below the top three performers, the Hasselblad X1D-50c, Pentax 645Z and Nikon D850, all of which are rated at 14.8 stops. The Sony a7R III also ties the Nikon D850 with an overall sensor score of 100.

What we can say definitively is that the a7R III’s dynamic range is very impressive. Working in high-contrast, early-morning, late-afternoon and sunset light, we were able to capture incredible details in the shadows and highlights of our images.

Sony a7R III, Long Canyon from the air, Sedona
Morning light above Long Canyon, Sedona, Arizona. Sony a7R III, Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 G Master at 16mm, handheld, taken from a hot air balloon. Exposure: 1/250 sec., ƒ/14, ISO 1250.

Fast Continuous Shooting

For wildlife and sports photography, the Sony a7R III hits a sweet-spot for continuous shooting rate and resolution. It’s capable of capturing up to 10 fps at the sensor’s full resolution, with AF/AE tracking, using either the camera’s mechanical shutter or its electronic shutter, the latter of which provides silent shooting, especially helpful for wildlife work.

Compared to other full-frame cameras with competitive resolution, it’s bested only by Sony’s own 42.4-megapixel a99 II, which can do 12 fps. While other pro-level, full-frame cameras like the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (16 fps), the Nikon D5 (12 fps) and Sony’s a9 (20 fps) are faster than the Sony a7R III, these cameras are roughly half its resolution.

Continuous shooting with the Sony a7R III
A mountain biker making his way along the trail illustrates what you can capture with the Sony a7R III’s continuous shooting speed of 10 frames per second.

In Praise Of The EVF

We usually prefer optical viewfinders—they’re typically brighter and clearer than electronic viewfinders (EVFs). But as the quality of EVFs improve, we’re coming around to their advantages. For starters, you can manually adjust the brightness of the a7R III’s 0.5-inch EVF up to five steps from -2 to +2 EV or allow it to adjust automatically for ambient conditions. The high-resolution, 3.69-megapixel EVF refreshes at rates of up to 100 fps, which is fast enough that we didn’t even think about the fact that we were looking through an EVF.

Rear view of the Sony a7R III
Sony a7R III (back)

More compelling for us are the advantages that EVFs offer: information overlays like focus-peaking when focusing manually, level display, exposure settings and histogram data are all incredibly useful, providing the information you need to adjust your composition and controls without taking your eye off the scene.

Battery Life

One of the complaints about previous Sony mirrorless models is their battery life. Sony addressed this with the a9 when it introduced the new NP-FZ100 battery in that camera. The a7R III uses the same battery, which Sony estimates to provide about 530 shots when using the EVF, or up to 650 shots with the LCD monitor. For videos, Sony estimates you’ll get just under two hours of actual footage before needing to swap batteries.

Sony VG-C3EM Vertical Grip
The optional VG-C3EM Vertical Grip (also compatible with the Sony a9) can hold two batteries for extended shooting.

We took 593 frames and just under 5 minutes of video on our first day working with the camera, composing mostly with the EVF, and still had 12 percent charge on the battery, so Sony’s estimates are certainly in the ballpark, if not cautiously erring on the conservative side. If you need to extend shooting times even longer and swapping batteries isn’t desirable, there’s an optional VG-C3EM Vertical Grip that accommodates two batteries.

Pixel Shift

One interesting new feature that Sony introduced in the a7R III is Pixel Shift Multi Shooting. Primarily for still subjects like architecture but potentially useful for landscape work, when enabled, the camera takes four images, shifting the sensor in 1-pixel increments between exposures to capture approximately 169.6 MP of data. Using Sony’s new Imaging Edge software in post processing, these images are combined into a single file with enhanced detail. The new software was not yet released when we concluded our time with the Sony a7R III in Sedona, so we can’t offer an opinion on it here, but we do plan to work with this technology in the future.

Something For Everyone

The a7R III is another indicator that Sony continues to lead innovation in the mirrorless segment and in camera technology generally. The combination of large resolution, fast capture rates and wide dynamic range make it a very versatile camera for both landscape and wildlife photography. If you’ve been thinking about making the move to full-frame mirrorless, the Sony a7R III leaves you with little justification to hold out.

Sony a7R III, Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS at 158mm, handheld from a moving helicopter. Exposure: 1/2500 sec., ƒ/5, ISO 4000, Shutter Priority.
Sony a7R III, Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS at 158mm, handheld from a moving helicopter. Exposure: 1/2500 sec., ƒ/5, ISO 4000, Shutter Priority.
Sony a7R III (front)
Sony a7R III (front)

Need Speed? How The Sony a7R III Stacks Up Versus The Competition

Compared to competitive cameras with similar resolution and price, the a7R III wins hands-down for continuous shooting speed. Note that while the Nikon D850 can do 9 fps with an optional battery grip, the a7R III still beats it.

Camera FPS Resolution Price
 Canon 5D Mk IV  7  30.4MP  $3,199
 Canon 5DS  5  50.6MP  $3,499
 Nikon D850  7/9*  45.7MP  $3,299
 Sony a7R III  10  42.4MP  $3,199

*With optional Nikon MB-D18 Multi Battery Power Pack

Sony a7R III (top)
Sony a7R III (top)

Sony a7R III Key Specs

Sensor: Full-frame 42.4MP back-illuminated
 ISO Range:  100-32000 (expandable to 50-102400)
 Color Depth:  14-bit RAW
 AF System:   Hybrid AF (399/425-point phase/contrast)
 Burst Rate:  10 fps for up to 76 compressed RAW files
 Stabilization:  5-axis, in-body; up to 5.5 stops
 Video:  4K, S-Log3, HLG
 Media:   Dual SD
Sony a7R III, Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 G Master at 35mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., ƒ/14, ISO 320.
Wes is the editor of Outdoor Photographer.