Sony’s latest full frame mirrorless camera combines the resolution of its predecessor, the A7R II, with the kind of high-speed continuous shooting performance you’d expect from a sports camera. It’s designed for pro photographers (and videographers) who want it all – high-resolution, high-speed shooting and top-quality 4K video. It’s not as fast as the sports-dedicated Sony A9 or the low-light video specialist A7S II model, but as a do-it-all jack of all trades, its specs are spectacular.
42.4MP back-illuminated Exmor R full-frame sensor
BIONZ X processor and new front-end LSI
4K video recording with full pixel readout, Full HD up to 120fps
10fps burst shooting (with autofocus and auto-exposure)
5-axis image stabilisation system with 5.5EV-stop compensation
399-point phase-detect AF and 425-point contrast-detect AF systems
ISO 100-32,000 (exp to ISO 50-102,400 equivalents)
3in tilting touchscreen LCD, 1.44million dots
Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder, 3.69million dots
Two SDHC/SDXC cardc slots (inc. support for UHS-II in one slot)
Pixel Shift Multi Shooting Mode
650-shot battery life
USB 3.1 port
Some might be disappointed that the A7R III’s sensor resolution is unchanged from the A7R II’s at 42.4 million pixels, but this sensor is capable of outstanding quality and the improvements to the continuous shooting speeds are much more important, because the new model can top out at an amazing 10 frames per second at full resolution. Not only that, it can sustain this for up to 76 compressed raw files. This drops to 28 shots for uncompressed raw files, but we suspect any difference in quality is unlikely to be worth the drop in buffer capacity.
Frame rates grab the headlines, but without the buffer capacity to go with them they mean very little. If the A7R III had the buffer capacity of a typical non-professional camera, it would grind to a halt after a burst of just a couple of seconds. Instead, it can keep going for more than seven seconds, and that’s a big, big difference for a professional sports photographer. This camera has another trick – a completely silent mode which will allow photographers to shoot in situations where the machine-gun clatter of a regular DSLR would be banned.
The A7R III has dual memory card slots too, though despite the emphasis on speed, only one of these is UHS II compatible – a bit of a surprise given this camera’s performance potential and, let’s face it, its price.
So while the A7r Mark III misses out on the A9’s dedicated drive and focus dials and hard-wired ethernet port, it does gain the AF joystick and AF-On buttons, the larger and more tactile rear wheel, the more sensibly-located movie record button, the beautifully-detailed Quad VGA (1280×960 pixel / 3686k dot) viewfinder, dual card slots, PC Sync port, and best of all, the larger capacity Z battery with over twice the life of the earlier battery pack. Sony quotes 650 shots with LCD or 530 with viewfinder – although as I discovered with the A9, you can expect much more in practice when shooting bursts.
Like the A9 before it, the A7r Mark III’s two SD slots run at different speeds: only Slot-1 will exploit the additional speed of UHS-II cards, while Slot-2 relatively limps along at UHS-I speeds regardless of what you insert; I have some examples later in the review where the time taken to flush the buffer is much longer when using Slot-2. Having dual card slots is an important upgrade over the Mark II models, but it’s an area where Sony still falls behind. Several rivals exploit UHS-II speeds on both SD slots, or eschew SD altogether for faster card formats. I realise there’s not exactly room for C.Fast or XQD cards in the A7 series, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to request both SD slots are UHS-II speed. Still, having two slots remains better than the one on the Mark II and I’m pleased to find them implemented here.
In terms of connectivity, the addition of a USB C port running at USB 3 speed while retaining the older USB-2 port is a great idea. It allows you to tether the camera with one port while powering it with the other. And while the A7r III lacks the hard-wired Ethernet port of the A9, it still allows the same FTP functions, just over Wifi.
The A7r III also shares the same wireless capabilities as the A9 with Wifi complemented by NFC and Bluetooth for easier connectivity. Like the A9 and other Sony cameras with Bluetooth, you can also maintain a low-power link with your phone for seamless GPS tagging as you shoot