Sony Unveils the a7r iii, and I’m buying it.

In News by Jim Harmer10 Comments

Sony surprised the industry this morning with the release of the a7r iii full-frame mirrorless camera.  Not only was the timing a surprise (the rumors sites have not been reporting this).

The a7riii uses the same 42.4-megapixel sensor, and supercharges it to capture a claimed 15 stops of dynamic range, a slight ISO boost, and crazy fast AF and frame rates.  Given the lower-than-expected price of $3,199—I'm buying it!

There are SO many surprises in this announcement.  The timing was surprising, the fact that it's the same sensor was surprising, and the lower-than-expected pricing was also surprising.

Sony a7r iii Specs

SpecComment
15 Stops dynamic rangeIf the marketing is accurate, this would absolutely dominate every other camera on the market
$3,199Extremely surprising to see this at the same price as the a7rii at launch. I expected $3,499.
No GPSWHY!??! Seriously, WHY?!?!?
Touch screenThis is fantastic, but I doubt it's any better integrated than on the a9.
Two SD card slotsExcellent!
Accessories connect with micro USB. Power over USB-C.Thank you Sony for keeping up with the times.
Same 42.4 megapixel sensor as the a7r iiI hope they've tweaked it enough to help with low light a bit more.
10fps shooting with AF (8fps with rear live view)Incredibly fast given the resolution.
Pixel shift mode shoots four different shots and combines them for greater detail.Does not change the resolution of the file, though. Curious.
4k at 30p. 1080p at up to 120p.Cool that I can do a little slo-mo
S Log 3 and hybrid log gamma HDRThis will make many video-heads happy.
399-point AF systemMore than I'll ever need
Wi-fi and BluetoothAs expected
14-bit rawAs expected
Improved low light focusing down to -3ev at f/2I'd love to see it do as well as Fuji cameras at low-light AF.
Better face trackingFace tracking has been ignored by many pros, by I have found it to be really useful
5.5 stops image stabilization as rated by CIPAThat's an improvement.
650 shots using the rear LCD, 530 using the EVFFor comparison, the 5D Mark IV gets 300 shots with the rear LCD (900 viewfinder).
OLED EVF with 3.686 million dots
Rear LCD with 1.44 million dots
New joystick on the backWish they would have just made the touch screen better integrated, but this is good too.
ISO up to 32,000. Sony claims 1/3 stop improvement on the top end and 1 stop improvement in the mid-range.The only claim I care about it is the mid-range improvement. We'll see.
Late November shipping dateNormal timeline for a release.

About that “Pixel Shift” Feature

The pixel shift feature is extremely curious.  When I first saw the feature, I expected them to say that this would increase the resolution of the file, like we've seen Olympus and others do with great success.  That wasn't the case… at least not in terms of megapixels.

Resolution means the amount of detail recorded.  Usually, we talk about resolution and we mean the number of megapixels.  However, resolution is also used in discussions of sharpness to refer to the amount of fine detail that can be recorded.  Accutance is also relevant here as the pixel shift photos also seem to have much better local contrast to show off that detail.

“Pixel shift” doesn't improve the megapixel count of resolution, but pixel shift seems to impressively improve the amount of resolution (sharpness/detail) in the resulting file.  So the file you send to the printer will have the same megapixel count, but it could produce a better print.

The jury's out on how well this is implemented, but the video preview of the feature looks interesting.

Battery Life

Gone are the days that we can say that battery life is a good reason to withhold buying a mirrorless camera.

The a7r iii has better battery life than the Canon 5D Mark IV when shooting in live view mode (as many landscape/product/food/architecture photographers typically do).  So unless you're a sports/portrait/wildlife photographer who uses the viewfinder most of the time, you'll get better battery life out of the a7r iii than you would out of the Canon 5d Mark IV DSLR.

One of the early beta testers of the a7r iii reported shooting 2,200 frames in RAW + jpg before the battery died.  Another tester said she did a 2 hour portrait shoot and ended with 88% battery life.  A Sony Artisan said he shot an entire day in sub-zero temperatures and still had 30% battery at the end of the day.  Several of the other early beta testers said they also felt like Sony was underselling the battery life.

While still not as good when shooting through the viewfinder, the difference in battery life between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera is not nearly as big of a deal anymore.

The a7r iii gets 650 shots using the rear LCD, and 530 using the EVF.  By comparison, the 5D Mark IV only gets 300 shots on the rear LCD and 930 shots using the mirrored viewfinder.

Video Capabilities

I found some interesting tid-bits about the way that video works in the a7r iii.  The most curious part is that the camera produces better video in super 35 mode than in full-frame mode.  The sharpness and dynamic range of video are reduced in full-frame mode.  While this is also true in some other cameras, I was surprised to see how upfront Sony was about this fact.  However, it does still do 4k in full-frame mode.

Weather Sealing

The a7r iii is dust and weather sealed, but I was a little disappointed that this was not made as a major feature of the camera.  This was a huge fault of the a7rii.

When the Sony a9 was released, it was clearly marketed as having dust and weather sealing, but a Sony rep candidly said that the weather sealing was good, but still not on par with what Nikon does with their weather sealing.

So while I'm glad to see there is dust and weather sealing, the lack of the marketing push on this fact makes me think it's only moderately sealed.  This camera is clearly marketed towards landscape shooters with the heavy focus on dynamic range, so I would have liked to have seen a better focus on sealing.

I have a bit of a reputation for torturing and killing cameras with the elements, so I especially need this.

No GPS

What. in. the. world!?!?  Sony is the only major camera company who doesn't have GPS as a reasonable option.  Canon has been great about including this built-in to their cameras.  Nikon for many years has at least had a dongle available.

Sony has no built-in GPS in this or any of their other serious cameras.  It also doesn't even have a good dongle available.  This is a huge miss for a landscape photography focused camera.

Controls

I haven't heard Sony mention anything about improved touch screen capabilities on this camera compared to the a9.

I'm glad to see a touchscreen at all in the camera, which was missing in the a7r ii, but I do want to see Sony issue a firmware update to the a9 and a7r iii at some point and allow the touch screen to be used how we'd expect to use a touch screen.  Right now, it only allows for basic touchscreen use.

Fortunately, Sony at least put a joystick on this camera to allow the photographer to quickly move between the focus points.

Pricing

I was surprised to see that Sony tagged this new camera with a $3,199 price tag.  That's the exact same price as the a7r ii when it was released.  Given the price of the $4,500 a9 which was just recently released, and the fact that this camera is extremely close to the a9 in specs, I expected a much higher price tag.

In fact, for many shooters, the a7r iii is a significantly better camera than the a9.  It just depends on who you are and what you shoot.  So I really don't understand why this camera costs $1,300 less than the a9, but who's complaining?  I'm buying.

I'm Buying It Immediately!

I'm placing my pre-order through B&H.  The pricing is the same with all of the online retailers and I like B&H's ordering process.

You can pre-order your a7r iii on B&H right here.

You can pre-order your a7r iii on Amazon right here.

I've pre-ordered quite a number of cameras on day one over the years, and I haven't really found any difference between ordering on B&H who has their pre-order page up first normally, and Amazon which usually takes 3-4 days to put up a pre-order page.  You end up getting your camera on the same day, but for some reason, it feels better to have your pre-order in with the company that puts out the first pre-order page.

Pre-orders start at 10AM EST on 10/26/2017.  Shipping begins November 30, 2017.  Merry Christmas to me!


About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. He blogs about how to start an internet business on IncomeSchool.com..

Comments

  1. The 15 stops of DR is simply amazing. I remember reading somewhere that the human eye has around 30 stops DR, so achieving half of that makes this even more incredible.

    1. Author

      @Tim – Yeah… I’m really excited to see what 15 stops of dynamic range looks like in a practical test. Managing dynamic range is probably THE hardest thing to do in landscape photography. I’ll be very interested to see how this helps.

  2. I know this is probably an obvious question, but I am a canon shooter with the trinity of lenses, can I use a metabones adapter to use all of my lenses on the A7R III? Any reason why I wouldn’t want to do this?

    1. I shot Canon for years and still have my 5DIII, which I love. However, I switched to a used A7rII when the 5DIV specs did not impress me after waiting for an upgrade for years. I started by using my Canon lenses with a Metabones adapter. It works, but slowly in my experience. I have started selling my canon lenses and switching to native Sony lenses. The autofocus performance is far superior. Using the canon lenses for manual focus work (e.g. landscapes, still life, etc.) yields very good results, but for auto focus work (sports, action, etc.) Native lenses are much faster and more reliable in my experience.

  3. This is a pretty exciting looking camera. Actually glad they didn’t increase the megapixel count and focused basically on everything else around it, processing wise.

  4. The specs look very nice, but I’m a bit sad that they don’t seem to be looking at the issue of ergonomics and weather sealing all that seriously. If Sony made a camera that I would feel comfortable holding for hours at a time like I do with my D810, then I would probably be much more tempted to jump ship since mirrorless technology has advanced to the point where pretty much all of the other old complaints about it have been addressed.

  5. Jim don’t worry about the GPS. I think Sony is doing the same thing they did with the A99. I own a Sony A99II which dropped the GPS that was built-in the A99. The good news is on the A99II, Sony uses the smart phone to capture GPS for every photo. You use their Smart Phone APP “Play Memories” and your phone’s Blu-Tooth to connect to the Camera. If I have Blu-Tooth on, it automatically connects to the Camera every time I turn it on, and you instantly have the GPS recorded for each photo. Even when your phone is off (but not powered down) it works flawlessly. Also through “Play Memories” your phone can act as a remote trigger.

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