Sony’s new A7lll Mirrorless camera
On February 27 Sony in Australia announced the A7lll camera at 12.15pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (4.15pm Las Vegas on February 26). This camera body and feature set of the A7lll is nearly identical to the A7Rlll that was announced last year. It’s major point of difference is it’s new 24.2 Megapixel backlit illuminated sensor that features 693 phase detect autofocus points (PDAF). The camera will be capable of the same 10 frames per second in Continuous Hi+ drive mode but has the larger spread of PDAF points that the A9 enjoys. This model is expected to be available for purchase from the end of March 2018 (available for preorder now) and will be significantly cheaper than an A9 or A7RIII cameras (less than half the price of an A9 and approximately 40% less than an A7RIII).
Not so basic
Sony have tagged this as ‘The Basic’ model but also add the words ‘expect more’. What does this mean. The camera body features all the upgrades to the body design that were welcomed in with the A7Rlll and these include.
- Larger Z series battery
- Dual card slots with the lower slot accepting fast SDXC II cards
- USB3 port
- Touch screen for moving autofocus point.
- Joystick for moving Autofocus Point
- AF-On button
- C3 button on left side of body for protecting or rating images in review.
The camera also features the updated menu system for easier navigation, including the ‘My Menu’ tab where favourite menu items can be stored. The camera can also record 4K movies (no pixel binning) and high frame rate movies via its S & Q (slow and quick) shoot mode.
The specifications of this camera are quite remarkable for the price point this camera will go on sale for – undercutting not only the A7Rllll, but also the A7Rll. Most surprising features that exceed expectations are the number of PDAF points and the speed of the continuous shooting drive mode.
- 693 Phase Detect AF points covering 93% of the sensor area
- 10 frames per second in Continuous Hi+ and 8 frames per second in Continuous Hi (live view mode)
- 177 image buffer (89 compressed raw)
So what’s missing
With so much to love or like what will the nay sayers be able to find to criticise? The camera does not offer the pixel shift multi shooting feature of the A7Rlll or the x-sync port for firing studio flash – this could, however, be added by using an adapter attached to the hotshot or via Sony’s wireless commander unit. The EVF and Monitor are of a slightly lower resolution compared to the A7Rlll and the body, being closer in design to the A7Rlll than the A9, does not feature the drive mode and focus mode dials on the top left-hand side of the camera body. The camera does not currently support the Sonyplaymemories camera apps but does support the Picture Profiles for movie shooters.
So who is it for?
This camera makes perfect sense for Sony users looking to upgrade from an A7 or A7ll and also photographers looking to get into full-frame mirrorless but who don’t need the extra resolution of the A7Rlll or the blazing speed of the A9 (although the A7ll is certainly no slouch and will probably be faster than other camera in its category). This may even be a better solution, when compared to the A7Rlll, for wedding photographers who are shooting thousands of images a day and will welcome the benefits of smaller file sizes as they trawl through their images looking for their hero shots in post production editing software.
Do I need to be upset because I recently purchased an A9 or A7RIII?
One of the surprising reactions from a smaller minority of Alpha owners, who have recently purchased either the A9 or A7RIII cameras, is the feeling that their recent purchase is no longer ‘as special’. Some owners of these cameras feel Sony should have not been so generous with the feature list afforded to the A7III, e.g. 693 PDAF points or dual memory card slots. I think for any camera company willing to disable features or functionality of their basic model, in order to protect their premium models, would be dishonourable in the way they were conducting business. I am so glad Sony does not engage in this practice.
How does it stack up against the A9? The A7III has really fast AF (twice as Fast as the A7II) but it is does not come close to the capability of the A9 when shooting fast-action sports. Although the A7III can, on paper, shoot at 10 frames per second in Continuous Hi+ drive mode using the silent electronic shutter, the photographer has to use the mechanical shutter at 8 frames per second (Continuous Hi) in order to pan the camera (to see real-time feedback) and avoid shutter distortion while experiencing blackout between frames. Compare this to 20 fps using a distortion-free electronic shutter (courtesy of the stacked full-frame BIS that is unique to the A9) with zero blackout with a buffer that is three times larger than the A7III. Sure, not everyone needs this level of performance, but a working professional sports photographer would use all this performance this and more (if it were commercially available). If someone invested in an A9 is feeling there camera is not quite as special anymore then they have to appreciate the A7III is good, but an A9 it is not – apart from sharing a similar body, it is a totally different beast.
How does it stack up against the A7RIII? This is little simpler to answer. If you need an ultra-high resolution full-frame camera then there are only four in the Alpha range to choose from – the A99II, A7R, A7RII or A7RIII. The 24 megapixel sensor featured in the A7III will be enough for a lot of photographers, but if you shoot for advertising, print very large or crop massively then the standard 24 megapixel resolution of the A7III will not be on your list of possible choices. I personally use the A9 for fast action sports but the A7RIII for shooting birds, for the simple reason that I can throw away 3/4 of the pixels captured and still end up with an Ultra HD 4K image. This means that my FE 100-400 GM + 1.4 teleconverter is more than enough reach (840mm equivalent in APS-C mode) for what I need, and I don’t have to carry around a heavy 600mm telephoto lens to achieve this. If you are a studio shooter the Pixel Shift Multi Shooting feature of the A7RIII provides you with medium format IQ that simply cannot be achieved with the A7III. If you shoot in APS-C mode on a 24 megapixel sensor the megapixel count drops to 10 rather than 18 so the A7III in APS-C mode gives you very little opportunity to crop much in post production if you need a 4K ultra HD file for output (you would probably have just enough to crop the file straight in some instances).
The 24 megapixel Advantage. There is one advantage to shooting full-frame 24 megapixels rather than 42.4 megapixels, and that is for photographers who can mostly frame/compose their images in-camera rather than in post and have to sort through thousands of images from each shoot as part of the rating process to find their hero files. Things just move a lot faster when using a 4K monitor if the files are little more than half the size of the files coming from the A7RIII cameras.
If you need to read the above written by some else, here is a link to another article that says the same thing: https://www.slrlounge.com/why-the-sony-a7iii-is-important-where-it-sits-with-the-a7riii-a9/
The bottom line
It is great see Sony didn’t feel the need to artificially lower the AF or drive mode capabilities of the A7lll so that it was slower than the A7Rlll. The great success of the A7lll will be it’s great value for money.
Download a 14-Page illustrated A7III-Brochure with full specifications and overview of features
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