Sony A7lll Announced

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)
A7III
A7III
The shutter of the A7III could have been one area where Sony could have chosen to save money on … but didn’t! 10 frames per second is pretty astonishing for a basic model camera.

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.

Because the A7III shares the same body design as the A9 and A7RIII, the accessories designed for the A9 and A7RIII all work seamlessly with the new A7III camera. In the image above the A7III is seen with the Sony GP-X1EM Grip Extension. This allows users who would like somewhere to park there little finger, or users supporting long telephoto lenses, a larger grip. There is also a battery grip available for the MK III cameras but is usually not needed by most users as the improved battery life of the Z series batteries will usually last for a full day’s shooting.

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.

Note > If you want to read why the sensor in the A9 is so special read this blog post from 2017

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

Image Gallery

Click on any one of the images below to enlarge.

FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS (SEL100400GM), 1/320sec., F11, ISO 100, White Balance: Shade
FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS (SEL70300G), 1/2000sec., F5, ISO 800
FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS (SEL100400GM), 1/640sec., F5.6, ISO 1600, Silent shooting
FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS (SEL24105G), 1/2sec., F8, ISO 6400, White Balance: Daylight

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Sony A7lll Announced

  1. poul says:

    Hi Mark,
    Just found your site – down under from where I live – when looking for some professional advice about buying the new a7III or not. Your review and advice – pros and cons – are valuable and thanks for that. I have signed up and hope to enjoy more from your website when I take some time soon to explore all the good stuff I can se you have to offer.
    Regards
    Poul Steen Nordhagen, Denmark.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Poul – I hope to be testing a pre-release camera in March. I will post a review to follow up this preview when this has been done.

  2. jpozzi says:

    great article Mark, it makes very clear of the differences and as you say if you used, or need, 42MP it’s rather difficult to go back to 24, especially wen editing on 5K displays.
    Do you know something about Playmemories? I REALLY miss couple of apps and I can’t sell the A7RII because of it.

    • Mark says:

      There has been no official statement from Sony as to why the Playmemories apps are not available on the A9, A7RIII and A7III cameras. Ctrl w. Smartphone is, however, integrated into the Network tab.

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