Just six months after releasing its state-of-the-art a9, and two years after revealing its predecessor the A7R II, Sony is back in action, unveiling to consumers in China early this morning its newest product: the Alpha A7R III (suggested retail: $3,200).
Packed into a body identical to that of its forerunner, the A7R III packs quite a bit more punch, particularly in the departments of focus, speed, and improved battery life. I’ll take you through notable developments in each, leaving time at the end to recap the camera’s critical reception so far.
Sticking with the 399 point on-sensor phase-detect AF system found in the earlier model, Sony claims to have doubled the reliability of its face and eye detection mechanisms. If it’s anything like that of the a9, that’s good news. Further, Sony went ahead and improved upon its low light AF rating, this time maintaining focus down to -3 EV with an F2 lens.
While possessing an identical 42.4 MP chip as the A7II, added hardware and improved processing allow the A7III to shoot, and process, faster. To be specific: 10 fps with full autofocus, including in mechanical or electronic shutter mode, while also being capable of “live view” continuous shooting at 8 fps. These latter can last for 87 compressed or 28 uncompressed RAW files…
By somehow fitting the larger NP-FZ100 battery into an identically-sized body, Sony managed to increase its battery life of the A7R II by 2.2x. That means: 650 shots per charge using the rear LCD, or 530 with the EVF. This figure can be doubled even further (meaning a 4.4x increase over the A7R II) by utilizing the optional VG-3EM battery grip.
A brand new feature for the A7R III is multi-shot resolution mode. Under this setting, the camera shoots four images, moving the sensor on each shot so that every pixel is captured with 1 red, 1 blue, and 2 green pixels. This ensures each and every pixel is captured in full color information, allowing for better averaging out of noise and reducing the softness typical of demosaicing.
Sony only increased its lead over the competition in this department, adding 1080p120 video capability, and fast- and slow-motion modes. In crop mode, it shoots with a 5176 x 2924 pixel region, downsizing that to 3840 x 2160 for incredible UHD 4K footage. Finally, it simultaneously shoots XAVC-S Proxy, capturing both high quality and a smaller, more easily editable proxy stream.
Though visually identical, the A7R III does have some hardware improvements over its older sibling. First, Sony added a second card slot, as well as PC sync & dual USB ports (USB type C and micro USB) to allow simultaneous charging and tethering. It also added an easy-to-use joystick for moving between settings options, and upgraded its screen to allow touch-compatibility.
Though Sony has yet to send out its product for testing, the released specs have gotten the photo community pretty psyched. Case in point: “On paper,” Camera Jabber writes, “it looks like a great upgrade.” And this from the same guy who couldn’t justify the price of the renowned a9. Meanwhile, Dan Watson at HuffPost sounds almost like an optimistic Sony salesman: “advantages to Sony’s mirrorless cameras compared to Canon & Nikon DSLRs are glaringly obvious with almost no trade-offs…further refinements will surely make this an extremely popular and effective camera.” However, not everyone is so ecstatic about this release, one commenter wisely noting: “Old technology sorted and refined around a new sensor isn’t the future, bro.”