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A7iii Review: A Very Worthy Base Model Update

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Cameras' started by Jefenator, May 18, 2018.

  1. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    902
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    I’ve had a great run with my original A7 but have long felt that I could use certain AF, sensor and interface refinements once they fall within my price range. That’s what this A7iii is all about.

    A7iii-review-3.
    ILCE-7M3    FE 55mm F1.8 ZA    55mm    f/1.8    1/60s    ISO 400


    My older Sonys demanded then rewarded the effort to familiarize and customize the interface – this generation takes that to a new level. One could simply morph this camera to suit existing preferences, but I feel it is well worth taking a step back and re-thinking old shooting habits to accommodate at least some of the new possibilities.

    After a month, I have still not settled on a final setup. (I was at least able to do a productive shoot and enjoy some of the new refinements on day one.)

    There are now more assignable buttons than I know what to do with. One good use for one or two of them might be to recall a “Custom Shooting Set”. This momentarily engages a group of focus, drive and/or exposure settings of your choosing. I think of it as back button focusing on steroids, or really just back button for the 2020s. (I cringe now to think of how much slower and more tedious it used to be to switch between shooting styles on my old NEX-7.)

    There are some smaller amenities that make this new camera a joy to work with. I particularly love the way the focus area can be set to change as I switch between landscape and portrait orientation. (I find this to be an even bigger time saver than the “Joystick” which is also great to have…) Some might say these are “bells & whistles” but I would sure hate to part with them.

    The menu layout gets panned by many reviewers but I’ve made my peace with it. I recommend going through everything once and setting all the things you’ll never want to change. Then set up the “My Menu” section. In one full sweep you can toss in whatever you think you might want to access occasionally. (There are 30 available spots, which should be plenty in conjunction with the assignable buttons and the 12 function menu slots.) It’s easy enough to add, move or delete items later.

    I would save my harshest criticism for the documentation. The basic manual seems redundant yet incomplete in all the wrong places. The online help guide is quite a bit more thorough and friendly to navigate. There are still some significant tidbits that you’ll have to glean from reviews or blogs. (Like the way the camera focuses stopped down in AF-C but opens up to f/2 to focus in AF-S.)

    The new AF may trump most other considerations for many. I found it not to be infallible or foolproof, but my “keeper” rate certainly has gone up! (This is my first time really using continuous autofocus so I’m still learning.)

    A7iii-review-6.
    ILCE-7M3    FE 85mm F1.8    85mm    f/1.8    1/100s    ISO 500

    (My fellow glassblowers don't tend to keep very still.)

    In my Eye AF tests, when the subject moves toward the camera, I noticed the focus could sometimes lag for a frame or three. But then it would catch up, mid-burst. (Try that in AF-S!) I can see the justification for buying an A9 for those who need the best possible tracking. (Ditto silent mode – you will have to deploy it more sparingly with this base model. Thankfully the mechanical shutter is relatively quiet.)

    A7iii-review-2.
    ILCE-7M3    FE 35mm F2.8 ZA    35mm    f/2.8    1/60s    ISO 2500


    Higher usable ISO has been on my wish list for a while and the A7iii certainly delivers there. For visible noise the new sensor appears to be roughly 1 2/3 stops better than the A7. For colors I’d say about 2 stops; for detail and shadow recovery without banding I’d say even greater. This allows me to comfortably use higher 4-digit and even 5-digit ISO settings I used to avoid. I can now get a malleable RAW capture in conditions that used to be marginal. Not least of all, I can go handheld instead of using the tripod for certain web-bound product shots. Out of all these new refinements, this has had the most benefit for me.

    A7iii-review-8.
    ILCE-7M3    FE 85mm F1.8    85mm    f/1.8    1/125s    ISO 8000

    (This guy was not covered by the stage lighting but I was able to push the RAW file and dodge in Photoshop to make it look as though he was. The older A7 would not have fared so well, here.)

    A7iii-review-1.
    ILCE-7M3    FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS    90mm    f/16.0    1/40s    ISO 8000


    A7iii-review-7.
    ILCE-7M3    FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS    90mm    f/8.0    1/60s    ISO 2500

    (These web-bound product shots go sooooooo much faster without the tripod! The top image was shot at f/16 for depth. EVF has been a huge deal for me for critical shallow focus, handheld, as seen on this bottom shot @ f/8.)

    I also love the great dynamic range at ISO 100. The uncompressed RAW captures feel extra “buttery” to process. (My best unscientific assessment.)

    A7iii-review-4.
    ILCE-7M3    FE 35mm F2.8 ZA    35mm    f/22.0    1/100s    ISO 100

    (Goodbye, sensor reflections...)

    A7iii-review-5.
    ILCE-7M3    FE 35mm F2.8 ZA    35mm    f/8.0    1/60s    ISO 100

    (I love the shadow details I get in high contrast scenes like this. Especially with the Sony/Zeiss 35/2.8.)

    If you specialize in landscapes or reportage, you may well want to pay extra for the A7riii or the A9. For my situation (enthusiast, online vendor, $2000 budget, hooked on MILCs and FF, ready to expand low light & try continuous AF) this camera has no real competition.
     
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  2. TedG954

    TedG954 TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Nov 29, 2014
    South Florida and NE Ohio
    Ted Gersdorf
    Very nice work. I'd like to know what processing software you're using. Thanks.
     
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  3. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    902
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
     
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  4. AlwaysOnAuto

    AlwaysOnAuto TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Feb 17, 2015
    How 'silent' is the silent shutter?

    A point of reference, I put my Nikon D7000 on the 'Quiet' setting and it is not that much more quiet than normal IMO.
    Maybe I'm being picky?
    Silent to me means no noise at all.
     
  5. JonathanF2

    JonathanF2 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    738
    Aug 16, 2014
    Los Angeles, USA
    Yes there is no noise at all. You can shoot it in an elevator filled with 5 sleeping babies and the silent shutter would make zero noise! :D 
     
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  6. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    902
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    Like JonathanF2 said, no noise whatsoever.
    The bad news is, the electronic sensor sweep takes about 1/15 of a second (regardless of the actual shutter setting) so you will experience some rolling shutter distortion with moving subjects and you will encounter banding with artificial light. (Might be invisible under 1/100 with tungsten or might be a total shot spoiler with a higher shutter and a light source that flickers more conspicuously.) So I default to mechanical shutter and use it sparingly. (Have a music video shoot coming up where I might sneak in some silent stills...)
     
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  7. AlwaysOnAuto

    AlwaysOnAuto TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Feb 17, 2015
    Thanks Jef and Jon.
     
  8. JonathanF2

    JonathanF2 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    738
    Aug 16, 2014
    Los Angeles, USA
    I think that's why the A9 cost significantly more in order to negate the rolling shutter effect and issues with artificial lighting. Though I do wish Sony would work on implementing a softer shutter. The mechanical Olympus shutter and Fuji's leaf shutter produce minimum sound, making the silent shutter only necessary for the most quietest of occasions.
     
  9. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Dave
    With this model, Sony has finally seemed to have found the right FF combination of AF Ability, image quality and price.
     
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  10. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    902
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    Yeah, they don't just charge that extra $2500 for nothing.
    I must say, the mechanical shutter on the A7iii seems much improved over the original (which some folks referred to as a "bear trap"). It sounds crisp and quick, like the old NEX-7, but perhaps just a bit softer.
    I wonder how much quieter it is possible to make a focal plane shutter for full-frame?
    My Canon EOS M has a really nice quiet shutter - almost as quiet as a leaf shutter - but that's APS-C.
     
  11. JonathanF2

    JonathanF2 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    738
    Aug 16, 2014
    Los Angeles, USA
    My Nikon D750 shutter is a bit quieter than my A7III. My buddy's Fuji X-H1 is insanely quiet with the leaf shutter. It'll be interesting to see what Nikon does when they release their mirrorless FF!
     
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  12. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Cyprus
    Nick
    That’s a great review!
    I’ve been quite unsatisfied with the af performance of my A7ii in low light at the last wedding I had... I don’t know if its just an excuse to justify that I want the iii :) 
     
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  13. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    902
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    The 7iii AF is rated for -3 EV to the 7ii's -1 (according to the Wikipedia A7 page).
    My experiences would concur with the conventional wisdom that AF & low light are two of the biggest justifications for upgrading. :2thumbs:
     
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  14. BigMackCam

    BigMackCam TalkEmount Regular Subscribing Member

    27
    Apr 4, 2018
    North East of England
    Mike
    Thank you for the excellent write-up, Jeff, and the beautiful example shots :2thumbs:

    I can't yet justify an upgrade to the A7III - but after reading this, it's on my future wish-list for sure. The high ISO improvement alone would be enough for me, but the other improvements sound really significant too... the EVF, custom buttons and silent electronic shutter for those situations where it's suitable.

    Looks like quite a camera. And this is Sony's new "base model" o_O 
     
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  15. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    902
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    The other day I got to shoot some fellow musicians in full daylight. (That's kind of unusual for me.) It was a good test for my new all-purpose shallow focus user setting. (Used to just do manual shutter & aperture w/ Auto ISO which was OK for music venues at night. Now I use Aperture Priority w/ Auto ISO, Auto Minimum Shutter, "Standard". This way I'm mostly good all the way from sun on snow to candlelight at the aperture of my choosing.)
    It was also a good occasion to test the new AF-C, tracking and Eye AF in favorable conditions for once:
    fb-1. fb-2. fb-3.
    This was an unprecedented AF hit rate for me. Maybe an occasional blurred burst here & there when the subjects' faces and/or eyes were too obscured. But those were few and far between. It felt almost strange to be going through hundreds of frames and choosing solely for composition and pose, with OOF not really factoring in all that often.
    I'm sure I'll get used to it, though. :dance4:
     
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  16. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    996
    Aug 22, 2012
    I am also blown away by the malleability with these files. I mean, I thought the A7 was incredible but the A7iii is on another plane of awesome. In C1, I used to never ever pull shadows more than 12 (20 for extreme situations, like an eclipse), but with the A7iii, the slider goes to 100 without even the slightest bit of trouble. The blacks stay black (with a bit of help from contrast) and there is virtually no color noise to speak of (used to be a problem with it turning greenish on the A7).

    I am beginning to see the point of never shooting beyond ISO 640... this isn't even a joke!
     
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  17. christilou

    christilou TalkEmount Top Veteran

    922
    Nov 26, 2012
    Surrey, UK
    Christina
    I'm still on the fence about trading in my A7RII for the A7III..... I already upgraded the Leica so am not looking to upgrade to the A7RIII, I just want better af speed...... I remain unsure about losing all those pixels though!
     
  18. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    902
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    The next model I would expect to see (after the A7siii) would be an A7riv with monster resolution and PDAF at least comparable to the A7iii. (The A9 series will likely remain in a class of its own with the specialized hardware that allows for the much faster sensor readout.)
     
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