Sony a7R III Review
I’ve updated this review to cover the a7R IV… check it out here!
Sony a7R III Latest Prices
If you’re looking for lenses you can check pricing on my favorite, the Sony 24-105 G Lens or see my complete list of recommended lenses below that are cheaper and more than serviceable! For my complete camera gear visit my page on Kit.co.
Let’s go! The Sony a7R III Review!
First of all, I’ll start out by saying I was a Hasselblad Ambassador, but now I am switching back to Sony because of this amazing Sony a7R III. Yes! It was a tough choice, as both cameras are absolutely incredible. The Sony just ticks more boxes for my shooting style!
None of this has anything to do with camera companies giving free cameras; I super promise. I receive free cameras from (almost) all companies, so that levels the playing field in terms of hardware-influence. I wouldn’t be influenced anyway. Life is too short to do that sort of thing. I do a lot of travel photography and get to some pretty unique places. I’m not going to use something that I don’t want to just because of a signed contract. My primary goal is to try to create meaningful work. This is often made easier by using some of the best tech+software+optics I can get in the field.
I’m not going to bloviate on about Sony vs. Hasselblad because it gets a bit pedantic, and most of you don’t care. I’ll add a little P.S. on the bottom that talks about using the two cameras at the end of this review.
This Review Has a SECRET MYSTERY
Most of you may be thinking, this is the strangest review ever. This dude hasn’t even said anything about the Sony a7R III! Well, to confuse matters even more, ONE of the sample photos below is NOT from the Sony, but from the Google Pixel 2 XL phone. I’ll lie in the caption, so you won’t really know. And I won’t say which one it is. Actually, I’ll say at the end. One reason I’m doing this is because I’m in the middle of a long-form article about computational photography and how it will completely dominate the landscape in 2020+. You can read my full Pixel 2 review here.
Best Shooting Combo for the Sony a7R III
To me, the best combo with this new camera is the Sony 24-105mm G lens. This lens is an absolute masterpiece. I was not prepared to like it as much as I did. I go into everything with low expectations, which is also a pretty good approach for real life!
I’ve used Sony cameras for years. I have all the Sony a7R models, along with a whole slew of lenses. I’ll list a lot of them below in the “Recommended Lenses” area. I’m not a camera or lens snob, I just know what I like! For example, I have three Leica lenses with a Sony adapter (the 21mm F/1.4, 35mm F/1.4, and the 90mm F/2). To me, this new 24-105mm is not only less expensive, but it’s practically equal in quality to the Leica lenses. Plus, they are zoom lenses, whereas Leica lenses are all prime (do not zoom). When I’m out shooting in the field or cities, sometimes I like to go wide, and others I like a little zoomy-zoom, so this lens takes care of 75% of my shots! This is great, because I’m a lazy son-of-a-gun, and I hate changing lenses.
A second amazing lens from Sony (also expensive, again, see cheaper alternatives below…just giving you the BEST right now), is the G Master Series 16-35mm. This scratches that wide-angle itch I often have for some landscape, city, and architecture shots. It goes all the way down to F/2.8, so it would also be great for astrophotography.
Top Features of the Sony a7R III
Look, I’m a very practical man, and I don’t get completely into all the specs with a really geeky review. I consider myself an artist first that knows just enough about the tech to make use of it. Also, one can easily make the case that ALL cameras today are amazing, and by comparing specs, you’re just spitting digital hairs.
To me, the best features are simply Quality, Speed, and Ease of Use.
Even if you are a beginner, just throw this thing in Auto and let it do all the techno-thinking. Remember, there is no shame in shooting in auto. A lot of asshole photographers will make you feel like if you don’t shoot in Manual then you really should not have a camera so expensive. Don’t listen to them. Remember, you’re buying a multi-thousand dollar computer that just happens to have a lens and sensor! Most of the time, it will pick the same settings as a pro. Your job as a photographer is to find interesting subject matter, compose, then click. Over time, you can start playing with other modes, like Aperture mode for example, where you can start playing with depth-of-field (having pretty blurry areas of your photo), etc, etc.
New Battery System!
Wow, well done Sony! The battery system for the other Sony models was silly. You might need 3-4 batteries with you for a full day of shooting, but not anymore. The batteries are a little bigger and there is a completely new power-management system that is impressive. These batteries can last several days! I only have 3 batteries now, which is probably 1 more than I need.
Before, I was thinking about building a Sony Battery Dispenser in the style of a big Pez Dispenser. You know, you click on the back of the T-Rex head and another Sony battery slides out. Well now that seems like a dumb idea and I’m not going to build it.
The camera has a new tech that allows you to take four photos and the sensor shifts one pixel each time to capture more data and create a sharper image. I know, it sounds confusing, right? I need to do more testing on this, but so far I am not sure it’s worth the time and effort.
Now, if you work in a museum and you’re trying to capture details on The Ark of the Covenant or something, and you have time to take all these photos and combine them, then go for it.
I’m all about finding a sweet spot between the efficiency and quality ratio. Currently, you have to take the four photos while on a tripod because, otherwise, the pixel shifting will not work. I may try a few more of these with internal architecture shots or certain still lifes to see the difference. I tried it on the fireplace in my studio, and I could see a slight improvement, but nothing Earth-shattering.
To me, the biggest annoyance was the special Sony software you need to combine the four images. This means you have an extra step in your workflow now. You can’t just import these images into Lightroom; it won’t know what to do with them. So, on import, you’ll likely have a mixture of images: regular RAW files plus these extra pixel-shifted images. You’ll have to split the river, take some through the Sony software, export then import into Lightroom. That’s a lot of time, effort, and mind space, and it throws off my Efficiency::Quality ratio.
And at 42 megapixels, you have to zoom waaaaaaaay in to even see the differences. 99% of photo viewers are not going to zoom in that far, so it’s mostly a waste of time. Maybe if you’re doing a portfolio piece that prints out at 10 feet across, it might be worth the time. But, let’s face it, that’s probably less than 1% of your portfolio that you even consider printing that large.
The back screen has always been incredible (I love that you can pull it out and bend it around), but now you can do touch-focus which is more convenient than using that joystick-touchpad thing. Sometimes I think when I look through the viewfinder that my nose accidentally re-focuses, but I’m not sure about that yet… more testing required!
I love USB-C! It’s fast, and it’s reversible, like my raincoat.
So, when you get back from a shoot, just USB-C attach this to your computer and it will allow you download the photos. But, there is a gripe (listed below in the gripe section).
Improved Menu System
I like that there is now a “Favorites” menu where I can put my favorite bits. Even though I’ve used Sony for years, I often have trouble going in there to find “Silent-Shooting” or things like this.
These gripes are not big gripes, just little gripes.
I can’t seem to do the Silent Shooting AND Auto-bracketing combination that I want. This makes no sense to me. Maybe a smart person that reads this can tell me how they set up their menu options.
Second, even though the menu system is improved, they are still so archaic, Japanese, and masochistic. Thank god I know what I’m doing in that menu. I can see it scaring the bejeezus out of an Instagram photographer who suddenly decides to get a professional camera! If you want an example of a good menu system, check out the Hasselblad X1D.
Third, I wish there was a good App ecosystem. This Sony app store has historically been an absolute joke to navigate and use. It’s even worse than the menu system. I should be able to do it just like with my Android phone, where I surf on the phone or on my laptop, find what I want to add (e.g. an app for long exposures/timelapse), and then it is automatically installed.
Fourth, I’d love to be able to shoot video at 300 FPS. I don’t mind if it’s not 4K, but I just would like the option. There’s no doubt these beasts can do that… seems like simply another option for the engineers to put in there.
Fifth, why can’t I take longer than a 30-second exposure without using an external attachment? The Hasselblad lets me adjust exposures up to 30 minutes or so. It’s just software, right? Again, maybe there is a reason that I don’t understand here… feel free to explain in the comments where my reasoning is off.
Sixth, in reference to the USB-C goodness above, why can’t it connect to download photos AND charge the battery at the same time? It’s like Sony doesn’t even really understand the power of USB-C. You can only do one or another. Confusingly, after you’re done transferring, you have to press “Play” for playback, and then you are confusingly told, “Disconnects USB Connection and switches to USB power supply.” Why not both, yo?
Recommended Lenses for the Sony a7R III
Note that all of these lenses are more than great. These are the lenses that I have personally used quite a bit.
- Sony 12-24mm G (Ultra-wide) – note I still use this lens to get between 12 and 16mm, the only wider range my above combo does not reach.
- Sony 24-240mm Zoom Lens – note I still use this for photos beyond 105mm, the upper range of my setup above.
Note you can use almost ANY lens on this camera. You simply need an adapter. I only have experience with Leica lenses (generally considered the best), so I will list those below. Note they’re KINDA PRICEY, to say the least!
Other Great Choices
These are lenses that I do not use, but other professionals quite like them. For example, wedding shooters LOVE the 24-70mm. Bird shooters will like the 70-200mm.
- Sony 24-70 G Master F/2.8
- Sony 70-200 G Master F/2.8 – You can also get 1.4x and 2x teleconvertors for this lens. So, for example, the 70-200 2.8 with 1.4x convertor becomes a 98-280 constant F4 when needed. Super flexible!
- Sony 85mm G Master F/1.4
- Sony Zeiss 50mm F/1.4
- Zeiss Loxia 21mm F/2.8
Back to the Hasselblad vs. Sony internal debate in my mind
Man, it’s a tough decision, I tell you. As I said, they are both great cameras and there are check marks in both columns. Here’s the delta for me:
- I like to take a LOT of photos. Often times of moving subjects. The Sony simply shoots faster at up to 10 FPS. The Hasselblad X1D supposedly does 2 FPS, but I have found it to be even slower than that.
- There is no big difference between Sony’s 42 megapixels and Hasselblad’s 50. I do find the medium-format sensor in the Hasselblad to have a better “look,” but only very slightly. I know there is a different crop-factor too, but I’m not into that since I crop every photo completely differently based on what the subject matter in the photo is.
- The Sony is smaller and quicker to use.
- The Sony is MUCH more inexpensive. So are many of the lenses.
- There is a huge lens selection for the Sony. As of writing this, the Hasselblad only has a handful of lenses.
- Sony has zoomy lenses. All the Hasselblad ones so far are prime. I vastly prefer being able to shoot wide and then zoom in on the fly.
More Sample Photos from the Sony a7R III
I’ll continue to add more as I use the camera more… check back often and enjoy. If you want to see the EXIF on any photo, just click through to my SmugMug and click on the little “i” in the lower right to see the info.
Did you see the photos from the Pixel 2 above? Yes, I actually made two of them Pixel 2 photos to show my true sneakiness, like my daughter.
Pixel photo #1 was the Flower Photo above. Note I did also take that photo with the 16-35mm at F/2.8 and that photo is here and here is the unprocessed a7R III image. Both are pretty good eh? To get this, I put the Pixel 2 in “Portrait Mode” and then clicked on the flower to focus. Portrait mode is not just for people-photos, but you can use it for that nice bokeh effect as well.
Pixel photo #2 was my sneaky daughter Scarlett stealing chocolate. It is amazing with Portraits, as it uses Computational Photography to figure out how to blur the background. Here is another sample.
And below is one Pixel 2 photo I did NOT put in, but I almost did because it looks so much like the Sony one. Yeah, it’s not 42 megapixels, but still excellent quality.
Check out my full Pixel 2 review for an in-depth look at its features as well as a bunch of extra image quality examples.
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