Mirrorless


Lab Test: Sony a7R III

January 10, 2018

PDN is a member of the Technical Image Press Association which has contracted with Image Engineering to perform detailed lab tests of digital cameras. See here for a full methodological rundown of how Image Engineering puts cameras through their paces. Full res files of every visual in this review are available to download for your pixel-peeping pleasure here. A hands-on review of the Sony a7R III will appear in the March issue of PDN.

Introduction

In the ever-escalating arms race between increasing resolution and speed, Sony has bulked up its arsenal with the new a7R III–a 42-megapixel camera that can fire off bursts at 10fps with AF tracking engaged.

The a7R III features back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor with no optical low pass filter that utilizes a gapless on-chip lens design and anti-reflective coating on the surface of the sensor’s seal glass, which Sony says helps to improve light collection for lower-noise and higher dynamic range–up to 15 stops. The camera has a native ISO range of 100-32,000 (expandable to 50-102,400).

The AF system has also seen an upgrade. It features 399 focal-plane phase-detection AF points that cover approximately 68 percent of the image area in both the horizontal and vertical directions. There is also 425 contrast AF points, compared to just 25 on the α7R II. The new AF system cuts in half the amount of time it takes the a7R III to acquire focus compared to its predecessor. Tracking is also twice as accurate, Sony says.

There’s also a new front-end LSI and updated processor that combine to deliver a 1.8x processing speed boost compared to the a7R II. You can store up to 76 JPEG/RAW images or 28 uncompressed RAW files during 10fps burst shooting. Like the previous models,the a7R III has a 5-axis in-body stabilizer that’s been tweaked to deliver up to 5.5 stops of correction (the world’s highest, according to Sony). Sony changed the shutter design as well to reduce vibrations.

The a7R III can fire off its brisk bursts with either a mechanical or an electronic shutter. If you’re in live view mode, your continuous speed drops to 8 fps.

On the video front, the camera records 4K across the full width of the sensor. There’s a new Hybrid Log-Gamma profile available for HDR workflows, alongside the usual S-Log2/3 profiles. Full HD recording is available up to 120 fps.

Additional features include:

  • an anti-flicker mode that automatically detects frequency of flourescent lighting and times the shutter to minimize its effect on images being captured
  • dual SD card slots, with one slot supporting UHS-II cards
  • a new battery with 2.2x the capacity of the W series battery utilized in the α7R II
  • an upgraded OLED EVF with 3,686 dots of resolution with a customizable frame rate (60 or 120fps)
  • upgraded LCD with improved outdoor/bright viewing
  • a multi-selector joystick for selecting AF points
  • Wi-Fi
  • USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-C connector

Sony is also taking a page from companies like Olympus and Pentax with a new Pixel Shift Multi mode, which moves the image sensor by one pixel increments to capture four separate images that are composited to create the equivalent of a 169-megapixel image. Unlike its rival’s implementation, however, the compositing can’t be done in camera. It requires new Image Edge desktop software. This free software contains three applications to support live-view remote control through a computer, RAW development and the Pixel Shift compositing.

The a7R III retails for $3,200.

Resolution

  • Full-frame mirrorless camera with 42.4 megapixel sensor
  • 2594 line pairs per picture height (LP/PH) at ISO 100, representing 98 percent of the theoretical maximum.
  • Better than the Sony a7R Mark II, which captured 2448 line pairs per picture height at ISO 100 (92 percent of the theoretical maximum).
  • Resolution remains good as ISO speed increases in the a7R Mark III, with results such as 2393 LP/PH at ISO 3200 (90 percent of theoretical maximum) and 2251 line pairs per picture height at the highest native ISO  of ISO  25600 (85 percent).
  • In comparison, the a7R Mark II showed a greater degradation in resolution with increasing ISO (2265 LP/PH at ISO 3200, 85 percent of the theoretical maximum; and 2026 LP/PH at ISO 25600, 76 percent of the theoretical maximum).

This graph shows the loss of contrast (y-axis) as a function of the spatial frequency in line pairs per picture height (x-axis) for different ISO-sensitivities (colored lines). The further to the right a curve stretches before descending, the better the resolution at that ISO. The limiting resolution for each ISO can be found by identifying to the highest spatial frequency which results in a contrast of 0.1, or where the ISO curve crosses the thicker horizontal thicker black line marking 0.1. The vertical pink line is a reference representing half the number of pixels in the sensor height (the Nyquist frequency).

Texture loss       

  • At ISO 100, the Sony a7R Mark III produces an MTF50 value of 2062 line pairs per picture height (LP/PH) in low-contrast parts of scene, and 1989 LP/PH in the high-contrast areas.
  • The a7R Mark II, in comparison, produced MTF50 of 1736 LP/PH at ISO 100 in high contrast areas and 1659 LP/PH in low-contrast parts of a scene.
  • At the lower ISO , the MTF50 remains fairly consistent – for example, at ISO 800, MTF50 is 1940 LP/PH in high-contrast areas and 1766 LP/PH in low contrast.
  • Texture smoothing is obvious at higher ISO s: at ISO 6400, MTF50 is 1477 LP/PH in high-contrast scenes and 1039 LP/PH in low contrast areas.
  • A high proportion of artifacts are produced in images of low contrast scenes at the higher ISO s (ISO 6400 51.7 percent and ISO 12800 62.1 percent). Images of higher contrast scenes at the same ISO s contain fewer artifacts (37.8 percent at ISO 6400 and 46.2 percent at ISO 12800)

An artifact is an alteration in a digital image due to technology or technique of processing. Artifacts stem from noise, compression, and sharpening. This graph plots the calculated difference in digital signal between two methods (DeadLeavesCross & DeadLeavesDirect). The colored lines represent response at different ISOs and in reference to a high-contrast target and a low-contrast target. Values plotted are the Dead Leaves SFR difference against the spatial frequency. The larger the area under the curve, the more artifacts are present.

 

Edge contrast / sharpening      

  • Moderate sharpening with overshoots along high contrast edges ranging from 4.0 percent at ISO 100 (3.9 at ISO s of 400 to 1600) to 5.1 percent at ISO 3200.
  • Undershoots along high contrast edges range from 5.0 percent at ISO 25600, to a maximum of 11.6 percent at ISO 3200. Undershoot at ISO 100 is 9.3 percent along high-contrast edges.
  • The previous model, Sony a7R Mark II, produced stronger sharpening: for example, 11.2 percent overshoot and 6.1 percent undershoot along high-contrast edges shot at ISO 100.
  • Along low-contrast edges the Mark II produced 17.1 percent overshoot at ISO 100, compared with a milder 8.7 percent shown by the Mark III. Undershoot in low-contrast scenes is similar in both models: 15.6 percent in the Mark II compared to 14.1 percent in the Mark III.
  • The Mark III produces slightly milder sharpening of low-contrast edges in images shot at higher ISO s: for example overshoot of 5.4 percent and undershoot of 5.5 percent at ISO 12800, compared to the Mark II’s 8.8 percent overshoot and 5.5 percent undershoot.

This graph shows the degree of sharpening in the image by representing an over- and undershoot along contrasted edges. The colored lines represent measurements at different ISOs and in high- and low-contrast situations. The size of the dip before the edge (in both depth and breadth) indicates the degree of undershoot; similarly, the amount overshoot is indicated by the height and breadth of the peak. Thus, larger dips and/or peaks indicate that a sharpening effect is visible.

OECF VN / visual noise        

  • Visual noise results in the Sony a7R Mark III are very good, similar to the Mark II.
  • Observable noise is primarily in the very dark portion of the mid-tones.
  • Noise is just observable in images shot at the lowest ISO s, even when modelled as viewed at 100 percent (Viewing Condition 1; 1.0).
  • At higher ISO s in Viewing Condition 1, the noise is increasingly obvious, although a little less than in images produced by the Mark II. For example, at ISO 6400, the Mark III noise scores are 1.9 (2.2 for the Mark II).
  • In Viewing Condition 2, noise would only be noticeable at the highest native ISO , ISO 25600 (1.2). This is slightly better than the Mark II (1.4)
  • In Viewing Condition 3, there is little observable noise until viewing an image shot at ISO 12800. The Mark II produced observable noise at the lower ISO of ISO 6400.

This chart shows the noise behavior at various ISO-sensitivities (colored lines) as a function of the brightness of the target image, which is indicated by the relative darkness of the circle on the outer edge of the diagram (noise in shadowed areas are above, and in highlights below). The larger the area inside a curve, the stronger the noise. The degree to which noise disturbs the appreciation of an image, depends on the image size and the viewing condition. The right-hand side of the chart shows the visibility of the noise in an image that is displayed 100% on a monitor (VN1). The left-hand half shows the visibility of noise in a 40-cm tall print (VN3).

This chart shows the noise behavior at various ISO-sensitivities (colored lines) as a function of the brightness of the target image. The perception of noise is represented by the area that is encircled by the curve. The larger the area, the stronger the noise. How much the noise disturbs the viewing of an image, depends on the image size and the viewing distance. This chart shows the noise visibility for an image that is displayed 100% on a monitor (VN1).

This chart shows the noise behavior at various ISO-sensitivities (colored lines) as a function of the brightness of the target image. The perception of noise is represented by the area that is encircled by the curve. The larger the area, the stronger the noise. How much the noise disturbs the viewing of an image, depends on the image size and the viewing distance. The chart shows the noise visibility for an image that is about postcard size (scaled to a height of 10cm) viewed at a distance of 25cm.

Dynamic Range  

  • The dynamic range exhibited by the Sony a7R Mark III is widest at ISO 400 and ISO 800 (10.1 f-stops and 10.2, respectively).
  • In comparison, the Mark II showed a dynamic range of 10.3 at ISO 400.
  • AT ISO 1600, the Mark III captures a dynamic range of 8.9 f-stops

Color Reproduction

  • Color reproduction is good, with only two fields showing strong deviation.

Color reproduction is shown here in two ways. The upper figure is a chart comparing a reference color (right-hand half of each color patch) directly with the color reproduced by the camera (left-hand half of the color patch). Below is a table that lists the DeltaE of each color patch. Red cells indicated strong color deviations, light green cells represent colors with noticeable deviations, and a dark green field represents a moderate deviation.


Automatic white balance     

  • The automatic white balance is moderately good in the Sony a7R Mark III, scoring 1.0 or 1.1 in ISO s from ISO 100 up to ISO 1600.
  • At higher ISO s, automatic white balance scores between 0.7 and 0.9 at ISO s of 3200, 6400, and 12800. At the highest native ISO 25600, the white balance shows the strongest deviation (1.2).
  • Worse than the Mark II, which showed a white balance of 0.3 for the lowest ISO s up to ISO 800, and all white balance measurements under 0.8, with the exception of the highest native ISO of 25600 (1.3).

Video        

  • 4K video capability.
  • At ISO 100, 1110 line pairs per picture height, representing 103 percent of the theoretical maximum.
  • At high ISO (1600), 1100 LP/PH are used, or 102 percent of the theoretical maximum.
  • Better than the Mark II, which used 564 LP/PH at low ISO and 554 at high ISO .
  • At low ISO , MTF50 at high contrast was measured at 898 LP/PH and 954 at low contrast. Better than the Mark II, whose measurements were 347 at high contrast and 330 in low contrast.
  • At high ISO , the Mark III showed an MTF50 of 873 LP/PH (high contrast) and 831 (low contrast).
  • Moderate sharpening in video: 12.9 percent overshoot and 11.1 percent undershoot at low ISO .
  • Visual noise in video frames noticeable at both low and high ISO at 100 percent (1.4 and 2.7, respectively).
  • At low ISO , visual noise not noticeable in Viewing Condition 2 or 3 (0.9 each).
  • At high ISO , visual noise would be observable (1.5 in viewing condition 2 and 1.7 in viewing condition 3).
  • Dynamic range good (8.7 f-stops at low ISO and 8.0 at high).
  • White balance is good at low ISO (0.8) albeit less good at high ISO  (1.6).

This chart shows the noise behavior at two ISO-sensitivities (ISO100 and ISO1600) as a function of the brightness of the target image. The amount of noise perceived is reflected in the size of the area encircled by the curves. The larger the area, the stronger the noise and its perception. The degree to which the noise disturbs the viewer, depends on the image size and the viewing distance. This chart shows the noise visibility for a video frame that is displayed 100% on a monitor (VN1).

This graph shows the loss of contrast (y-axis) as a function of the spatial frequency in line pairs per picture height (x-axis) for two ISO-sensitivities in video mode (colored lines). The further to the right a curve stretches before descending, the better the resolution at that ISO. The limiting resolution for each ISO can be found by identifying to the highest spatial frequency which results in a contrast of 0.1, or where the ISO curve crosses the thicker horizontal thicker black line marking 0.1. The vertical pink line is a reference representing half the number of pixels in the sensor height (the Nyquist frequency).

This graph shows the sharpening in the image due to an over- and undershoot along edges. Depending on the size (based on width and height) of the additional emerging area, a lower (shallower additional area) or stronger (higher and narrower additional area) sharpening effect is visible.

                                                                                        

Start-up time    

  • Starts up in 0.9 seconds, compared to 2.5 seconds for the Mark II.

Continuous shooting  

  • 0 frames per second in JPEG format, up to 81 images in a row.
  • In RAW, 9.0 frames per second up to a total of 30 in one burst.
  • Faster than the Mark II, which could capture 5.0 frames per second for a total of 24 JPEGs and 5.0 RAW frames per second up to 23.

Autofocus (300lx) Live View 

  • Autofocus in bright light took only 0.24 seconds, with a shutter release lag of 0.05 seconds.

Autofocus (30lx) Live View  

  • Autofocus in low light took only smidgen longer (0.27 seconds), faster than the 0.45 seconds of the Mark II.


In Depth

The Sony a7R Mark III is a mirrorless camera with a 42.4 megapixel sensor.  The Mark II’s sensor was in the same large megapixel class as the Mark III, while the more expensive Alpha 9 is fitted with a 24-megapixel sensor.

The a7R Mark III produces images with excellent resolution. At ISO 100, the Mark III captures 2594 line pairs per picture height, representing 98 percent of the theoretical maximum. This is slightly better than the Sony a7R Mark II, which captured 2448 line pairs per picture height at ISO 100 (92 percent of the theoretical maximum).

As ISO increases, the resolution in images produced by the a7R Mark III remains good. For example, laboratory measurements found 2393 line pairs per picture height (LP/PH) at ISO 3200 (90 percent of theoretical maximum) and 2251 line pairs per picture height at the highest native ISO (ISO 25600; 85 percent of the theoretical maximum). This consistency is improved compared to the Mark II, which showed a greater degradation in resolution as ISO increased (for example, 2265 LP/PH at ISO 3200, 85 percent of the maximum; and 2026 LP/PH at ISO 25600, representing 76 percent of the theoretical maximum).

Texture reproduction is fairly good. At ISO 100, the Sony a7R Mark III produces an MTF50 value of 2062 line pairs per picture height (LP/PH) in low-contrast parts of scene, and 1989 LP/PH in the high-contrast areas. MTF50 values are improved over those measured from the a7R Mark II: 1736 LP/PH at ISO 100 in high-contrast areas and 1659 LP/PH in low-contrast parts of a scene. At the lower ISO , the MTF50 remains fairly consistent – for example, at ISO 800, MTF50 is 1940 LP/PH in high-contrast areas and 1766 LP/PH in low contrast.

However, texture smoothing is obvious at higher ISO s: at ISO 6400, MTF50 is 1477 LP/PH in high-contrast scenes and 1039 LP/PH in low contrast areas. The measurements from the Mark III are better than those from the previous model, which showed MTF50s of 991 LP/PH (high contrast) and 826 (low contrast) at ISO 6400.

Tests of the a7R Mark III show a high proportion of artifacts in images of low-contrast scenes captured at the higher ISO s (ISO 6400 51.7 percent and ISO 12800 62.1 percent). Images of higher contrast scenes at the same ISO s contain fewer artifacts (37.8 percent at ISO 6400 and 46.2 percent at ISO 12800).

Sharpening produced by the Sony a7R Mark III is moderate, with overshoots along high contrast edges ranging from 4.0 percent at ISO 100 (3.9 at ISO s of 400 to 1600) to 5.1 percent at ISO 3200. Undershoots along high contrast edges range from 5.0 percent at ISO 25600, to a maximum of 11.6 percent at ISO 3200. Undershoot at ISO 100 is 9.3 percent along high-contrast edges.

These results are milder than the strong sharpening in the Sony a7R Mark II, which showed, for example, 11.2 percent overshoot and 6.1 percent undershoot along high-contrast edges shot at ISO 100. Along low-contrast edges, the a7R Mark II produced more overshoot (17.1 percent at ISO 100, compared with a milder 8.7 percent shown by the Mark III). Undershoot in low-contrast scenes is similar in both models: 15.6 percent in the Mark II compared to 14.1 percent in the Mark III. The Mark III produces slightly milder sharpening of low-contrast edges in images shot at higher ISO s: for example overshoot of 5.4 percent and undershoot of 5.5 percent at ISO 12800, compared to the Mark II’s 8.8 percent overshoot and 5.5 percent undershoot at the same ISO .

Visual noise results in the Sony a7R Mark III are very good, similar to the Mark II. Noise is just observable in images shot at the lowest ISO s, even when modelled as if they were viewed at 100 percent (Viewing Condition 1). At higher ISO s in Viewing Condition 1, the noise is increasingly obvious, although less than in images produced by the Mark II. For example, at ISO 6400, the Mark III noise scores are 1.9, which is better than the 2.2 produced by the Mark II.

In Viewing Condition 2, simulating a postcard-sized print or the image viewed on a mobile screen, noise would only be noticeable at the highest native ISO , ISO 25600 (score 1.2). This is a slightly better than the Mark II (1.4).

In Viewing Condition 3, simulating a large print, there is little observable noise until viewing an image shot at ISO 12800. The Mark II produced observable noise at the lower ISO of ISO 6400. Observable noise is primarily in the very dark portion of the mid-tones.

The dynamic range exhibited by the Sony a7R Mark III is good, albeit a slightly smaller than that measured from the Mark II. The widest dynamic range is shown at ISO 400 and ISO 800 (10.1 f-stops and 10.2, respectively). In comparison, the Mark II showed a dynamic range of 10.3 at ISO 400. AT ISO 1600, the Mark III captures a dynamic range of 8.9 f-stops

Color reproduction is good, with only two fields showing strong deviation. Mid-tones and skin tones have very good reproduction, indicating that this camera could be suitable for portraiture.

The automatic white balance is moderately good in the Sony a7R Mark III, with measurements of 1.0 or 1.1 in ISO s from ISO 100 up to ISO 1600. At higher ISO s, the automatic white balance functions well (between 0.7 and 0.9 at ISO s of 3200, 6400, and 12800), although at the highest native ISO (25600), the white balance shows the strongest deviation (1.2). However, the performance of the Mark III is worse than its predecessor, which showed a white balance of 0.3 for the lowest ISO s up to ISO 800, and all white balance measurements under 0.8, with the exception of the highest native ISO of 25600 (1.3).

The Mark III is faster than the Mark II. The a7R Mark III camera starts up just in 0.9 seconds, compared to 2.5 seconds for the Mark II. The Mark III can shoot 10.0 frames per second in JPEG format, up to 81 images in a row. In RAW, it shoots 9.0 frames per second up to a total of 30 in one burst. It is not as fast as the recent Alpha 9, which shoots 20 JPEGS per minute, or 12 RAWs per minute, until the card is full, but it is twice as fast as the Mark II, which could capture 5 frames per second for a total of 24 JPEGs and 5 RAW frames per second up to 23.

Autofocus in bright light takes only 0.24 seconds, with a shutter release lag of 0.05 seconds. Autofocus in low light took only smidgen longer (0.27 seconds), faster than the 0.45 seconds of the Mark II.

Video

The Sony a7R Mark III is capable of 4K video, which means it produces better resolution test results compared to its predecessor. At ISO 100, 1110 line pairs per picture height show good resolution, representing 103 percent of the theoretical maximum. At high ISO (1600), 1100 LP/PH are used, or 102 percent of the theoretical maximum. In contrast, the Mark II used 564 LP/PH at low ISO and 554 at high ISO (these represented 104 percent and 103 percent of the theoretical maximum, respectively).

Texture smoothing in frames grabbed from video is moderate: at low ISO , MTF50 at high contrast was measured at 898 LP/PH, and 954 in low-contrast scenes. This is better than the Mark II, whose measurements were 347 LH/PH in high-contrast scenes and 330 in low contrast. At high ISO , the Mark III showed an MTF50 of 873 LP/PH (high contrast) and 831 (low contrast).

Sharpening in video is moderate. For example, at low ISO , overshoot was measured at 12.9 percent and undershoot at 11.1 percent.

Visual noise in frames grabbed from video is noticeable at both low and high ISO when viewed at 100 percent (1.4 and 2.7, respectively). At low ISO , visual noise would be below the threshold of being noticeable in both Viewing Conditions 2 and 3 (0.9 each). At high ISO , visual noise would be observable (1.5 in Viewing Condition 2 and 1.7 in Viewing Condition 3). Dynamic range in video is good (8.7 f-stops at low ISO and 8.0 at high), and the performance at low ISO is better than the Mark II (8.3 f-stops). White balance is good at low ISO (0.8) albeit less good at high ISO (1.6). Both results are an improvement over the Mark II (2.0 and 2.3, respectively).

Handling – Assessment 


The Sony a7R Mark III is a full-frame mirrorless camera with 42.4 megapixel sensor, without an anti-aliasing filter, and with five-axis stabilization. It is very similar to its near-contemporary but more expensive cousin, the Sony Alpha 9, although that model has a sensor with fewer megapixels. Innovations designed for the Alpha 9 were also used for the a7R Mark III, including a better battery, improved AF-tracking, and dual SD-card slots.

Given the clear similarities, one might wonder about the differences, especially considering the gap between the recommended retail prices. There are a few differences: for example, the a7R Mark III has a lower maximum native ISO (ISO 32,000 compared to ISO 51,200 in the Alpha 9), fewer focus points (425 to the Alpha 9’s 693), and no electronic shutter mode so a minimum shutter speed of ‘only’ 1/8000 seconds. (The a7R Mark III does have a silent first curtain shutter mode, with mechanical back-curtain, resolving reported problems with the a7R in terms of shutter shake.) The burst shooting is also slower in the a7R Mark III than the Alpha 9, although the new camera is faster than its predecessor the Mark II.

The a7R Mark III body is designed to be moisture-resistant and dust-resistant. The body feels robust and solid, with a comfortable, deep grip. The Mark III is a bit larger than its cousins: 10 mm deeper than the Alpha 9 and 13mm deeper than the Mark II. Like the recent Alpha 9, the a7R Mark III has a multi-selector joystick as well as a control wheel and 12 buttons. Although four buttons and the four ‘directions’ on the clickable control wheel are customizable, the route to customizing them is very difficult to find, even with the help of the online 650-page help guide. Fortunately, a third-party blog does offer some instructions for the persistent searcher.

There are two menus: a quick one and a longer main menu, part of which can be customized into a short ‘my menu’. The abbreviations used are not always clear: one example is ‘Disp. cont. AF (on or off)’. Buttons can be customized through the ‘Custom Key’ option (also, less than transparent for those of us who understand buttons as buttons, and keys as opening doors). Strangely, although eye detection is advertised as a feature of this camera, it can only be found via the ‘custom key’ portion of the menu, in which a particular button is already programmed to eye detection. The manual and the long menu list only, wide, zone, center, flexible spot, and expand flexible spot. Face detection and eye detection for the auto focus are not described in the manual. Face detection, which can be turned on in a different part of the menu, did not always find the faces in a subjective trial using a complicated scene.

Such features that are likely to be popular with many users, should be easier to find and to adjust. The manual that is provided with the camera, does list all the options in the menu (which helps clarify that ‘Swt. V/H AF Area’ has to do with the camera’s position and the focus area, although the sub-options, for example, under ‘Custom Key’, are not included)).  It also seems a shame that Sony did not include all settings within the capability of the camera even in the longer menu.

Eye-start AF is a nifty feature in which the camera begins to autofocus when an eye nears the electronic viewfinder. It is possible to use the monitor as a ‘touch pad’ while composing the image via the viewfinder, although this also means that one can change the focus point with one’s nose. Fortunately, the touch pad feature can be switched off independently of the ‘touch panel’ feature of using the monitor both to compose and to set the focus point.

The touchscreen function is only available for moving the focus point – neither touch-focus nor menu navigation is available via the touch screen. (This can be circumvented by using the ‘pre-AF’ function, which will enable focusing once the focus spot is selected – however, this function is noticeably slower than the normal auto-focus.) The help guide’s instructions, at least in English, are somewhat misleading, as it instructs one to ‘touch the subject [on the monitor] to focus’, when what is meant is to use the touchscreen to move the focus point to the portion of the scene where focus is intended – not that focusing takes place.

A few other quirks are present: for example, despite there being no built-in flash and when an external flash is not connected, one cannot turn off the automatic flash when in ‘program’ mode. It could also be said, that the menus and buttons are over-designed. The same buttons are used for multiple actions, and this can mean that an attempt to set a specific menu item in the main menu, brings one straight to a shortcut option. It seems that Sony expects the a7R Mark III user to be content with the 12 items in the short menu, which is easy to access and has many, but certainly not all, features one might wish to alter.


One exciting option in this camera is pixel shift multi shooting, similar to the Pentax K1’s process. This permits combining of four RAW images, shoot using the silent shutter, into one very large image on a computer (not in camera), although the delicacy of this operation means it is suitable for subjects that are completely still, such as paintings. The feature is easy to find in the long menu, and easy to turn on. Brief subjective observation of a composited image, indicates that detail capture is improved compared to a single image from the series, and colors seem rich.

The Sony a7R Mark III also has features likely to appeal to the creative hobby photographer – someone who would like to be able to produce interesting out-of-camera images. The auto white balance can be set to prioritize the ambience or white, a function that is likely to offer slightly increased control for those getting to know their cameras. ISO can be set, or auto-ISO can be selected (a brief trial indicated the camera prioritizes low ISO at the expense of shutter speed). Aids are present to help one improve one’s composition and the quality of the final image: focus peaking, zebra, focus magnifier, overlays of grids, diagonals, and thirds. Thirteen JPEG ‘creative style’ are available in camera, such as sepia, ‘clear’, ‘portrait’, and another six can be customized. In addition, eight picture effects are possible, including posterization, partial color, and rich-tone mono, which takes three shots for the one image. Bulb mode is also available, although the remote trigger must connect via the micro USB.

The electronic viewfinder said to have 3.69 million dots – said to be the same as on the Alpha 9 – with 100percent coverage of the scene captured. Switching from the monitor to the viewfinder works as quickly as is needed, and the viewfinder can be set so that autofocus starts when the eye is put to the viewfinder. The monitor can be tilted up and down, although not swiveled out.

The AR7 Mark III has very good connectivity, including a USB Type C jack, which is a new, faster type of USB connection. Also present is a more conventional USB 2.0 multi/micro USB, HDMI mini jack, headphone and microphone jacks, and an external flash jack. Connection covers swivel open easily and click closed in a way that seems nicely robust.

Video

The Sony a7R Mark III has 4K video capability: with the capacity to oversample (to 5K), the camera can also create HDR video if wanted.

Movies can be filmed using the record button, or the camera shutter (depending on the menu setting.) However, still images cannot be captured using the camera shutter unless the movie recording is turned off. Touching the shutter button during filming, re-focuses the image and causes visible image change due to focus ‘hunting’, however short.

Videos can be shot at ISO s ranging from ISO 100 to ISO 32000. Creative style, white balance settings, and other settings can be set in still image mode and applied to video shooting. In addition to regular video filming, S&Q options permit slow-motion and time-lapse recording. The dual card slots are very useful not only for the security of a backup system, but also for video, especially as one is UHS-II-compatible.

As indicated with the ‘R’ in the camera name, the Sony a7R Mark III is a camera that produces high-resolution images. The pixel shift multi shooting feature, with the fine detail produced of motionless scenes, could be a useful and fun feature for some photographers. Although the navigability of the menu leaves a lot of room for improvement in clarity and accessibility, the Mark III is improved over its predecessor in many aspects, and it also benefits from many although not all of the innovations of the Alpha 9.

Handling – Bullet Points 

Body & Buttons 

  • Designed to be moisture-resistant and dust-resistant.
  • Like the recent Alpha 9, the a7R Mark III has a multi-selector joystick as well as a control wheel and 12 buttons.
  • Although four buttons and the four ‘directions’ on the clickable control wheel are customizable, the route to customizing them is very difficult to find, even with the help of the online 650-page help guide.

Display and Viewfinder        

  • Electronic viewfinder said to have 3.69 million dots – said to be the same as on the Alpha 9.
  • Electronic viewfinder has 100percent coverage of the scene shot.
  • Switching from the monitor to the viewfinder works as quickly as is needed.
  • Electronic viewfinder can be set so that autofocus starts when the eye is put to the viewfinder.
  • Monitor has touchscreen function but, in still-photography format, only for moving the focus point: the actual focusing is connected to the shutter button (or AF-on button).
  • Monitor can be tilted up and down, although not swiveled out.

Menu structure

  • Main menu and a short menu are available.
  • The a7R Mark III has a customizable part of the menu, called ‘My Menu’.
  • The touchscreen function does not work for navigating the menu.

Functionality

  • Popular and useful features for in-camera jpeg processing.
  • No anti-aliasing filter, so images could be subject to moiré.
  • Eye detection is advertised, including when the subject is looking down or in a dim scene, or even if the face is not entirely exposed to the camera’s “eye”. However, the face recognition in a complicated scene does not always find the faces.
  • Comes with a manual covering focusing and the elements of the camera, with a 650-page help guide available online.
  • Bulb mode available, although the remote trigger must connect via the micro USB.

Special features  

  • Pixel shift multi shooting, similar to the Pentax K1, permits combining of four RAW images into one very large image on a computer (not in camera), although the delicacy of this operation means it is suitable for subjects that are completely still, such as paintings.
  • 5-axis stabilization – pitch and yaw, horizontal and vertical shift, and roll compensation.
  • Electronic first-curtain shutter allowing silent shooting.
  • Focus peaking, zebra, focus magnifier, rule of thirds and diagonals, etc.
  • Having two card slots provides the security of a backup system, as well as options of copying images in-camera.

Connectivity      

  • USB Type C, which is a faster type of USB connection and a smaller port, as well as USB 2.0 multi/micro USB.
  • HDMI mini jack, headphone and microphone jacks, along with external flash jack.
  • Connection covers swivel open easily and click closed in a way that seems nicely robust.

Video        

  • 4K video capability, with 5K oversampling to permit HDR video if wanted.
  • S&Q options permits slow-motion and time-lapse recording.