About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

Sony A7III: Redefining “Basic”

Sony A7III: Redefining “Basic”

Sony has just announced the newest iteration of their full frame “A7” series. The A7III is the new “basic” model in the A7 lineup. This is the third generation of Sony’s first full frame mirrorless camera, and it feels like the line has reached a level of maturity with this new version. Sony may call it “basic”, but based on the specs it is anything but.

To launch the new A7III Sony held a press event in Las Vagas, as well as a few corresponding ones in other countries. Going by what people were saying after the event, there seems to be genuine excitement about the new A7 camera. Sony seems to have taken most of the criticism of its previous models onboard, as well as incorporating many of the things that its users have been requesting. The result seems to be quite a workhorse of a camera, for a relatively low price given the specs.

Sony also seems to have taken some of the best features from the rest of its lineup to create the A7III. It has a new 24mp backside illuminated sensor, which seems to offer similar noise performance to the A9. It also offers the A9’s superb autofocus system, and the newer higher capacity battery. Many who were at the event and reporting on it afterwards referred to it as a “baby A9”. It doesn’t offer the A9’s speed, but at 10fps it’s no slouch either, especially considering that this is what Sony considers its entry-level full frame model. While many of the features seem similar to the A9, it also takes some cues from the A7RIII, including an impressive 15 stops of dynamic range.

When it comes to video features, Sony didn’t skimp here either. It does a full pixel readout of the sensor and downsamples the 6k feed to create a 4K video stream, without cropping or pixel binning. This apparently gives a sharp and clear image, and the samples posted seem to bear that out. Not only that, but unlike the higher end A9, the A7III includes the video-oriented picture profiles, including cine gamma, S-Log2 and S-Log3, as well as hybrid log gamma. While some may bemoan the lack of 10-bit video, for the majority of users, the video quality will be more than good enough. It should be superb.

The camera is going to retail for around $2000, putting it in the same range as the Canon 6D Mark II and slightly above the Nikon D750. It is far more capable than both, however, and they start to look outdated by comparison. (To be fair to Nikon, the D750 is due for a replacement). As I said earlier, it seems to be an ideal workhorse camera, and in my opinion, it looks to be one of the best value higher-end mirrorless cameras out there, when you consider its all-around capabilities. If you’re looking for a camera suitable for cross-media production, i.e. video and stills, then the new A7III really seems like it could be a perfect option, despite Sony labelling it as its “basic” model. 

If the A9 was Sony’s answer to the Nikon D5 or the Canon 1DX, then this seems like Sony’s answer to the Canon 5D market, even though its priced at the 6D level. While the A7 range has been around for a while, this model really does feel like it has matured to the point where there are no longer any compromises for choosing Sony’s mirrorless system over Canon or Nikon’s DSLRs other than the form factor. They have solved the battery issue, and the rest of the specs are more than a match for the Canon 5D Mark IV, with the possible exception of the Canon’s slightly higher resolution. When you think about it, on paper anyway, it really does sound impressive:

It has a full frame sensor, high-quality autofocus, superb 4k video options with no crop and no limits on duration (except, I presume in the EU), good battery life, dual card slots, log recording. And again, this is what Sony considers “entry-level”. The only thing Canon really has going for it is the physical form factor and the “Canon colours”. I’m sure Canon fans will disagree with me on this, but on paper anyway, it really does sound like it could take significant market share from Canon and Nikon. Given the initial excitement, I suspect that this camera will sell extremely well. 

Personally, I have been considering a replacement for my ageing Nikon d700 for some time now. I have been looking at various options, including a Nikon D750 and the Canon 5D Mark IV. I will absolutely consider this now too, in fact, it will move to the front of the list of contenders for me. I’m really looking forward to the full reviews when they come out, but so far, I’m really impressed. If this is what Sony considers “basic”, then they really are redefining the term.

Some more notes:

  • Among the release notes, Sony claims to have improved Jpeg performance, and based on the samples people have been posting, this really does seem to be the case. 
  • One person who was reporting from the event noted that they could soot for over 2 hours on the new battery. 
  • Sony is planning to sell this with the 28-70 lens as a kit, which seems odd. I understand why, as they want to pitch this as an entry-level offering, but that lens isn’t great. I am surprised they are not offering a kit with the newer 24-105 f/4 lens.
  • In a separate announcement, Sigma announced that the company is bringing its highly regarded “Art” series of prime lenses to e-mount. This is a big deal as Sigma’s series of “Art” lenses are highly regarded, and relatively inexpensive, compared to manufacturers own brands.
  • DPReview has posted a sample gallery, with stills taken at the press event.
  • You can re-watch the Sony Press event here.

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