With A7RIII, Sony is heading to perfection
This is what I’ve heard mostly around me the day of the launch in London, and the days after, online. And I must agree. This damn little piece of equipment which is the A7RIII it’s a jewel of electronic technology and a marvellous tool for photographers.
I’ve also heard a lot of photographers already using the Sony A7RII (check my review in english here) they will upgrade to the mark III for sure, as soon it will became available, which according to Sony is somewhere mid November, less than 3 weeks after after the announcement.
How is the new Sony A7RIII?
It’s a beautiful evolution of a camera I was already considering perfect for my needs. So I couldn’t think of other improvements, but now they are here, well, we just remain to ask ourselves where the camera systems will be in 10 years or so?! We’re living magnificent time my friends!
We’ve been invited by Sony at their European headquarters in London outskirts. As usual (it’s my 5th or 6th visit) London awaited us with perfect sunny weather and 20 degrees, so bye-bye the myth that London means all the time bad weather :). After the short presentation of Sony’s intentions on this competitive market, we’ve been introduced to the products being launched: the Sony A7RIII and the Sony 24-105 G FE lens (hands on here).
Then, performance photographer Ralph Larmann who was lucky enough (and by real merit imho) to test the A7RIII before the launch at Metallica’s concert, showed us some photos that at some point left me mouth open. I’m sorry I couldn’t find that specific photos of his (maybe he hasn’t posted it yet) but I’ll let you know what was that got me into the wow moment:
Image bathed in red, full of crowd from the concert shot wide from far away, like all stadium present there. Band in the middle, under spot white lights. And people from the crowd were using their phones to film or to take photos. We could see the band on their little screens in the images. This is the dynamic range of this crazy camera: 15 stops!
I’ve been Live on Facebook for the whole presentation (you can see it here) and at 1h 07 min 42 seconds you can see a hint of that image, but you have to trust me, the phones in the image showed clearly the band in the middle. Here is the screen to look for in case you wanna skip directly to it.
UPDATE: Ralph was kind enough to send me the photo I was talking about from his presentation. Here it is in all its splendour! Please once again, take a look as his portfolio: www.ralphlarmann.com !
We’ve then been invited to test the lens and the camera. 45 minutes with the lens one group and the other had the camera. Then we’ve switched. I’ve already presented the lens in this article so below I’ll talk about the A7RIII.
What to do first when you get your hands on the A7RIII? Well, a double selfie with it and it’s “older” brother, the A7RII. At least this is what I did, before taking time to set the camera the way I like.
As Kai mentioned in his “to the point” video of the A7RIII, it took me also at least 10 min to get the camera the way I like, all of this out of the little 45 min we had at our disposal. So the rest of the time I’ve tried what was new in this camera.
I’ve shot RAW+X Fine jpeg because I knew from previous experiences with newly launched cameras that it will be impossible to edit RAW files first weeks/months from the launch, because no software will support it yet.
I planed to check autofocusing speed and also the fast 10fps electronic/mechanical shutter feature of the camera. I’ve started first at the setup with strobes, and not continuous lights:
The old guy smoking his pipe
Oh boy how sorry I’ve felt for those strobes while hitting hard on the shutter button at 10fps :D. One thing to mention:
Used to Sony A9, I’ve looked for the menu option to switch from Auto to Mechanical Shutter or Electronic Shutter. There’s none!
The camera automatically chooses its shutter type. The only way to force mechanical shutter is to put the e-Front Curtain Shutter to off, as far as I understood, but I’m not 100% sure about this. Need more test. What I’m sure, is the option is not there in the menus. Don’t ask me why!?!
The details, as expected, are nuts. See here this combo compared to the Sony A9 plus the 24-105 G!
We were more than 4 guys triggering at the same time the strobes so I couldn’t do a full continuous series of bursts that can last for 87 compressed or 28 uncompressed Raw files. But here it is a series of 6 files from the same button press.
The viewfinder, while similar to the A9 in specs, will have a black-out during this 10 fps shooting, but nothing that will prevent you from observing the subject motion. It’s pretty similar to the dSLRs.
One new thing I’ve noticed, it’s the new Eye-AF behaviour. Even if you can still define a button dedicated to EYE-AF, the camera will detect the Eye by itself, in similar ways of detecting Faces in previous models, and track it accordingly. So no need to press a button for this. Well done Sony!
An upgraded feature is the Spot measure by the focus point, similar to the A9. As a down side, similar again to the A9, there is the lack of Sony’s Playmemories Apps :(. I’ve used them a lot in the past, and I would love to use them in the future. I don’t know why Sony is thinking about these apps and why they are “loosing” them.
But if you are into Timelapses, the new Sony A7RIII bring some news: you can find on the camera two USB ports:
- USB 3.1 type C connector
- microUSB port
So you can use a trigger on one port, and one external battery in the other. Sony mentions camera support both USB ports for external charging, so it’s up to you how you use it!
Pixel Shift Technology on the Sony A7RIII
I don’t know about others, but me, I was sold to this the moment I’ve read first about it. Its true that I’ve made a confusion about how it will work, but Sony’s reps explained it better on site.
So, to be short: it’s not like on the Oly’s cameras with their High Res Shot Mode that offers the equivalent output of a 50MP image by combining eight single JPEG frames, which are recorded within one second, into a single, larger image. On the Sony A7rIII, the camera takes 4 different RAW images with a single pixel shift movement. This way, it makes sure the entire surface of the scene photographed is covered fully by red-reading pixels of the Bayern patter, then by blue and two times by the green ones.
Then it combines this 169 mpx of information into a single 42 mpx image, but with incredible details.
But make no mistake – it’s not easy to use. Even a minor shake of the camera will offset this shooting (it takes at least one second between these 4 shots, so the sensor has time to settle its movement) and there should be no movement between shots. This will not work with moving subjects at all.
I wanted to make a demo of this, and I have the files, but we need the new Sony Imaging Edge Software suite because there is no in-camera render of this new technology. So here is an official example from Sony
Speaking about Imaging Edge
Imaging Edge provides three applications called ‘Remote’, ‘Viewer’ and ‘Edit’, that will be available for free download, which will support live-view remote shooting and RAW development. Also Edit will take care of the Pixel Shift Technology.
We’ve seen a pre-beta version of the software and I was curious about the Viewer capability to sort images fast, something similar to Photo Mechanic. Good news is that we don’t need to import a folder to select and rate photos. The bad is that we’ve seen it on a slow laptop and I can’t make a guess on how fast this software will be.
On Remote I’ve been attracted to the Manual Focusing feature: you have some controls on software with minor and major movement of focusing, directly from the computer. Lenses with Piezoelectric focusing motors, will be as precise as 1/1000 mm incremental movements. Add this to the magnified focusing and 42 mpx of resolution and you’re going to be the most precise photographer in focusing :).
More goodies from the A7RIII
The camera comes with an upgraded battery, the same one in Sony A9 (the NP-FZ100) which promise a double shooting time. And it’s not a promise, at least on the A9.
It shoots s-Log3, added to the s-Log2 of the previous A7RII model. A new 4K HDR video feature is added with the new HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) that will go well with Sony’s HDR Bravia TV sets.
Additionally, if there is fluorescent or artificial lighting present in a shooting environment, users can activate the Anti-flicker function to allow the A7RIII to automatically detect frequency of the lighting and time the shutter to minimize its effect on images being captured. This minimizes any exposure or color anomalies that can sometimes occur at the top and bottom of images shot at high shutter speeds.
There is also vertical/horizontal focus point registration like on the A9 and also the joystick to move focus is there too. The LCD is a touch screen too so you can select focus even faster (I’m not a fan of this, but other people might enjoy it).
Not to forget is the Dual SD slot, one being UHS-II compatible as on the A9 camera. Don’t ask why not both of them are the same, I have no answer.
And there are more to tell, but I’ll need this camera for a longer period to give you everything it has to offer!