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Sony A7 III Review (Is it Still a Good Choice in 2021?)

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The Sony A7 III is a full-frame mirrorless camera.

It was launched in 2018, and even though a next model, the A7 IV will be released soon… The A7 III will stay a great fit for a lot of photographers and videographers. 

I have been using the A7 III model since its release, and have shot thousands of images and videos with it. 

In this article, I’ll review the Sony A7 III, compare it to other cameras and evaluate its main features, usability, and value for money.

Image of a Sony A7 III

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Overview Of The Sony A7 III

Sony’s digital cameras are getting more and more popular, and the brand innovates continuously. Sony releases new iterations of their camera bodies every 2-3 years, while Nikon and Canon only do that every 4-5 years. They clearly have the desire to continually innovate as a brand, and that is shown by how frequently they release revolutionary cameras.

The Sony A7 III has a full 24 megapixel CMOS image sensor and shoots 10 frames per second. It also captures 4K video up to 30fps and has handy dual memory card slots. It’s a full-frame camera that is positioned as an all-rounder within the Sony camera lineup.

I consider it a great fit, especially for portrait and event photographers. In comparison, the A9 lineup is mostly for sports and wildlife photographers. Whereas the A7R cameras are aimed for professional studio and landscape photographers, who appreciate some extra detail in their images.

One of the key features of the A7 III is fast and accurate autofocus. Its Eye Autofocus system finds the eye automatically in a split second. A great addition for photographers and videographers alike.

Despite the rising competitors, this camera still holds its position amongst the best full-frame mirrorless cameras. And there are quite a few reasons for that.

Picture of a Sony A7 III

Who Is The Sony A7 III For?

The Sony A7 III is a smart choice for many. It’s a great all-rounder camera and has an affordable price.

Its high-resolution sensor, fast and reliable autofocus and good dynamic range made it wildly popular among portrait, landscape photographers. And among wedding photo- and videographers too.

Due to the outstanding autofocus and 10 frames per second, I even recommend it to photographers who are shooting action and are on a budget.

The camera’s smaller size makes it a good option for street and travel photography too, particularly when paired with a smaller lens.

Quite frankly, with its feature set, it does a marvellous job in all niches of photography. 

Key Features

So let’s see how the A7 III lives up to the expectations in a real-life test.

Mount and Compatibility

The Sony A7 III uses the E-mount lens system has been on the market for 7 years, and vastly developed over time. Now a wide range of lenses is available, both by Sony and by other third-party manufacturers. E-mount has a typically short flange distance which results in great compatibility and easy adaptability.

As an ex-Canon user, I now use adapters like the Sigma MC-11 or Metabones Cine Speed Booster. These allow me to apply Canon EF lenses on an E-mount camera, like the A7 III. It gives aperture control and full autofocus, however, the latter will be a bit slower than with native E-mount lenses. 

One of the reasons that make people switch from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras is the smaller size and reduced weight. If you’re looking to make this choice, the A7 III is a good starting point.

Although it’s worth mentioning that most of the native Sony E mount lenses are quite heavy pieces. Not to mention the high-end alternatives, such as the Distagon T* FE 35 mm f/1.4 ZA lens which is comparable to the size of the DSLR lenses. This is a bit contradictory to the general idea behind lightweight mirrorless cameras.

The greatest thing about E-mount is the range of Sony cameras that use it. E-mount lenses work on the three main camera models and all their different iterations in the Sony full-frame lineup… The A9, A7, A7R, A7S and A7C series. It’s worth noting that the full-frame compatible lenses can also be used on Sony’s APS-C models.

Sensor and Image Quality

The A7 III has a full-frame, 24 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. This results in 6000 by 4000-pixel images and great low light performance.

The dynamic range of the sensor is 13.8EV. And having worked with this camera a great deal, I can confirm it’s excellent. This dynamic range allows amazing recovery of details – in shady parts, especially.

I have to warn you, though, that the dynamic range is compromised when shooting compressed RAW files. But uncompressed RAW files are larger and so take longer to write to memory cards. I only advice compressed RAW when shooting fast-paced action or events. In other cases, go for the larger files with better dynamic range.

Another great asset is the In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS), with 5 stops of stabilisation. This is extremely helpful in low-light situations where you are still able to shoot good images without artificial lights.

The IBIS isn’t practical for freezing moving subjects, though. But still, you can use it for handheld shots with a slower shutter speed. This way, you can avoid limiting yourself to excessive tripod usage.

Lowlight performance of Sony A7 III
ISO 12800 straight of the camera, no noise reduction applied.

High ISO performance is another favourite feature of mine. I can shoot at up to ISO 12800 in low light events, where using flash isn’t permitted. There is obviously some noise at that level but it’s bothering at all – see the image above.

A minor drawback is that when taking the lens off the camera, the sensor isn’t covered up – unlike with Canon EOS R models. This means the sensor is open to dust particles if the camera is left on while changing lenses.

To avoid dust damage and ensure a longer lifespan, turn the camera off and wait a few seconds before removing a lens. This gives the sensor time to switch off and less dust will be drawn towards the sensor when open. A handy feature is the in-built sensor cleaning function. This shakes the sensor to remove any dust but it doesn’t always do a perfect job.

Focusing and Burst

The Sony A7 III‘s autofocus is so outstanding that it has turned many DSLR camera users into Sony fans.

There are nearly 700 phase-detection points that give a 93% coverage of the frame. Combine that with the continuous focusing mode that makes a calculation 30 times a second… And you get a highly responsive and accurate autofocus system.

One drawback should be mentioned here, though. When shooting in the continuous focus mode with a high f-stop, the camera doesn’t open up the aperture to allow more light in. But if you shoot with a wide aperture it’s not an issue.

Portrait captured with the help of Sony A7 III Eye Autofocus
The eye autofocus is particularly helpful when shooting at a wide aperture.

Eye Autofocus is an awesome technology that makes a photographer’s life easier. The camera detects the human eye in the scene – just as well as the animal eye. Then, using continuous autofocus, it locks on the eye and tracks it around the whole frame. 

It’s a killer feature for portrait and event photographers. For example, at a wedding, it can track the eye of a bride as she walks down the aisle. Delivering in-focus images without extra effort.

There are several different focus modes available – wide, flexible spot focus of different sizes, zone, centre, expandable flexible spot, and lock-on versions of all these modes. Eye Autofocus can be allocated to a custom button on the camera. This can be handy customisation as Eye AF overrides almost all the other AF mode.

People on fairground bumper cars taken with the Sony A7 III
Fast autofocus and 10 frames per second allow you to capture the action easily.

The A7 III can shoot 10 frames per second both with a mechanical or a silent electronic shutter. The silent shutter mode is great for static subjects. But if the camera or subject is moving, the images will suffer from a major rolling shutter effect.

There are four different burst speeds: Low, Medium, High and High+. The High+ comes with 10 frames per second. It’s worth noting that this burst speed fills up the camera’s memory buffer quickly, even with fast SD cards. It can be frustrating, especially if you’re shooting fast, as it often prevents you from tweaking your camera settings.

Video Features

4K video up to 30 frames per second and 1080p up to 60 frames per second. These assets make the A7 III a capable camera for videography. But due to its 8-bit mode, the colour depth is not as good as in professional videography cameras. However, if you look in the Sony family, the A7 III’s video feature set is better than the more expensive A9’s.

You can record videos in different picture profiles and log. This makes colour grading the footage in post-production easier and better. Sound recording also comes with ease, thanks to the external microphone and headphone ports.

Autofocus in video mode doesn’t compare to stills, though. It performs well with slow-moving, predictable subjects. But the fantastic continuous focus tracking doesn’t transfer to videos on the same level. Yet, in wide open, you’ll be pretty satisfied using the autofocus in scenes that are not too busy. The A7 III will automatically prioritise and lock-on to faces.

Tilt shift photograph of a commercial event shot with a Sony A7 III by Andy Tyler
The focus peaking is also super helpful when shooting with tilt-shift lenses

In manual focus, the A7 III offers focus peaking with adjustable intensity. It’s especially helpful when shooting with a shallow depth of field. It also offers exposure warning zebras to help the user ensure that no important parts of the frame are overexposed.

Whilst not offering all the bells and whistles of more specialised video bodies like the Panasonic GH5 or the Sony A7S III…  The A7 III certainly offers great video features, making it a popular choice for many videographers on a budget. It can also serve well for B-roll footages.

Body and Handling

The smaller camera body is a big benefit of mirrorless cameras. As one, the Sony A7 III weighs only 650 grams (1.43 lb) including a battery. In comparison, my previous camera was the Canon 5D Mark IV which weights  890 grams (1.96 lb). Not just lighter, but the A7 III is also smaller, measuring 127 x 96 x 74 mm (5 x 3.78 x 2.91″).

A flat lay view of Sony A7 III

The smaller size is great in theory, but how does it handle?

The grip is smaller than on a DSLR. This makes many people – especially those with larger hands – purchase a battery grip or a grip extension that screws into the bottom of the camera. This will improve usability and comfort.

The A7 III is an extremely well customisable camera. There are 4 official custom buttons, but actually, 13 buttons can be customised. You can program these buttons to your liking so they suit your needs and preferences. Another great attribute is that you can recall a group of settings with the touch of one button. It’s a great time saver for a photographer who needs to grab a shot, but the settings aren’t configured correctly.

The magnesium-alloy camera body has a reasonable weather sealing, though, but not as advanced as high-end DSLRs are. The bottom of the camera is the weakest area, so make sure you don’t ever put down the camera on a wet surface. This is a trade-off in exchange for the affordable price. 

A side view of Sony A7 III

Sony A7 III

The flip-out screen is definitely something to love. It’s a great help when shooting from above or below your eye level but I have to mention that it’s not a fully articulating screen.

The LCD is a touchscreen that you can even use for selecting a focus point. It can also serve as an alternative to the joystick to move the focus point when shooting with the camera up to your eye, using the EVF.

The viewfinder is pretty bright and responsive but there are many competitors with more advanced resolution. It’s worth to mention that the little rubber eye-cup that attaches to the EVF has a habit of detaching itself, unfortunately. I’ve lost a few myself.

The body also has two SD card slots, one supports the faster UHS-II, while the other only the UHS-I. This means if you’re shooting to both cards, the transfer speed is limited to the slower slot.

Battery life on the A7 III with the Sony NP-FZ100 battery is excellent. The official count is 710 shots, but I get thousands of shots out of a fully charged battery. 

 

An image of the Sony A7 III camera's SD card slot

An image of Sony A7 III camera's battery compartment

Alternatives

As the A7 III was released in April 2018, there are some more up-to-date alternatives. I’ll mention a few of the most relevant ones.

The EOS R6 is one of Canon’s brand new full-frame mirrorless cameras. It can shoot 20-megapixel images, which might seem a bit low in resolution. But it has caught up with the A7 III when it comes to features. It uses the RF mount, so lenses are big, heavy and expensive.

Nikon’s brand new Z6 is another worthy competitor to the A7 III. It uses the Z mount. This Nikon model has a slightly upgraded list of features. So if you’re a Nikon fan, you should go and check it for yourself.

The Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 and the newer S5 are also worth mentioning. If your primary aim is to shoot videos, the S5 has a strong set features. It can record 10-bit video footage. On the other hand, the S1 offers a good balance of attributes that make it ideal for both photos and video.

Our Verdict

The Sony A7 III, although released in 2018, is still a brilliant full-frame mirrorless camera. Almost any photographer will find it to be a great all-rounder. The diverse set of features and the affordable price make it a great buy.

The attributes I found the most impressive throughout my years of use are the autofocus, image quality, and low light performance.

But if you’re considering this model, you should keep in mind that the Sony A7 IV will be released soon. We can expect from the new version a slightly updated body design with more prominent buttons and better ergonomics. Other upgrades are yet to be seen. 

However, I don’t think I’d rush to get the A7 IV myself. The A7 III will stay extremely capable camera for years to come.

Check it out here on Amazon.

Scores

Features (25)
21
Extras (25){{column-name-2}}: 18
Value For Money (20){{column-name-2}}: 22
Handling and Ergonomics (15){{column-name-2}}: 10
Construction and Durability (15){{column-name-2}}: 10
Total (100){{column-name-2}}: 81
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