Sony A7 III Review

With the Alpha 7 III, Sony brings the fast autofocus of the Alpha 9 professional system camera into more affordable regions, even the “smallest” Alpha model is not stingy with features such as the rugged housing, the large viewfinder or the high continuous shooting speed. As with the Alpha 9, the photographer has to be content with 24 megapixels when it comes to resolution. Our detailed test is here.

The Alpha 7 III is the new workhorse in Sony’s mirrorless full-size mid-size range. For less than 2,500 euros, it offers a 24-megapixel 35mm sensor that records ten continuous shots per second and has 693 integrated phase-autofocus sensors. In addition, the sensor shift image stabilizer promises up to 5 EV longer exposure times without blurring. The small Sony Alpha 7 III also masters 4K video recording. In the test it must show what it can do as a complete package and what the picture quality is like.

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Compact, robust, ergonomic housing
  • Very good image quality up to ISO 6,400
  • High continuous shooting rate paired with fast autofocus and large buffer memory
  • Long (currently best in class) battery life
  • Wide range of lenses

Cons

  • Exposure correction wheel too exposed and easily adjustable
  • Menu interspersed with incomprehensible abbreviations
  • Relatively slow write rate despite UHS II

Sony A7 III Review

The Sony Alpha 7 III wants to convince with its good price-performance ratio. For the money there is a lot of equipment and performance as well as image quality.

With the Alpha 7 III, Sony presents a new full-frame basic model that combines solid technology at an affordable price. Equipped with a rear-exposed, 24 megapixel CMOS sensor, the Alpha 7 III is supposed to be a real workhorse: 693 focus points ensure fast focusing, ten continuous shots per second are suitable for sports shots and with up to ISO 204,800 and a five EV effective image stabilizer, even available-light shots are possible. We not only present the new mirrorless system camera, but also describe our first impression.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    Sony Alpha 7 III (ILCE-7M3) with 24-105 mm. [Photo: Sony]

As with the Alpha 9 and the Alpha 7R III, the new, improved housing is also used for the Alpha 7 III. It is made of a robust magnesium alloy and protected against dust and splash water (Sony, as always, cautiously speaks of moisture resistance). Despite its rather compact dimensions, it fits well in the hand. The handle is pleasantly large, you can hold the camera relaxed in one hand without having to be afraid that it will slip out of your way, even if you don’t back it up with your thumb. The thumb cavity is also beautifully shaped. There are two control wheels (one on the index finger handle, one on the back as a thumbwheel), numerous programmable, but meaningfully pre-assigned buttons, as well as a focus joystick and an AF-On button.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    The new Sony Alpha 7 III comes in an improved, more robust case with a bigger battery for doubled endurance.

The heart of the Alpha 7 III is a newly developed 35mm full-format sensor (36 x 24 mm) that resolves 24 megapixels. It is manufactured in BSI technology and thus offers improved light sensitivity compared to the predecessor model. Maximum ISO 204.800 is possible, the basic sensitivity is ISO 100, the normal sensitivity range is up to ISO 51.200, as an extension for photos up to ISO 50 can be downgraded and ISO 204.800 can be upgraded. The image sensor should be able to capture a high dynamic range of 15 f-stops. The raw data format works with 14 bit color depth in order to be able to use these sensibly. The image sensor is equipped with a Bionz X image processor and a front-end LSI accelerator unit with a large buffer memory. At ten continuous frames per second, the camera stores 177 JPEG images between (or 89 raw compressed or 40 raw uncompressed). After that, however, and this is a shortcoming of all cameras with front-end LSI so far, it takes a very long time until the large amounts of data have landed on the memory card. The Alpha 7 III doesn’t really come out of the quark here either, although it has a double card slot, whereby one of the SD slots supports the fast UHS II standard, while the other is compatible with SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS I and the “good” old MemorySticks. By the way, the sensor is read out faster than the previous model, which counteracts the rolling shutter effect, as the Alpha 7 III naturally also offers a silent electronic shutter.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    On the back, the Sony Alpha 7 III offers not only a thumbwheel and many buttons, but also a focus joystick with AF-On button. [Photo: Sony]

As in the Alpha 9 693, phase autofocus points integrated on the sensor are available for focusing, covering 93 percent of the image field. They react already from -3 EV and should accelerate the autofocus compared to the predecessor model Alpha 7 II to the double, even in AF-C mode at ten frames per second. The phase autofocus is supplemented by a contrast autofocus with 425 measuring points. Also known from the Alpha 9 is the face autofocus including eye recognition, which also works in tracking mode. By the way, the movable image sensor provides image stabilization. The effectiveness increases from 4.5 EV of the predecessor model to 5 EV, as is the case with the Alpha 7R III and Alpha 9, which is a 5-axis image stabilizer that compensates for up/down, left/right and rotation movements.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    Thanks to the pronounced handle, the Sony Alpha 7 III fits perfectly in the hand despite its compact dimensions. [Photo: Sony]

Sony, on the other hand, has opted for the tried and tested for the viewfinder: an XGA OLED with a resolution of 2.36 million pixels is used, which of course covers 100 percent of the image field and magnifies it 0.71 times. The Seeker is solid, but not breathtaking these days. The rear 7.5 cm screen is a touchscreen that can be used to move the autofocus point even when the viewfinder is used as a touchpad. In addition, the screen can be tilted over 90 degrees upwards and a good 40 degrees downwards. This makes it possible to take pictures close to the ground and over the heads of crowds, but only in landscape format. The screen has a resolution of 1.23 million pixels, with every fourth subpixel illuminated in white, which greatly improves brightness and therefore readability in direct sunlight.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    The Sony Alpha 7 III’s 24 megapixel 35mm full-frame sensor offers high light sensitivity thanks to BSI technology. 693 phase autofocus points integrated on it cover a large image area. [Photo: Sony]

With the new housing, the larger NP-FZ100 rechargeable battery is also used, enabling over 700 CIPA-standard shots. That is an even doubling compared to the Alpha 7 II. With this, the Alpha 7 III gets rid of the shortcoming of mirrorless system cameras that the battery doesn’t last long enough for many. If you have such a nervous finger that even the 710 images are not enough, you might want to think about more quality instead of quantity when taking pictures. For serial pictures, for example, these 710 pictures don’t apply anyway, as the battery lasts much longer. It depends on what you do with the camera. The battery can also be charged on the go without a mains power supply, because the USB-C interface can also be used to connect a power bank, and a power supply for the camera is not a problem with USB-C.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    The double card slot of the Sony Alpha 7 III accommodates two SD cards, slot 1 being compatible with the fast UHS-II standard, while slot 2 can even be used alternatively with MemorySticks. The movable touch screen is also practical.

Speaking of other tasks apart from photography: the Sony Alpha 7 III records videos in 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) on the memory card. For oversamplings the sensor is read out in 6K, which should lead to a higher image quality. Only the image angle from the trimming of the 3:2 sensor format to the 16:9 film format is lost, so the sensor width is used completely. The recording is made with up to 100 Mbit/s in high quality. The Alpha 7 III can also produce 4K HDR videos directly, the dynamic range is then 14 f-stops according to Sony. The videos comply with the HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) standard, so they can be played with normal HDR-capable 4K televisions. Furthermore S-Log2, S-Log3, Gamma Display Assist, Zebra and Proxy-Recording are supported. An integrated stereo microphone and a microphone connection, both with level display and level control, are available for the sound. There is also a headphone socket for sound control. In Full HD, the Alpha 7 III even records up to 120 frames per second for four to fivefold slow-motion effects, while the tracking autofocus remains of course active.

Both WLAN and Bluetooth are available for the wireless connection. Bluetooth allows a power-saving, permanent connection to a smartphone, for example to transfer the position data and store them directly in the EXIF data of the images when they are taken. Larger amounts of data can be transferred to a smartphone, computer or even FTP via WLAN. Remote control of the camera via smartphone app is also possible.

The Alpha 7 III made a very solid and successful impression in the first test. It combines a high-quality, solid workmanship with good ergonomics, only the many menu items may take a little getting used to. The technical equipment is more than worthy of a basic model. The Alpha 7 III is reaction-friendly and shoots very fast image series, even high ISO sensitivities are no problem. The huge buffer memory hides the bottleneck of the memory card interface a bit, but to be able to record for almost 18 seconds at ten frames per second should satisfy most photographers, even if the camera is a little busy with storing data afterwards. After all, one can still continue to photograph.

Ergonomics and workmanship

As with the Alpha 9 and the Alpha 7R III, the new, improved housing is also used for the Alpha 7 III. It is made of a robust magnesium alloy and protected against dust and splash water. As always, Sony cautiously speaks only of moisture resistance, but unlike its predecessor, the Alpha 7 III also has a seal on the battery compartment on the underside of the camera, for example. Despite the rather compact dimensions, the Sony fits well in the hand. The handle is pleasantly large, you can hold the camera relaxed in one hand without having to be afraid that it will slip out of your way, even if you don’t back it up with your thumb. The thumb cavity is also beautifully shaped.

Two adjustment wheels are available for operation (one on the handle for the index finger, one on the back as thumbwheel). The exposure correction wheel, on the other hand, was attached quite exposed by Sony and forgot the necessary security, so it is far too easy to accidentally adjust. Numerous keys are programmable, but preassigned in a meaningful way. This is only disadvantageous because the operation is not so easy to explain itself, since the key is labelled C1 instead of the concrete function, for example. There is also a focus joystick and an AF-On button. The Fn quick menu can also be customized. The main menu consists of six main categories, one of which contains the “My Menu”, in which you can save your preferred menu settings so that you don’t have to search for them in the main menu, which is not too clearly arranged. The recording menu alone is divided into two main categories with 14 and nine menu pages, which in turn comprise up to six menu items. The autofocus settings alone comprise four menu pages, the movie recording settings three. The fact that Sony uses many incomprehensible abbreviations in the German menu is also not conducive, nor are the sometimes meaningless help texts, which raise more questions than they answer.

With its 2.36 million pixel viewfinder and 921,000 pixel folding touchscreen, the Sony Alpha 7 III does not offer any special resolutions for today’s conditions.

For the viewfinder, Sony has opted for the tried and tested: an XGA OLED with a resolution of 2.36 million pixels is used, which of course covers 100 percent of the image field and magnifies very decently with a factor of 0.78 times. The viewfinder is solid, but nowadays, especially in view of the resolution, it is no longer breathtaking. Thanks to the proximity sensor, the viewfinder activates automatically as soon as you take the camera to your eye. The rear 7.5 cm screen is a touchscreen that can be used as an alternative to the focus joystick as a touchpad to move the autofocus point when the viewfinder is used. In addition, the screen can be tilted over 90 degrees upwards and a good 40 degrees downwards. This makes it possible to take pictures close to the ground and over the heads of crowds, but only in landscape format. However, with a resolution of 921,600 pixels, the screen also only offers “plain fare”. After all, it shines extremely brightly in the “sunny” mode and thus remains easy to read even in direct sunlight.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    The exposure correction wheel of the Sony Alpha 7 III, here right down, adjusts too easily, the fuse is missing. The program selector, on the other hand, engages fully.

The interface interface on the left side of the camera is lavishly equipped, but the covers look a bit flimsy. A maximum of two interfaces are plugged under one cover. Only the 3.5 mm stereo jack microphone connection is located at the top front. The headphone jack and the 4k-capable Micro-HDMI interface are located under the other top cover. The choice of this wobbly, small connector is not necessarily cheap if you want to record videos externally via HDMI. The lower cover accommodates two USB interfaces, which may seem surprising at first glance. The upper socket is the modern USB type C. This interface can not only read the memory card at about 80 MB/s (which is ridiculously slow for USB 3 “Superspeed”), but also power the camera permanently and charge the battery. This allows the Alpha 7 III mobile to be supplied extremely well with power, for example from a powerful power bank. This makes the Sony one of the few cameras that can be permanently powered via USB when switched on. The lower USB interface is a normal micro connector. This can also be used to charge the battery. But much more important is the possibility to connect the Sony cable remote controls here, parallel to the power supply via the USB-3 interface.

With the new housing, the larger NP-FZ100 rechargeable battery is also used, enabling over 700 CIPA-standard shots. This is a smooth doubling compared to the Alpha 7 II and current record among the mirrorless system cameras. With this, the Alpha 7 III gets rid of the shortcoming of mirrorless system cameras that the battery doesn’t last long enough for many. However, the electronic viewfinder proves to be a real power guzzler compared to the touch screen: with EVF instead of the screen, endurance is reduced by 100 shots according to the CIPA standard. By the way, the battery compartment is located sufficiently far away from the tripod thread arranged in the optical axis. The Alpha 7 III is also compatible with the VG-C3EM portrait handle. The memory card slot on the handle side has two slots, one of the SD slots supporting the fast UHS II standard, while the other is compatible with SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS I and the “good” old MemorySticks.

Equipment

As a camera for ambitious amateur photographers, the Sony Alpha 7 III limits itself to a few automatic modes. This includes, for example, the “panic mode” alias fully automatic. In this mode, even the exposure-compensation dial is out of order, eliminating the possibility of exposure errors. The same applies to the few motif programs that can be accessed via the SCN position of the full latching program selector wheel. Here there are basic functions such as portrait, macro, landscape, sport, sunset and night scene with and without portrait. The main part of the program selector wheel is occupied by the classic creative programs P, A, S and M as well as the two user memories in which specific recording settings can be stored and quickly recalled at any time. The ISO automatic works in any mode, including manual mode. A combination with the exposure correction is of course possible. Both the lowest and the highest sensitivity of the ISO automatic working range can be set. The longest shutter speed from which the automatic increases the sensitivity can be set both by the automatic and manually. For example, 1/1,000 second to safely freeze fast movements during sports shooting.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    We used the Sony FE 24-105 mm F4 G OSS (SEL24105G) as test lens on the Sony Alpha 7 III.

For focusing, as in the large Alpha 9, 693 phase autofocus points integrated on the sensor and specialized in sports photography, cover 93 percent of the image field. The phase autofocus is supplemented by a contrast autofocus with 425 measuring points (so-called hybrid autofocus). The autofocus already reacts from -3 EV and is said to have been doubled compared to the predecessor model Alpha 7 II, even in AF-C mode at ten frames per second. Our laboratory measurement can’t confirm this, the Alpha 7 III even needs a tenth of a second longer to focus from infinity to two meters than the Alpha 7 II, which can be due to the lens, however, because the Alpha 7 III used the 24-105 mm, the Alpha 7 II the 28-70 mm, with which the Alpha 7 III is also available as a cheap kit. Nevertheless, this acceleration probably refers to the tracking of motifs in AF-C mode, which works really well with the Alpha 7 III. Also known from the Alpha 9 is the face autofocus including eye recognition, which also works in tracking mode.

The movable image sensor is responsible for image stabilization. The effectiveness increases from 4.5 EV of the predecessor model to 5 EV, as is the case with the Alpha 7R III and Alpha 9, which is a 5-axis image stabilizer that compensates for up/down, left/right and rotation movements. When using an image stabilized objective, in our case the 24-105 mm F4 OSS, the objective compensates two axes (tilting movements) and the sensor the remaining three axes (displacement and rotation). This makes the image stabilizer more effective, especially with longer focal lengths. The image stabilizer works when the shutter release button is pressed halfway, which simplifies focusing. By the way, all lenses, including adapted manual treasures or lenses from other manufacturers, benefit from the sensor shift image stabilizer. For purely mechanical lenses, only the focal length has to be set in the menu so that the compensating movements are carried out with the correct amplitude.

The heart of the Alpha 7 III is a newly developed 35mm full-format sensor (36 x 24 mm) that resolves 24 megapixels. It is manufactured in BSI technology and thus offers improved light sensitivity compared to the predecessor model. Maximum ISO 204.800 is possible, the basic sensitivity is ISO 100, the normal sensitivity range is up to ISO 51.200, as an extension for photos up to ISO 50 can be downgraded and ISO 204.800 can be upgraded. By the way, the sensor is read out faster than the previous model, which counteracts the rolling shutter effect, as the Alpha 7 III naturally also offers a silent electronic shutter. The fastest shutter speed is 1/8,000 second, regardless of the shutter technology selected. A combination of electronic and mechanical closure is also possible. The electronic first shutter curtain reduces vibrations during triggering. The flash sync time is 1/250 second, whereby the Sony Alpha 7 III doesn’t have an integrated flash, but offers the Sony multiinterface flash shoe, via which various accessories can be connected.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    The tripod thread of the Sony Alpha 7 III is located in the optical axis and far enough away from the battery compartment.

According to our measurements, the serial frame rate is 9.9 frames per second both in JPEG and raw (14 bit, lossless compression) for 148 JEPG and 120 raw images in a row, respectively. Thus, the number of JPEG serial images remains behind the values promised by Sony, presumably because these were not made with the setting “Extrafine” like our measurement. On the other hand, the raw standard image performance is even much better than promised. In continuous operation, the Alpha 7 III in Raw with 4.9 frames per second even clearly exceeds the performance of JPEG, where only a meager 1.5 frames per second are achieved. The reason is probably the complex image processing in JPEG including the correction of lens errors. This also leads to a slow emptying of the serial image buffer, which takes 75 s in JPEG, but only 13 seconds in Raw. The good continuous shooting performance, especially the long endurance, is not only due to the powerful Bionz X image processor, but above all to the front-end LSI as an accelerator unit with large buffer memory (see also further links). As is so often the case with Sony, the memory card interface turns out to be the bottleneck of the continuous shooting function. Despite the theoretically very fast UHS-II-SDHC/SDXC memory card slot, in which a suitable Sony SF-G memory card with 299 MB/s writing speed was inserted, the Alpha 7 III doesn’t really come out of the quark. The maximum write rate is only about 120 MB/s and thus leaves a lot of potential. With a faster interface, fast image series would be conceivable in Raw until the memory card is full.

The Sony Alpha 7 III records videos in 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels). For oversamplings the sensor is read out in 6K, which should lead to a higher image quality. Only the image angle from the trimming of the 3:2 sensor format to the 16:9 film format is lost, so the sensor width is used completely. The storage takes place with up to 100 Mbit/s in high quality. The Alpha 7 III can also produce 4K HDR videos directly, the dynamic range is then 14 f-stops according to Sony. The videos comply with the HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) standard, so they can be played with normal HDR-capable 4K televisions. Furthermore S-Log2, S-Log3, Gamma Display Assist, Zebra and Proxy-Recording are supported. An integrated stereo microphone and a microphone connection, both with level display and level control, are available for the sound. There is also a headphone socket for sound control. In Full HD, the Alpha 7 III even records up to 120 frames per second for four to fivefold slow-motion effects, while the tracking autofocus remains of course active. It can even be specially adjusted in reaction speed and sensitivity, just like in continuous-advance mode.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    The handle of the Sony Alpha 7 III is well shaped and offers secure grip.

Both WLAN and Bluetooth are available for the wireless connection. Bluetooth allows a power-saving, permanent connection to a smartphone to transfer the position data and store it directly in the EXIF data of the images when recording. Larger amounts of data (images) can be transferred to a smartphone, computer or even FTP via WLAN. Remote control of the camera via smartphone app including live image transmission and setting the recording parameters is also possible. Further details can be found in our photo tip in the further links.

Picture quality

The rear-exposed CMOS sensor in 35mm full format with its relatively modest 24 megapixels resolution promises high image quality over a wide sensitivity range. The Sony FE 24-105 mm F4 G OSS (SEL24105G) was used for the test, which already convinced us in the single test with its high image quality for a standard zoom. We have tested the combination of the lens with the Alpha 7 III not only in practice, but also in our test laboratory for image quality. As always, the detailed results can be called up for a fee via the links to other websites. However, we also offer laboratory tests with detailed diagrams and explanatory texts in a prepaid flat rate, which offers temporary full access to over 1,700 laboratory tests of cameras and lenses. The purchases also help us work on detailed, free reviews like this one. The following considerations are based on the laboratory test (see further links).

The optical errors of the standard zoom Sony FE 24-105 mm F4 G OSS (SEL24105G) are corrected by the fast processor team of the Alpha 7 III by default. This is noticeable in the laboratory test, because the edge darkening moves, with the exception of the short end of the focal length, with open aperture under half an aperture step. The maximum edge darkening is only 0.7 f-stops at F4 and 24 millimeters. The decrease in brightness is always very soft towards the edge of the picture, so that it is practically unnoticeable. At 0.8 percent, distortion is most pronounced in wide angle, but this is also hardly noticeable in practice. At medium focal length, on the other hand, there is a minimal cushion-shaped distortion of about 0.2 percent; in telescopic position, even no distortion can be measured. As was to be expected, the chromatic aberrations are also minimal, on average they are less than half a pixel and even in the maximum they do not even reach a pixel extent and thus remain practically below the perception threshold.

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    The many interfaces of the Sony Alpha 7 III sit behind quite simple covers. Continuous operation of the camera is possible via USB-C.

Usually such digital corrections have negative effects on other image quality characteristics, so a distortion correction normally reduces the edge resolution, a vignetting correction leads to increased noise in the image corners. The latter is no problem at all with the Alpha 7 III, the rear-exposed full-format sensor with its large pixels has plenty of reserves. The resolution in the image center reaches a maximum of just over 70 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) and is therefore extremely high for an image sensor with a physical resolution of “only” 24 megapixels. It is achieved at a focal length of 24 millimetres with an open aperture. When zooming, the lens loses some resolution, it drops to just over 60 lp/mm at medium focal length and just under 60 lp/mm at long focal length, which are good resolutions to be expected for 24 megapixels.

At the edge of the image, the edge resolution is almost independent of the focal length. However, the highest edge resolution is not achieved with an open aperture, where the aperture is about 40-45 lp/mm, but rather strongly dimmed to F11 to F16, where the edge resolution reaches 49-55 lp/mm depending on the focal length. Especially in wide-angle, the resolution is somewhat uneven with an open aperture, at least a good third is lost “on the way” to the edge of the picture. For such a full format zoom this is not unusual at all. At medium and long focal lengths, the edge drop is lower, especially at F11 to F16, an almost even resolution from the center to the edge of the image is achieved at a level of 48 to 56 lp/mm. The fact that the resolution in the wide angle is not quite so even is mainly due to the higher resolution in the image center, which is still a good 62 lp/mm even at F16, which is really nothing to complain about. In any case, diffraction is only noticeable beyond F16, but even with the smallest aperture, F22, the resolution is over 40 lp/mm. Here you can’t really do anything so wrong that it spoils the photos, which is one of the clearer advantages of large pixels.

It remains to be noted that the sensor of the Alpha 7 III makes very good use of the physical resolution and the lens can easily keep up. But the back-illuminated CMOS sensor promises even more, since the sensitivity offers a wide range from ISO 50 to 204,800. The signal-to-noise ratio moves up to ISO 800 at a very high level of over 40 dB and even scratches the 45 dB mark at ISO 50. Only above ISO 6.400 does the signal-to-noise ratio drop below the critical level of 35 dB, so that the image signal no longer differs so well from the noise. The noise always remains fine-grained and becomes easily visible from ISO 12.800 in the form of brightness noise and strongly visible from ISO 51.200, while color noise only occurs slightly visible at ISO 204.800.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    The full-frame BSI CMOS sensor with 24 megapixel resolution of the Sony Alpha 7 III offers excellent image quality up to ISO 800 and very good image quality up to ISO 6,400, with ISO 12,800 as a reserve with acceptable image quality.

The noise reduction of the Alpha 7 III is very gentle, especially at low sensitivities. Up to ISO 1.600 it reproduces an extremely large number of details, but also shows a visible over-sharpening; the sharpness artifact rate is around ten percent. Above ISO 6.400, noise suppression intervenes more visibly and measurably and causes increasing loss of detail. Up to ISO 6,400 you can take pictures – with ISO 12,800 as a “reserve” – with high image quality and many details, but for best results remain better in the range up to ISO 800 or 1,600.

The input dynamic reaches its highest value at ISO 100 with twelve f-stops (see diagram from the laboratory test below). At ISO 50, an entire f-stop is lost, which is typical for an ISO extension at a basic sensitivity of ISO 100. Up to ISO 3.200 the dynamic range slowly drops to eleven f-stops, above ISO 6.400 it drops steeper and at ISO 12.800 it is already just under ten f-stops. So Sony can’t do magic either, but it becomes clear at what sensitivity the limits of good image quality lie.

The tonal value curve shows a visibly divided curve, only at ISO 50 it is somewhat flatter due to the signal attenuation. The Sony Alpha 7 III’s JPEGs are clearly designed for instant use, eliminating the need for image post-processing. This is a good compromise, because if you want to get involved yourself, it is better to use the raw data format with such a camera anyway. The output tonal range moves up to ISO 800 at a very good level of over 224 of 256 possible brightness gradations, up to ISO 200 the brightness levels are even almost completely exploited. Up to ISO 3.200, the value remains good with over 160, critical above ISO 25.600, where less than 100 brightness gradations remain. Gradual brightness gradients, for example in the sky, are the result.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    710 recordings with one battery charge is the current record. The dual memory card slot of the Sony Alpha 7 III accepts one SD/SDHC/SDXC card with fast UHS II and one with UHS I or optionally a Sony MemoryStick.

The color fidelity of the Alpha 7 III is also good, on average the color deviation is small and even in the maximum there are no coarse outliers. Slight colour shifts are “normal” and should provide subjectively beautiful, luminous image results, such as a light green shifted slightly towards yellow or more saturated and thus more luminous red tones, as is the case with the Alpha 7 III. The actual color depth is again at a very high level, especially at low sensitivities. Up to ISO 800, Sony achieves about 8.4 million colour shades, up to ISO 6,400 it is over four million. Even the value of over two million colors at ISO 25.600 is still good, but at even higher sensitivities the value drops drastically, at ISO 204.800 it is less than half a million color nuances.

Resolution and lens

The optical errors of the standard zoom Sony FE 24-105 mm F4 G OSS (SEL24105G) are corrected by the fast processor team of the Alpha 7 III, consisting of a front-end LSI and the Bionz-X image processor, by default. This is noticeable in the laboratory test, because the edge darkening moves with exception of the short focal length end with open aperture under a half aperture step. The maximum edge darkening is only 0.7 f-stops at F4 and 24 millimeters. The decrease in brightness is always very soft towards the edge of the picture, so that it is practically unnoticeable. The distortion is strongest in wide-angle with 0.8 percent cushion shape, which is also hardly noticeable in practice. At medium focal length, on the other hand, there is a minimal cushion-shaped distortion of about 0.2 percent; in telescopic position, even no distortion can be measured. As was to be expected, the chromatic aberrations are also minimal, on average they are less than half a pixel and even in the maximum they do not even reach a pixel extent and thus remain practically below the perception threshold.

Usually, such digital corrections have negative effects on other image quality features, such as distortion correction usually reduces the edge resolution, vignetting correction leads to increased noise in the image corners. The latter is no problem at all with the Alpha 7 III, the rear-exposed full-format sensor with its large pixels has plenty of reserves. The resolution in the image center reaches a maximum of just over 70 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) and is therefore extremely high for an image sensor with a physical resolution of “only” 24 megapixels. It is achieved at a focal length of 24 millimetres with an open aperture. When zooming, the lens loses some resolution, it drops to just over 60 lp/mm at medium focal length and just under 60 lp/mm at long focal length, which are good resolutions to be expected for 24 megapixels.

Sony A7 III Review

The Sony Alpha 7 III’s 35mm full-frame sensor is backlit and resolves 24 megapixels.

At the edge of the image, the edge resolution is almost independent of the focal length. However, the highest edge resolution is not achieved with an open aperture, where the aperture is about 40-45 lp/mm, but rather strongly dimmed to F11 to F16, where the edge resolution reaches 49-55 lp/mm depending on the focal length. Especially in wide-angle, the resolution is somewhat uneven with an open aperture, at least a good third is lost “on the way” to the edge of the picture. For such a full format zoom this is not unusual at all. At medium and long focal lengths, the edge drop is lower, especially at F11 to F16, an almost even resolution from the center to the edge of the image is achieved at a level of 48 to 56 lp/mm. The fact that the resolution in the wide angle is not quite so even is mainly due to the higher resolution in the image center, which is still a good 62 lp/mm even at F16, which is really nothing to complain about. In any case, diffraction is only noticeable beyond F16, but even with the smallest aperture, F22, the resolution is over 40 lp/mm. Here you can’t really do anything so wrong that it spoils the photos, which is one of the clearer advantages of large pixels.

Image sensor and image processing

It remains to be noted that the sensor of the Alpha 7 III makes very good use of the physical resolution and the lens can easily keep up. But the back-illuminated CMOS sensor promises even more, since the sensitivity offers a wide range from ISO 50 to 204,800. The signal-to-noise ratio moves up to ISO 800 at a very high level of over 40 dB and even scratches the 45 dB mark at ISO 50. Only above ISO 6.400 does the signal-to-noise ratio drop below the critical level of 35 dB, so that the image signal no longer differs so well from the noise. The noise always remains fine-grained and becomes easily visible from ISO 12.800 in the form of brightness noise and strongly visible from ISO 51.200, while color noise only occurs slightly visible at ISO 204.800.

The noise reduction of the Alpha 7 III is very gentle, especially at low sensitivities. Up to ISO 1.600 it reproduces an extremely large number of details, but also shows a visible over-sharpening; the sharpness artifact rate is around ten percent. Above ISO 6.400, noise suppression intervenes more visibly and measurably and causes increasing loss of detail. Up to ISO 6,400 you can take pictures – with ISO 12,800 as a “reserve” – with high image quality and many details, but for best results remain better in the range up to ISO 800 or 1,600.

Sony A7 III Review

Despite its compact housing, the Sony Alpha 7 III offers good ergonomics with its distinctive handle.

The input dynamic reaches its highest value at ISO 100 with twelve f-stops (see diagram from the laboratory test below). At ISO 50, an entire f-stop is lost, which is typical for an ISO extension at a basic sensitivity of ISO 100. Up to ISO 3.200 the sensitivity slowly drops to eleven f-stops, above ISO 6.400 it drops steeper and at ISO 12.800 it is already just under ten f-stops. So Sony can’t do magic either, but it clearly shows at what sensitivity the limits of good picture quality lie.

The tonal value curve shows a clearly divided curve, only at ISO 50 it is somewhat flatter due to the signal attenuation. The Sony Alpha 7 III’s JPEGs are clearly designed for instant use, eliminating the need for image post-processing. This is a good compromise, because if you want to get involved yourself, it is better to use the raw data format with such a camera anyway. The output tonal range moves up to ISO 800 at a very good level of over 224 of 256 possible brightness gradations, up to ISO 200 the brightness levels are even almost completely exploited. Up to ISO 3.200, the value remains good with over 160, critical above ISO 25.600, where less than 100 brightness gradations remain. Gradual colour gradients are the result.

The color fidelity of the Alpha 7 III is also good, on average the color deviation is small and even in the maximum there are no coarse outliers. Slight colour shifts are “normal” and should provide subjectively beautiful, luminous image results, such as a light green shifted slightly towards yellow or more saturated and thus more luminous red tones. The actual color depth is again at a very high level, especially at low sensitivities. Up to ISO 800, Sony achieves about 8.4 million colour shades, up to ISO 6,400 it is over four million. Even the value of over two million colors at ISO 25.600 is still good, but at even higher sensitivities the value drops drastically, at ISO 204.800 it is less than half a million color nuances.

 

Bottom line

The Sony Alpha 7 III makes an all-round good impression. It combines a high-quality, solid workmanship with good ergonomics, only the many menu items (especially the abbreviations) may take a little getting used to. The technical equipment is more than worthy. The Alpha 7 III is reaction-friendly and shoots very fast image series, even high ISO sensitivities are no problem. The enormous buffer memory hides the bottleneck of the memory card interface a little, but to be able to take 12 to 15 seconds at ten frames per second including focus tracking should really satisfy most photographers, even if the camera is a bit busy saving JPEG after that. After all, one can still continue to photograph. Image quality is extremely high over a wide sensitivity range. Thanks to the offensive image processing of the JPEGs, which require no further image processing, the resolution is also surprisingly high, not least thanks to the good Sony FE 24-105 mm F4 G OSS (SEL24105G). The best image quality for the highest demands is obtained in the range from ISO 100 to ISO 800 with ISO 1.600 as “reserve”, good to very good is the image quality but up to ISO 6.400 with ISO 12.800 as “reserve”. However, despite all the technology, the limits of the image sensor and image processing are evident above and below ISO 25.600. In situations with extremely little light, the Sony Alpha 7 III is also best equipped with a fast fixed focal length.

All in all, the Sony Alpha 7 III achieves an extremely high image quality over a wide sensitivity range. Sony relies on an offensive image processing of the JPEGs, which do not require any further image processing. They are well sharpened and show high contrasts, the colors remain thereby close to the original and are only discreetly “shifted” for a beautiful picture impression. The resolution is very high together with the Sony FE 24-105 mm F4 G OSS (SEL24105G), the digital correction of the optical errors shows practically no negative effects and is thus to be evaluated as advantageous. You can even dimm down to F11 or F16 without any problems and without losing any resolution.

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Sony
Model Alpha 7 III
Sensor CMOS 35mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm (Crop factor 1.0
)25.3 Megapixels (physical)
24.2 Megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 6,0 µm
Resolution (max.) 6.000 x 3.376 (16:9)
Video (max.) 3.840 x 2.160 30p
Lens Sony FE 200-600 mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS (SEL200600G) (zoom lens), Sony FE 24-105 mm F4 G OSS (SEL24105G) (zoom lens)
Video viewfinder EVF, 100 % field coverage, 2,359,296 pixels resolution, 0.78x magnification (sensor related), 0.78x magnification (KB equivalent), diopter compensation (-4.0 to 3.0 dpt)
Monitor 3.0″ (7.5 cm)
Disbandment 921.600 pixels
tiltable yes
rotatable
swivelling
Touchscreen yes
AV connector HDMI Output Micro (Type D)
Fully automatic yes
Automatic motif control
Motif programmes 7
Program automation yes
Program shift yes
Aperture priority yes
Aperture priority yes
Manual yes
Bulb long time exposure yes
HDR function yes
Panorama function no
Exposure metering Matrix/multi-field measurement (1,200 fields), center-weighted integral measurement, spot measurement
fastest shutter speed 1/8.000 s
Lightning bolt
Synchronous time 1/250 s
Flash connection Hot shoe: Sony Multi Interface, standard centre contact
WLAN yes
NFC yes
GPS external, permanent smartphone connection
Remote release yes, cable trigger, Bluetooth trigger, remote control via Smartphone/Tablet
Interval shooting
Storage medium
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I, UHS II)
Slot 2
Memory Stick (Duo, Duo Pro)
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I)
Sensitivity
automatic ISO 100-51.200
manually ISO 50-204.800
White balance
automatic yes
manual measurement yes
Kelvin input yes
Fine correction yes
Autofocus yes
Number of measuring fields 693425
Contrast sensors
Speed 0,38 s
AF auxiliary light LED
Dimensions (mm) 127 x 96 x 74 mm
Weight (ready for operation) 658 g (housing only
)1.319 g (with lens)
Tripod socket in optical axis
Zoom
Zoom adjustment manual on lens
Battery life 710 images (according to CIPA standard)
– = “not applicable” or “not available”

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Compact, robust, ergonomic housing
  • Very good image quality up to ISO 6,400
  • High continuous shooting rate paired with fast autofocus and large buffer memory
  • Long (currently best in class) battery life
  • Wide range of lenses

Cons

  • Exposure correction wheel too exposed and easily adjustable
  • Menu interspersed with incomprehensible abbreviations
  • Relatively slow write rate despite UHS II

Sony Alpha 7 III Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 35mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm (crop factor 1.0
)25.3 megapixels (physical) and 24.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 6,0 µm
Photo resolution
6.000 x 3.376 pixels (16:9)
4.240 x 2.832 pixels (3:2)
3.936 x 2.624 pixels (3:2)
3.936 x 2.216 pixels (16:9)
3.008 x 2.000 pixels (3:2)
3.008 x 1.688 pixels (16:9)
1.968 x 1.312 pixels (3:2)
1.968 x 1.112 pixels (16:9)
Picture formats JPG, RAW
Colour depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 42 bits (14 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard (version 2.0)
Video resolution
3.840 x 2.160 (16:9) 30 p
3.840 x 2.160 (16:9) 25 p
3.840 x 2.160 (16:9) 24 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 120 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 100 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 i
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 i
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
1.440 x 1.080 (4:3) 30 p
1.440 x 1.080 (4:3) 25 p
1.440 x 1.080 (4:3) 25 p
Maximum recording time 29 min
HDR video yes
Video format
XAVC S (Codec H.264)
AVCHD (Codec H.264)
MP4 (Codec H.264)
Audio format (video) PCM

Lens

Lens mount
Sony E

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 693 sensors, autofocus working range from -3 EV to 20 EV, contrast autofocus with 425 measuring fields
Autofocus Functions Single Auto Focus, Continuous Auto Focus, Tracking Auto Focus, Manual, AFL Function, AF Assist Light (LED), Focus Peaking, Focus Magnifier (12x)
Focus control Depth of field control, Live View

Viewfinder and Monitor

Monitor 3.0″ (7.5 cm) TFT LCD monitor with 921,600 pixels, brightness adjustable, inclinable 107° up and 41° down, with touch screen
Video viewfinder Video viewfinder (100 % field coverage) with 2,359,296 pixels, 0.78x magnification factor, diopter compensation (-4.0 to 3.0 dpt)

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 1,200 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/8,000 to 30 s (Auto
)1/8,000 to 30 s (Manual)
1/8,000 to 30 s (Electronic Shutter)
Bulb Function
Exposure control Fully Automatic, Program Automatic (with Program Shift), Aperture Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual
Bracketing function Bracket function with maximum 9 shots, step size from 1/3 to 3.0 EV, HDR function
Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size from 1/3 to 1/2 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 100 to ISO 51.200 (automatic
)ISO 50 to ISO 204.800 (manual)
Remote access Remote triggering, cable trigger, Bluetooth trigger, remote control via smartphone/tablet
, remote control from computer: certain functions
Motives Landscape, Macro, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Portrait, Sunset, Sports/Action
Picture effects HDR effects, high key, high contrast monochrome, miniature effect, monochrome, retro, toy camera, high contrast monochrome, illustration, pop color, retro, rich tone monochrome, partial color filter (R, G, B, G), watercolor, blur, 2 more image effects
White balance Auto, Clouds, Sun, White balance bracketing, Fine tuning, Shadow, Flash, Underwater, Fluorescent lamp with 4 presets, Incandescent lamp, from 2,500 to 9,900 K, Manual 3 memory locations
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 10.0 frames/s at highest resolution and max. 163 stored photos, 10 frames/s with max. 89 raw shots
Self-timer Self-timer with intervals of 2 or 10 s, features: triple self-timer, bracketing self-timer
Shooting functions AEL function, AFL function, live histogram

Flashgun

Lightning bolt no built-in flash availableFlash shoe
: Sony Multi Interface, standard center contact
Flash range Flash sync time 1/250 s
Flash functions Auto, Fill-in flash, Flash on, Flash off, High speed sync, Slow sync, Flash on second shutter curtain, Red-eye reduction, Master function, Flash exposure compensation from -3.0 EV to +3.0 EV

Equipment

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
Memory
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I, UHS II)
second memory card slot
Memory Stick (Duo, Duo Pro)
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I)
GPS function GPS external (permanent smartphone connection)
Microphone Stereo
Power supply Power supply unit connectionUSB continuous power supplyUSB charging function
Power supply 1 x Sony NP-FZ100 (lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.2 V, 2,280 mAh
)710 CIPA-standard images
Playback Functions Image rotation, Protect image, Highlights / Shadow warning, Playback histogram, Playback magnifier with 18.8x magnification, Image index, Slide show function
Voice memo Voice memo (PCM format)
Face recognition Face Recognition, Face Recognition (8 faces)
Picture parameters Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Special functions Electronic water level, Grid can be displayed, Zebra function, Orientation sensor, Live View, User profiles with 2 user profiles
Ports Data interfaces: Bluetooth, USBUSB type
:USB 3.0 SuperSpeedWLAN
: present (type: B, G, N)
NFC: present
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D
)Audio input: yes (3.5 mm stereo microphone jack)
Audio output: yes (3.5 mm stereo jack (3-pin))
Supported direct printing methods DPOF, Exif Print, PIM
Tripod socket 1/4″ in optical axis
Case Splash guard
Features and Miscellaneous BIONZ X Image ProcessorUltrasonic cleaning system
and coating that prevents static charging of the sensorDynamic
Range Optimizer (1-5 steps), exposure difference compensation 1-6 EV in 1 EV stepsDynamic
Range Optimizer Exposure bracketAudio level
and audio signal strength can be displayedSmartzoom1
.5 to 2-fold internal
lens correction (distortion, vignetting, color direction error)
Image profiles: PP1-PP10, black level, gamma, color phase, color depthISO
Video 100-51200Clean HDMI output
(3840 x 2160 (25p), 1920 x 1080 (50p), 1920 x 1080 (50i), 1920 x 1080 (24p), 1920 x 1080 (60p), 1920 x 1080 (60i), 3840 x 2160 (30p), 3840 x 2160 (24p), YCbCr 4:

2

:2 8-bit / RGB 8-bitHybrid
AFTouch
AFeye SensorAnti-Flicker Function5-Axis Image StabilizerFlash Bracket

(3.5 or 9 shots)

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 127 x 96 x 74 mm
Weight 658 g (ready for operation)

Other

included accessories Sony AC-UUD12 Power SupplySony
NP-FZ100 Special Battery Strap
, Case Cap, Eyecup, USB-C Cable,
optional accessory Sony HVL-F20M Push-on Flash with Swivel ReflectorSony
RMT-P1BT (Bluetooth Remote Control)
Sony VG-C3EM Battery GripSony
XLR-K2M (Microphone Adapter)
AC AdapterVideo Connection CableStereoMicrophone ECM-CG50

Firmware update 3.0 for Sony Alpha 7 III and 7R III available: Significantly improved autofocus and new features

As promised by Sony in January 2020, the firmware update 3.0 for the Alpha 7 III and Alpha 7R III is now available. In addition to a Real Time Eye AF for humans, the update also includes an eye autofocus for animals. The update also includes an interval shooting function that allows you to set the start time, interval, and exposure adjustment speed, as well as the number of shots of up to 9,999 photos in a row. Furthermore, this firmware update ensures compatibility with the new Bluetooth remote trigger.

  • Sony A7 III Review

    Sony Alpha 7R III. [Photo: Sony]

Eye autofocus not only focuses on the eyes of people or animals (but not both at the same time), but also tracks them with the shutter-release button pressed halfway or the AF-on button pressed. In addition to the interval recording function and compatibility with the Bluetooth remote release RMT-P1BT, the update also offers the option of calling up the menu on any programmable key and menu tab operation is possible with the Fn key.

The firmware update 3.0 for the Alpha 7R III and 7 III is available for download from the Sony support website and can be installed by the user himself. If you don’t have the confidence to do so, you can contact your dealer or Sony support.

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