The cat is finally out of the bag: Sony is giving us a look at their new a7R III this week during the Photo Plus Expo. The just-announced mirrorless camera mixes the best of the a7R II with some of the technology first seen in the a9, plus a little bit of all-new treats that landscape, architectural, and still-life photographers will want to take note of.
The Sony a7R III uses the same 42.4-megapixel Exmor R sensor found in the previous generation a7R II. However, even though the sensor remains the same, advances in circuitry design and image processing mean that the new camera can output all 15 stops of dynamic range in the lower ISOs rather than the a7R II’s 14 stops of output.
The a7R III has no optical low pass filter, and Sony promises smoother, more natural gradations from the 14-bit raw files.
The ISO range of the new mirrorless camera is 100-32,000, expandable to 50-102,400. It is still to be learned where exactly the cutoff point for the 15 stops of outputted dynamic range is on the a7R III, besides the given base ISO.
The 5-axis in-body image stabilization has been improved to compensate for up to 5.5 steps. Another improvement revealed is with the low vibration, high reliability shutter mechanism. Sony said better mirror shock handling and better shutter shock handling combined with the updated 5-axis stabilization gives better than ever shooting results for hand-holding a high-megapixel camera.
Pixel Shift Multi Shooting
One of the brand new features built into the a7R III is called Pixel Shift Multi Shooting. During pixel shift image capture, the sensor moves in one-pixel increments to capture four separate raw images for a total of 169.6 million pixels. The four created raw images can then be combined with software on a computer to output one single 42.4-megapixel raw image. The settings menu will allow the user to adjust the pixel shift bracket timing from either 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 15, or 30-second intervals between each frame. Sony said that Pixel Shift Multi Shooting gives “overwhelming resolution, color fidelity, and texture reproduction” to images. This camera mode will not work for moving subjects or for when your camera is in motion, but for landscape and architecture, this could be a game changer for many Sony shooters.
The 4D Focus system in the a7R III picked up some tricks from the sports-oriented a9 mirrorless camera. Across the board in the areas of autofocus speed, Eye AF, and subject tracking, the a7R III is double the speed of the previous generation.
There are 399 phase-detect autofocus points and now 425 contrast-detect autofocus points. Combined, these points cover 68 percent of the image area. While not at the level of the 93-percent coverage seen on the a9, it is improved over the 45-percent coverage of the a7R II.
The hybrid autofocus system achieves low light focusing twice as fast and is said to reliably autofocus down to –3 EV.
We also see touchscreen focus point control make its way to the a7R III as well as a multi-selector joystick on the back of the body in place of the button-style directional pad.
The number you are looking for is ten frames per second. The a7R III can do ten-frame-per-second burst shooting for a maximum of 87 compressed raw files or 28 uncompressed raw files. Unlike DSLRs, the a7R III mirrorless camera can continually adjust auto-exposure and autofocus during burst capture, even at ten frames per second. This can be done with either the mechanical or electronic shutter, as set by the user in the settings.
Using live view on the LCD screen for continuous shooting will keep up to at most eight frames per second live action. If you are shooting with ten frames per second (Hi+ continuous mode), what you see on the LCD will be the preview of the last frame captured, keeping up with eight frames per second, but not truly a live picture.
Shared with the a9 is the anti-flicker ability, where the camera can automatically compensate for light flickering during continuous shooting so that there is not great disparity between each frame.
4K HDR recording is here on the a7R III. The camera features HLG (hybrid log gamma) support for an “instant HDR” workflow with compatible Sony television.
Recording video shares the same autofocus features from stills shooting. Video has full pixel readout with no binning and can be shot with full-width frame capture or Super 35 crop mode. New to the a7R-series cameras is the ability to shoot 120 fps in Full HD. Slog3 is also included in the picture profiles for 14 stops of dynamic range. Another new addition is the Slow and Quick motion video modes for super slow-mo movies.
First, there are now two card slots. One is UHS-II capable and the other is UHS-I only. Sony improved on their dual slot game by now adding a relay recording function which will automatically switch from a full card to the empty card in the next slot while shooting.
The battery slot is now using the slightly larger NP-FZ100 batteries first seen used in the a9 camera. These batteries have 2.2 times the capacity. There’s a 650 shot rate using the LCD and a 530 shot rate using the 3.69-million dot Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder.
Alongside the multi/micro USB port, the a7R III now has a USB-C 3.1 connector. Either of these can provide the camera with external power during shooting.
As par for the course, the a7R III is “dust and moisture resistant.” Sony also said that it will have improved remote camera control, plus improved flash compatibility as it has a sync terminal for PC sockets.
In all, it’s said that it looks identical to the a7R II, although it steals the grip style and battery from the a9.
Pricing and Availability
The Sony a7R III is priced at $3,198, the same as the a7R II when that camera shipped in mid-2015. Pre-orders will begin on October 26 at 10 a.m. EDT and start shipping to customers on November 30.