What the a7S III Means for the Sony a7 IV, a9 III, and a7R V

What the a7S III Means for the Sony a7 IV, a9 III, and a7R V

Today, Sony announced their long-awaited a7S III with an eagle-eye focus on video performance. For those less enthused about a video-oriented camera, here’s what we can expect for Sony’s other product lines based on the new developments inside the a7S III.

For a deep dive into the a7S III, please reference our news posted earlier today. To summarize some new key features relevant to this article:

  • The new BIONZ XR processor is capable of eight times the processing power of the BIONZ X found in every previous full-frame Alpha mirrorless camera.
  • Dual card slots that accept new CFexpress Type A or SD memory cards.
  • Two new video recording formats including HEVC for double the compression efficiency and All-Intra for higher data rates.
  • New HEIF compressed photo file format option alongside JPEG.
  • New touch-enabled menu design and better delineation between photo and video settings.
  • Impressive 9.44 million-dot EVF with 0.90x magnification.
  • “Active” electronic image stabilization that works in tandem with the in-body optical stabilization for steadier handheld video.

How Will The Next Cameras Benefit?

Sony a7 IV

With the a7 III, Sony began playing an interesting game with the feature to price ratio. Their intent was to avoid negative connotations with being the “base” model. They did some picking and choosing where the camera would excel given the price tag (e.g., video and autofocus) and where they could save money in its production cost (e.g., low-quality viewfinder). While the a7S III opens up a lot of potential technology and specs, we can’t expect everything to be thrown onto the a7 IV and keep the price down.

Given its history, I think we can safely assume the a7 IV won’t be getting the a7S III’s 9.44 million-dot EVF, for example. On the other hand, one of the gimmes is that it will share the same form factor as the a7R IV, a9 II, and a7S III.

I’m happy to be wrong, but I don’t believe that the a7 IV will share the new BIONZ XR processor either. This would also trickle down to not having CFexpress Type A card slots and the high bit rate video recording or extremely deep photo buffer that it provides. They could still market it as having “the same processor as the Sony a9 II” to satisfy the hype. One argument I can see against this is that Sony is trying to deploy their new CFexpress Type A card into the world, and it would help gain traction by beginning to implement it in all future full-frame Alpha releases. But it’s a give and take, so if we will see their state-of-the-art processor here, we won’t be seeing something else in its place.

Luckily the a7S III also brought plenty of software-based enhancements such as a new menu design with full touch capability and independent camera settings retained between photo and video modes for faster switching. These changes should be included on any future camera releases for the sake of uniformity, just as the previous menu design is found on all previous Sony cameras from the RXs to the a9s.

Sony a9 III

Sony may have just released the a9 II in November 2019, but it was also the laziest camera update I’ve seen from the company; Everything great about the a9 II is because the original a9 is great. There is precedent for a quick refresh as the a7S II was announced only one year after the a7S began shipping, and the a7R IV came one and a half years after the a7R III. After seeing the new components of the a7S III, I do expect the a9 III to come sooner rather than later.

The a9 III, with its much higher price point in the market, will likely take advantage of almost everything developed on the road to the a7S III and adapt it for its type of consumer. The BIONZ XR processor could make the upgrades that were expected in the a9 II a reality. Between 30 percent faster subject recognition over the BIONZ X, to faster autofocus and autoexposure processing, to improved color reproduction and gradations, and an even deeper buffer and faster write speeds to CFexpress Type A memory cards, there’s a lot of potential to unlock in a next-generation a9 camera.

While we may or may not finally see Picture Profiles such as S-Log 3 on an a9 in the future, other video features such as HEVC or All-Intra recording and “Active” image stabilization would be a possibility. Plus with the praise that Canon received for adding HEIF photo files in their EOS-1D X Mark III, we can expect the a9 to include the HEIF option as seen in the a7S III too.

Without speculating on brand new features and specifications outside of what the a7S III has shown, I’ll say I’m very eager to see what Sony can do using the new components and developing the camera that the a9 II should have been.

Sony a7R V

Likely to be the furthest away from being released, the a7R V at this moment will be tougher to predict. I would expect the features announced with the a7 IV and a9 III, plus what competitors are doing, will further guide where the a7R V will go. That said, there are at least a couple developments with the a7S III that would fit right at home in the a7R V.

For one reason or another, it seems like the a7R IV just missed the boat in receiving the 9.44 million-dot EVF found on the a7S III. While the 5.76 million-dot EVF of the a7R IV was at the time the best available, I can’t see Sony holding onto it again when there’s something better in one of their other a7 cameras. After all, it is supposed to be the “R”esolution camera. More than likely I’d wager that Sony held that one close to be released in a product that in many ways was in danger of not living up to the years and years of building hype. Something like the a7S III. Now that the cat is out of the bag, we can all see that the 9.44 million-dot EVF with 0.90x magnification and 41 degree field of view is coming to the a7R V, right?

Like the future a9 model, the next a7R camera will use the BIONZ XR to improve performances across the board, and perhaps enable a few new tricks like in-camera processing of Pixel Shift photos. Even with the extremely large 61 megapixel files off the a7R IV, that camera can still punch out 10 frames per second with a good-sized buffer writing to SD cards. Imagine having eight times the processing power of the BIONZ X inside that camera plus CFexpress Type A memory cards, and we are looking at the a7R V’s potential with moving much heavier loads of data.

What would you like to see in the next Sony cameras?

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30 Comments

Terry Poe's picture

I'm curious about redesigned menus system of a7S III:
1. How significant is improvement of notoriously bad Sony menu system ( https://marketanalysis.com/digital-camera-market-is-going-through-intere... )?
2. Will it migrate to all new camera releases?
3. Will Sony release software updates of old cameras to replace menu system?

Michael Aubrey's picture

Even if we don't see that EVF in other cameras, I hope we seen that kind of magnification. Historically, it was Olympus OM SLR's that were known for their nearly 1x magnification. And they're a pleasure to look through. The .9x here sets a bar that's close to that.

Christian Fiore's picture

Remember that resolution also comes into play. Magnify the old 2.36M EVF to 1.0x and it'll look like Tetris. 9.44M is a lot to work with, which is probably why Sony allowed such a high magnification.

Michael Aubrey's picture

Definitely for 2.36, yes. I could see the difference (to my annoyance!) when I upgraded from the original A7 to the A7rII, which kept that resolution but upped the magnification from .71x to .78x.

I was thinking more about the A7r IV has 5.76M. An increase from .78x to .91x wouldn't degrade 5.76m dot resolution too much and it would still be far superior over the long standing 2.36M (still in the A7III) or the 3.69M in the A9II.

T Scarb's picture

It means nothing... A9 for sports... A7S for video... all others pick your flavor of hybrid...

Paul Blackshaw's picture

I noticed a lock button on the A7Siii for exposure control. I wish Sony would employ that on all future A models as I have destroyed many shots as that dial can be easily turned without being aware on my A7iii.
I also like the the new swivel rear screen, that also is a feature I would enjoy on a new A7iv.

G.P. Weeda's picture

On the A7RIV you van lock it, the PASM selector tot.

Christian Fiore's picture

Weird, my A7 III's EV dial isn't anywhere near easy to turn. It's about a solid as the mode dial.

Ziggy Stardust's picture

Pinpoint AF that actually works on small subjects like birds in the midground.
Cross-type PDAF sensors.
Lossless RAW compression.
Back buttons with feel.

Christian Fiore's picture

Well, Sony at least has pinpoint AF on the A7 III. Zooms in and puts a crosshair in the middle of the display.

And not sure what you mean by "feel" on the back buttons. The current body (A7R IV, A9 II, A7S III) has large reliefs around all buttons to make them easy to feel, vs the flat buttons on the original cameras that were the same height as the body.

Nox Vega's picture

I might dump my A7R IV for A7 IV.
A7R IV doesn't support CFexpress cards and UHS-II care are more expensive, yet slower.
On the other side A7 IV probably won't need CFexpress cards because its files are not as big.
Decisions, decisions.

Christian Fiore's picture

Good shot the A7 IV will miss out on plenty of this stuff. Probably won't get the CF Express slots, plus a lower res EVF, a single Bionz XR processor, etc.

Corey Weberling's picture

a7IV doesn't need the high end viewfinder. Hope they put 4k60 and maybe even 4k120 in it even if there's a crop, etc.

Hope it's 24mp. Hope it remains 2 grand.

D R's picture

Yeah, I can't figure out why Sony put in a high end EVF that nobody will use on a video camera, and a low res LCD from 2014 on it too. Seems like an odd choice. Sony has always crippled their LCDs.

L C's picture

For a few reasons:
- Video shooters absolutely use EVFs. EVFs were invented for video cameras and were exclusive to them from 1950 to 2000-something.

- Video shooters are more likely to use a manual focus lens than stills-only shooters, the higher res EVF will aid in nailing focus even if it is only before hitting the record button and then switching to LCD or external monitor.

- The new EVF is about 2k resolution (slightly better than HD 1080P...so still well below 4k or 12mp)

- The new processors + 12mp sensor enables the computing power to push the additional pixels to the EVF while maintaining all the camera functions (remember the a9II did not get the r4 higher res sensor to maintain performance)

D R's picture

Never met a single video guy who uses their EVF much, if at all, at least not on mirrorless. This makes the need for an external monitor even greater... plus you can't shoot internal raw with the A7Siii which seems odd for a video only camera.

L C's picture

I don't know how many video shooters you know anecdotally. It remains factual information that EVFs were invented for video, video shooters use EVFs and many video shooters use manual focus lenses. You doo the math.

Christian Fiore's picture

You can use the camera for photos, too. It outspecs even the A9 II in AF and buffer.

Martin Hull's picture

For the A7iv, I hope there is finally a 100-120 fps refresh rate on whatever EVF provided and Sony needs to stop being so anemic on the LCD - not one of their A9 or A7 cameras goes beyond 1.44 million dots.
Loseless compressed raw files is a much missed feature.

Deleted Account's picture

People, Newbie alert!
Was wondering to upgrade alpha while I usually shoot in 5D MKIII. I am planning for this upgrade after a while. Need your advice. I work with the Marisons http://marisonphotography.in/

Which one should I choose if I am more often shoot wedding candids and slow-mos? I am really a fan of the detail these machines deliver.

Luckily this article pulled my eyeballs and I am in. Thank you so much Ryan.

Jasper Richardson's picture

People, Newbie alert!
Was wondering to upgrade to alpha while I usually shoot in 5D MKIII. I am planning for this upgrade after a while. Need your advice. I work with the Marisons http://marisonphotography.in/

Which one should I choose if I am more often shoot wedding candids and slow-mos? I am really a fan of the detail these machines deliver.

Luckily this article pulled my eyeballs and I am in. Thank you so much Ryan.

Jason Elmore's picture

The aspect I hate most of the A7 III is the poor resolution of the optical viewfinder. I really hope Sony uses the new 9.44 million dot OLED viewfinder in the A7 IV. If you can't discern what is in focus due to a pixelated viewfinder display, then what's the point of owning one for stills? Regarding the processor, I think Sony will use the latest BIONZ XR CPU in the A7 IV. New silicon really doesn't add that much to the bill of materials. It's oftentimes cheaper for the manufacturer to include the new silicon rather than using the old. That's why Apple gives you their latest CPU design on their budget iPhone XR. Using overpowered silicon also leaves room for improvement via firmware updates, a practice many manufacturers use to make their products more competitive and appealing after release.

This is an exciting time for photography. Before mirrorless hit the scene, we were lucky to get a new body announcement once every 5 years. With the pace of technological innovation and the brutal competition from Canon, Sony is poised to dominate the market once again with the A7 IV and A9 III.

Matt Williams's picture

I think the A7IV will get the 5.76m dot EVF and the a9 and a7R will get this one. I'm not even sure how much of a difference the resolution really makes - feels like that's toward the end of the diminishing returns curve, though the much higher magnification is incredibly cool.

D R's picture

Jared Polin said the new EVF on the A7SIII is very good, but not much better than what he's used to on the other new cameras like the R5 or A7RIV. Pixel peepers like Tony Northrup though said "all other EVFs are garbage" LOL.

L C's picture

The a7IV will likely get either the r3/a9II EVF (3m dot) or the r4 EVF. Either will be a nice upgrade.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

If the new EVF will significantly drain the battery, no thanks. Even the EVFs on the a7RII and a7III are fine for me. I see perfectly as perfectly what I know perfectly to be. :)

Even though I don't shoot a lot of video, that active electronic image stabilization would be cool.

Matt Williams's picture

I agree with most of this, though I suspect the CFe Type A to be in all future models in the hopes that it becomes a more popular format, which I think is pretty doubtful to be honest. But Sony can try, as they have before.

The new processor will definitely be in the a9III and I suspect it and the a7RV will get the new EVF. The high bitrate codecs and such will remain exclusive to the a7s, I'm sure.

The fact that the a9 cameras still don't have s-log is just bewilderingly stupid. It could be a simple firmware update. I don't know how you put something in your cheapest model but not your most expensive.

Christian Fiore's picture

Someone made a pointt a few weeks ago that it had to do something with the imaging pipeline in the A9 cameras which prevented it from using S-Log. It made sense at the time, though I can't find the article again.

Also, the A6100, Sony's cheapest ILC, doesn't have S-Log, either.

Eduardo Filho's picture

guys, it's easy ... if Sony does not put an EVF of 5mil dots and an LCD, at least close to the Canon R6 (1.4 mil dots), A7Iv will not be a success. Sony, pay attention! Want an unbeatable camera? Look at the Panasonic S1 and its LCD, EVF and pixel shift ... With Sony new menu and great autofocus will be a killer!

Ziggy Stardust's picture

How about cross-type PDAF sensors on the 9III?
Or at least AF that works on small static subjects.