WPPI 2018: Sony Surprises with a7 III Camera Release

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In a surprise move, after the close of festivities on the first day of WPPI, Sony has launched the a7 III Mirrorless Camera. This mid-level camera sits nicely in the now very large full-frame series, just under the a7R III and above the a7 II-series cameras. Most of the upgrade is due to the use of a newly developed 24.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor and the use of a BIONZ X processor with front-end LSI. This sensor offers a back-illuminated architecture, like what we saw with the a7R II and III, which will help produce cleaner images in low-light scenarios, shown off in the expanded sensitivity range of ISO 50-204800. Photographers will benefit from this new system’s ability to capture up to 15 stops of dynamic range, thanks in part to its ability to capture 14-bit raw files.

A major update is in support for UHD 4K video recording with full-pixel readout at up to 30 fps for sharp footage. Adding to the camera’s video chops is the addition of Hybrid-Log Gamma, or HLG, for an Instant HDR workflow, as well as S-Log2 and S-Log3 for more traditional color-grading workflow. Full HD gets a boost, as well, with slow motion available at up to 120 fps at 100 Mbps.

Another huge advantage of this sensor-and-processor combo is a revamped hybrid AF system, starring 693 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection points, just like the a9. Eye AF is available with continuous focus mode, as well—a nice touch. What good is super fast AF without a fast shooting rate? Sony has that covered, too, equipping this model with the same shutter setup as the recent a7R III, making it able to work at speeds up to 10 fps using either the mechanical or electronic shutter. Handheld shooting is also made easier, because the 5-axis in-body stabilization system is now rated for up to five stops.

A lot has happened to the camera beyond purely improving image quality, with significant changes to the body design providing enhanced operability and performance. Among the chief enhancements is support for the NP-FZ1000 battery pack, allowing the camera to shoot up to 710 images on a single charge. A joystick is now present on the back for more intuitive operation and control over your focus spot. Dual SD card slots make an appearance, with slot one supporting UHS-II speeds for quickly writing data to the card. For composing your shots, the a7 III gives shooters two options, which should be familiar by now: a 2.36m-dot OLED EVF with 0.78x magnification and a tilting 3.0" 922k-dot touchscreen. Another port will help with the workflow of some shooters, because now the camera has a speedy USB 3.1 Type-C connection for lightning-fast tethering. Beyond this, Sony has also weather-sealed the body for operation in inclement weather.

This camera is looking to be a solid choice for photographers looking for their first full-frame camera, a backup for another Alpha camera, or as an upgrade from APS-C. Is the a7 III a good option for you? What features and upgrades do you appreciate most in this model? Let us know in the Comments section, below!

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Comparing with the A7sII, video wise, is the A7III better (or equal)?

This is a great question. It's kind of a different animal than the a7S II. Though, the a7 III is likely very close to the a9 albeit without the stacked design you might get a little more rolling shutter. Also, the downsampling will result in a sharper image. The a7S II will always win for low-light though. Let's wait until we can get our hands on one for more than an hour so we can do a real test.

Shawn, I'd like to suggest you keep up to date on Sony news by reading SonyAlphaRumors.  This announcement wasn't a surprise to it's readers.  Some in the press did a good job of acting like they had no idea what what about to be announced. 

Hi John,

We do actually stay up to date using rumor blogs, but we obviously can't report on any speculations, no matter how obvious they look, without official confirmation from Sony. Also, keep in mind that many enthusiasts, especially those not deeply invested in the Sony system will not be following these types of rumors sites, so for a majority of readers this could have been an out-of-nowhere type of announcement. 

Wow -- this new camera has some amazing specs. Why would one want to buy the a7 r3 (outside of the 42MP) if you have a choice of the a7 3? Are there any meaningful differences between the two camera systems?

The sensor is obviously the main meaningful difference, though there are many smaller tweaks that position the a7R III as a "better" camera. For example, the IBIS system is significantly improved and enables the new Pixel Shift mode. Also, the R has a PC sync port, a higher resolution EVF, and a better LCD, among other smaller tweaks. The body is likely a bit more sealed and durable as well. It really comes down to the smaller things and if there is something you absolutely need, then the R will be an obvious choice, but for many the a7 III is a great release.

Great review Shawn, would you be so kind to let me know if the RAW size  of the A7riii is unique and cannot be made smaller in camera?

Thank you.

Hi Juan,

The raw files are always going to be the same resolution, but there are compressed and uncompressed options if you need to save some space. The pixel count will be the same.

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