The Alpha A7 III sits on the bottom rung of Sony's full-frame mirrorless camera range, and is designed to appeal to both keen enthusiast photographers and professionals.
In the past the A7 series of cameras have always felt like poor relations to the A7R and A7S series. While the latter two ranges have tended to capture the limelight with their high pixel counts and advanced video capabilities, the A7 series have always been regarded as the basic models, sporting a solid but unremarkable set of features.
That looks like it could all change with this third generation A7 camera. Borrowing many features from the top-of-the-range Alpha A9, as well as the Alpha A7R III, the Alpha A7 III looks anything but basic.
- All-new 24.2MP back-illuminated sensor
- 5-axis image stabilization offers 5-stop compensation
- 4K video capture using full width of the sensor
Sony Alpha A7 III Specs
Sensor: 24.2MP full-frame back-illuminated CMOS
Lens mount: Sony FE
Screen: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 921,000 dots
Burst shooting: 10fps
Autofocus: 693-point AF
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
Battery life: 710 shots
Sony hasn't been tempted to increase the resolution of the Alpha A7 III, so it stays at 24.2MP, like the Alpha A7 II. However, the sensor is completely new and features a back-illuminated design which, combined with the latest BIONZ X image processor, sees the sensitivity range greatly improved over the older model: with an extended ISO ceiling of 204,800 (the same as the Alpha A9), it's two stops better than the A7 II's 51,200 limit. Sony also reckons it's managed to achieve a dynamic range of 15 stops with 14-bit raw files.
While the electronic viewfinder (EVF) doesn't get a bump in resolution to match the A7R III's 3.8 million dots, the 2.3 million-dot EVF on the Alpha A7 III gets a slightly higher magnification factor than the older model, up from 0.71x to 0.78x.
As we've seen with other recently announced Sony announcements, the rear 3.0-inch tilt-angle display is now touch sensitive, allowing you to set the focus point and browse through images quickly, although it doesn't allow for quick navigation of the camera's menu.
The 5-axis in-body image stabilization system in the Alpha A7 III has also been tweaked, and now provides five stops of stabilization, improving slightly on its predecessor's 4.5 stops.
It's no surprise to see 4K video capture on the Alpha A7 III. Recording in 24p, the full full width of the sensor is used, with full pixel readout and without pixel binning. This sees around 6K of data collected (2.4x the amount of data required) before the footage is then oversampled to produce what Sony says will be 4K footage with exceptional detail and depth. If you want to shoot at 30p, there's a 1.2x crop option that uses roughly 5K of the sensor.
As we've seen with the Alpha A7R III, the Alpha A7 III offers a new HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) profile that supports an Instant HDR workflow, allowing HDR (HLG) compatible TVs to play back 4K HDR footage.
As well as this, both S-Log2 and S-Log3 are available for increased color grading, while if you want to shoot Full HD footage you can do so at up to 120fps.
Build and handling
- Design identical to the Alpha A7R III
- Features a multi-selector joystick and AF-On button
- Dust- and weather-sealed
The Alpha A7 III has the same body as the Alpha A7R III, which means the new camera gains the same refinements to the control layout as its higher-resolution stablemate.
So while there's no dedicated drive mode dial and focus mode selector like we've seen on the Alpha A9, the Alpha A7 III does benefit from the addition of a multi-selector joystick.
As we found with the A7R III, the joystick greatly improves the handling of the camera, with AF point selection that much quicker. Another bit of good news is the arrival of a dedicated AF-On button on the rear of the Alpha A7 III, making back-button focusing easier.
The rear scroll wheel is raised away from the body a bit more than on the Alpha A7 II, while it's less likely that you'll inadvertently change a setting thanks to there being slightly more resistance in its movement.
Another welcome touch taken from the A7R III is that eye sensor is now deactivated when the rear screen is pulled away from the body. This means it's possible to shoot waist-level images without the feed cutting out and rather unhelpfully swapping to the EVF.
The body is a touch thicker than the A7 II, but it feels more satisfying to hold thanks to a refined grip, and the overall feel of the camera is very good. The majority of the camera is constructed from a magnesium alloy, and all the major buttons and dials are sealed against the elements to protect from dust and moisture.
While the Alpha A7 III's menu is still incredibly comprehensive, the new color-coded system is a bit easier to navigate, although once you've set up the various custom buttons on the camera and taken advantage of the various body-mounted controls, you should only have to dive into the menu on the odd occasion.
- Same 693-point AF system as the Alpha A9
- 93% coverage
- Focuses down to -3EV
It's not often that you see a manufacturer take the AF system from its flagship camera and put it in a camera less than half the price, but that's exactly what Sony has done with the Alpha A7 III.
The Alpha A7 III gets the same, brilliant, 693-point phase-detect AF system as the Alpha A9. A huge step up from the rather clunky 117-point system in the Alpha A7 II, this advanced system offers an impressive 93% coverage of the frame, with an additional 425 contrast-detect points to aid focus; for good measure it can also focus in light levels as low as -3EV.
The Alpha A7 III sports a wide variety of AF modes, enabling you to make things as simple or as advanced as you need depending on the shooting situation.
As we found with the Alpha A9, with the A7 III in continuous AF mode and set to one of its more sophisticated AF modes, such as Lock-on: Flexible Spot M, the tracking performance is very impressive. We'll have to do more testing to see just how good it is, but for a camera at this price point it's very exciting.
The Alpha A7 III also gets Sony's latest Eye AF focusing mode. This is a great feature for portrait and social photographers, as with this activated the system will continuously track and focus on your subject's eye, even if they look down or away from the camera momentarily.
- Burst shooting speed doubled over A7 II
- New silent shutter mode
- Vastly improved battery life
While the Alpha A7 II could shoot at a modest 5fps, the Sony Alpha A7 III doubles this rate to 10fps. This is thanks in part to the addition of the Front End LSI pre-processor, which has enabled Sony to boost the performance of the Alpha A7 III in a number of areas.
Should you need to shoot discreetly or in quiet environments, the Alpha A7 III's electronic shutter supports silent shooting – and performance isn't compromised, with the burst shooting speed staying at 10fps.
The buffer capacity on the Alpha A7 III has also been dramatically improved, from 52 shots on the A7 II to 177 consecutive JPEGs on A7 III. Even if you're going to be shooting raw files, the Alpha A7 III's ability to capture 89 compressed raws or 40 uncompressed raws shouldn't leave a lot of photographers wanting at this price point.
Sony has come in for some stick in the past for its battery performance, but it looks like it may have turned a corner with the Alpha A7 III. The battery is rated for up to 710 shots, a big improvement over the 350 shots of the Alpha A7 II, while the new camera also has the edge over the Alpha A9's 480-shot battery life.
The Sony Alpha A7 III is expected to be priced at around $2,000 / £2,000, which will make it very competitive, although it is a bit of a hike in price over the older model (which will continue in Sony's lineup).
When you look at the camera you get for your money, it's hard not to be impressed. The full-frame 24.2MP back-illuminated sensor shows a lot of promise, and when you add 10fps burst shooting, a incredibly sophisticated 693-point AF system and the ability to shoot uncropped 4K video, and the Alpha A7 III will surely appeal to a lot of photographers looking for a well-rounded and advanced full-frame camera.