Sony has led the way in mirrorless interchangable-lens cameras (MILCs). They were the first to release a full-frame mirrorless camera, back in 2013. Sony recognized early the inevitable shift to the quieter, more compact and direct mirrorless systems and invested accordingly. This puts their technology well ahead of the new players in the market.
The Alpha 7 full frame series is now in its third generation and still going strong. Sony has also released an extensive line-up of APS-C cropped frame mirrorless cameras.
The Sony A7III mirrorless digital camera is the stand out model and the best all-round Sony full-frame mirrorless model. It is the current entry level model, which refines and builds upon the success of the earlier A7 and A7II models.
Shooting with the autofocus system on the A7 III is a pleasure, and it has solid video capabilities. The A7III is available with the 28-70mm kit lens, but many better lens options are available. You also get the Sony NP-FZ10 rechargeable battery, USB-C cable, USB AC power adapter, body cap, hot shoe cover, eye cup, and shoulder strap in the box.
The Sony A7III at a glance
- Sophisticated hybrid autofocus system with 693 AF points
- 4K video capabilities
- Great battery life
- Two SD card slots
- Excellent low light performance
- Poorly laid out menu system
- Straight edges and not super comfortable to use
- Lower resolution electronic viewfinder
- Touch screen functions only for AF points
The Sony A7 III is excellent value for money. Officially, it is the entry level model in Sony’s full frame MILC line-up. However, its features for the price make it a better option for most photographers than the other more expensive Sony offerings. It does everything well and is more than enough for most people. At a very reasonable price.
It is a sturdy camera with magnesium alloy body construction and weather sealing around the buttons and controls. The back-illuminated full-frame CMOS sensor is 23.8 x 35.6mm, 24 MP (6,000 x 4,000 pixels). The full width of the sensor is used to capture 4K video.
Images which come out of the A7 III are super sharp, punchy and bright. It captures 15-stops of dynamic range and its performance at extremely high ISOs is amazing. Shots don’t get muddy and stay pretty sharp and colorful. Some loss of detail due to the noise reduction is inevitable, but it is one of the best low light cameras available. Still images can be captured at 14-bit uncompressed raw.
In body image stabilization claims to improve up to 5 stops, and uses 5-axis sensor shift.
The A7 III has a burst speed of 10 FPS, with continuous autofocus. And, it will do that silently too. Shooting in silent mode all the way to the highest ISO of 204,800 is also possible with the A7III. However, it does not work when using flash, and there are a few mode and function restrictions.
The rated battery life on the A7 III beats the other Sony full-frame mirrorless models as well.
Who is the A7III for?
The A7 III is a very versatile full frame mirrorless camera. It performs well shooting a variety of genres—from lifestyle, to travel and action. It is geared towards semi-professional to professional shooters. Photographers who are keen to shoot 4K video will find the A7 III attractive, but may still find the extra capabilities of the Nikon Z6 or the Panasonic Lumix S1 are too good to pass up.
Sony does not have the same kind of core DSLR user base as Nikon or Canon. But it has captured photographers from those brands who happily migrated to Sony when it was the first to offer full frame mirrorless capabilities. The AF system is a marvel to use and a definite upgrade if you are coming from DSLRs.
Sony’s color rendition is not up to the standards of Canon or Nikon though, which might be an important consideration for portrait shooters.
In Sony’s Alpha 7 lineup there are 3 permutations. The A7S has a lower resolution sensor and is geared more towards action shooting and video. For professionals looking for the absolute top specifications, the A7R line has the highest resolution sensor. If you need to shoot at higher FPS, then the A9 series is worth looking at.
The great battery life of the A7 III is also a nice feature, and for travel or event shooters very welcome.
Key Features and Benefits of the Sony A7III Mirrorless Digital Camera
The A7III uses an on-sensor hybrid phase-detection and contrast detection system, with 93% coverage. It has the same sophisticated 693 point phase-detection AF system as Sony’s flagship A9. The autofocus is virtually instantaneous, and accurate. It works just as you hope an AF system would. Generally, nothing needs to be selected manually—it just does what it should. Continuous AF works fabulously.
Facial recognition on the A7III is outstanding. It works across the entire frame, not just the centre. It will lock onto faces immediately, focus and track them as they move about in the frame. Even when a subject repeatedly moves out of frame and back in, the system will recognize the face perfectly every time.
Eye-AF recognition is quick and accurate. It finds the eye closest to the camera and focuses wonderfully. It doesn’t come on automatically though and requires a half-press of the shutter button first. It is easy to see by the green boxes in the viewfinder whether it is tracking faces or eyes.
The latest firmware updates now include animal eye-AF. Perfect for those uncooperative pets, or wildlife shooting.
Manual focus override is not automatic. The A7 III needs to be set to DMF mode and works only during the single AF. Some lenses with a mechanical focus override ring will allow it in any mode, but these are few.
The AF illuminator is a red LED with a 10’/3m range.
Ergonomics & Controls
Sony has a background in making video cameras, and the body of the A7III does not have the ergonomic flare of the other brands. It is boxy and not super comfortable in hand when shooting for an extended time. The Nikon and Canon rivals are more comfortable to hold. There can also be some momentary delays when turning the camera on and switching between modes.
However, there are extensive controls and with some initial effort you can set up the A7 III the way you prefer. On the top mode dial are two customizable setting recall options, but you can save four in total. Though the two extra setting recalls are saved on the memory card, not in-camera. Great for setting the camera up for different types of shooting.
There are a number of customizable buttons. They can be set to do almost anything you wish. The rear thumb control wheel & 4 way button, works for navigating a zoomed image. There is also an exposure compensation dial on the top.
The Sony menu system is more random than organized, and items that are related are not necessarily located together. Without a clear logic and order, remembering where specific items are can be difficult. It is worth setting up the ‘My Menu’ option which lets you save your 30 most used menu items for more direct access. The items that are shown when the function menu button is pressed can also be customized.
Settings like silent mode and facial recognition are not turned on automatically. They are also buried in the menu system.
Rear LCD and Touch Screen
The touch screen on the A7III is good quality, but somewhat hampered in its capabilities. It is easier to use the viewfinder most of the time. The screen is 2.95″ with 921K dots. This is not the highest resolution out there, but it looks great.
There are two important drawbacks. First, the screen flips only a limited amount vertically—107° up and 41° down. There is no movement horizontally, and no chance it can be used for selfies. Vloggers especially are calling for this, but so far Sony has not delivered.
Second—although the screen on the back is a touch screen, it only works for focus point selection. You cannot select menu items, or zoom during playback using the touch screen function.
The rear screen also has no auto brightness control.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF)
The A7 III’s viewfinder is bright and crisp, with 100% coverage at 0.78x magnification. The resolution is 2.36 million dots, which is a little on the low side compared to the competition now.
Brightness of the viewfinder can be controlled either automatically or manually. It dims down perfectly at night and indoors. The color temperature can also be shifted 5 steps manually.
The refresh is fast and even when using the electronic shutter in silent mode, it does not seem to miss a beat. Following fast action is no problem.
The DISP button will cycle through what information you see in the viewfinder. You need to head in to the menus to check on and off the specific options that you want displayed. Checking too many options can mean some get hidden behind others.
As with many of the mirrorless cameras, having an EVF changes the way you use the camera. It is often simpler to set and control everything looking through the viewfinder, rather than using the rear screen.
The A7 III is still the best all round for video from Sony’s Alpha lineup. It is another area where this mirrorless digital camera simply does what you want. Released originally more than 2 years ago, the specifications are looking a little tired, but all-round performance is solid.
It shoots 4K (3,840 x 2,160) video using the full width of the image sensor. That means full frame oversampled video. Uncompressed 4K can be output via HDMI. It also has S-log, so you can achieve high quality color post-processing.
The A7 III will record in a few different codecs and the size and frame rate options vary between them slightly. The A7 III supports recording in the XAVC S and AVCHD v 2.0 codecs. XAVC S offers superior quality and can capture at the higher data rates of 60 or 100 MBPS. Be prepared for correspondingly big files though.
You can shoot 4K at 24fps, or 30fps with a 1.2x crop, and full HD video (1,920 x 1,080) can be shot up to 120fps. There is a slow motion option, but only for the lower resolution full HD video. Still images can be extracted from video, in-camera.
Autofocus for video capture has been improved and it is now possible to select a wide focus area. The option to set a lower-limit autofocus drive speed also allows more dramatic slow focus effects.
For sound, there’s a stereo microphone built-in, as well as a 3.5mm powered microphone jack and a headphone jack.
The E-mount system and lens support
Sony developed its E-mount system originally for its APS-C crop frame mirrorless cameras. E-mount lenses are also used on a range of Sony’s camcorders. This mount has been around for about a decade and there is an extensive range of impressive lenses available.
As with all lens mounts for mirrorless systems, the shorter flange to sensor distance allows for higher quality lenses to be designed. The flange focal distance on the E-mount is 18mm.
Sony’s Gold and Gold Master series are what you want to take advantage of the full capabilities of the A7 III. These G and GM lenses focus fast on the A7 III, and are super sharp. The Sony 24- 105mm f/4 G is an excellent zoom lens available at a reasonable price for all round shooting. Excellent quality lenses from third party manufacturers can also be found, including from Carl Zeiss, Sigma and Tamron.
Sony also has a range of adapters which mean you can use a huge number of different lenses on its full frame mirrorless cameras. Lenses of almost any brand or date can be used. However, adapted lenses won’t give ideal performance in most cases, so be prepared for some compromises with the autofocus or other features, and maybe some lag. The Sony Alpha and Minolta MAXXUM lenses adapt well, but still won’t be as good as the newest Sony E-mount lenses.
The A7 III also works perfectly and seamlessly using the E-mount APS-C lenses, if you need. The A7III will automatically shoot using the cropped centre of the sensor. Naturally, it is a waste of the camera’s full capabilities, but if you already have those lenses you can use them.
Additional features to note
Battery charging on the A7 III is done in-camera with a standard USB-C or micro-B cable. It is super straight-forward. Sony includes a NP-FZ10 rechargeable lithium ion battery and a USB cable with the body. For faster charging, or to charge a second battery you will need to buy the Sony BC-QZ1 battery charger separately.
Battery life is excellent and beats other Sony full frame models. Nonetheless you can get a battery grip which holds two batteries to extend shooting time further. It also improves the ergonomics and offers an additional shutter button for vertical shooting.
To tag your images you will need to find an app to work from your phone, as the A7 III lacks GPS. For connectivity, bluetooth, wifi and NFC are on board.
There is no built-in flash, and the flash sync speed is 1/250.
How does the Sony A7 III stack up against the competition?
Sony were the first on the market with full frame mirrorless digital cameras, and their technology is now well developed. Sony has a solid lead and there is good reason that the A7 III is still high on the list of top value for money full frame MILCs.
Sony has easily attracted photographers and videographers eager to jump into full frame photography or swayed by the 4K video capabilities. Rivals Canon and Nikon are going to easily capture many photographers who are already embedded in their own systems. Yet, they also have some features that trump the A7 III in specific areas. For around the $2000 mark, you can also pick up a Panasonic S1, which has tempting high resolution options.
Let’s take a look at how they compare to the Sony A7 III.
Quick Comparison Guide
|Sony A7 III||Canon EOS R||Nikon Z6||Panasonic S1|
|Sensor – pixels||24MP||30MP||24MP||24MP|
|AF system||693 point phase detection AF / 425 point contrast detection AF||Dual pixel AF with 5655 AF points||273 point phase & contrast detection AF||‘Depth from Defocus’|
contrast detection AF
|Top settings display||no||yes – dot-matrix||yes||yes|
|Viewfinder (EVF) resolution||2.36M dots||3.68M dots||3.68M dots||5.76M dots|
|Rear Screen||tilting touch screen|
|articulated touch screen|
|two-way tilting touchscreen|
|Image Stabilization||5-axis IBIS||lens only||5-axis IBIS||5-axis IBIS|
& sync with lens IS
|Maximum Frame Rate||10 fps||8 fps – locked focus|
5 fps – tracking focus
|9 fps – locked focus|
6 fps – tracking focus
|High Res Mode||no||no||no||yes – 96mp|
uses multiple captures
|Back lit buttons||no||no||no||yes|
|Video Capture||4K 24fps –|
– full sensor
– 1.2x Crop
|upto 4K 30fps|
– 1.7x crop
Paid Upgrade: Raw HDMI to Atomos Ninja
4K 60fps – 1.5x crop
10-bit 30fps (internal)
10-bit 60fps (HDMI)
|Log modes||S-Log2 & 3, HLG|
8-bit – internal
10-bit – HDMI
12-bit – HDMI
|710 / 610||370 (LCD)/ 350 screen||380 / 310||400 / 380|
with SD card
|Lens mount||Sony E-mount||Canon RF||Nikon Z||L-Mount|
Lumix and Leica
|Card slots||Dual SD||Single SD||Single XQD||1 XQD + 1 SD|
|Dimensions (approx.)||5.0 x 3.8 x 2.9 in.|
127 x 96 x 74 mm
| 5.35 x 3.87 x 3.32 in|
136 x 98 x 84 mm
|5.28 x 3.98 x 2.68″|
134 x 101 x 68 mm
|5.9 x 4.3 x 3.8 in.|
149 x 110 x 97 mm
with battery, card and body cap
|650 g||660g||675 g||1017 g with SD card|
Sony A7 III versus Canon EOS R
For anyone who wants to create their own content and is looking for a screen that can be front facing, the Canon EOS R will stand out. The limited tilt options on the Sony A7 III are no match. If full frame 4K video is important though, you might instead need to look back to the Sony. The Canon uses a cropped frame for 4K recording.
By numbers there are a staggeringly high number of AF points on the Canon EOS R. However, the Sony AF system is more sophisticated. The AF will find and stick to the subject better, and it gets less distracted than the EOS R.
The Sony is ahead by including in-body image stabilization, which is lacking in the EOS R. Whilst the Canon has higher resolutions for both its viewfinder and rear screen. Plus makes a better use of the touch screen.
The Sony has two SD card slots, whereas, there is only a single SD card slot in the EOS R.
Vloggers should take a look at what the Canon EOS R offers.
Sony A7 III versus Nikon Z6 Versus
The Sony A7 III’s solid performance across all areas is its plus. The Nikon’s AF is good, but the Sony is outstanding. The face and eye recognition are faster and more accurate, and it has more AF points.
The Nikon Z6 is more comfortable to hold, and for Nikon DSLR users it will feel very intuitive to use. The menu system is also easier to navigate on the Z6 and again the rear screen and EVF are a higher resolution. The paid upgrade options for video on the Z6, with 12 bit recording via HDMI, make the Z6 worth looking into if you are a more serious filmmaker.
Nikon’s single XQD card slot is a little disappointing, and the Sony’s two SD card slots are preferable in most cases. The long battery life of the Sony also makes it attractive for some styles of shooting, including events and travel.
The Nikon Z6 is pushing hard into the Sony territory and might just sway you if you look at the details.
Sony A7 III versus Panasonic Lumix S1
The Panasonic Lumix S1 is the most expensive of the four mirrorless cameras here. It is a little heavier, but also weighs in with some enticing features which target video and landscape shooting.
A special high resolution mode on the S1 can produce huge 96MP images by shooting a series of captures. This is prefect for photographers who want maximum detail and plan to print large. Perfect for landscape photographers. The viewfinder is also a suitably high resolution at 5.76M dots.
The Lumix S1 is the second camera to offer paid video upgrades. If you want to capture slow motion 4K video, the S1 can manage 60fps. With the upgrade, this can be recorded at full sensor width & output via HDMI at 10-bits, or without the upgrade cropped frame 4K still at 60fps is possible.
The two memory card slots give the option of using either SD cards or the newer XQD cards.
The Sony A7 III excels in a variety of shooting situations, but if you shoot only in those niche areas served well by the Panasonic Lumix S1, it might be just what you need.
Sony achieved a solid head start by releasing its full-frame MILC early, and has developed its technology well. For anyone considering a full-frame camera and not already embedded in the Nikon or Canon systems, Sony is the brand to look at. And, the entry level A7 III is brilliant at what it does and offers excellent all-round performance at a reasonable price.
If you are exploring new photography or video possibilities, or a professional looking to edge towards using mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7 III will be a pleasant acquisition. It might not completely replace your DSLR in all situations, but the new found freedom of a high quality compact full-frame digital is sure to get priority use on many occasions. It is hard to argue with a camera this versatile and which does all things called of it extremely well.