Sony A7R III Officially Announced
– Today Sony Officially announced what I consider to be their most eagerly awaited upgrade to the A7 line of cameras, the Sony A7R III. The A7R III is the third revision of the highest resolution camera in Sony’s full frame E-Mount lineup and, even though the final resolution is identical to the A7R II version, it’s received some substantial improvements – including a pixel shift system that will deliver a much higher quality 42MP image. In this article I’ll take a look at the A7R III design, specifications, expected availability and price. I’ll also share my thoughts about what the RIII version of the A7R camera means to me and I’ll give a few predictions about the rest of the Sony mirrorless lineup.
The History of the Sony A7R Cameras
The first Sony A7R camera was released in 2014 and it was a high resolution (36mp) version of the popular A7 (24mp resolution). Both cameras used the existing Sony E-Mount lens system but introduced a full-frame sensor for the first time in a compact mirrorless camera body. The lens mount, due to the larger sensor, was identical but the lenses became FE lenses (the F indicated Full Frame). Since there were existing E-Mount lenses for smaller sensors you could attach these smaller lenses and the camera could use a “crop mode” to maximize the lens selection until Sony released more FE lenses.
Both cameras were popular with photographers who love the look of full-frame sensors but hated the gigantic size of the full-frame DSLR systems. My experiences with the original A7 and A7r were extremely positive and I instantly saw the long term potential for the system, if Sony put the time and effort into making improvements over time.
While the A7R gave up a little speed compared to the A7 (it only shot 1.5 frames per second), it gained some serious resolution as well as removing the resolution robbing optical low-pass filter. On the negative side, the A7R gave up the awesome hybrid auto-focus system (it only had 25 focus points) and electronic first curtain shutter of the A7.
The original A7 and A7R were certainly impressive but the second version brought in body 5 axis image stabilization that seriously upped the game for handheld shooters. The A7R II also increased both the speed (now 5 frames per second) and resolution (now 42mp) and added the awesome hybrid auto-focus system (now 399 focus points) and first curtain shutter system it was lacking. It also increased it’s video capabilities by adding internal 4K UHD video recording.
In a short amount of time the Sony A7R became the go to camera for portrait, landscape and travel photographers looking for maximum resolution in a smaller mirrorless sized camera body.
Sony Announces the A7R III camera
Recently Sony announced the awesome A9 camera and it was aimed at the news and sports shooters who needed maximum shooting speed (25 frames per second!) and a battery that could last longer than what the A7 series cameras offered. The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) received a substantial upgrade, also, with a 120 frame per second refresh rate. Priced at $4,500 it was definitely a camera for professionals. While the A9 may not have been for everyone, it really showcased what Sony could do with a “flagship camera”.
Today Sony Announced the A7R III and it looks like a substantial improvement in speed and image quality. Here’s a quick video Sony released that highlights the headline features:
Here’s a quick rundown specifications of the new A7R III (with the most impressive highlighted in red).
- 42MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor | same as the A7 R II
- Pixel Shift Multi Shooting (up to 169mp of information) | this is an all-new feature
- BIONZ X Image Processor & Front-End LSI | the A7 R II lacked the Front-End LSI
- 399-Point AF System | same as the A7 R II
- 10 fps Shooting (up to 76 full-res shots) | the A7R II only had 5 fps shooting
- UHD 4K30p Video with HLG & S-Log3 Gammas | the A7R II had S-Log2 only
- 3.69m-Dot Tru-Finder OLED EVF | the A7R II used a 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED EVF
- 3.0″ 1.44m-Dot Tilting LCD | the A7R II had 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD
- Touchscreen control | the A7R lacked touchscreen control
- 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization | same as the A7R II
- up to 5 stops of stabilization effectiveness | the A7R II had up to 4.5 stops of effectiveness
- ISO 32,000 (extended up to 102,400) | the A7R II was ISO 25,600 (extended up to 102,400)
- Built-In Wi-Fi/Bluetooth | Same as the A7R II
- Dual SD Card Slots | the A7R only had a single SC card slot
- USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C Port & PC Sync Port | the A7R II lacked both of these connections
- NP-FZ100 battery rated for 650 shots | the A7R II used the NP-FW50 rated for 340 shots
As you can see from the specs this is a seriously upgraded camera. The biggest highlights for me are the pixel shift system, shooting speed and the upgraded battery. Here’s a look at the tilting touchscreen of the new A7R III:
Also worth noting are the touchscreen control and dual SD card slots. At a glance the A7R III is a lot like the A9 but a little slower but with much higher resolution. I’m also seriously impressed with the number of connections the camera has (most of which should be especially useful for video shooters). Here’s a look at the connections on the left side of the camera:
The A7R III doesn’t have the high speed LAN connection the A9 has. Instead it uses the USB-C connection that is probably going to be a lot more usable as the standard catches on. I haven’t used the PC style connector in a long time (it was most commonly used for wired studio strobe systems and light meters) so I’m not overly excited about its inclusion, but it’s nice to see Sony attempting to be thorough with it’s connections.
Like most modern cameras the HDMI output is “clean” with 4:2:2 output so getting better 4K video is possible when you use an external recorder like the Atomos ones I prefer.
The rear panel adds the joystick controller that was introduced on the A9 but the rest of the controls look to be the same as the A7R II. Here’s a look at the rear of the A7R III:
I’m also excited to see such a high shooting speed for a 42mp camera. 5fps shooting was OK but the increase is definitely a nice addition.
Finally, I’m seriously excited to try the new pixel shift system for myself. This is something I’ve seen in medium format cameras but seeing it included in a camera under $4,000 is seriously exciting. Here’s a look at a video Sony created to better explain the pixel shift system:
I’m not exactly sure how this will be implemented (will it output a series of images to be combined later with a computer or will it be done internally) but it’s definitely a nice addition.
I’m thrilled to see Sony continuing to develop the E-mount series of cameras. The A9 was a seriously awesome addition to the full-frame lineup and now the A7R III looks like it will be an awesome camera for photographers needing the super high resolution it offers.
With the A7R III officially announced we should see a new A7 and A7S (the A7 optimized for video use) soon. I’m also hoping to see some of these incredible features find their way into the APS-C cameras like the A6500 (I’d love to see what Sony could do with an A7000, for example).
The updates are coming regularly and the current cameras from Sony all look incredible. The A7R III is a camera I’m really excited about and I’ll be getting my hands on one for a full review when they become available.
Price and Availability
The Sony A7R III will sell for $3,198.00 and can be preordered starting October 26.
Sony will begin shipping the A7R III at the end of November (just in time for the holiday shopping season).
Good Deals on the A7R II
So far Sony has kept the older models of the A7R camera available at lower prices. The A7R II is an extremely capable camera with super high resolution that can be had for as low as $2,398 new after a $500 price reduction.
The original A7R is also available and at 36mp it’s still a substantially high resolution camera (24mp is the norm) and it can be purchased for as low as $1,898 new.
The A7R and A7R II may not be as capable as the newest A7R III, but for the lower price they’re incredible cameras that can deliver incredible images now and, when it comes time to upgrade, will make fine backup bodies.
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