Sony A7R III Review - From Canon to Sony

A camera should be a tool that helps you unleash your imagination. A tool should be something that fits well into your lifestyle. For me, I want a camera that I can use for client work and take along with me on my trips.

History

I've been shooting with Canon cameras for 9.5 years. I remember saving as much money as I could during Christmas and New Year's. I bought a used Canon XTi with the kit lens on eBay. This was back when Canon DSLRs only use Compact Flash memory cards. I still remember all the crappy photos I took. From then, I upgraded to the T1i, 60D, 6D, and the 5D Mark III.

 From the end of 2015 - 2017, I enjoyed my time with the 5D Mark III. It has served me well.

From the end of 2015 - 2017, I enjoyed my time with the 5D Mark III. It has served me well.

My First Experience with Sony

After I graduated college, I found myself traveling more often. My first trip abroad, I lugged my 5D Mark III. It was heavy and a pain to carry across long distances. I needed something that was lighter and shot the same quality so I bought a second camera, which was the Sony A7 II with a Metabones adapter for my Canon lenses.

During my first trip with the A7 II, I brought along my Canon 50mm 1.2L. I first noticed how amazingly light and small the camera body was compared to my Canon. However, focusing wasn't as accurate/easy as I wanted. I had trouble focusing at apertures from 1.2 to 2.0. (I would later find that the auto focusing on the A7r models are far more superior than the regular A7.) After that trip, I bought a Sony 35mm 1.4 that focused fast and allowed me to use face detection, which was a desired feature for my portraits shots.

For about a year, I had two cameras and two native 35mm 1.4 lenses. I didn't want to buy any more lenses for the Sony because I had all the Canon lenses I needed which were the 50mm 1.2, 85mm 1.8, 135mm 2.0, and 70-200 2.8 in addition to the 35mm. I would get more portraits in focus with my A7 II than with my 5D, because of the face detect autofocus. It was clear that I liked the Sony more, but I knew I would have battery life anxiety if I fully switched, so I stayed with Canon.

Sony A7R III Announcement

Once Sony announced the A7R III with the new battery, I was sold. I put in my pre-order and bought the Sony.

Review

My time with the Sony A7R III has been incredible so far except for the menu system. I'm going to break down the review to things that matter to me, which are: 

  1. Ergonomics
  2. Battery
  3. Performance
  4. Portability
  5. Autofocus
  6. Picture Quality

Ergonomics

A joystick and touch screen are added to the A7R III which makes changing auto focus points a breeze. You can tap on the screen to change the focus point or use the joy stick. Both are more enjoyable than using the D pad.

Sony is famous for their complicated menu system. I am still perplexed by how much more complicated it is compared to the Canon. Maybe it is because the Sony has more advanced features or maybe I'm just new to their menu. I don't know what the reason is but I do know for certain that I'm still navigating through all the panes to find what I need.

Sony makes it pretty easy to personalize the buttons for your needs. This helps you avoid going through their menu. Once you get familiar with the Sony settings, you can customize many of the buttons to be the toggles to the settings to find yourself changing the most. There are 4 customizable buttons which are the ones labeled C1, C2, C3, and C4. You can customize the buttons on the D pad and the center button as well.

Battery

The 5D Mark III's battery lasts a long time. I don't know the exact numbers, but if the battery indicator showed a half bar of battery, I can be sure that it is enough for a 3-4 hour session.

The A7 II battery life was abysmal. You would need at least 2 - 4 batteries fully charged if you wanted to use it for a photoshoot. With the new battery, there is no more battery life anxiety. Within 4 hours, I was able to shoot about 400 shots and only drained about 20% of battery.

You can compare the size difference between the older Sony battery and the new one below.

Performance

Oh my goodness this camera is ridiculously fast and the buffer is quite large. With compressed RAW I can take up to 70 images in less than 10 seconds vs about 12-20 on the Canon (from what I remember). The write speed to the SD card is notably faster than the A7 II.

One small thing to note is that the sound of the shutter on the A7R III is a lot more satisfying than the 5D Mark III and the A7 II. It's beautiful.

Portability

The body is lighter and smaller in size than the Canon 5D Mark III but heavier than the A7 II. It's a good tradeoff for me since I can use the A7R III for both personal trips and client work. 

Autofocus

When I first used face detection AF on the A7 II, I was amazed. It was so convenient to keep the focus mode in "Wide" and have the camera detect a face to focus on. It was a game changer, yet I could not convince myself to fully switch over due to the A7's  poor battery life.

On the 5D Mark III, I would constantly change focus points. The thing about my shooting style is that I normally shoot wide open at f/1.2 and f/1.4, which leaves a razor thin margin of error with focusing. Any small movement on the photographer's or the model's side could render the image out of focus. It would be painful in post processing to find out that a great image was out of focus.

I wasn't really expecting much more of the A7R III really since I was used to the A7 II's face detect autofocus system. I was already satisfied with face detect AF. To my surprise the A7R III focuses faster. A lot faster than the A7 II and the Canon 5D Mark III. The best part of the Sony A7R III is the ability to quick touch the screen to pick an autofocus point. You can do this while in "Wide"mode as well. It would temporarily change to single point autofocus until you cancel or restart the camera. I have spent less time configuring focus points and waiting for a lock on.

I've tried focusing at f/1.2 with my Canon 50mm on the Metabones adapter and it locks on focus really fast. I didn't need to buy Sony lenses.... but I digress.

Good job Sony!

Picture Quality

It is 42.4 vs 5D's 22.3. It is almost double the count and the image sizes are almost double as well. I'll try to keep the text short and let the photos speak for themselves but one thing you will notice shooting on any Sony A7 is that the dynamic range and detail is greater in these RAWs.

This translates to being able to brighten and darken an image even more without introducing discoloration in the pixels, so you can still salvage bad photos.

For the photos below, I touched them up in Adobe Lightroom by fixing white balance, exposure, and adjusted colors to my current style. I want to show what the end result can be from the images produced by the camera.

Normal Conditions

I consider normal conditions as a sunny day in shade, a cloudy day, or golden hour.

You can view the camera settings in the comments of each photo by clicking on them.

Studio

I consider a studio condition as any situation where you have full control of the light. For the images below, all ambient light was cut out in favor of a single source of artificial light.

Low Light

I consider low light situations where I have to use a high ISO. One thing I should note is that the A7R III advertises it can do 5 stops of stabilization. In practice it is actually incredible. The shots below are taken at 1/40. These would be impossible on the Canon with the non IS prime lenses.

Conclusion

I love my Sony A7R III. It is portable without compromising quality. It takes better photos than the 5D Mark III and allows me to spend more time composing the shot rather than fiddling with controls. I definitely would recommend it if you are thinking about upgrading.

My First Couples Shoot

Last weekend, I shot photos of John, my cousin, and Teresa, his girlfriend. It was my first actual couples shoot and I have to say it went a lot better than I imagined. I was pretty nervous as I've only shot portraits which focused on one person or a group of friends. To me, couples photos focuses more on the moment with the couple than just them together which I wasn't use to.

The shoot went really smooth as the couple was doing their thing while I focused on framing the shots. This is my favorite shot! The stone stairs add a very nice touch.

Check out more shots below!

Hello World

Hello World. That's usually the first set of words you output when writing your first program when learning computer science. I thought it would fitting for my first blog post.

I am Steven. A passionate photographer.

I've spent most of my life building the foundation of my software engineering career while putting my photography passion aside. Now that the foundation is built, my main focus is now on my photography alias.

I've started photography in my junior year of high school (It's been two years since I graduated.) which allows me to say I have about 8 years of experience. That's pretty awesome, I would have never guessed that I would be where I am when I decided to take up photography as a hobby. I started with a really old digital camera with a really bad lens in retrospect. I had no way to learn photography from someone in person so I just shot shot shot. I learned on my own through trial and error with the help of youtube. Thank goodness for the internet.

I'm never satisfied with my current skill level

I'm always finding ways to improve my photography and am never complacent. My current style could be described as muted saturation with lifted blacks. I love things that look dramatic and moody.