A big thanks to GM Foto for inviting me to the preview of the Sony a7RIII a month ago. It was interesting to learn all the insights and hidden features of the new camera by a professional trainer. He was able to answer even the nerdiest questions from the audience while giving a very nice presentation and offering a hands-on look, too.
I took some time to make up my mind and would like to share my thoughts about the new camera with you. This article is not about technical specs, frames per second or star eating issues. I'd like to look at the camera from a professional point of view. For me cameras are working tools and they have to prove themselves under pressure in situations with clients.
R stands for Resolution.
In November last year I wrote a review of the Sony A7RII in my blog to share my experience with the camera after having experienced the use for a whole year. Now, two and a half years later, this camera pleases me even more. I got used to its extensive functions and am able to implement them into my workflow.
This year, I decided to make the switch over to Sony completely. I sold my complete Canon gear and even my Phase One equipment had to go. Medium format wasn't right for me as I consider this to be studio photography equipment, preferably to be used for tethered shooting. As I made this step, you can see, I fully trust the developments in the field of mirrorless photography. Sony proved that this is the future. This does not mean, photography like it was done before was wrong or is less good.
With the Sony a7RIII there now is a new camera on the market that is extremely good. And the price tag (currently 3,500 EUR) feels right for a professional camera. There are several things that got improved and that tease me a lot to invest into the successor of my current camera:
However, in 2017 I will not make the switch yet. The reasons for this are simple. The a7RII already is an extremely good camera and I don't really need a new camera, yet. If I had to think about making the switch to mirrorless, the a7RIII would land in my shopping basket right away. But for now, I am happy to wait a few months until I will upgrade.
In general, camera manufacturers come out with new models every one or two years. If you always need the latest gear, this will cost a lot of money. Selling old gear is getting more and more complicated, too. As there is a drop in prices on older models, hardly anybody is going to invest in used gear anymore. For example, for a Sony A6300 which I bought at 1,300 EUR a year ago, you currently get around 550 EUR only. This makes me think twice before buying a new camera.
When I go on shooting trips I travel with two camera bodies. One is just a backup. Or if I travel with an assistant, he will use the second body for filming behind the scenes. My current setup is a A7RII as my main camera and a A6300 for backup reasons. So far, the main camera never let me down. But they both use the same batteries which means, I can travel with the same type of battery and charger.
This has changed with the A7RIII. The shorter battery life on the A7RII never bugged me. I can shoot around 400 photos, then I quickly change the battery. So one extra battery is good for a whole day. I have three chargers and eight batteries in total. So, I have enough backups and backups of backups. It might sound a bit crazy, but when you're on an island far away from big stores, there's no way to buy spare parts during a production.
With the new Sony camera, I will have to carry two types of batteries and two types of chargers. This is a bit of a pain again and unsmoothens my workflow. Crying about a first world problem, I know. I understand the improved battery and still think it was a good step by Sony to improve battery life.
Another thing that I have learned is not to buy too many compact flash cards over the years. When quicker ones come out, it's better to invest from time to time. The new A7RIII is capable to use faster cards. If you're crazy enough you can even shoot up to 88 raws in a row without releasing your finger from the shutter release button. I will never need this feature, but for filming and copying files to the computer, a faster card is definitely a good idea.
I am very happy the A7RIII has not increased in size. Ok, it is a small big thicker and the hand grip is a bit longer. But the outside dimensions remain pretty much the same. And it is only 30g heavier than its predecessor model. Right on, Sony!
Customization down to the last detail.
Sony listened to its customers and implemented many, many new possibilities for customization. Not only you can create your own menus, you can also set functions on the keys for different situations. Different button usage for photographing and filming, as well as playback. This comes very handy. But: You will need a few days to get used to this camera, because it is so complex in terms of possibilities. And unfortunately there's no way to export and import settings, yet.
For working with the new gear, I will need a new version of Capture One as only the latest version supports the new raw files. I'd love to buy the cheaper Sony only version, but as I have to work with non-Sony RAWs sometimes, I just need a raw converter that can read raws from all types of cameras. You can now give star rating to photos in the camera. I hope this rating will be visible in Capture One, also.
To give you an idea of the many different functionalities, here's an overview of the recommended settings for shootings different types of sports with the Sony a9. Many of these settings can be used with the a7RIII as well.