This is my 2023 review of the Sony A7RIII (or Sony A7R3), a camera I’ve owned and used with a lot of pleasure since 2019. This review is my own experience with the Sony A7RIII in the past few years. I’ll tell you if this is still a camera worth buying in 2023 in my opinion.
This review got a bit long, sorry for that. TLDR: Yes, the Sony A7RIII is still a very interesting camera in 2023!
I think the name Sony has been discussed more and more in the boardrooms at Canon an Nikon for a few years now. At first they may have laughed a bit at those TV-boys buying Minolta and making their translucent mirror DSLR’s. And their first NEX mirrorless cameras were quite good, but nothing anyone at Canon or Nikon was going to lose sleep about.
I think that must have changed since the introduction of the A7-series. The first truly affordable full frame mirrorless camera introduced in 2012 (or thereabout). Still there where quite some downsides to the first A7’s but you could already see where Sony was going with this. Auto focus was not really fast but it was reliable, the body’s weren’t real comfortable to hold and the ergonomics left a lot to be desired. And Sony didn’t have a great big lens line-up.
But those downsides have all vanished over the last couple of years, and the last A7’s are so good you’re really not missing anything in comparison to a DSLR. On the contrary, mirrorless has become the benchmark in most fields.
And it comes as no surprise that even Canon and Nikon started making full frame mirrorless cameras now. But they do have some catching up to do as their first attempts at full frame mirrorless had to compete with Sony’s 3rd iteration of this type. And Sony has since then even introduced their 4th version of the A7, which is even better, faster and more capable.
The Sony A7RIII and A7III in 2022 aren’t the newest and most capable models in Sony’s line-up anymore. But as Sony tends to do you can still buy them new, and there are quite some second-hand models floating around also. And Sony have released a new iteration of the Sony A7RIII, that is about 98% the same as my model, but does come with a better back-screen. You can find the new model under the name Sony A7RIII A or A7R3 A.
In 2022 prices are going down, both for a new Sony A7RIII and second-hand one. So if you are looking to upgrade from an older Sony A7 or any type of DSLR these cameras look compelling. In this review I’ll tell you about my experience with the Sony A7RIII and I’ll try to answer one question: Is the Sony A7RIII still an interesting buy in 2022?
When it comes to specs Sony has never disappointed, and when the A7RIII was introduced it was one of the most impressive cameras around. And it still is in 2022. The most important specs for the Sony A7RIII:
- Introduction year: 2017
- 42 megapixel sensor
- Resolution: 7952 * 5304
- Image processor: Bionz X
- AF system: 399 phase detect AF points + 425 contrast detection AF points
- Metering system: 1200 zones
- Shutter speed: 30s – 1/8000s
- Viewfinder magnification + resolution: 0.78x / 3.680k dots
- Screen: 1.44m dots / 2.95 inch
- Shooting speed: 10 FPS (buffer 28 RAW files or 76 JPEGs)
- Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth + NFC
- Battery: NP-FZ100
- Weight 657 grams (1.45 lb)
Build quality and design
If you have ever used an old Sony A7 picking up a Sony A7RIII will be quite a shock. The old A7 was very light but also felt quite fragile. The Sony A7RIII is the complete opposite of that feeling. It feels dense and sturdy, like it was made out of a solid block of light weight metal.
It isn’t heavy by any means at 657 grams or 1.45 lb, but is does feel like a quality product. It does also feel a little different than the A7III which is a tiny bit lighter and feels a little less dense and sturdy. I guess that is because of the full magnesium body in the A7RIII as opposed to the partly metal body of the A7III that is combined with some high end plastics.
I do love the understated look of the A7RIII. It is sleek, and has a nice matte black finish that contributes to the high end feeling of the camera. On the front there are some programmable buttons, the lens-release button and the IR port in the grip. On the bottom you’ll find the battery-compartment that houses the bigger FZ-100 battery instead of the older FW-50 that was used in the older body’s. The bigger battery gives you a great battery life, I can shoot a whole day without changing batteries.
The memory cards have found a new home on the left side of the body and there is room for two cards. A big advantage for people wanting to use the Sony A7RIII for professional work. One thing I don’t really get is that Sony has opted for one UHS-II slot accepting the fasted SD cards and one UHS-I slot. When you use the first slot for storing RAW’s and the second for video or JPEG’s that isn’t a real big problem. But when you use the second slot as a back-up your speed is always limited by the slowest of the two cards.
On the top plate there is the standard PSAM controller, hot shoe for flash and accessories, on-off switch and the shutter release button. You’ll also find some programmable buttons and you can see the front and back rotational controller. These are way, way better than the ones that were on the old A7, but haven’t changed that much from the ones used on the A7II-series.
The back gives you a view of the flippy-screen that can be moved both up and down for easy viewing when holding the camera lower or higher. Still one of my favourite functions on a modern photo camera. The screen is touch-enabled so you can use it to zoom in to images you are reviewing or for selecting focus points. It doesn’t work in the menus, but I can’t say I miss that too much. My fingers would definitely be too fat to touch those small menu items anyway.
On the back you’ll also find the multi controller and a joystick that can be used for selecting focus points. I’m glad they added that but I must say most of the time I still use the touch screen for that as it just works faster. But for precise selection of the focus points the joystick is great. The other button layout is very nice and the ergonomics are good. Even though I’ve been a Nikon user for most of my life I never really have any trouble finding the right button.
Viewfinder / EVF
The viewfinder was one of the reasons I chose to buy an A7RIII over the A7III. The ‘normal’ A7III uses a 2360k dots viewfinder with a maximum refresh rate of 60 FPS. That is a very respectable viewfinder that will be more than enough for most users. But I have been spoiled by using high-end Nikon cameras with very good, big and bright optical viewfinders on my D800, Df and D4 and I was a little worried I would miss something when stepping back to the simpler viewfinder of the A7III. I must admit that after I’ve bought the A7RIII I’ve tried the A7III a few times and the viewfinder is just fine, I wouldn’t advise anyone to buy an A7RIII over the A7III just because of the viewfinder.
But the viewfinder of the A7RIII is a little better. It uses a panel with 3.680k dots that just offers a higher resolution that looks a little sharper. It isn’t night and day, but when using both next to each other you will notice. One thing that does make quite a difference is the option to run the viewfinder at 120 FPS instead of the standard 60 FPS. That does use some extra power but I love the smooth look you get. All in all I love the EVF in my Sony A7RIII and I wouldn’t want to go back to an optical viewfinder anymore. The EVF just shows more information and what I love is the option to zoom in when using manual focus. And the option to review your images in the EVF without taking the camera off your eye is also great.
Autofocus of the Sony A7RIII
In the old days you really needed a good DSLR to have fast and responsive auto focus. Most older mirrorless cameras used contrast detection that was very accurate but way to slow for anything that moves. With the Sony A7III and Sony A7RIII I can say I’d rather have a mirrorless than a DSLR when it comes to focus.
One of the big advantages of a mirrorless camera is that you don’t have to finetune your focus like you do on a DSLR. As the focus system is on the image sensor itself the focus is always spot on, and there isn’t any adjustment to be made. Another thing I like about a mirrorless camera is that focus works the same when shooting through the viewfinder or using the back LCD. On a DSLR there is a big difference in the focus system when using the viewfinder (fast and quite accurate) or the back screen (contrast detection or on sensor – very accurate but in most cameras a lot slower than the normal system). At least on older Nikon DSLR’s, Canon was better in that regard.
The auto focus technology
The Sony A7RIII has got 399 phase detection auto focus point and 425 contrast detection auto focus points. The A7III has even more phase detection auto focus points (600+) and is in theory even faster. The difference between the two in real world use is quite small though, but focus very fast and accurate. I’m most impressed with things like the real-time face and even real-time eye detection. The Sony A7RIII is capable of quickly selecting and keeping track of faces and eyes which is great for portraits. You never have to focus and re-compose to get the faces in focus at all, just let the camera do its thing and you’ll be okay. The system is built to prioritise (can be turned off) the face and eye of your subjects, even if there are other distractions in your frame that are closer to the camera then the person.
Using auto focus on the Sony A7RIII
The AF-system gives me the freedom to focus on my composition and spend less time and effort in fiddling with my focus. Eye AF gives you the option to choose which eye it should prioritise or just let it choose the closest eye. And with firmware 3 and up you can even choose to set eye AF to animal eyes, so it even works with your favourite pet. You still have to manually switch between human or animal eye-AF but it is very cool it has the option built in now.
That combined with the high speed of the AF-system makes it ideal for portraits and family photos. But don’t be fooled by the fancy AF system and 10 FPS shooting speed. The Sony A7RIII isn’t a fast action or sports camera. When shooting really fast moving subjects (like my dog running towards the camera) the A7RIII is slower and misses more than my previous Nikon D4. But that isn’t what you buy this camera for, when you need absolute speed just get an A9. And it isn’t fair either comparing this camera to a (when it was new 6500 euro) dedicated sports camera with 16 megapixel. This is a high resolution all-rounder that offers you 42 megapixel images. It is great knowing that with normal fast paced shooting the A7RIII will do perfectly and gives you the option to take up to 10 FPS.
When first using this camera you may be a little overwhelmed by all the AF functions and options. But it isn’t real hard to use. I’ve got my AF options for choosing the AF field set in my FN-menu so I can access them quickly. When shooting normally I use the ‘wide’ field with face and eye detection on. That way the camera will select the focus point itself, and somehow this works perfectly in most situations. When I’m shooting something more complex and see the camera selecting the wrong subject I tend to switch to the Medium-size flexible point. That gives me the option to choose where I need my focus and I can move the focus point around with the touch screen. For fast action I choose expanded flexible point M. That way you select the subject you want the camera to follow and then just let it do its magic. Works very well.
Having had the old A7 back in 2013 it is very impressive what Sony has done with the A7RIII, the focus system has just improved so much it’s almost hard to believe. The A7 had most of the functions the new models have, but it felt quite unfinished. The AF worked most of the time but was also slow and would just let you down in some situations. On the new A7RIII it is as reliable as my Nikon DSLR’s where, but it also has a lot more functions.
I don’t shoot video a lot, and if I do it is mostly with my iPhone. But the A7RIII is a very capable video camera. It offers 4K video up to 30 fps and 1080p up to 120 fps. You can record video in Sony’s XAVC-S, AVCHD and MPEG-4 H.264 formats. It doesn’t support H.265. The camera only offers internal 8 bit recording. You do have the option to film in S-log2 or S-log3 profiles, but as far as I understand that is a bit limited in how useful it is by the 8-bit recording. So I’d say this is a perfect video camera for anyone shooting video’s for their own use or even the occasional professional video. But there are way better camera’s out there for video.
The image quality of the Sony A7RIII can be summarised in one simple word: Superb! First of all I love the high resolution of almost 8000 x 5300 pixels. Yes, megapixels aren’t the most import feature on a camera, I’ve shot fantastic images on my 16 megapixel D4 as well. But having a lot of pixels is great for cropping and reframing. I’ve always cropped and re-framed in post processing, but it is great to crop an image and still have more than enough pixels left over for any application.
The high pixel count does ask for high quality lenses and precise focusing. If you are a pixel peeper you will love how much you can zoom in on any image, but that will show any imperfection. But then again, looking at images at a normal distance and without zooming to 100% they will also look great.
The A7RIII offers a silent shooting mode. I use this almost all of the time. I love being able to shoot images without the clacking sound of my shutter. I do have to warn people that while they don’t hear anything I’m still taking images. That does lead to some funny looks sometimes. The silent shooting isn’t as perfect as the Sony A9 for instance. That camera can shoot silent in almost any situation. There are situations where you have to revert to the regular shutter on the A7RIII to prevent image problems, like with certain fluorescent lights or when you use a speedlight. But normally I shoot about 99% of my images in silent mode.
The Sony A7RIII isn’t a high ISO specialist by design. The Sony A7III does a little better in most tests. But there is big BUT to that. Yes, at very high ISO’s (6400 and up) you will see more noise when you zoom in to the image. But the magic of the high resolution is that you can down-scale the image to 16 of 24 megapixel and get better results than you would with a native 16 or 24 megapixel camera.
For me the high ISO performance of the A7RIII is very good. I’ve got my auto-ISO set to go up to ISO12800. Yes, at ISO 12800 you do get quite some noise, but it will still deliver good enough images to use in most situations. Especially when you down-scale the image or don’t blow it up to 100%. My take is that I’d rather have a little noise in an otherwise nice looking and sharp image than have motion blur. Noise can be reduced in post, but motion blur is a lot less correctable.
When it comes to dynamic range the Sony A7RIII delivers very good results. At base ISO (100) the dynamic range is insane. Images that are underexposed can be lifted to show as much details as you could ask for. And images that are well exposed but have dark shadows can be adjusted to look like HDR’s right out of the camera.
At higher ISO settings the dynamic range does increase. That is to be expected. But then I’m still able to enhance my images to suit my preferences without any problem. Lifting the shadows does introduce a little more noise than at base ISO but it is still very usable. I can’t remember a situation where the dynamic range of my A7RIII wasn’t enough to get the absolute most out of my image. I’ve never felt limited by the camera’s abilities (as opposed to my own photographic talent, that has limited me more than once!)
The Sony A7RIII offers basic smartphone connectivity. It has Bluetooth, NFC and WiFi to connect to your smartphone. Unfortunately the A7RIII doesn’t have the more modern Bluetooth LE system that keeps a constant connection between your phone and the camera. Those newer systems can add GPS information to every photo and offer faster sharing of images and faster connection for remote control. But the older system on the A7RIII also works fine and is very practical to have.
When you connect your smartphone you have two main functions that I sometimes use: remote control (with live-view) and image sharing. Connecting is done via the Sony Imaging Edge app that is available for both iPhone and Android. On an Android phone you can set up the connection by just tapping your phone on the grip of the camera, this will activate NFC and will automatically establish a connection. iPhone users don’t have that luxury unfortunately, but that isn’t the cameras fault. On an iPhone you have to set up the WiFi connection manually the first time and after that you can connect by activating the connection on both the camera and your iPhone. Both methods work fine, but the Android way is much simpler and faster.
The remote control function works great for selfies or other remote shooting. You get some basic control over the camera and can set things like shutter speed and aperture. I don’t know if you could also use zoom on a power zoom lens as I don’t have one to test that. Taking a photo isn’t super-fast but it works like it is supposed to, and after the photo is taken it sends a 2 megapixel version to your phone for reviewing.
Image sharing works about the same. You can select one or more images in your camera and choose to sent them to your phone. The standard setting will send a 2 megapixel image to your phone that is big enough for reviewing and sharing on social media.
Day to day use of the Sony A7RIII
I love my A7RIII, as you may have noticed that from this review. I love how it feels snappy and fast like a real modern camera. I love how small and light it is without giving me the feeling I’m missing out on something a bigger or heavier camera does have. In contrary, the A7RIII is by far the best and most complete camera I’ve ever owned. And I’ve owned quite some camera’s over the years (to give an idea: Nikon D7000, Sony A6000, Sony A7, Nikon D800, Nikon D750, Nikon D4, Nikon Df and all kinds of back-up cameras like the NEX5, RX0, RX100m4 and others). And normally I’d be looking for something newer, better, faster or cooler after 12 months. But not with the Sony A7RIII, even after 3 years I’m stil very happy with my camera.
I love the very fast and accurate auto focus that gives me the confidence to just focus on my composition and the look I want to give the image. I don’t have to worry about missing focus as this camera just nails it in 98% of the time. And because of the fast, up to 10 fps, shooting speed I always have more than enough images that are perfectly sharp. And because of the high resolution a sharp image isn’t just sharp, it is razer sharp and still amazes me to this day.
I love the silent shooting. I love the screen that flips up and down and I love the electronic viewfinder. I also love the battery life, shooting a whole day and coming home with up to 750 or more image on one charge.
Are there things I don’t love? Well, original Sony lenses aren’t cheap (at all!). But Sony keeps adding new lenses in all price ranges (but they do seem to add more expensive ones than cheaper ones). And luckily there are more than enough third party alternatives. For instance I’ve used a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 zoom for about a year, and that is a very good and affordable lens. I traded that in for a Sony 24-105 f/4 because I didn’t love the bokeh of the Tamron and wanted a bit more tele- and wide angle range. I also love the great Laowa lenses that are available for Sony E-mount. At the moment I’m using these lenses with my Sony A7RIII:
- Sony Zeiss 35 mm f/2.8;
- Sony 85 mm f/1.8;
- Sony 24-105 f/4 zoom;
- Laowa Argus 35mm f/0.95;
- Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Shift;
- Laowa 10-10mm f/5.6.
Conclusion for the Sony A7RIII
I started out with the question if the Sony A7RIII is still an interesting camera in 2022. Yes, there are camera’s that probably will outperform the Sony A7RIII. Newer Sony cameras have even better auto focus or even higher resolution. And there are better video cameras available.
But that doesn’t mean the A7RIII isn’t a good camera anymore. The Sony A7RIII is still a very capable camera that will suit a wide range of shooting, from portraiture to landscape and travelling to casual family photos. And this can also be a professional tool for a professional photographer. The auto focus is very good and the 42 megapixel resolution is more than enough for just about any job. It won’t disappoint you, especially at the current prices new or second hand. So if you are debating buying one: I’d say go for it!