Sony A7RIII - Is It Right For You

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Sony continues to rapidly iterate on the already popular A7 series cameras.  Having used Sony cameras myself for almost three years now, starting with the Sony NEX-7, I have had an opportunity to follow the progress of cameras leading up to the A7RIII.  The release of the A7RIII builds upon the already popular A7R and A7RII.  

 

My image

How does the A7RII stack up to the A7RIII.  The table below illustrates some of the notable differences. The biggest improvements include an extra stop in sensitivity, continous shooting, frames per second and dual SD card slots.  While all these improvements are great, should you run out and buy this new camera.  Unfortunately as of this writing this camera is only available for pre-sale.  However using the table below maybe I can shed some light and common sense on your next $3,198 dollar purchase as you might be considering upgrading.

Each generation of A7R has brought about big improvements which begs the question do I need the latest and greatest gear? I see three types of customers who are interested in the A7RIII.

    A7RII A7RIII improvement
Image Quality Standard ISO ISO 25600 ISO 32000 +1/3 stop
  Low Noise   1 Stop improvement for mid sensitivy
  Gradation   Up to 15 stops low-sensitivity dynamic range.  14 Bit RAW* support for continuous silent shooting.
  Sharpness,Color   Large Improvement
  Pixel Shift Multi Shooting   New
Speed Continuous Shooting 5 fps 10 fps Speed doubled
  Continuous Shooting(Silent) Single only 10 fps Continous supported
  No. of recordable frames 23 compressed raw images 76 compressed raw images 3.3x Improvement
  Basic AF Performance   Up to 2x faster in low light
  Lower AF detection brightness limit EV-2 EV-3 1 stop increase
  Eye AF   Large improvement in detection speed, precision.  A-mount lens support!
Operability & Reliability 5 Axis image stabilization 4.5 steps 5.5 steps + 1 stop
  EVF XGA OLED Tru-Finder Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder 1.5x resolution, 2x luminance.  30% faster startup
  Battery NP-FW50 NP-FZ100 2.2x Capacity
  Media Single slot Dual slot Higher write speed
  USB connector for PC Tethering USB 2.0 USB 3.1   
  Controls   AF-on, multi-selector, touch panel
  Movies      
  Others      

 

Existing Customers

The first customer include current owners of the A7RII.  Depending on the type of photography you enjoy, the improvements provided by the A7RIII may not be significant enough to warrant upgrading. However if you are shooting in low light situations, the  one extra stop of sensitivity can be significant in certain situations.  Shooting in high contrast situations or even working in darker situations might also benefit from upgrading.  If you are shooting professionally, dual SD card slots perhaps is necessary to avoid the risk of losing all your work by simply losing a SD card.  Additionally, if you are shooting sports, you might enjoy the faster frame rate.  And 76 compressed raw images in a row is a huge boost in performance.  Although I would not consider the A7RIII a sports camera, it certainly does have some compelling features that might work.

Sony Converts

For customers converting to the Sony line of cameras or those customers entertaining the thought of switching will find the A7RIII a more compelling alternative.  At ~42 Megapixels, professional features including improved auto-focusing, larger battery, higher frame rate, improved continuous shooting, would be Sony converts will find this a compelling alternative to Canon or Nikon.  Although factoring in the cost of the lenses and limited lens selection, might still hold a lot of would be converts back from going totally Sony. 

New Customers

New customers stand to benefit the most.  This could be considered a great opportunity to now buy an older, Sony A7RII, which still represents a compelling value at almost $1000 off from the original price.  I always felt the first generation A7R had too many "first generation" issues and made purchasing the A7RII almost necessary.  However unless you have specific need for some of the A7RIII features, the A7RII is not too far behind that it will leave you disapointed.  I am not trying to disuade you from purchasing the A7RIII, but I would say saving those extra dollars to invest in lenses will be a much wiser investment for many customers new to the Sony A7R line of cameras.

Camera Cost

One thing that is interesting to also note is that sony cameras do seem to drop in price over time, probably faster than professional cameras from Nikon or Canon.  Why is this? Well Sony's aggressive pace of inovation results in interesting consequences.  Introducing new cameras every two to three years tends to accelerate technological obselescence.  We obvserve this effect in the computer industry all the time. Looking at the following price table we can observe this effect.  

  Introductory Price Current Price
A7R $2,299 $1,898.00
A7RII $3,200 $2,398.00
A7RIII $3,200 $3,198.00

 

Conclusion  

As always, I like to talk about equipment I use or have used.  With the release of the A7RIII, I had experienced a fleeting moment where I considered upgrading.  As an existing owner of many Sony cameras, and for the type of photography I am interested in, the A7RIII does not bring enough features to buy this camera, at least not right away. And knowing that Sony will produce more cameras in the future, operating one generation behind is not a bad decision.