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Sony A7RIII Review: Officially The Best Pro Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera On The Market

By Matthew Saville on March 28th 2019

When I test a new camera, I usually have an idea of how the review might go, but there are always some things that are a complete unknown, and a few things that totally surprise me.

I know better than to pass judgment on the day a camera is announced. The images, and the user experience are what matter. If a camera has all the best specs but lacks reliability or customizability, it’s a no-deal for me.

So, you can probably guess how this review of the Sony A7Riii is going to turn out. Released in October of 2017 at $3200, the camera has already had well over a year of real-world field use, by working professionals and hobbyists alike. Also, it now faces full-frame competition from both Canon and Nikon, in the forms of Canons new RF mount and Nikon’s Z mount, although these only have two bodies each and 3-4 native lenses each.

As a full-time wedding and portrait photographer, however, I can’t just jump on a new camera the moment it arrives. Indeed, the aspects of reliability and sheer durability are always important. And, considering the track record for reliability (buggy-ness) of the Sony A7-series as a whole since its birth in October of 2013, I waited patiently for there to be a general consensus about this third generation of cameras.

Indeed, the consensus has been loud: third time’s a charm.

Although, I wouldn’t exactly call the A7RIII a charming little camera. Little, sure, professional, absolutely! But, it has taken a very long time to become truly familiar and comfortable with it.

Before you comment, “oh no, not another person complaining about how hard it is to ‘figure out’ a Sony camera” …please give me a chance to thoroughly describe just how incredibly good of a camera the A7RIII is, and tell you why you should (probably) get one, in spite of (or even because of) its complexity.

Sony A7Riii (mk3) Specs

  • 42-megapixel full-frame BSI CMOS sensor (7952 x 5304 pixels)
  • ISO 100-32000 (up to ISO 50 and ISO 102400)
  • 5-axis sensor-based image stabilization (IBIS)
  • Hybrid autofocus, 399 phase-detect, 425 contrast-detect AF points
  • 3.6M dot Electronic Viewfinder, 1.4M dot 3″ rear LCD
  • 10 FPS (frames per second) continuous shooting, with autofocus
  • Dual SD card slots (one UHS-II)
  • 4K @ 30, 24p video, 1080 @ 120, 60, 30, 24p
  • Metal frame, weather-sealed body design

Sony A7R3, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | 1/80 sec, f/11, ISO 100

100% crop from the above image, fine-radius sharpening applied

Sony A7R3 Pros

The pros are going to far outweigh the cons for this camera, and that should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to Sony’s mirrorless development over the last few years. Still, let’s break things down so that we can discuss each one as it actually relates to the types of photography you do.

Because, even though I’ve already called the A7RIII the “best pro full-frame mirrorless camera”, there may still be at least a couple other great choices (spoiler: they’re also Sony) for certain types of working pro photographers.

Sony A7R3, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM, 3-stop Polar Pro NDPL Polarizer filter
2 sec, f/10, ISO 100

Image Quality

The A7RIII‘s image quality is definitely a major accomplishment. The  42-megapixel sensor was already a milestone in overall image quality when it first appeared in the a7RII, with its incredible resolution and impressive high ISO image quality. This next-generation sensor is yet another (incremental) step forward.

.ARW image from a time-lapse made in Av mode and a 10-stop ND filter.
The A7R3 doesn’t meter through a 10-stop ND filter, 20 minutes after sunset

Recovered Image, Single Exposure | 6 sec, f/3.5, ISO 100

100% Crop from the above image, after about 4-5 EV of recovery. Not bad…

Compared to its predecessor, by the way, at the lowest ISO’s (mostly at 100) you can expect slightly lower noise and higher dynamic range. At the higher ISOs, you can expect roughly the same (awesome) image quality.

Also, when scaled back down to the resolution of its 12-24 megapixel Sony siblings, let alone the competition, it’s truly impressive to see what the A7R3 can output.

Speaking of its competitors’ sensors, the Sony either leaves them in the dust, (for example, versus a Canon sensor’s low-ISO shadow recovery) …or roughly matches their performance. (For example, versus Nikon’s 36 and 45-megapixel sensor resolution and dynamic range.)

Sony A7R3, 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | 31mm, 1/6 sec, f/10, ISO 100, handheld

100% crop from the above image – IBIS works extremely well!

I’ll be honest, though: I reviewed this camera with the perspective of a serious landscape photographer. If you’re a very casual photographer, whether you do nature, portraits, or travel or action sports, casually, then literally any camera made in the last 5+ years will deliver more image quality than you’ll ever need.

The Sony A7R3‘s advantages come into play when you start to push the envelope of what is possible in extremely difficult conditions. Printing huge. Shooting single exposures in highly dynamic lighting conditions, especially when you have no control over the light/conditions. Shooting in near-pitch-dark conditions, by moonlight or starlight… You name it; the A7RIII will match, or begin to pull ahead of, the competition.

Personally, as a landscape, nightscape, and time-lapse photographer, I couldn’t ask for a better all-around sensor and image quality than this. Sure, I would love to have a native ISO 50, and I do appreciate the three Nikon sensors which offer a base ISO of 64, when I’m shooting in conditions that benefit from it.

Still, as a sensor that lets me go from ISO 100 to ISO 6400 without thinking twice about whether or not I can make a big print, the A7RIII‘s images have everything I require.

Sony Color Science

Before we move on, we must address the common stereotype about dissatisfaction with “Sony colors”. Simply put, it takes two…Actually, it takes three! The camera manufacturer, the raw processing software, and you, the artist who wields those two complex, advanced tools.

Sony A7R3, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | 6 sec, f/3.5, ISO 100 | Lightroom CCC

The truth is that, in my opinion, Adobe is the most guilty party when it comes to getting colors “right”, or having them look “off”, or having muddy tones in general.

Why do I place blame on what is by far the most ubiquitous, and in popular opinion the absolute best, raw processing software? My feelings are indeed based on facts, and not the ambiguous “je ne sais quoi” that some photographers try to complain about:

1.) If you shoot any camera in JPG, whether Sony, Nikon, or Canon, they are all capable of beautiful skin tones and other colors. Yes, I know, serious photographers all shot RAW. However, looking at a JPG is the only way to fairly judge the manufacturer’s intended color science. And in that regard, Sony’s colors are not bad at all.

2.) If you use another raw processing engine, such as Capture One Pro, you get a whole different experience with Sony .ARW raw files, both with regard to tonal response and color science. The contrast and colors both look great. Different, yes, but still great.

I use Adobe’s camera profiles when looking for punchy colors from raw files

Again, I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is truly better in your eyes as an artist. In some lighting conditions, I absolutely love Canon, Nikon, and Fuji colors too. However, in my experience, it is mostly the raw engine, and the skill of the person using it, that is to blame when someone vaguely claims, “I just don’t like the colors”…

Disclaimer: I say this as someone who worked full-time in post-production for many years, and who has post-produced over 2M Canon CR2 files, 2M Nikon NEF files, and over 100,000 Sony ARW files.


Time-lapsing a rather high-contrast sunrise | The A7RIII handled it beautifully

Features

There is no question that the A7R3 shook up the market with its feature set, regardless of the price point. This is a high-megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera with enough important features that any full-time working pro could easily rely on the camera to get any job done.

Flagship Autofocus

The first problem that most professional photographers had with mirrorless technology was that it just couldn’t keep up with the low-light autofocus reliability of a DSLR’s phase-detect AF system.

This line has been blurred quite a bit from the debut of the Sony A7R2 onward, however, and with this current-generation, hybrid on-sensor phase+contrast detection AF system, I am happy to report that I’m simply done worrying about autofocus. Period. I’m done counting the number of in-focus frames from side-by-side comparisons between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR competitor.

In other words, yes, there could be a small percent difference in tack-sharp keepers between the A7R3‘s autofocus system and that of, say, a Canon 5D4 or a Nikon D850. In certain light, with certain AF point configurations, the Canon/Nikon do deliver a few more in-focus shots, on a good day. But, I don’t care.

Sony A7R3, 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100

Why? Because the A7R3 is giving me a less frustrating experience overall due to the fact that I’ve completely stopped worrying about AF microadjustment, and having to check for front-focus or back-focus issues on  my favorite prime lens.

If anything, on Sony mirrorless, the faster the aperture, the better the lens is at nailing focus in low light. That wasn’t the case with DSLRs; usually, it was the 24-70 and 70-200 2.8’s that were truly reliable at focusing in terrible light, and most f/1.4 or f/1.8 DSLR primes were hit-or-miss. I am so glad those days are over.

Now, the A7R3 either nails everything perfectly or, when the light gets truly terrible, it still manages to deliver about the same number of in-focus shots as I’d be getting out of my DSLRs anyways.

NOTE: I always shoot wide open when using autofocus in low light. However, I’m told that autofocus is actually performed at the set aperture on Sony, meaning you could lose a lot of accuracy if you’re using AF in the dark at f/8 for some reason.

Eye Autofocus and AF customization

Furthermore, the A7R3 offers a diverse variety of focus point control and operation. And, with new technologies such as face-detection and Eye AF, the controls really do need to be flexible! Thanks to the level of customizability offered in the the A7R3, I can do all kinds of things, such as:

  • Quickly change from a designated, static AF point to a dynamic, adaptable AF point. (C1 or C2 button, you pick which based on your own dexterity and muscle memory)
  • Easily switch face-detection on and off. (I put this in the Fn menu)
  • Designate the AF-ON button to perform traditional autofocus, while the AEL button performs Eye-AF autofocus. (Or vice-versa, again depending on your own muscle memory and dexterity)
  • Switch between AF-S and AF-C using any number of physical customizations. (I do wish there was a physical switch for this, though, like the Sony a9 has.)

Oh, and it goes without saying that a ~$3,000 camera gets a dedicated AF point joystick, although I must say I’m preferential to touchscreen AF point control now that there are literally hundreds of AF points to choose from.

In short, this is one area where Sony did almost everything right. They faced a daunting challenge of offering ways to implement all these useful technologies, and they largely succeeded.

This is not just professional-class autofocus, it’s a whole new generation of autofocus, a new way of thinking about how we ensure that each shot, whether portrait or not, is perfectly focused exactly how we want it to be, even with ultra-shallow apertures or in extremely low light.

Sony A7R3, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | handheld, 1/4 sec, f/4, ISO 800

Dual Card Slots

Like professional autofocus, dual card slots is nothing new in a ~$3,000 camera. Both the Nikon D850 (and D810, etc.) and the Canon 5D4 (and 5D3) have had these features for years. Although, notably, the $3400 Nikon Z7 does not; it opted for a single XQD slot instead. Read our full Nikon Z7 review here.)

Unlike those DLSRs, however, the Sony A7R3 combines the professional one-two punch of pro AF and dual card slots with other things such as the portability and other general benefits of mirrorless, as well as great 4K video specs and IBIS. (By the way, no, IBIS and 4K video aren’t exclusive to mirrorless; many DSLRs have 4K video now, and Pentax has had IBIS in its traditional DSLRs for many years too.)

One of my favorite features: Not only can the camera be
charged via USB, it can operate directly from USB power!

Sony A7R3 Mirrorless Battery Life

One of the last major drawbacks of mirrorless systems, and the nemesis of Sony’s earlier A7-series in particular was battery life. The operative word being, WAS. Now, the Sony NP-FZ100 battery allows the A7R3 to last just as long as, or in some cases even longer than, a DSLR with comparable specs. (Such as lens-based stabilization, or 4K video)

Oh, and Sony’s is the only full-frame mirrorless platform that allows you to directly run a camera off USB power without a “dummy” battery, as of March 2019. This allows you to shoot video without ever interrupting your clip/take to swap batteries, and capture time-lapses for innumerable hours, or, just get through a long wedding day without having to worry about carrying more than one or two fully charged batteries.

By the way, for all you marathon-length event photographers and videographers out there: A spare Sony NP-FZ-100 battery will set you back $78, while an Anker 20,100 mAh USB battery goes for just $49. So, no matter your budget, your battery life woes are officially over.

Durability

This is one thing I don’t like to speak about until the gear I’m reviewing has been out in the real world for a long time. I’ve been burned before, by cameras that I rushed to review as soon as they were released, and I gave some of them high praise even, only to discover a few weeks/months later that there’s a major issue with durability or functionality, sometimes even on the scale of a mass recall. (*cough*D600*cough*)

Winter Storm just outside Yosemite National Park
Sony A7R3, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | 1/8 sec, f/14, ISO 100

Thankfully, we don’t have that problem here, since the A7RIII has been out in the real world for well over a year now. I can confidently report, based on both my own experience and the general consensus from all those who I’ve talked to directly, that this camera is a rock-solid beast. It is designed and built tough, with good overall strength and extensive weather sealing.

It does lack one awesome feature that the Canon EOS R offers, which is the simple but effective use of the mechanical shutter to protect the sensor whenever the camera is of, or when changing lenses. Because, if I’m honest, the Sony A7R3 sensor is a dust magnet, and the sensor cleaner doesn’t usually do more than shake one or two of the three or five specks of dust that are always landing on the sensor after just a half-day of swapping lenses periodically, especially in drier, static-y environments.

Sony A7R3, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | 1/80 sec, f/13, ISO 100

Value

Currently, at just under $3200 and sometimes on sale for less than $2800, there’s no dispute- We have the best value around, if you actually need the specific things that the A7RIII offers compared to your other options.

But, could there be an even better camera out there, for you and your specific needs?

If you don’t plan to make giant prints, and you rarely ever crop your images very much, then you just don’t need 42 megapixels. In fact, it’s actually going to be quite a burden on your memory cards, hard drives, and computer CPU/RAM, especially if you decide to shoot uncompressed raw and rack up a few thousand images each time you take the camera out.

Indeed, the 24 megapixels of the A7iii is currently (and will likely remain) the goldilocks resolution for almost all amateurs and many types of working pros. Personally, as a wedding and portrait photographer, I would much rather have “just” 24 megapixels for the long 12-14+ hour weddings that I shoot. It adds up to many terabytes at the end of the year. Especially if you shoot the camera any faster than its slowest continuous drive mode. (You better buy some 128GB SD cards!)

Sony A7R3, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | 8 sec, f/11, ISO 100

As a landscape photographer, of course, I truly appreciate the A7RIII‘s extra resolution. I would too if I were a fashion, commercial, or any other type of photographer whose priority involved delivering high-res imagery.

We’ll get deeper into which cameras are direct competition or an attractive alternative to the A7RIII later. Let’s wrap up this discussion of value with a quick overview of the closest sibling to the A7RIII, which is of course the A7iii.

The differences between them go beyond just a sensor. The A7iii has a slightly newer AF system, with just a little bit more borrowed technology from the Sony a9. But, it also has a slightly lower resolution EVF and rear LCD, making the viewfinder shooting experience just a little bit more digital looking. Lastly, partly thanks to its lower megapixel count, and lower resolution screens, the A7iii gets even better battery life than the A7RIII. (It goes without saying that you’ll save space on your memory cards and hard drives, too.)

So, it’s not cut-and-dry at all. You might even decide that the A7iii is actually a better camera for you and what you shoot. Personally, I certainly might prefer the $1998 A7iii  if I shot action sports, wildlife, journalism, weddings, and certainly nightscapes, especially if I wasn’t going to be making huge prints of any of those photography genres.

Or, if you’re a serious pro, you need a backup camera anyway, and since they’re physically identical, buy both! The  A7iii and A7RIII are the best two-camera kit ever conceived. Throw one of your 2.8 zooms on the A7iii, and your favorite prime on the A7RIII. As a bonus, you can program “Super-35 Mode” onto one of your remaining customization options, (I like C4 for this) and you’ve got two primes in one!

Sony A7R3, Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8GM | 1/4000 sec, f/10, ISO 100
(Extreme dynamic range processing applied to this single file)

Cons

This is going to be a short list. In fact, I’ll spoil it for you right now: If you’re already a (happy) Sony shooter, or if you have tried a Sony camera and found it easy to operate, there are essentially zero cons about this camera, aside from the few aforementioned reasons which might incline certain photographers to get an A7iii instead.

A very not-so-helpful notification that is often seen on Sony cameras.
I really do wish they could have taken the time to write a few details
for all function incompatibilities, not just some of them!

Ergonomics & Menus

I’ll get right to the point: as someone who has tested and/or reviewed almost every DSLR camera (and lots of mirrorless cameras) from the last 15 years, from some of the earliest Canon Rebels to the latest 1D and D5 flagships, I have never encountered a more complex camera than the A7R3.

Sony, I suspect in their effort to make the camera attractive to both photographers and videographers alike, has made the camera monumentally customizable.

We’ll get to the sheer learning curve and customizations of the camera in a bit, but first, a word on the physical ergonomics: Basically, Sony has made it clear that they are going to stay focused on compactness and portability, even if it’s just not a comfortable grip for anyone with slightly larger hands.

The argument seems to be clearly divided among those who prefer the compact design, and those who dislike it.

The dedicated AF-ON button is very close to three other main controls, the REC button for video, the rear command dial, and the AF point joystick. With large thumbs, AF operation just isn’t as effortless and intuitive as it could be. Which is a shame, because I definitely love the customizations that have given me instant access to multiple AF modes. I just wish the AF-ON button, and that whole thumb area, was designed better. My already minor fumbling will wane even further with familiarity, but that doesn’t mean it is an optimal design.

By the way, I’m not expecting Sony to make a huge camera that totally defeats one of the main purposes of the mirrorless format. In fact, in my Nikon D850 review, I realized that the camera was in fact too big and that I’m already accustomed to a smaller camera, something along the size of a Nikon D750, or a Canon EOS R.

Speaking of the Canon EOS R, I think all full-frame cameras ought to have a grip like that one. It is a perfect balance between portability and grip comfort. After you hold the EOS R, or even the EOS RP, you’ll realize that there’s no reason for a full-frame mirrorless camera not to have a perfect, deep grip.

As another example, while I applaud Sony for putting the power switch in the right spot, (come on, Canon!) …I strongly dislike their placement of the lens release button. If the lens release button were on the other side, where it normally is on  Canon and Nikon, then maybe we could have custom function buttons similar to Nikon’s. These buttons are perfectly positioned for my grip fingers while holding the camera naturally, so I find them effortless to reach compared to Sony’s C1 and C2 buttons.

As I hinted earlier, I strongly suspect that a lot of this ergonomic design is meant to be useful to both photographers and videographers alike. And videographers, more of tne than not, simply aren’t shooting with the camera hand-held up to their eye, instead, the camera is on a tripod, monopod, slider, or gimbal. In this shooting scenario, buttons are accessed in a totally different way, and in fact, the controls of the latest Sony bodies all make more sense.

It’s a shame, because, for this reason I feel compelled to disclaim that if you absolutely don’t shoot video, you may find that Nikon and/or Canon ergonomics are significantly more user-friendly, whether you’re working with their DSLRs or their mirrorless bodies. (And yes, I actually like the Canon “touch dial”. Read my full Canon EOS R review here.)

Before we move on, though, I need to make one thing clear: if a camera is complicated, but it’s the best professional option on the market, then the responsible thing for a pro to do is to suck it up and master the camera. I actually love such a challenge, because it’s my job  and because I’m a camera geek, but I absolutely don’t hold it against even a professional landscape photographer for going with a Nikon Z7, or a professional portrait photographer for going with a Canon EOS R. (Single SD card slot aside.)

Yet another quick-access menu. However, this one cannot be customized.

Customizability

This is definitely the biggest catch-22 of the whole story. The Sony A7R3 is very complex to operate, and even more complex to customize. Of course, it has little choice in the matter, as a pioneer of so many new features and functions. For example, I cannot fault a camera for offering different bitrates for video compression, just because it adds one more item to a menu page. In fact, this is a huge bonus, just like the ability to shoot both uncompressed and compressed .ARW files.

By the way, the “Beep” settings are called “Audio signals”

There are 35 pages of menu items with nearly 200 items total, plus five pages available for custom menu creation, a 2×6 grid of live/viewfinder screen functions, and approximately a dozen physical buttons can be re-programmed or totally customized.

I actually love customizing cameras, and it’s the very first thing I do whenever I pick up a new camera. I go over every single button, and every single menu item, to see how I can set up the camera so that it is perfect for me. This is a process I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed, that is until the Sony A7-series came along. When I first saw how customizable the camera was, I was grinning. However, it took literally two whole weeks to figure out which button ought to perform which function, and which arrangement was best for the Fn menu, and then last but not least, how to categorize the remaining five pages of menu items I needed to access while shooting. Because even if I memorized all 35 pages, it still wouldn’t be practical to go digging through them to access the various things I need to access in an active scenario.

Then, I started to notice that not every function or setting could be programmed to just any button or Fn menu. Despite offering extensive customization options, (some customization options have 22 pages of options,) there are still a few things that just can’t be done.

“Shoot Mode” is how you change the exposure when the camera’s exposure mode dial is set to video mode. Which is useful if you shot a lot of video…

For example, It’s not easy to change the exposure mode when the camera’s mode dial itself is set to video mode. You can’t just program “Shooting Mode” to one of the C1/C2 buttons, it can only go in the Fn or custom menu.

As another example, for some reason, you can’t program both E-shutter and Silent Shooting to the Fn menu, even though these functions are so similar that they belong next to each other in any shooter’s memory.

Lastly, because the camera relies so heavily on customization, you may find that you run out of buttons when trying to figure out where to put common things that used to have their own buttons, such as Metering, White Balance, AF Points. Not to mention the handful of new bells and whistles that you might want to program to a physical button, such as switching IBIS on/off, or activating Eye AF.

All in all, the camera is already extremely complex, and yet I feel like it could also use an extra 2-3 buttons, and even more customization for the existing buttons. Which, again, leads me to the conclusion that if you’re looking for an intuitive camera that is effortless to pick up and shoot with, you may have nightmares about the user manual for this thing. And if you don’t even shoot video at all, then like I said, you’re almost better off going with something simpler.

But again, just to make sure we’re still on the same page here: If you’re a working professional, or a serious hobbyist even, you make it work. It’s your job to know your tools! (The Apollo astronauts didn’t say, “ehh, no thanks” just because their capsule was complicated to operate!)

Every camera has quirks. But, not every camera offers the images and a feature set like the A7R3 does. As a camera geek, and as someone who does shoot a decent amount of both photo and video, I’d opt for the A7R3 in a heartbeat.

Sony A7R3, Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM, PolarPro ND1000 filter
15 sec, f/14, ISO 100

The A7RIII‘s Competition & Alternatives

Now that it’s early 2019, we finally have Canon and Nikon competition in the market of full-frame mirrorless camera platforms. (Not to mention Panasonic, Sigma, Lecia…)

So, where does that put this mk3 version of the Sony A7R, a third-generation camera which is part of a system that is now over 5 years old?

Until more competition enters the market, this section of our review can be very simple, thankfully. I’ll be blunt and to the point…

First things first: the Sony A7R3 has them all beat, in terms of overall features and value. You just can’t get a full-frame mirrorless body with this many features, for this price, anywhere else. Not only does the Sony have the market cornered, they have three options with roughly the same level of professional features, when you count the A7iii and the A9.

Having said that, here’s the second thing you should know: Canon and Nikon’s new full-frame mirrorless mounts are going to try as hard as they can to out-shine Sony’s FE lens lineup, as soon as possible. Literally the first thing Canon did for its RF mount was a jaw-droppingly good 50mm f/1.2, and of course the massive beast that is the 28-70mm f/2. Oh, and Nikon announced that they’d be resurrecting their legendary “Noct” lens nomenclature, for an absurdly fast 58mm f/0.95.

If you’re at all interested in this type of exotic, high-end glass, the larger size diameters and shorter flange distances of Canon and Nikon’s new FF mounts may prove to have a slight advantage over Sony’s relatively modest E mount.

However, as Sony has already proven, its mount is nothing to scoff at, and is entirely capable of amazing glass with professional results. Two of their newest fast-aperture prime lenses, the 135mm f/1.8 G-Master and the 24mm f/1.4 G-Master, prove this. Both lenses are almost optically flawless, and ready to easily resolve the 42 megapixels of this generation A7R-series camera, and likely the next generation too even if it has a 75-megapixel sensor.

This indicates that although Canon and Nikon’s may have an advantage when it comes to the upper limits of what is possible with new optics, Sony’s FE lens lineup will be more than enough for most pros.

Sony A7R3, Sony FE 70-300mm G OSS |  128mm, 1/100 sec, f/14, ISO 100

Sony A7Riii Review Verdict & Conclusion

There is no denying that Sony has achieved a huge milestone with the A7R mk3, in every single way. From its price point and feature set to its image quality and durable body, it is quite possibly the biggest threat that its main competitors, Canon and Nikon, face.

So, the final verdict for this review is very simple: If you want the most feature-rich full-frame camera (and system) that $3,200 can buy you, (well, get you started in) …the best investment you can make is the Sony A7Riii.

(By the way, it is currently just $2798, as of March 2019, and if you missed this particular sale price, just know that the camera might go on sale for $400 off, sooner or later.)

Sony A7R3, Sony FE 70-300mm G OSS | 1/400 sec, f/10, ISO 100

Really, the only major drawback for the “average” photographer is the learning curve, which even after three generations still feels like a sheer cliff when you first pick up the camera and look through its massive menu interface and customizations. The A7R3 body, (nor the A9 or A7iii, for that matter) is not for the “casual” shooter who wants to just leave the camera in “green box mode”, and expect it to be simple to operate. I’ve been testing and reviewing digital cameras for over 15 years now, and the A7RIII is by far the most complex camera I’ve ever picked up.

That shouldn’t be a deterrent for the serious pro, because these cameras are literally the tools of our trade. We don’t have to get a degree in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering in order to be photographers, we just have to master our camera gear, and of course the creativity that happens after we’ve mastered that gear.

However, a serious pro who is considering switching from Nikon or Canon should still be aware that not everything you’re used to with those camera bodies is possible, let alone effortless feeling, on this Sony. The sheer volume of functionality related to focusing alone will require you to spend many hours learning how the camera works, and then customizing its different options to the custom buttons and custom menus so that you can achieve something that mimics simplicity, and effortless operation.

Sony A7R3, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM | 1/4 sec, f/14, ISO 100

Personally, I’m always up for challenge. It took me a month of learning, customizing, and re-customizing this mk3-generation of Sony camera bodies, but I got it the way I want it, and now I get the benefits of things like having both  the witchcraft/magic that is Eye-AF, and the traditinal “oldschool” AF methods, at my fingertips. As a working pro who shoots in active conditions, from portraits and weddings to action sports and stage performance, it has been absolutely worth it to tackle the steepest learning curve of my entire career. I have confidence that you’re up to the task, too.

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

Follow his personal wilderness adventures: Astro-Landscapes.com

See some of his latest wedding photography featured on: LinandJirsa.com

Q&A Discussions

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  1. michael stringer

    Hello out there ; REVIEW IS AWESOME… but remember the A7r3 is the best….I have A7R + 6D + 7D ( X2 )…… and maybe want the A73 or  A7R3 ….cant justify at this moment ( just spent 10,000 $ canadian on 2nd hand awesomeness)….Im set up ‘dont change lens===change camera with lense ””( also have 150-600 with T5i / oly m5 + 100-300 mm pany ; which becomes 200 -600 5.6 —to —400 – 1200mm handheld /5IBIS+stablized panasonic ….showed to my freind at independant camera store “he was BLOWN AWAY” . now the A7R3 does everything you wish for ( you dont have to shoot at 42 mp’s all the time / cropped if you wish ( Im not sure but assume it will crop ) . My A7R crops at 18 mpx ( fantastic )/my 7D does 8fps/T5i+5300 5 fps… 6D well , bought it for low light + better than … LETS NOT start an arguement of canon / nikon . ( also have nex6 + 6000 )( bridge cameras )  Didyou know a 20-810 sony bridge camera 5.6 at 800 ish , does wild and fantastic at reflections / stablized birds///song birds in a tree….you cant handhold a 800 mm…..well I have the 100-1200 on the om5 (5axis ibis+stable panasonic “””5.6 at 1200….my nikon p900 is6.3 at 2000 mm//is outdone by sony 65x (1200 6.3 //10 fps/stablized better….back in history sony makes everything better , only NOW the people have noticed….then everything will be as it should in cameraworld  mik/frm/can/tm

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  2. LD BJ

    “…the responsible thing for a pro to do is to suck it up and master the camera.”  Bravo. About time someone stepped up and put that out there. 

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    • Matthew Saville

      While I totally stand by that statement, I also don’t blame a “working pro” for sticking with whatever DSLR they’re currently using, if it’s getting the job done well enough, for this same reason of, “the learning curve is too steep”…

      As a serious professional, you gotta do whatever the smartest thing is for guaranteeing results for your clients. And if you’re not the type of person who can just pick up a totally foreign camera and master it well enough to shoot confidently.

      As a working pro, in fact, I’d prefer to spend quite a few months getting to know such a different camera, before using it as my primary camera.

      And, simply put, not many working pros can afford to own two complete systems at the same time, just so that they can master the new one while still relying on the other if they’re more comfortable with it.

      In other words, do whatever you have the capacity to accomplish without compromising the quality of your clients’ images.

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  3. Chris Chu

    Thanks for the review – well done. While I appreciate early reviews, I also think there’s unique added value in providing a review after extensive use and the emergence of new competition.

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  4. Jared Gant

    In Nov 2017 I purchased my first Sony, which was an a7R III. Within a month or so of use, I could tell it was a remarkable camera and started making the needed steps to change systems. 250K photos later, I’m still loving it. 

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    • Matthew Saville

      When they first announced the camera, I knew they’d likely have a good thing going for them. I started recommending the A7III to other portrait and wedding photographers almost as soon as it hit shelves.

      The future is mirrorless, for quite a few reasons. In fact, pretty soon the only reason to stick with an optical viewfinder may indeed be nostalgia.

      I honestly LOVE optical viewfinders when I’m shooting casually and just want that experience. Just like I enjoy putting a roll of film through my grandfathers’ 35mm SLRs. The craft of photography itself will always have plenty of room for optical viewfinders. But as a working pro, time is money (and so are hard drives and memory cards, etc.) so every new level of image perfection and gear trust that I can give to my camera is literally worth money to me.

      I’m really looking forward to see what the next 2-3 years hold, for ALL major brands, because they each have something huge to offer.

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  5. Derek Hakkim

    You’re about two years too late for this review bud 😂😂

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    • Matthew Saville

      …but I’m right on schedule if the review is about “long-term durability”, for a working pro who doesn’t want to just jump on a new camera right when it comes out… ;-)

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  6. David Martin

    If this is touted to be a high end sports camera lets take it to a night soccer game under stadium lighting to test its performance. Shutter speeds of 800 + iso 13000+ with fast glass. Lot’s of cameras can take daylight sports pics.  They don’t test or prove anytjing

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    • Matthew Saville

      Hi David! Stay tuned for our full review of the AF firmware update that was just released for the Sony A9, actually! It shows a lot of promise for low-light, high-speed subject tracking.

      Keep in mind, nighttime sports is a pretty specific niche, and it’s an even smaller niche if you’re shooting it professionally, compared to portraiture, (both traditional and fashion/editorial) weddings, and other stuff.

      Even as a hobbyist, though, I’d still trust an A7R3 to handle a night sports game at least decently. Heck, it’s a lot better than the pre-2008 DSLRs that I trusted to shoot gymnastics and theater! Talk about pitch-dark conditions…

      The bottom line is, optical phase-detection AF is great, and very reliable in those types of shooting conditions, but it has begun to approach the limit of its potential capabilities, compared to the AI-powered recognition and tracking functionality that on-sensor hybrid AF is just now beginning to tap into. In other words, at this point I’m a lot more interested in seeing what a Sony A9 mk2 can accomplish, than a Nikon D6 or a Canon 1DX3.

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  7. Justin Lin

    Great review Matt!  Our team members that have switched to Sony have nothing but good things to say about their experience.  The confidence of nailing focus wide open alone is worth it

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