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Hands On With The Sony A7III: Low-Light Portrait Beast

With three years since its predecessor the A7II, Sony’s all-new A7III represents a revolution in its full-frame mirrorless lineup. With the groundbreaking A9 released last year, and the astounding A7RIII earlier this year, Sony claims that the new A7III combines characteristics of both flagship devices.

At around SGD2,700, it is positioned as an entry-level full-frame camera, especially relative to the more expensive A9, A7R and A7S product lines. The A7III is similar in external proportions, remaining virtually unchanged on the outside. Its 10% weight increment and deeper grip are immediately apparent, changes made in order to accommodate the larger capacity Z series battery that promises a ridiculous 710 shots on a single charge. On the back, a thumbstick has been added – a useful addition to access all 693 phase-detect focus points, spread over 93% of the screen, just like the A9. The much more expensive A9, however, only has a paltry 25 contrast-detect focus points compared to the A7III’s 425, and were all densely packed in the centre of the frame. An AF-ON button is a welcome addition to back-button focus users like myself.

Time flies – and three years were more than enough to outdo the 25 contrast-detect and 117 phase-detect points found in its predecessor, the a7II.

The Sony A7III with the Sony FE 24-105 f4 G OSS lens. Image: Ian Ling

With such a consistent design language, the Sony A7III felt at home in my hand immediately. The thumbstick, now a fixture in many flagship cameras, is a super handy way to select single point AF points. Users are able to move the focus points quickly without having to repeatedly tap at the directional pad buttons to move them.

First, we checked out the headline feature intended to target users of rival full-frame offerings like the Canon 6DMII or the Nikon D750. These include an improved eye-focus autofocus system, 4K video, 10FPS mechanical shutter continuous shooting with AF and AE tracking. For a camera touted by Sony to be the ‘Entry Model’ to its full-frame line, these features were met with more than a few widened eyes.

The improved eye-focus AF locked steadily even as the model twirled. Auto Exposure can be seen to continually reevaluate throughout the 58-image burst. (Image had to be down-sized for web use.) Image: Ian Ling

The eye-focus AF locks even in challenging conditions worked well as expected. The animation below (resized for web use) was taken on the A7III at 10fps. Eye-focus AF was initiated by depressing the button at the centre of the rear scroll wheel.

One of the photos from the continuous burst shows the accuracy of the Eye-focus AF. ISO12,800 | 1/1250 | f2.8 | Sony FE 24-70 2.8 Image: Ian Ling

Sony Singapore provided us two set-ups to test out the new camera. The model above demonstrated the camera’s performance in regular lighting conditions, though the set was a little dark with only the key light active. Nonetheless, it proved little feat, with the high-ISO settings on the A7III handling it with little issue.

ISO 10,000 | FE 70-200 2.8 GM OSS @80mm | f2.8 | 1/250  Image: Ian Ling

Even at high sensitivities, and uneven and challenging lighting conditions, the A7III retains tonality. All images here were straight out of camera JPEGs, but would be easily manipulated in post.

At 100% crop. Image: Ian Ling

At ISO 10,000, we started to observe artefacts, but we were really stunned to see the sharpness reflected (or should we say, refracted) in her irises. I had utilised Eye-AF. Even at 24 megapixels and such high sensitivities, the A7III holds up to scrutiny at even such a high magnification.

At a more reasonable ISO, details in the hair and fabric become more pronounced.

The image looks significantly cleaner at a more reasonable ISO. ISO 4000 | FE 70-200 2.8 GM OSS @70mm | f2.8 | 1/250.

Of course, 5-axis in-body image stabilisation coupled with optical stabilisation sported by the GM 70-200 lens produced tack-sharp images even at the long end of the telephoto range.

At full resolution, the details in the hair and skin at a respectable ISO1,250 impressed us. With one of its key applications in the field of portrait photography, the ability to render subtle tonality in a tinted, low lighting condition is vital. I had left Eye-AF on, and although her pupils were facing away in the shadow, the camera focused on the next most obvious feature on her profile: on her hair right next to her eyes.

At 100% crop. ISO 1,250 | FE 70-200 2.8 GM OSS @200mm | f2.8 | 1/250 Image: Ian Ling

ISO6400 had long been considered to be the threshold for many cameras. The A7III handled it effortlessly.

At 100% crop. ISO 1,250 | FE 70-200 2.8 GM OSS @70mm | f2.8 | 1/250. Image: Ian Ling

Prioritising build and image quality, Sony has never been known for its cheap cameras, especially not in its A7 line.  It is incredible that they had managed to squeeze in such a set of features at such a price point. The set-up Sony provided allowed us to test the A7III in specific conditions. It isn’t really a whole lot, but it helped us come to a few conclusions.

The Sony A7III will be available locally at all Sony Stores, Centres and Authorised Dealers at SGD2,899 (USD2,200) for Body only. Bundled with the SEL2870 kit lens, the Sony A7III comes in at SGD3,299 (USD2,500) inclusive of GST.

 

Ian Ling
http://uncommontragedy.com
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

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