We were at Sony’s Vegas launch press event for the a7 III, Sony’s newest and “basic” model for their full frame mirrorless camera line. At the event, we were able to get our hands on an a7 III and test it out for ourselves. Here’s what we thought about it.
While testing the a7 III, we shot with the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens and had a SmallHD focus display attached to the a7 III. We also re-assigned all the buttons to the settings that we like to use so we’d feel the most comfortable using the a7 III. The settings we assigned included focus zoom, ISO control location, Picture profile mode change and Image stabilization (SteadShot) on/off.
What we shot in
We shot in UHD at 24fps and both in both S-log2 and S-log3. When in S&Q mode, we shot at 120fps for slow-mo and 1fps for fast motion interval shooting. We as well tested how well the a7 III’s 5-axis sensor stabilization works, so we shot a few tests with its stabilization on and off, and also shot at a number of high ISO’s to test the a7 III’s performance in low light.
First test: shooting on set
We first tested the a7 III on a well lit set. The quality of the video and photos that we took turned out good, though most cameras look good when shooting under such good lighting. However, we noticed that the camera shoots very sharply, resulting in some moiré problems in video. Moiré is an effect occurs when fine patterns on fabric mixes with the fine pattern of pixels on a camera’s sensor creating a third rainbowing pattern. We couldn’t see a moiré effect in the photos shot on the a7 III, but the sharpness causes a bit of fine line dancing in video.
It’s also worth noting that the a7 III’s electronic viewfinder isn’t as nice as its big brother, the a7R III. The a7R III viewfinder pixel count runs in at 3,686,400 and the a7 III’s count falls short at 2,359,000 pixels. We were happy that we had our SmallHD Focus on hand to help us with exposure and focus control. What we were able to get with the monitor was better than what we were getting without it.
To the rain machine!
From the set, we proceeded to test the a7 III’s Slow and Quick (S&Q) mode. Fortunately there were a number of very fit models dancing, splashing and posing underneath a rain machine to help us do so. While shooting the models, we shot in S&Q at 120fps for slow-motion capture. To shoot 120fps on the a7 III, you have to be in S&Q, but the S&Q mode is still a nice feature. One of its shining features is its slow-mo playback and its ability to do interval shooting converting takes one step out of post, which is also nice.
Also, since the models were moving around a lot, we cranked camera’s ISO to increase the shutter to in-turn decrease motion blur. We found that having the headroom that the ISO offered and not having to worry about noise made capturing a great photo of a model quick on the a7 III.
How is the a7 III in low light?
To test a7 III’s low light capabilities, we set up the camera in the hotel room we were staying at in Vegas. We gradually increased the camera’s ISO settings until noise was introduced into the image. The camera was able to last up to an impressive ISO 12,800 before we notice any noise. That’s impressive; it’s one stop greater than the GH5’s top ISO 6,400.
But shooting in a hotel room isn’t a great simulation of the situations that videographers and photographers shoot in, so we took the a7 III to a restaurant and bar to test its ISO and it still performed well. It was nice to be able to crank up the ISO without having an noise issues.
The fact that you can get a full-frame 4K camera that has sensor stabilization, log and can shoot 120fps in HD for 2,000 bucks makes the a7 III very attractive. However, it doesn’t offer 10-bit video, like the GH5 that’s retailing for a slightly lower price, but its sensor is bigger than the GH5’s (the a7 III has a 24.2-megapixel sensor, and the GH5 has a 20.3-megapixel sensor). As first impressions go, the a7 III didn’t disappoint. While it’s not the perfect camera, it’s still looking like a promising option for videographers and photographers.