Sony Announces the A7R Mark III

Sony starts off the third generation of the FE mirrorless camera line with the A7R Mark III. Overall, this is not the usual Sony "push the tech further than anyone" type of release we've gotten used to, but more of a "round out the issues of the previous version" release. The Mark III picks up a lot of small pieces of tech from previous Sony models.

bythom sony a7rIII 24-70

That starts at the sensor, where we have basically the same 42.2mp sensor as before, but with a slightly different set of toppings (gapless microlenses and a new anti-flare coating). 

Frame rate has improved from 5 fps to 10 fps (mechanical or electronic), with an 8 fps low-blackout ability (similar to the A6500). Improvements to BIONZ, faster UHS-II card writing, and other improvements push the buffer up a maximum of 87 compressed, or 28 uncompressed raw files.

Autofocus is still using the 399 point phase detect from the sensor (about two-thirds of the frame), but implements better contrast detect capabilities and some of the algorithms/techniques of the A9. We also get the thumbstick to control AF point from the A9.

Behind the sensor, the IS system has been improved. It's still 5-axis, but now rated at 5.5 stops CIPA. The IS system has also been configured to give a multi-shot high resolution mode (four images cancel out Bayer effects and lower noise). However, these four images are not assembled in-camera, nor are they near instantaneous, as there must be at least a half second delay between each. Sony promises computer software to process these files. 

As in the Mark II, the Mark III model can shoot full frame 4K that's downsampled, or a 4K Super 35 crop (about APS-C) that's not. Sony claims better video quality for both versions, though it is unclear how that is achieved. We do gain a Hybrid Log Gamma function that captures in Log but displays corrected on the camera. One additional gain in the video capabilities is 1080P/120/100.

bythom sony a7rIII back

While the Mark III retains the Mark II body for the most part, there are changes. I've already mentioned the additional of the focus control thumbstick. Other changes include using the larger NP-FZ100 battery first seen in the A9 (650 shots CIPA), the dual SD slot configuration (one UHS-II, one UHS-I), plus the use of the 3.6m dot A9 EVF. 

Sony made a number of small claims regarding the A7R Mark III: Eye-detect autofocus performance was doubled, camera features aren't disabled with the buffer full, and the use of a USB 3.1 port allowing faster tethering. 

Price of the camera stays at US$3200 (which explains the recent discounting on the Mark II model), and it should ship before the end of November, barely.

So what to make of this latest A7?

A lot of people are surprised that it's an A7R that gets the Mark III treatment first. Most of the rumor sites were suggesting that the A7 or A7S would be first. But the "action" is in the high-end cameras now, and Sony's most conspicuous camera there was the A7R Mark II, and it was a head-to-head competitor with the Nikon D810 (and Canon 5D Mark IV). I suppose it's possible that Sony learned of the impending D850 and wanted to shore up the A7R. Indeed, they have, whether that was their intention or not. 

In the last generation of cameras, I considered the Nikon D810 and Sony A7R Mark II two of the best, most well-rounded cameras you could buy. Arguably, they were usable for any photographic purpose. I don't see that changing in this generation. The D850 and A7R Mark III both upped their games, in slightly different fashions. Both shoot at faster frame rates, both make additional performance claims, both incorporate features from their flagship (D5, A9), both are in the same price range. And I think both will sell well.

Meanwhile, Sony added to their lens lineup with another new lens, the 24-105mm f/4 G OSS. Let's hope this is the missing link in the f/4 lineup. While it's slightly bigger and heavier than the 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss, the hope here is that it doesn't have the optical letdowns of that lens and becomes the smaller/lighter travel mid-range zoom.

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