With 4K video downsampled from 6K over the full sensor width, Sony's new α7III offers some incredibly compelling capabilities and features that are sure to give the competition some rather hot collars.
It has been a rather busy time this week as one by one a new camera or imaging product is seemingly announced every hour. Today is no exception with the official announcement of the hotly anticipated Sony α7III.
It is fair to say that the α7 series is now practically legendary. Each version offering best in class capabilities for its time. None more so than the S variations, which have become renowned for their low light shooting abilities.
At the heart of the α7III is a brand new 24.2MP full-frame back illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor, which in its expanded ISO mode offers a range from 50-204800. Sony is also claiming a 15 stop dynamic range, albeit at lower sensitivities. This is, apparently 1.5 stops better than the previous model.
On paper then, a bit of a performer. But what stands out is when we look at the video modes. The camera reads from the full width of the sensor with no pixel binning. In effect the camera is achieving 4K video by downsampling from a smidgen over 6K worth of data with no windowing. Needless to say that this could well result in some very nice video indeed.
As per most new cameras these days, HLG is fully catered for, as well as the ability to shoot with Slog2 and 3. The α7III is also capable of shooting 120fps in 1080p mode with a 100Mbps bitrate. Proxy recording is another feature that offers flexibility for dealing with the footage in post. Is the footage 8-bit or 10-bit? We don’t have the details, but we would presume that the α7III remains in the 8-bit realm.
When it comes to stills, which is after all the primary purpose of such a camera, the α7III is hardly a slouch here either. The same technology that allows it to record such high quality video also allows it to capture full resolution raw stills at up to 10fps. This can be done with either the mechanical shutter or in its silent mode. Note, though, that this is only available for short bursts. For continuous shooting it can be placed in live view mode where it achieves 8fps
Another interesting feature I noted was that the camera can use an anti-flicker setting automatically detect lighting frequency, which can cause issues at certain shutter settings.
The different manufacturers are now heavily competing when it comes to autofocus capabilities. At one time derided, autofocus systems have made huge progress in recent years.
On the α7III Sony are touting its 4D FOCUS capabilities. This translates, in the words of Sony into “425 contrast AF points that work with a 693-point focal-plane phase-detection AF system inherited from the acclaimed α9 model”. The new camera also features a 5-axis in-body optical stabilisation system, giving a claimed 5-stop advantage.
Sony is claiming that the new system is capable of twice the speed of the previous camera.
Build wise the rear of the the camera houses an OLED viewfinder, and the usual large flip out touch screen display. But there’s one other surprise in the form of two SD card slots. These can be configured so that you can record separate JPEG and RAW files, or have stills on one card and video recorded to the other. Or simply use them as a relay system for extra capacity. Sony also claims that the NP-FZ100 battery gives a vastly improved life over the previous version of the camera.
Why consider the α7III?
The question remains then, what does this camera do that the α7RIII doesn't?
While the α7III has less sensor resolution than the α7RIII (24MP vs 42MP), the new camera has a higher sensitivity, most likely due to larger photosites. For those who are more interested in the video modes it is also worth noting that the α7III samples the full sensor width before downsampling. Whilst it is true that the α7RIII also oversamples for video, it windows the sensor to Super35 dimensions before it does so. This means that if you want to retain the full-frame look for video, the α7III will be the one to go to. Lastly, the new camera is over £1000 less to buy. A compelling reason if ever there was one, especially if you you do not require the almost medium format 42MP stills resolution of the R.
The α7III looks to be a pretty nice upgrade over the old model by any stretch of the imagination, and if there is one thing for certain in all of this, it means that no matter where you are in the world, there’s a camera that will fit into your pocket or a small bag that allows you to record extremely high quality 4K video. Not just passable video, but truly usable footage that can be projected onto a big screen with ease. It’s a cliche to say it, but these are interesting times indeed!
The α7III will be available from March at a price of £2000 for the body only, or £2300 with a kit lens bundle.
Full press release follows on the next page.