Sony A7 Mark III review: Best full-frame camera for most people

first_imgBest camera. It is somewhat disingenuous for anyone to give a camera this tag. Because in real world, there are no “best” cameras. There are only best cameras for a particular situation, and even then a lot depends on how you opt to use that camera and with what skills. I am aware of it. Yet, I feel that the Sony A7 Mark III is the best camera that most people can buy. And when I say most people, I mean the photography enthusiasts or people who want a camera to click the precious moments of their lives, whether those moments come when they are exploring a city or at their birthday party. The Sony A7 Mark III has its limitations but then what camera doesn’t have them. Overall, it’s one fantastic machine, expensive but fantastic.This is something I say after using the A7 Mark III for over two weeks, after shooting hundreds of photos with it. This I say even though until now I have never been particularly fond of Sony’s A series cameras. I have always loved the Sony RX 100 series, but never the mirrorless A series. That is until now.The reasons why the A7 Mark III is so good are several. But before I talk of them — and I am going to steer clear of all the photography jargons and tech talk given that this is not a review for pro users (guys, you know you don’t need to read the review to know a camera’s worth) — let me just quickly highlight some of the key specifications of the A7 Mark III.advertisement– The A7 Mark III is a mirrorless camera. This means it is smaller than a comparable DSLR because there is no flippy mirror in it. The A7 Mark III uses a 24-megapixel full frame image sensor, which measures 35.6mm x 23.8mm. The pixel pitch in this sensor is 5.9um. — The A7 Mark III is an interchangeable lens camera. It uses Sony’s A mount lenses. There was a time when there were not enough A mount lenses, but now Sony has tens of A mount lenses, covering a wide range of focal length. The extremes — say 600mm — is still missing but almost every other focal length is there.– The A7 Mark III weighs around 650 grams without any lens attached to it. Pretty neat, I say. — There are more details, like shutter speed, ISO range, screen details, EVF details etc, but let’s not go there. I am going to cover some of these while talking about my experience with the camera.Sony A7 Mark III makes beautiful imagesI earlier said I wasn’t a fan of Sony’s A series cameras. Well, to add to that I would say I wasn’t a fan of mirrorless cameras. I have mostly used DSLR cameras, and almost every time I picked a mirrorless camera earlier I found the camera limited, hobbled. Either this or that won’t work as well as what most people get with a DSLR camera. There are areas, even with the A7 Mark III, where mirrorless cameras are still behind DSLR cameras, but I think for most people now they are good enough. And when you add the fact that these are smaller cameras to carry and lighter to handle, you do see merit in picking up a mirrorless camera instead of a DSLR camera nowadays. Coming back to the A7 Mark III, I used it with Sony’s 24-105 F4 G lens. The G part here is special. This belongs to what Sony calls Master Lens series. Basically, it is a top-end lens and its performance, while I used it, showed why this is a G lens. It’s sharp across the frame and it produces great colours. Also, the aperture of F4 may not be as versatile as F2.8, but then F4 also ensures that this is not a big lens. In fact, it complements the A7 Mark III very well. It balances well on the A mount of this camera. The total weight of the lens and camera is enough to give you some heft when you are shooting but at the same time it is light enough to be a part of your backpack almost all the time. There are a number of things that Sony has improved since the early days of A series cameras. And these improvements have finally reached a stage where I feel I can pick the A7 Mark III over a DSLR camera and be happy. The ergonomics have been more or less fixed. The grip of the A7 Mark III can still be a little deeper — I have always preferred the Nikon grip — but given that I don’t have oversized hands I don’t particular mind it.advertisementI also don’t mind the button layout, although the menu and settings can use some cleaning. It is too cluttered. But once you have set-up the camera for your use — and everyone uses their cameras in different ways — you wouldn’t have to go into setting all too often. For daily shooting, whatever you need you almost always end up getting with your fingers — there is also a joystick to move the focus point — even when you are peering into the scene through the EVF. The EVF too has been improved SIGNIFICANTLY compared to what we used to get in the old mirrorless cameras. It’s bright, and while you still see some pixels, the clarity of the OLED screen is good enough for it to be used in almost all scenarios. A full-frame DSLR camera still have better viewfinder because that is made up of all sharp optics and I love the fact I can see through optical viewfinders without turning on the camera — not possible in a mirrorless — but I didn’t particularly miss it while shooting with the A7 Mark III.And it’s not only in the body, but also in what the A7 Mark III clicks where Sony has improved. The A7 Mark III clicks beautiful photos, especially in low light. In good light, I still prefer colours that a DSLR like Nikon D750 can produce over what the A7 Mark III shoots. But in low light, I found the A7 Mark III is fantastic at dealing with noise and keeping it low and in pleasant grain. In my experience this is the best general purpose camera for clicking low light photos. See for example the 100 per cent eye crop from a photo clicked at 12800 ISO. This is near dark room. And this is from a JPEG! It is brilliantly clean. I have never seen such clean 12800 ISO JPEG from a camera earlier. Then there is the dynamic range — ability of a camera to deal with strong light and deep shadows in same images — that too has been improved in the A7 Mark III. This is one area where I feel the Sony A series was lacking earlier. But not anymore. The A7 Mark III is as good as Nikon D750 in dealing with shots that have high dynamic range, for example sunset or a glass building reflecting flaming orange colour of an evening. 100 per cent crop from a photo clicked at ISO12800 and in near darknessAbility to expose an image well, capture plenty of details even in low light, class-leading ISO performance, and pleasant colours mean the A7 Mark III is also a camera with which it is easy to click great photos, particularly if you attach a sharp lens to it. And that I think is another positive for the A7 Mark III. Most people will find that it is not as daunting to use this camera as a full-frame DLSR, which can be intimidating with its size and myriad buttons.advertisement There are some things, that I feel can still be better. One of these is auto focus. The A7 Mark III excels — for mirrorless camera — at focussing when you are shooting landscape images. Or when you are clicking portrait photos. The coverage of focus is almost across the frame. You can select between various focus modes: Spot, continuous, automatic, manual etc. For portrait photos, there is also eye focus — which focuses on eyes of people — and there is face recognition feature too, which helps if you are clicking photos of your kid. And these modes work well enough. But I continue to find the auto focus with a mirrorless slow for moving subjects, say for example an active dog. I must have clicked 100s of photos of dogs and most of them didn’t come out sharp. Some of this is also because of my skills and clumsiness with the A7 Mark III. I am new to a mirrorless camera. But I also feel that this is one area where a DSLR camera still excels. A good DSLR camera — for example like Nikon D750 with its 3D focus — just gets it right. Almost all the time. But other than the bit about auto focus accuracy and speed, I don’t think the A7 Mark III has any real weaknesses. Sure, it is no sports shooter — Sony has A9 for people who need that — but for most people, and most of the regular street, travel, or -to-day shooting, the A7 Mark III works very well. Video shooting too is something of a strong point with the A7 Mark III. It can shoot footage in up to 4K, although I preferred to record most of the clips at 1080P. But unlike DSLR cameras, that struggle with video recording, mirrorless have always been good with videos.The battery life of mirrorless cameras has been their Achilles’ heel but the A7 Mark III more or less fixes it. Once charged fully — it charges through USP cable and there is no bundled charger (!!! wish Sony had bundled a charger) — it will last you one full day with ease.Expensive, yes veryWhile I think the A7 Mark III is the best general purpose camera right now in the market, it is expensive. The full-frame cameras are expensive, but even so the A7 Mark III costs more than a comparable DSLR camera. It costs around Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 more compared to something like Canon 6D or the excellent-but-old Nikon D750. And that is with the 24-70mm F4 lens, which is not as good as the G series 24-105 F4 lens. For body only, the A7 Mark III has an MRP of Rs 164,990. With the kit lens, it costs Rs 179,990 and if you buy it with the G lens used in this review, the price of the combo ends up close to Rs 2,75,000. Although Sony is currently offering a discount of Rs 20,000 on A7 Mark III body if you buy the 24-105mm G lens. These are official prices, and the prices in the market are likely to be lower. But it is still a lot of money. Having said that, I think if you are a photography enthusiasts and don’t mind splurging — also do understand that cameras like A7 Mark III last long because they are built like tanks — the A7 Mark III is a fantastic camera to buy. Ideally get it with a good lens, which depending on what you will shoot you will know better, but even with its bundled kit lens it can do wonders. It’s been a while since I last had fun doing photography. The good DSLR cameras have become too big, particularly when paired with a good lens. A camera like the A7 Mark III brings back some of the joy back into the picture. For many camera and photography enthusiasts that alone should justify its high price. Add to it fantastic dynamic range and ISO performance of the full-frame sensor in the A7 Mark III and you have a camera that won’t disappoint you. That is if you can afford it, and if you don’t use it to shoot wildlife or sport.last_img