I finally got to use the A7RIII in a couple real world situation post Canon switch. Here’s my thoughts on it that could help or deter some people on the fence about switching.
Note: At the time of my switch neither Canon or Nikon had a mirrorless camera out or had any solid rumors about it.
The Nikon Z6 and Z7 are out now and I still feel I made the right choice.
Build Quality/Overall Feel:
This is a big one for a lot of people, given that mirrorless is generally a smaller system, this alone could be a deal breaker. In New Zealand I was always in 28-33F degree weather and didn’t have any issues at all with the camera or the electronics. I didn’t encounter any rain or snow so I’m not sure how the weather sealing is but I’d always use a rain cover just to be safe. I do have to note the camera never got hot or overheated while using any of the features.
As far as the feel of the camera in the hands, I really like it but only with the really right stuff L bracket. That gives it the extra length at the bottom for added grip, it just fits my hands perfectly, more so than the 5D4. With that being said I don’t think it can beat the feel of a pro body camera like the 1DXII, that just feels like a solid tank. The Sony bodies are getting there though!
If I had to guess I think the next gen Sony bodies could possibly get bigger.
Coming from a DSLR the EVF is an absolute game changer. I used it quite often in the bright sunlight and just generally all the time, amazing all around. Having the added bonus of real time exposure review and zebras is just the coolest thing ever.
This is the thing I miss about Canon DSLR’s, I’m just not a fan of tilty screens personally, I like a fixed screen more. It definitely does come in handy sometimes but I would prefer if they went back to the thicker screen like on the original A7 or something like the Nikon D850. It’s just too thin in my opinion.
One thing that was weird was when I had my face against the rear screen looking through the EVF (while the rear LCD was blacked out) it kept moving my focus point around, even with only center focus on. Not sure what was happening but it only happened when I was doing aerial photography. Would recommend turning the touch operation off for aerial shooting just in case.
One thing I’m not a fan of is when the real time image is pretty laggy at slow shutter speeds, that never happened with Canon. Canons rear touch screen and live-view is just the best out there and still unbeatable, in my opinion.
Image Quality/Color Reproduction:
Sharpness, detail, dynamic range and ISO performance, Sony destroys Canon 100%. The files are super clean, super sharp and I can recover TONS of detail in the highlights and shadows. I rarely even need to use graduated ND filters anymore. In fact, I didn’t use them once in New Zealand. If I had to guess I’d say the dynamic range is about 3 stops better than the 5D MK4.
The color reproduction is surprisingly really really good. I had the A7II when it first came out and was beyond disatisfied with the colors and just everything about it. The A7RIII colors look amazing and super clean. I was a little nervous when switching because all everyone ever talks about is “Canon’s colors” and honestly it’s a totally different look. It’s definitely a steril perfect looking image and you lose a bit of the organic feel but I honestly really like it. It’s insanely clean compared to Canon.
With all that being said it’s still a huge improvement over the A7R2. Overall I’m spending a little more time in post but I am getting a way cleaner image with more resolution, can’t complain. If you’re willing to spend the time in post the files are seriously amazing but require a little extra time to finesse.
As far as skin tones go I haven’t noticed any issues, pretty equivalent to Canon. Never got any weird hue shifts or overly red tones or anything like that, pretty color neutral. Skin tones are definitely the hardest thing to get right in camera. Nothing that can’t be fixed in post though.
I do have to say I’m loving the video features on the A7RIII. The 4K is super sharp, 1080P 120fps is really smooth especially after the last firmware update. Two things that make this great is the user profiles you can save to quickly switch over if you need to shoot video AND sensor stabilization. Stabilized 4K and 120 footage is pretty sweet! There’s also no crazy rolling shutter or 1.7 crop compared to Canon which is a giant plus. Another plus is the video codec is much better than Canon’s MJPEG and not as big file size wise.
The baked in video colors and cleaness of the files blew my mind after I shot a music video recently, especially since my friend who I was shooting with was using the 1DXII. Once you dial in a good HLG preset it looks really good, I was honestly surprised. The flexibility the files have in post is really good as well, for a DSLR-non-raw style camera that is.
One cool thing though is highlights are actually recoverable on the Sony with the hybrid log gamma picture profiles. There’s a ton of different LOG modes and HDR video profiles to give you extra latitude in post which are also customizable in camera. While C-LOG is still the winner in this situation there’s definitely enough tools with the Sony to give you an amazing video footage.
If you’re switching to Sony just for video I would have to say it depends on what you’re shooting. While the video AF on the Sony is really good in most situations it still can’t beat dual pixel AF. Canon’s ease of use with it’s focusing system is still pretty hard to beat, but given the upsides of the Sony I’d say it’s a very tough call. I’d say it’s about 85% as good as DPAF.
I found this on Colby Browns blog about the A7RIII which perfectly explains the differences between the HLG profiles:
- HLG: Gamma curve for HDR recording. Equivalent to the HDR standard Hybrid Log-Gamma, ITU-R BT.2100.
- HLG1: Gamma curve for HDR recording. Emphasizes noise reduction. However, shooting is restricted to a narrower dynamic range than with HLG2 or HLG3.
- HLG2: Gamma curve for HDR recording. Provides a balance of dynamic range and noise reduction.
- HLG3: Gamma curve for HDR recording. Wider dynamic range than HLG2. However, noise may increase.
- HLG1, HLG2, and HLG3 all apply a gamma curve with the same characteristics, but each offers a different balance between dynamic range and noise reduction. Each has a different maximum video output level, as follows:
- HLG1: approx. 87%, HLG2: approx. 95%, HLG3: approx. 100%.
Some video I shot in New Zealand (couple of the plane shots were from a GoPro, everything else was on the Sony A7R3).
I bought 2 extra batteries just in case and honestly I didn’t need to. The battery life is totally fine and I could of lived with just 1 extra. Never ran out once. DSLR’S still have better battery life but honestly it’s not an issue anymore. I shot about 1800’ish shots on the aerial photo flight and still had around 50-60% battery life. (10fps burst mode is fun)
The Menu System:
This is a constant topic that comes up amongst people thinking of switch. Is the menu system gigantic? Yes. Does the camera have a ton more features? Yes. While the menu system is substantially more gigantic than Canon or Nikon the camera also has a ton more features and almost every single thing about it customizable, which is amazing. Honestly once you get everything dialed in which should take more than an hour or two you can create a couple custom menu’s with everything you regularly need to change. Beyond that I really only need to go into the menu system once in a while to tweak something. Overall not as bad as it seems.
All SD cards now, no more CF cards which is nice. I had to buy a super fast UHS-II card for burst shooting on the open door plane ride which wasn’t cheap. Well worth it though because the files are huge @ 80ish MB per file, paired with 10fps drive mode I shot about 1800 or so files on that flight alone. Only using the built in card reader on my laptop is great too, no need for an external CF reader anymore. Definitely need to invest in more storage though because it takes up more data compared to the 30ish MB files from the 5D4.
Sony cameras have ISO invariance which take out specks of noise and such from the image, hence why the images are so clean. I’ve read about people having issues with this and astrophotography, I personally haven’t had any problems with it or any stars missing. I have heard the A7III has a fix with exposures over 3 seconds cancels out the ISO invariance so we might see this in a firmware update in the future for the A7R-III. Or maybe it’s already fixed? Hard to tell but maybe we’ll know soon.
Overall all the three lenses I used in NZ we’re great, super sharp, smooth and didn’t run into any issues. (12-24 G, 24-70 GM, 100-400 GM) Except one thing I noticed on the 24-70 is the flaring is not great when shooting directly into the sun (for sunburst flares), otherwise no issues. I recently swapped the 12-24 for the 16-35 2.8 because I need to use filters at wider angles, either lenses are awesome and both will totally do the job flawlessly. I also added the 85 1.4 GM to my kit and I’m in love with it, super amazing all around.
If I had to comment on the lenses vs Canon or Nikon I’d have to say each lens doesn’t really have any difining characteristics when compared to each other. The GM lenses all kind of look the same when it comes to color rendition, contrast, etc, which I guess isn’t really a bad thing. They all just kind of look clinically perfect.
- Zebras, they’re awesome for checking clipped highlights, favorite new feature.
- In body sensor stabilization is great all the way around, perfect for video too.
- Silent shooting is a nice bonus when you need it, not a huge plus for landscape though.
- Bright monitoring for astrophotography is amazing! One click and you can see your exposure at max ISO to frame it up in the dark. A little laggy on the screen but it does the job.
- Pixel shift is pretty great but not ideal for landscape, only architecture and subject that don’t move.
- USB-C charging, It’s decently fast and its a nice bonus to have when you need it. I actually use it more than I thought I would.
- 1.5x crop in body with the push of a button, my 400mm becomes a 600mm!
- Eye-AF, best new portrait feature ever, no DSLR has this and probably never will, it’s also extremely accurate.
- Dual SD cards, no more CF Cards!
Cons Of Switching Systems:
There’s obviously going to be cons with every camera system, so here we go:
- Not cheap, I definitely had to dish out some extra money from switching my entire setup.
- Weather sealing is still in question. Something I never had to worry about with a DSLR. Always use a rain cover no matter what.
- The sensor is more prone to dust. This was the one good thing about a DSLR, the mirror protected the sensor!
- No built in intervelometer is a big step backwards, WTF Sony!? (future firmware maybe?)
- DPAF is smoother than Sony’s video AF, totally useable but still not on par… yet.
- The grip is uncomfortable without an L-Bracket for the extra height.
- Mirrorless is basically all electronic, there’s always the fear of something about to go wrong, no signs of that yet, luckily.
- Limited GM lens selection compared to Canon or Nikon.
- Limited touch screen capabilities. Aka only moving the focus point. Canon’s touchscreen is the best out there and fully functional.
- Battery life isn’t an issue anymore but it definitely gets less than a DSLR.
So there you have it post Canon switch. Overall very happy with the switch and reduced weight of the Sony system. I sometimes miss the DSLR tank-like feel compared to the Sony mirrorless but given the image quality leap I can’t complain. Would I ever switch back to Canon or possibly Nikon? It’s definitely not off the table depending on what the tech is like in the future, Sony is going to be a hard competitor to beat though, it seems they’re out to be #1. But for now, the A7RIII is one of the best cameras available right now and will be for some time.
The Nikon Z6/Z7 is out now and given the limited lens selection / adapter situation I think I’d still go Sony for the time being, even with the extra comfort, ruggedness and built in timelapse of the Nikon. Canon is up next to release their mirrorless around Photokina in about a month, we’ll see if I made a huge mistake with the switch or if I’m still in the green.
Update: The Canon FF mirrorless is also out now and given the specs I still have no regrets, they basically made a mirrorless 5D MK4. This could however be their lower end mirrorless body like the A73 or Z6. Lens selection is still pretty limited and wouldn’t want to go the adapter route. In my personal opinion the A7RIII is still the best mirrorless camera out there, along with the D850 as the best DSLR. If you have either I wouldn’t buy any other body for a while, personally.
Overall no regrets though, definitely not going back to a DSLR ever. I’m very excited to see what Sony comes up with next with the A7SIII and future camera models/tech. Mirrorless is definitely the future of camera technology in my opinion.
If you have any questions or comments leave them below. Thanks for reading!
Follow me on social media: