Like many of my posts this is first and foremost a therapeutic exercise to clear my mind. Similar to what was stated by Lord Byron:
Dramatic? A bit. But accurate. So what follows may not apply to many. Indeed it may not apply to any. Just a walk down my long form over-rationalization stream of consciousness run up to a camera purchase. My friend Anthony reminds me, “You are grown. Buy what you want.”, is enough justification alone. But my mind does not work that way. So what follows is my over-verbose thinking process. You have been warned.
Like I said in a post earlier this year I have lost count of how many A7III posts I have written. There have been many.
And here is yet another post to add to the heap. But it will be my last about the A7III. Elvis has left the building.
Sidebar: I am pretty sure I am feeling sad as I write this… What in the actual heck? About trading a camera? Has not happened before. Especially not with a digital camera. Sure I have taken quite a few photographs I hold dear with this camera… but this is odd. Anyhoo.
It will be missed. I am a man that has no issues churning through gear. I will buy a camera on a whim. Similarly, I will trade a camera on a whim. But that makes it all the more amazing that after buying the Sony A7III upon arrival at my local camera shop in early 2018 that I have never seriously considered selling or trading it before. Ever. That is unheard of for me. There are other cameras, film and digital, that I may have owned multiple times over the years on and off but no others that I have held onto throughout.
I once said that Sony shot itself in the foot with the A7III because it is so good I cannot see any reason for replacing it with a newer or upper-tier model. Had said this is no way to get me to spend more money. It is a great camera. And none of that has changed. I would perfectly understand if someone bought one today, new or used.
The case for the A7III in 2022 and beyond.
I write “So…” posts about new gear announcements largely as an attempt to talk myself down. Often times it works and I do not make the jump. But other times it fails like with the Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 G Master where I write a post about how a piece of gear is not for me only to later contradict myself. But when I wrote a “So…” post on the Sony A7IV it stuck. I stayed with the A7III.
The A7III has seen a lot of lenses and cameras come and go in its time. But I never once seriously considered selling or trading the A7III.
It just worked. Every single time. Especially if your main aim is stills photography.
Had thought perhaps it had to do with some emotional attachment based on prior images captured, like the very first wedding I shot with it. (Recently remembered that I was asked to videotape a wedding many years ago and took some stills while I was at it. Lost to the archives.)
But my attachment to this camera started with a very practical foundation. Every time I used it I was reminded how great a camera it is. It was flawless during a late 2021 visit to NYC.
It more than met the challenge of everyday photography.
Killed it on an engagement session.
Performed flawlessly for a recent portrait shoot for my son.
And again at a recent event shoot for my family.
And again at a recent bridal shoot.
Also did well at another wedding very recently, but… more on this later.
So what happened? There was no one factor that brought about the change. I will go in the order of increasing significance in my decision.
Some medium format foolishness.
A while back I acquired a Hasselblad lens to Sony FE adapter that included a speed booster.
But since acquiring it I have wanted to put more MP behind it. 24MP behind a classic medium format lens was not cutting it. While a 9MP difference did not sway me with the A7IV, the 37MP jump to the A7RIV and now A7RV did tempt me. But I held off with the A7RIV.
Outperformed a medium format alternative.
I went into great detail about this in a recent Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 G Master post. In short, that lens rendered like a very nice digital medium format camera solution. I then realized after shooting them side by side that a medium format adjacent look can be achieved with the proper glass.
But 24MP does not seem sufficient compared to the 40MP 645D. Meanwhile the 61MP A7RIV and A7RV not only best the MP count of the the 645D and 645Z, but they also best many of the new medium format cameras I had been considering over the last few years. 100MP is also available. But the specs and price for those are well beyond my needs and means.
That last wedding shoot though…
There was one more wedding recently. During that shoot (Should be more coming soon when I get clearance to do so.) for the first time I came away with a few, “Would be nice if.”, moments.
Scenario 1: Shutter Noise.
Unlike prior weddings, there was a videographer. A new thing to navigate given my wedding newbie status. Before the actual wedding ceremony I used the A7III’s mechanical rear shutter. The A7III is not that noisy usually. But for this wedding the space was a little tighter. Add in the videographer and a secluded location and I quickly became aware of the A7III’s shutter sound after a few test shots. The videographer set up across the aisle from me. I could hear the video in my head, “Do you take… <thwack><thwack><thwack><thwack> …to be your lawfully… <thwack><thwack><thwack><thwack> …husband.” Likely would not have been that pronounced but I did not want to rain on his parade. So I switched to silent shutter for the ceremony. Worked just fine. For the record he was very nice, Steve I believe was his name, and did not ask me to do this. I took it upon myself to do so. Thankfully as dusk hit and artificial lighting came on I remembered to turn silent shutter off. It would have turned into banding pa-loo-za that would have ruined after service shots as night fell.
Granted remembering to turn silent shutter off is more of an inconvenience than a real ding, but I shudder to think what would have happened if I had forgotten to turn off silent shutter after the wedding ceremony since the banding was not readily evident when quickly reviewing the back screen. Would have had the potential to ruin a lot of moments that were not repeatable.
After a quick test I found that, similar to the A7C, the A7RV would also have been quiet enough to use with the mechanical shutter.
Scenario 2: AF Performance
Given the stellar AF performance put in by the A7III over the years this one surprised me. AF seemed a step behind what I had expected on a few occasions. Perhaps it is because I use the A7C as my daily shooter? A7C improvements in video AF were well known with the addition of Eye AF, but perhaps it performed slightly better with stills as well and raised my expectations without me realizing it? Either way there were a few moments, ok two, where AF with the A7III seemed to lose its way with folks walking towards me. It did just fine while panning the procession like this pic during that last wedding.
But two times with folks coming directly at me at a good clip as the wedding party exited the ceremony this last time the A7III briefly lost its way. Could be user error as perhaps I had changed a setting without realizing it, but this was highly unusual for me. Meanwhile, I did notice during that same previous wedding mentioned above I had switched to the A7C and it was flawless AF wise with both the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8…
…and later with the G Master…
…regardless of pace of subject movement or lighting. Not that surprising considering two years and seven months separate the release dates. They are listed as having the same BION X processor, but I would definitely give the AF nod to the A7C based on video AF alone… And it might have been user error.
Getting over the same sensor thing.
Previously I stated that I liked having two bodies, A7III and A7C, with a similar MP count and sensor for consistency’s sake. Had thought 61MP seemed like overkill for regular use. But all Sony’s are consistent IQ wise and I can always put the A7RV into 26MP mode. Additionally, the high MP means I can add reach to lenses by using APS-C and still retain 26MPs of detail. This would turn my 35-150mm into a 53-225mm lens for instance. With a change in perspective all I see are advantages.
Screen and ergonomics.
This was the biggest surprise for me after picking it up from that same local camera shop. Looking at each camera in isolation I had not seen a big difference between the two bodies. But seeing them side by side revealed considerable differences. Let’s get the most mentioned party trick out of the way first. The screen. As stated in reviews not only does it do the typical tilt up and down thing like the A7III.
The A7III felt a bit awkward with larger lenses without the add on vertical grip. But to my surprise I noticed right away that the A7RV has a deeper grip. The size difference can be seen in this profile shot.
What makes the biggest difference is an indent added to the inside of the grip. I see no need to get a vertical grip when it is released.
Combine the added depth and this grip and this camera feels great in hand.
As far as controls and build in general I was also surprised.
One demerit the A7III had is that it carried the loose dangling port door design of Sony’s past. The A7RV is a huge step forward in that regard offering solid hinged doors.
I had previously noted (Over 4 years ago.) that the A7III body design had taken a huge step forward from the A7II (A7RII in the below shot, but they shared the same body.) in feel by moving from fairly shallow buttons on flat surfaces…
…to deeper buttons placed on a “tiered” body with deeper buttons that felt much better in use.
Well the A7RV continues that trend with even deeper, more confident button actuation and an all around much more robust feeling body. Everything looks and feels better.
Each difference taken in isolation is no big deal but take them all into consideration what you end up with is a much better feeling and handling camera. Had briefly entertained keeping the A7III but soon after comparing these cameras side by side I went ahead and let the A7III go.
Menus have improved also, but this has never been an issue for me. Once I get the camera dialed in I do not spend much time in the menus. And when I do I have been using Sony for so long I have made my peace with them. That being said the new menu structure is better.
I read that IBIS has been improved which is great to hear.
Courtesy of the new processor and AI AF has definitely improved. Time will be needed to fully grasp all of the improvements but I can already tell you that there are significant improvements across the board. I will let other videos and written reviews handle the details but I can say that I do not expect any AF missteps in the future. Which is amazing considering how solid the A7III has been. This is a move from great to staggering based on what I am seeing so far. Eye AF picks up further away and is stickier. Other objects crossing paths with or subjects turning around do not disrupt the AF tracking at all. It picks up people in busy scenes even when they are far away. This is all courtesy of the AI technology added and so far it is amazing.
Surprisingly, for such a high MP camera, it does very well in low light also.
Also have been very impressed with the colors.
Ok. So it is better than a camera that was released almost 5 years ago. No surprises there. But what of other options?
Why not the Sony A7RIV?
My decision to purchase the A7RV instead was not primarily based on features. The A7RIV has been the camera that I have been contemplating since it was released a year after the A7III. But there is the issue. This is a camera that has been out for quite a while already. Based on my experience with the A7III whatever I purchase next I plan to keep for quite a while. Spending near as much for a camera released in 2019 just did not make sense to me.
What of the full frame competition?
Great options exist. All modern cameras are viable options. But…
Generally I am very happy with my current lenses and I am not interested in switching lens systems.
But even taking lenses out of the equation:
- The Canon EOS R5 unfortunately exists in a locked down no third party lens mount system.As a result two of my favorite Tamron lenses will never be available for it. Also does not help that the A7RV bests the R5’s MP count by a good margin.
- The Nikon Z7 II is a nice rig. While enjoying more third party support those two favorite lenses of mine are not available for this camera either. That could change in the future I suppose. Additionally, I have read that even the excellent top of the hill Z9 has AF that falls slightly behind Sony and Canon. And both have less MP.
- Leica and Panasonic options have similar lens option issues and all have contrast only AF and that will not do for me. The Sony has me too spoiled to take such a step backwards in AF performance. Plus they also top out at a lower resolution.
What of the new medium format options?
I have only ever considered two new medium format cameras. The now discontinued Fujifilm GFX 50R. But it lacked IBIS and has contrast only AF. Both are deal breakers. The other is the Fujifilm GFX 50S II which adds IBIS and is on sale right now for less than the A7RV amazingly. But that camera also has contrast only AF, pitiful video specs, and a limited and very expensive lens selection. Neither make a good case for adding another lens mount system.
What is the higher end Sony Bodies?
The top of the hill A1 is far more capable than I will ever need at a higher price than I would pay.
As far as the A9 II goes see A1 note above and take away half the MP.
I only really ever considered a Sony next. Up until now the other options either:
- Did not move the needle enough to motivate me to upgrade or…
- Did have specs that intrigued me but for a price so dear I did not seriously consider them.
With the A7RV I guess you could say that Sony finally created the Goldilocks camera for me. So a trade a palooza was had where gear was traded for one camera and I am glad about it.
Well done Sony. Took a few years, but you did it. You pried the A7III from my grips.
Admittedly this has played out more as a coping mechanism and a bit of a farewell to the A7III, but I am sure there will be plenty more A7RV posts to come. Have not had it long and Adobe Camera RAW support was only recently added but here are a couple of quick early samples.
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