Just like the Alpha 7R2 before it the R3 has been reviewed to death. Most of the reviewers just have to throw something out there for click bait. I’m going to try and cover some of the details you might find helpful that are often overlooked in the typical review. First of all you may notice that everyone seems to race to be the first to review a hot camera, many of them before they even lay hands on the camera, many others after an hour or two with a pre production model. I’ve shot with the R3 now since it’s release roughly 4 months ago. I’ve used it for portrait sessions both in studio and on location as well as for several events, including 2 weddings, pleasure and street shooting. So needless to say my opinions, though just my opinions, are at least based on real world use and not just theory and conjecture.
Let me cut to the chase and get this out of the way very quickly. I think the R3 is very nearly the perfect camera… for me. It hits a home run on nearly all of my camera needs. Before I get on with all the things I love about the R3 let me start with a few small things I don’t like.
Just in case you want to skip around this discussion will be split up as follows;
- The things I still don’t like about the R3.
- How the R3 compares to it’s predecessor the R2.
- Why I went with the R3 over the Sony flagship A9.
- Spoiler – Why I think the R3 is the best camera on the market today.
Sony is so good about listening to public opinion and fixing minor issues; here are a few I’m still waiting for.
1) I still do not like the lock button on the mode dial. Every time I want to change modes, which can be quite frequently, I must now support the body with my left hand so I can press the lock button. It seems very pointless to me since I never accidentally spun the mode dial in the past. There is no such lock on any of the other dials all of which are actually more vulnerable to accidently being spun than the mode dial and all of which will affect your image. If Sony feels the need to add a lock they should at the very least give you the ability to disengage it a la the latest line of Fuji cameras. Side note; after I wrote the bulk of this review I found out that Sony finally removed the dial lock in the brand new A7 III. Yay!
2) Like many cameras in the past the R3 does not reliably sync at 1/250th as advertised. It will occasionally result in a slim black band at 1/250th. Not a big deal as it happens fairly infrequently but I will often just shoot at 1/200th so I don’t have to worry about it at all. Still, as I have said in the past, why not simply report the sync speed accurately from the start.
3) I still do not understand why Sony’s do not allow you to record in 4K unless you use an SDXC card. This simply means that you need not only a U3 card but also one that is 64gig or higher.
4) Why only one UHS-II slot? I assume it was to keep the cost down but how much more could it have cost to make them both UHS-II?
5) For reasons I can’t begin to explain they removed the use of Apps in the R3. That means many apps I already paid for are useless unless I go back to my R2.
6) UHS-II is not as fast as you’d hope. This is however pretty much common across the board. I think the tech is just lagging behind a bit. I would expect that future generations of cameras will come a lot closer to obtaining the theoretical speeds of UHS-II cards. I’ve tested write speeds on both the A9 and the R3 with multiple cards and neither will come close to the theoretical write speeds. In fact they don’t even reach the half way point.
R3 vs. R2:
The A7R2 was my main camera for nearly the last 3 years. It severed me so well that rarely did I even wish for more. That said the R3 did several things that are very nice improvements. Let’s take a look at some of the better ones.
- The R3 has a favorites tab in the menu which allows you to place your most used menu items in one place for quick access.
- Larger, higher capacity battery. More than double the mAh of the R2’s battery. Roughly 2.4 times the capacity of the old battery.
- Duel card slots that can be configured numerous ways.
- The movie record button is more out of the way but easier to push.
- The R3 has a very usable joy stick.
- The rear wheel on the R3 is larger and has larger teeth for ease of use.
- The R3 has both micro USB and USB-C connectors.
- The R3 fixed an annoying issue with the viewfinder sensor which caused it to activate prematurely.
- S&Q mode for easy in camera timelapse and slow motion.
- The connection cover panels are chunkier which makes it much more convenient for people with short finger nails or those wearing gloves.
- The R2 is roughly $800 less than the R3 as of right now.
Sony Alpha 7R2
Sony Alpha 7R3
A couple more advantages of the R3 that require a little more than simple bullet point statements; The R3’s auto focus system is noticeably improved. The face and eye detect are much more quick to engage as well as more persistent. The R3 also is the first Sony to have pixel shift mode. Pixel shift mode is not just a gimmick. It requires the use of a tripod and can only be used on still subject matter but the improved detail and color accuracy is remarkable. It is ideal for product and other forms of still life photography.
Usually when a camera recycles a sensor from a previous model the improvements are minimal to non existent. Somehow with the R3 Sony was able to make noticeable improvements in high ISO performance. The R2 was fantastic and low light and the R3 is even better.
Unedited Jpeg, normal noise reduction @ 32,000 ISO.
Unedited Jpeg, normal noise reduction @ 32,000 ISO.
100% crop of previous image.
The fine detail in this unedited Jpeg @32,000 ISO is the best I’ve seen from any camera aside from the Sony A7S II (A7S) let alone one with a 42 megapixel sensor.
Sorry no good samples yet of the Pixel Shift. Maybe I’ll update this blog in the future to add some.
R3 vs. A9:
In case your wondering why I did not buy the A9. The truth is, as great as the A9 is I just did not want to pay $1,200 more to get what the A9 offers over the R3. The A9 is probably the best camera on the market for any type of fast action. Yes, we’re I a sports or wildlife shooter I would buy it over the Canon 1DX Mark II or the Nikon D5. As I am primarily a portrait and event photographer, I chose, at the time to stay with the R2 and when it was released to go with the R3. It was simply the camera that better suited my needs even if it is not the Sony “Flagship”.
Not going into any great detail the A9 is what you go for if you want frame rate and a huge buffer and the R3 is what you go for if you want resolution. Most of what falls between is very much the same. If you want a more detailed comparison you’ll have to wait for another blog or stop by the store and ask 😛
The Sony A7R III, is in my opinion, simply the closest thing to a camera that does it all and does it all well. It has no true weaknesses. Bring up any list of what people look for when buying a professional level camera and the R3 does it. The next best thing to an all in one option in a full frame camera is the new Sony A7 III. But that’s another story.
Check out my other blogs here: https://actioncamera.blog/author/nosajck/
© All images are property of Blackriver Photography and Lightsmith Studios.