Sony α7S III – A Brief Review

Finally.

It’s been 5 long years between α7S releases. Just as a reminder, here are some things that happened between the α7S releases:

  • Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar (not shot on a Sony),
  • A gorilla named Harambe became famous overnight,
  • Fidget Spinners came and went (thankfully),
  • We had a Royal Wedding (Harry & Meghan),
  • We saw the first photo of a black hole (also not taken on a Sony, as far as I can tell),
  • The Chicago Cubs win the World Series, ending the longest title drought in baseball history,
  • Britain voted to leave the European Union.
Sweet fidget spinners, bro!

In that time, Sony released 5 other full frame cameras (in order): α9, α7R III, α7 III, α7R IV, α9 II.

So, what delayed the α7S III? The need to put in a new image processor unit? The popularity of the α7 III? Those people who know aren’t talking. But that’s not why you’re here.

The Sony α7S III is here, in our hands and kinda available.

ISO 12,800 on the α7S III, shot by our very own Kelvin

I say “kinda” because it’s been so popular with our renters, that it’s been difficult to get my hands on it to write this review. Compared to the α7S II and the α7 III it’s just a fraction bigger, with the most noticeable change being in the grip. This is because of the larger battery compared to the α7S II and to make things just a little more comfortable for those of us with large hands.

For the first time in a Sony full frame body, we have a fully articulating screen – useful when vlogging, or setting up a scene in front of the camera. We also have a slight change up to the controls, with the rear dial now on top, and a joystick on the back replacing the AF/MF switch and AEL button.

We also have a new menu system, which is long overdue. The new system uses as 3 panel setup, allowing you to see the settings contained within the subcategories as you scroll through them. As with all modern professional cameras, there are *a lot* of menu items, but this new lay out makes it easier to find them. One thing to be aware of: formatting your memory cards is now found under the shooting menu.

Speaking of memory cards, the α7S III makes use of the new CFexpress Type A cards. CFexpress is a new set of standards for memory cards. There are 3 varieties: Type C (about the size of CFast or CF cards, but not currently in use), Type B (about the size of an XQD card, used in the Canon 1DX III and R5) and Type A, used here, in the α7S III. Type is smaller but thicker than your average SD card, but they have write speeds of up to 700 MB/s. That’s more than enough to capture 4K 120.

For those of you who might not know what the difference is between Sony’s multiple lines of full frame cameras, now might be a good time for me to explain. There are currently 5 full frame Sony camera lines:

  • α9 – The Flagship model. If you see Sony shooters on the sidelines of major sporting events, they’re likely using an α9. High frame rates, big buffers and decent weather sealing.
  • α7 – The all-rounder. Capable at both stills and video, but not designed to excel at either.
  • α7C – The Compact model. Lighter and smaller, and 99% the capabilities of the standard α7.
  • α7R – The Resolution model. These cameras have a higher megapixel count than the others in the line up and are generally seen as the best option for taking still photos.
  • α7S – The one that’s in touch with its emotions, the sensitive one. What it sacrifices in megapixels it makes up for in low light performance. Often thought of as a video centric camera.

So the α7S III is the latest low light beast from Sony. But what’s it like to actually use? In a word – amazing. I’ve not always been a fan of Sony’s cameras, but this is my favorite one to date. All the controls are exactly where I would expect them to be, the shutter is snappy and responsive, and best of all the image quality is superb.

I mentioned that most people will think of this as a camera aimed at videographers, being able to capture clean footage at ISO 12,800, but one area that is often overlooked when talking about α7S cameras is sports photography. Being able to shoot at a high ISO and still get lean images, means you can push your shutter speed higher, better freezing the action.

Top Left: Macro shot with the α7S III and Sony 90mm Macro,
Top Right: The same scene, shot on the Sony 12-24, showing the one, small light used to light scene (Aputure MC at 50% intensity),
Bottom: 100% crop of the first image, showing the noise.
All images are straight out of camera.

Let’s recap. The α7S III is crazy good at high ISO, offers improved autofocus, has the best menu system of any Sony to date, and can record 4K 120. Not to mention that you can take those low noise images and print them out to a reasonable 11” x 14”. What’s not to love?

The Sony α7S III is available for rent, right now on our website.

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