Jeff’s Mini Review Of Sony A7R3

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff HarmonLeave a Comment

Jim talks to Jeff about his recent experience renting the Sony A7R3 camera:

  • Only had the camera for a 7 day rental, so not an exhaustive review by any means.  It was also a lot of firsts for me. First time shooting mirrorless. First time shooting Sony (or anything other than Canon).  First time shooting full frame.
  • Rented the camera for two reasons
    • First, I have some attendees at my post-Retreat Camera Ninja workshop who shoot Sony and I wanted to get familiar with the camera to be able to help them
    • Second, to shoot the high school senior nights for the mens and womens basketball games.
  • First decision I needed to make was to rent native glass with the camera or an adapter so that I could use my Canon EF mount glass.  I decided that one of the things I wanted to get out of this rental was to see what it would be like if I chose to go to Sony and for me that would mean slowly moving to Sony glass over Canon mount glass.  Would have to get my wife moved over too and selling it all at once just wouldn’t work for me right now. So I decided to adapt my Canon mount glass just to see what it was like.
  • I rented the Metabones T IV adapter with the camera so that I could put my Tamron 70-200 G2 glass on it for the games.  I made sure ahead of time that it would work with the Tamron glass. That Tamron lens is new enough there isn’t full compatibility via the adapter like there is for Canon glass or even older Tamron lenses, but I watched some YouTube videos show it working well with that specific glass and decided to give it a try.
  • I rented the camera one day before the first game, the men’s senior night so I knew I needed to spend some time with the setup to figure out how to do focus in particular with the fast action that would be going on at the game.   Let’s go over the positives from my experience with it first (7 things):
    • Fun to shoot: The camera was really fun to shoot.  Though to be fair, I always feel a certain giddiness anytime I get to use a new piece of electronics, no matter what it is.  That inner geek in me just can’t help but put a smile on my face the first time I turn something on.
    • Menu systems were fine: I had heard so much about how the menu system on the Sony cameras was so awful, but at least on the A7R3 I didn’t find them to be terribly different from Canon.  Different terms than Canon for features and functions, which is going to be different between every manufacturer, but even without digging into instruction manuals I was able to get things going very quickly.
    • EVF was great: I was really looking forward to seeing an Electronic Viewfinder and was extremely impressed with it on the A7R3.  Since I haven’t ever used any others I can’t compare it to anything else, but I can compare it to the optical viewfinder and can say that I mostly didn’t even notice a change between the two.  Looks a little different for sure, but it also has some capabilities like focus peaking that give it an advantage. It was very responsive and gave me plenty of detail to follow the players in a basketball game and get good action shots.
    • Focus works well for action sports: I can’t really give a solid review of the focus system because I was using adapted glass.  I am quite certain native glass would have been an entirely different experience. But I imagine that a number of listeners would be in a similar situation I am where switching brands isn’t a simple thing.  I don’t want to be without a camera and the budget isn’t there to buy the new system and then sell my old system, but if adapted glass works well then it is something I could actually consider. So what I can say is that the Metabones T adapter did a very good job.  I had to use it in “green” mode, which you select by having the camera turned on, pressing and holding a button on the adapter, and then twist the lens on the camera. Took me a bit to figure out how to make it work and I was very disappointed initially because in the testing I was doing the night before the game I couldn’t get it to focus fast enough.  Got really worried I wasn’t going to be able to use it in the games. But it ended up being pretty good, even with adapted glass. I had to get that “green” mode on the adapter and I had to change the shutter release so that it wasn’t waiting for focus confirmation or I missed the shots. Once that was set up it was great and really fun to shoot.
    • Low-light: The biggest thing I was looking forward to was improved low light performance over my Canon 7DM2 and the A7R3 did not disappoint.  Does a fabulous job in low light. Though to be perfectly honest, the end result after processing images from both is really not that different.  I expected it to be a much bigger difference than it was. I can tell a difference for sure with better image quality out of the Sony, and I think a lot of photographers could pick out which is which, but a normal person would have a tough time telling the difference.  I am going to share some more detail about this in an upcoming Photo Taco episode.
    • High resolution: I loved having double the megapixels to play with in the A7R3 over the Canon 7DM2.  Using the new embedded JPEG workflow in Lightroom I was able to work with the files out of the Sony just as quickly as I did with those out of the Canon.  I will be talking about that workflow in my class on making Lightroom fast at the Retreat, so if you are going to the Retreat you may want to check that out.  I will also do a Photo Taco episode on the topic soon as well. It was so nice to have the freedom to crop in just how I wanted on a shot, kind of do the recompose in post.  The extra megapixels and the better low light performance meant I could do that far better with the Sony photos than the 7DM2 photos.
    • WiFi: Sony has absolutely nailed the WiFi connectivity!  It can do what I really wish I had as I shoot high school sports in very easily transferring images from the camera to my phone so that I can share them while the game is going on.  It worked flawlessly and quickly enough that it actually made it reasonable to use that – well it would be very reasonable if I wasn’t worried about battery life (we’ll get to in a second).
  • So there is the love for the A7R3, now let me go through a few things I didn’t like (5 things)
    • Shutter lockup: I had this happen each time I shot for at least an hour with the camera where I would press the shutter button and the camera would just completely freeze.  The EVF froze showing what it was showing, the menus were unresponsive, clicking the shutter button didn’t do anything, just completely froze for about 10 seconds.  Then the shutter would release, take a picture of what the camera was pointing at after those 10 seconds, and then start working normally again. I am attributing this to the Metabones adapter, though I can’t say for sure since I never shot the camera using native glass to know.  Like I said, it happened every time I shot for a longer period of time, about 15-20 minutes into shooting, then it would be completely fine for the rest of the time I had the camera on and was shooting. It happened that first night when I was practicing with my kids in our basement, it happened at both high school basketball games, it happened at another basketball game my boys played so I could get more time with the camera.
    • Poor Battery Life: I know that the battery life is greatly increased in the A7R3 over previous models of the camera, but it is still FAR short of what I get out of my Canon cameras.  To be fair, if I used LiveView on my Canon gear all the time the battery would give out as fast or faster than the A7R3, and that is really what the Sony has to do here with that electronic viewfinder.  Still, if I was going to shoot the Sony more I would definitely need a lot more batteries whereas today with my Canon gear I go days without swapping out. I make sure I grab a freshly charged battery before any big photo shoot like family portraits or a high school basketball game, but I can get by quite a while without having to worry about the battery in my Canon gear whereas I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to get through an entire basketball game on a single battery and hadn’t thought to rent a second battery when I rented the camera.  It did barely make it through the entire basketball game, but only barely, and I babied it. I think Sony could really improve the battery life if they auto-turned off the back LCD screen when it was at your side. It auto senses when you put your eye to the viewfinder and switches off the back LCD to power the viewfinder, but if you put the camera to your side that LCD screen is on the entire time. When shooting the high school sports I let the camera rest on my black rapid strap to my side during time-outs and substitutions. With the Canon gear it isn’t really using battery as it sits there, but the Sony is powering that rear LCD the entire time.  You could switch the camera off, and with native glass that would probably be a good option, but it takes a long time to get the camera started with the adapter and that would be too slow.
    • Second SD Card Slow: One of the things I have come to rely on with my 7DM2 is the dual memory card setup.  One CF the other SD. When I am doing a paid shoot I make sure to have both slots filled so that I can have a card fail and not lose the photos I was paid to shoot.  The A7R3 has two SD slots, but the second slot is horribly slow. Not sure why Sony would do that to this camera but even with UHS-I cards there was a massive speed difference between the two slots.  I couldn’t even consider shooting sports with cards in both slots.
    • Shot Review Slow: When there are breaks in the high school sports action I do go back through the last few photos and favorite the best ones so that when I get them on the computer I already have a leg up on culling through them.  Reviewing them on the Sony was painfully slow, and added more drain to that precious battery life, so I learned I had to just not do any kind of review during the games.
    • Back buttons for focus:  Getting into nit-picky territory here, but I shoot a lot of portrait oriented shots at the basketball games.  It is a vertical game and not a horizontal one, so the vertical shots tend to get me in tighter – though with the 42 megapixels of the A7R3 I could probably do that crop in post to get there and have it be really good.  Anyway, I shot mostly in portrait mode and I really like having the focus using a different button from the shutter. The buttons on the back of the Sony are positioned in a place that is not as ergonomic for me. I was kind of having to jamb my hand into my face to make it work.  I still did it because I prefer back button focus that much, but it became uncomfortable. It also led to me kind of putting a lot more pressure of the viewfinder on my eye. I guess I just like the larger sized camera as something the fits me as a larger human a little better.


Doodads of the Week!

  • Jeff: Canon 80D ($1,000).  Just upgraded my wife’s camera from Canon 60D to the 80D.  Better sensor, especially dynamic range, but also a little better in low light.  Biggest thing is I can now do Autofocus Micro Adjust with that camera. Killed me that it wasn’t in the 60D.  Weird to because Canon put that feature in the 50D and the 70D, just not the 60D. More autofocus points, touch screen, and WiFi too (not as good as Sony).  A little bit painful for this hobbyist shooter family at $1,000 for just the body, but her shots were just never as sharp as mine and it was because we couldn’t do AFMA so when we had someone ask if we had a camera for sale we decided to pull the trigger and upgrade.

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