Real World Differences Between The First Sony A7 And The New A7 III
As I‘ve written in my little lens guide I usually don‘t recommend buying new cameras. Get a new lens instead.
Yet that‘s exactly what I did. I had the opportunity to get a new A7 III early at our local camera store. And I took it.
I‘ve been shooting with it for nearly two weeks now. On journalistic assignments and in private.
My first impression: It‘s amazing!
I might write a big review later. But here are the things you‘ll immediately notice if you had the first A7 before:
All the buttons of the camera feel so much better. They are precise and very reliable. On the first A7, they always felt kind of wobbly.
Auto-Mode / ISO Auto Minimum Shutter Speed
Ever since I started using digital cameras I never trusted the auto mode or other automatic modes. They just made too many dumb decisions and ruined way too many pictures. On the A7 III I am beginning to trust the auto-mode. It really does a very good job as a backup option if I don‘t have the time to dial in all the settings or if I just want to take a quick snapshot. There is also very handy option to set a minimum shutter-speed in the settings. So the camera is always useable handheld. My old A7 always chose crazy dumb shutter speeds in auto mode or aperture priority.
Autofocus / Eye-Autofocus
I loved the autofocus on the Sony A9. It was so fast an reliable you just forgot to worry or even think about the autofocus. It was one of the reasons that I called the A9 the perfect allrounder camera for beginners at an unfortunately professionals-only price point. Being able to afford that autofocus system with the A7 III is nothing but amazing. Eye-autofocus is so good it‘s surreal. I can shoot at aperture 1.4 from more than 10 meters and still get all the shots perfectly sharp.
Touchscreen / Joystick
As I mentioned above I love the autofocus of the A7 III. But sometimes I want a little more control. That's when the joystick comes in handy. I also like to use the touchscreen to set quick focus points. I recommend activating the option to also use the touchscreen as some kind of a touchpad when using the viewfinder. It takes a little getting used to. But now I use it all the time.
Flexible Spot Metering
Being able to have the spot meter follow the focus point is so useful. I use this function all the time. Too bad Sony won‘t add this to older cameras via a software update.
The viewfinder is apparently not as good as on the A9 and the A7R III. Even having used these cameras before I can‘t remember the viewfinder being dramatically better. But I sure notice how much bigger it is on the A7 III compared to my old A7. It‘s a very welcome improvement.
I never had problems with the batteries of my old A7. I have three of them but a single one usually lasted me a day or longer. I don‘t shoot like a machine gun and I also don‘t do video. So that surely helped. But now on the A7 III the battery lasts me a week. It‘s amazing how long it lasts. Plus, I like charging it with a USB-C cable.
This addition is super handy on paper. But in real life, I made the change to summer time manually and I also adjust the time zones manually when traveling. Old habits die hard. But I‘m looking forward to not doing all this stuff manually anymore.
The second biggest game-changer after the autofocus is the new silent mode. Suddenly you can shoot pictures without disturbing the people around you. No matter if it's a press conference, a taxi ride or just your kids, everyone is so much more relaxed without the constant noise of a mechanical shutter or even a mirror. By the way, pro-photographers might worry about something called rolling shutter when shooting silent. I haven’t yet had any trouble with it. I only miss the option to use one button as a toggle for silent mode. But at least you can use a button to open the menu to choose between silent mode on and off.
The last thing I have to mention is the much sturdier mount. Now the lens attaches very reliably to the camera. Even big lenses like the 85GM and the 90 Macro don‘t wobble the slightest bit.
With all those improvements come two things I miss with the new A7:
Weight and size
The new A7 is slightly bigger than the old one. But most of all it feels significantly heavier. People coming from big DSLRs might like that. I like my cameras as small and light as possible.
I loved the elegant retro-look of the first A7. Especially the two nice metal wheels. In comparison, the new A7 looks like something Batman would use. Matte black, rugged and a bit brutal. I prefer the look of the recent cameras from Fuji, Leica or Olympus. But the new look is obviously a nod to the DSLR guys who prioritize functionality and ruggedness over looks and ease of use.
Finally here is how I programmed the many custom keys: