I’ve finally done it. After only 18 months of weighing up the options, putting together comparison spreadsheets and pros/cons lists for a bunch of different camera models (yes, really 🙂 ), I finally came to the conclusion a couple of months ago that I will stick with Sony and upgrade my A77 to the new A7Riii.
Goodbye crop sensor and translucent mirror, hello full frame and mirrorless!
Why did it take me so long? Oh, so many reasons.. I’d been using my A77 SLT for quite a few years (seven, I think), and it was mostly still working absolutely fine! Apart from some slight glitch where the camera was no longer recognising the lens.. Why replace something that’s (mostly) not yet broken?
Then, there was the overall cost of a new camera. The main issue was that even if I wanted to stay with Sony, there was only one full frame model available that would fit the same a-mount lenses I already had. And while there was a lot I liked about the A99ii, it just didn’t really make sense to switch to this model when Sony had made it quite clear that the future was in mirrorless, and, therefore, they were concentrating on e-mount models. A change to the a7 or a9 series was therefore inevitable. Unfortunately, this did mean a considerable cost as the majority of my existing lenses were not compatible, and could not be used with the a- to e-mount adapter either. Damn you, Sony!
At the time I had (very briefly) also considered a move to Canon. The D5 MkIV model had just come on the market, and for a little while, I admit I was tempted. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference whether I’d buy a whole new Sony e-mount setup or start from scratch with a completely different brand.
A friend let me play around with their older model Canon crop sensor camera, to help me make the decision. I can’t remember which model exactly it was, but I do remember thinking that it felt and sounded like a “proper” camera! The shutter noise was so satisfying. The image quality was pretty nice too, so I had a serious issue on my hands now.
Considering all of the above, this wasn’t a decision to take lightly.
When Sony finally announced the new A9 and A7Riii I was excited. The specs sounded great, and they’d also lined up a whole load of new lenses that would be released around the same time.
Now, my natural instinct would have been to go for the A9, but after careful comparison, I decided that for the sake of slightly better AF and a 20fps shutter speed, it wasn’t worth the extra $1000 for a landscape photographer. Thankfully landscapes don’t tend to move so fast that you need to lock on and shoot fast 😉 And while I was dabbling in wildlife photography, I wasn’t doing enough to spend the extra money.
So eventually, I bit the bullet and went for the A7Riii, and a set of new lenses: 24-70mm f2.8, 90mm macro f2.8, and my pride and joy 12-24mm f4 landscape lens.
I also decided to hold on to my 70-400mm a-mount lens for the time being, and use it with the a-to-e-mount adaptor until I was able to afford the native e-mount zoom lens.
The first trip I took my new toy along with was a week in the Florida Keys and Everglades. Though at the time I was so paranoid of not having had a chance to play around with the camera enough, that I ended up taking both cameras! I mostly felt like an idiot with both hands full.. And I actually ended up using the old camera more than the new one, as the crop sensor allowed me to get a little closer to the local wildlife (which was too “snappy” for me to dare to get much closer). But overall, it was a good first experience with the new kit. The images sure seemed a fair bit sharper, and the overall handling of the A7Riii was much better than the clunky old A77.
Back in New York, I got ready for the next trip: a 6-State South West and Canyon Adventure. This was the one I wanted the new camera for, and the 12-24mm lens just about arrived in time for it. I figured the large expanse of the South West would be best captured as wide as possible – and I was right! I used this lens SO much, and really enjoyed using it too. It’s a gorgeous super sharp lens, about a million miles from my old Tamron 10-20mm lens I used on the A77. The only problem was, I wasn’t able to fit my regular 100mm filter glass in front of it…. So all landscape shots taken with this lens were either heavily edited to add some natural graduation to the sky or foreground, or lack interest as I was unable to expose for very long during daylight hours. This is probably the only regret I have. But then again, having just spent a small fortune on a new camera and lenses, I would not have been able to afford a super-wide angle filter set as well. I have a suspicion though, I will take the plunge with this sooner or later…
So now that I’ve had a few weeks’ use out of the A7Riii, what do I think?
Quite frankly, I love it. It focuses so smoothly and fast, takes incredibly sharp and beautifully coloured images, the dynamic range is excellent, and it’s very easy and intuitive to use.
Well, saying that, it took me a little while to figure out how to configure the buttons on the back to my needs, and realise that I need to switch off the touch screen to avoid my nose re-setting the focus points. But so far, these are my only gripes with the new kit.
For anyone considering purchasing the A7Riii I’d say: go for it! You can’t go wrong with this fabulous camera. Just make sure you buy it for the right reasons. If you’re after lighter equipment because you’ve heard mirrorless saves you a lot of weight to carry around – they’re all lies. The camera body is only marginally lighter than my old A77, and of course if you’re shooting with decent glass, you’ll still put heavy lenses onto the camera. Get yourself a decent rucksack instead of compromising on a quality camera body and glass.
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Sony Alpha a7R III Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)
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