December 14, 2017, 05:31:23 AM

Author Topic: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit  (Read 5917 times)

Talys

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First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« on: November 02, 2017, 09:24:14 PM »
My local camera shop had a preproduction A7R III and a 24-105 in for folks to see, and I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to play with it for about half an hour.  Here are my observations and first thoughts, keeping in mind that it was a preproduction unit with early firmware.  They did not permit me to put a memory card in the camera to keep any shots  :P

1. Viewfinder - The viewfinder was easily an order of magnitude better than A7R II.  Mostly gone is the jello effect, and it is actually quite pleasant to use for subjects that are still, or for subjects that are slow-moving (like walking).  It's very sharp and very clear. 

The viewfinder still blurs when you pan the camera.  For example, I pointed it at a large sign that said SONY, and zoomed in such that the letters filled about 3/4 of the viewfinder horizontally.  When I panned even slowly, the letters suffered from visible motion blur.  Not as badly as A7R II, not even remotely close to the experience of an optical viewfinder.

In addition, for some reason, the viewfinder started to stutter in jarring (unusable) way when the camera was in continuous autofocus.  When I pointed it out to the Sony guy, he reset the camera, and that went away.  He blamed it on preproduction firmware, which is entirely plausible.  He also said that they had a number of other issues with that unit. 

2. Autofocus - On the 24-105, autofocus was smooth, quick, and apparently accurate when using people as subjects.  I say apparently, since there's no way to tell with no memory card.  But, it didn't stumble, and the experience was favorable.  The default intelligent mode, where the camera seems to figure out what you might want to focus on is kind of crazy, because it seemed to just randomly grab a person walking by, when I was clearly pointing at a tripod.  And if there's multiple people in the scene, I have no idea how it figures out who to focus on.  Where there was only 1 human, it always reliably identified the person and set AF to the face (AF face detection was on).

The Joystick is a very, very welcome.  It worked well when the camera was set to center point.  When nonhuman subjects were far away (15 ft+), AF seemed to be quick and responsive with centerpoint.  However, when objects were close (3-6ft), center point sometimes did not focus on what I wanted it to.  It was quite reproducible, and the explanation was that this was a preproduction unit.

I was also permitted to attach a G-Master 70-200/2.8.   On the plus side, the lens on the camera feels very balanced, and the rig feels nice.  But the good news ended there.  The autofocus was horrible - it hunted a LOT, at times unusably so for a subject like a price tag at about 6 feet.  It would actually go back and forth and stutter like it was having a seizure, never locking on.  Again, this was blamed on preproduction.

It did seem to AF better at f/2.8 than stopped down to f/5.6.  Could it be that there wasn't enough light?  Either way, it would not be acceptable to me in a production unit.

3. FPS, Buffer, Uncompressed vs Compressed RAW - The Sony guy tried to sell me on Compressed RAW, which lowers it to 12 bit (from 14), and also drops the file sizes from 100MB / file to about half that.  He claims that the differences are not detectable, but of course, there's no way to without recording photos.  He told me 26 frame buffer in uncompressed mode, and seventy-something (76?) in compressed, either of which is very impressive, especially considering the FPS.  100MB / file... aie carumba.  600 photos, and a 64GB card would be full LOL.

He mentioned that he filled a 128GB card pretty quick.  So, it's worth thinking about before buying a 40+ megapixel camera, the cost of larger memory cards, since 128 will be the new 64, and if you want them UHS2, that adds to the total cost of ownership.

4. Buttons, Build, and Egonomics - There are a lot more buttons, which is very welcome, and a rear dial, of course.  However, on the down side, there are still way too few buttons.  There are many, many things that Canon cameras have dedicated buttons for, like changing AE, Focus, ISO, Drive, etc. -- and on the Sony, the answer is "program it to one of the custom buttons".  But the problem is, there aren't nearly enough, at least for me.  The dials also had a certain, non-industrial cheapness to them, in comparison to Canon or Nikon dials, but maybe that's just me.

In terms of ergonomics, it's feels just like the A7RII.  So if you like that, you'll like this, and if you didn't you'll still hate it.  There are a million threads about Sony A7RII ergonomics, so I'll just skip right past it, except to say that personally, they have always felt ok with smaller lenses, and awkward with anything larger than a 70-200.

I guess it's to be expected since the build hasn't changed, but the A7R III still feels like a delicate flower.  I think I would hesitate to use it in a situation where I might drop it, because it doesn't feel like it would survive that kind of handling.  Or, bashing it against something accidentally.  Though uncommon, it's not like I've never done those things to my cameras.

5. Techno-gizmo-features - This camera is PACKED with them.  There are so many features that I didn't even know where to start to explore them, and I certainly wouldn't do any justice trying to pass on my observations, because I really didn't know what I was doing.  How many of those features would actually be useful, I have no idea.

Oh, it had 2 card slots, Yay.  On the minus side, the remote trigger uses a mini USB -- it shares this with the computer connection.  I say that's a minus, because this is much , much more fragile than mini mic/N3, and it certainly is not water resistant like N3.  On the other hand, it doesn't seem like the A7R II survives water very well, so maybe this is more a fairweather camera.  Plus, you can't tether AND use a remote trigger, right?

6. Other things mentioned - The battery seems much improved, and they brought up 5.5 stops of IS, over 4 stops, which is pretty amazing.  He also brought up more dynamic range, claiming 15 stops.  Really?  I thought the sensor output was not much different than A7R II.  Whatever.  I just thought it was cute that this was on the list of things to rattle off to potential customers.  Along the same lines, he also brought up some HDR stuff, which is also unexciting to me.

Ironically, everyone there universally suggested that I buy the Sigma MC11 adapter to use with the Sony body so that I could preserve my Canon lenses.  The camera shop guy pointed out that comparable Canon lenses were MUCH cheaper, and the Sony guy chimed in that with the Sigma adapter, all of the advanced Sony features would work, and that he preferred this over the metabones adapter that was twice the price (wait, so he uses Canon lenses with his Sony?).

The Sony guy mentioned that on the video end, there were advantages to using the native Sony lenses, but since I identified right at the beginning that that I didn't give a flying fart about video, he said that for photographs, Canon lenses would work every bit as well (as Sonys).  Which was just kind of stunning to hear from him, I guess.

The Camera store person chimed in that this would also allow me to use the lenses with my Canons.  Really?  I would have never thought of that!

OTOH, I suppose Sony guy might have been a Sony champion of some sort, rather than a Sony employee.  He was wearing a Sony shirt, though  8)

Final thoughts -- well, at this moment, even if I really wanted one, after seeing the preproduction unit, I sure wouldn't buy one, until it came out and I was sure the bugs were all ironed out.  Boy, were there a lot, for a unit that they were demonstrating to the general public.  Maybe I'm being unfair, but it feels like it's rushed to make Christmas.

That said, would I buy one, if it were bug free?  There are a lot of things to really like about it, but I think the EVF still has to get a little better before it would be useful -- or at least, not migraine inducing -- for my style of birding.  I would need to see AF on the final version, and it would have to be a lot better on lenses that I'd use before I'd consider it, too.   At the price, I don't think that these things should have to be compromised on.

The remote shutter might kill it for me too, because I use a wired remote trigger a lot (no batteries), and micro USB is not a good connector for that, in my opinion.  Plus, I do not like the idea of not being able to tether and have a wired trigger at the same time.

Would I buy one if it were a Canon, in a Canon body, with Canon ergonomics?  Maybe.  Which is saying a lot, because (a) it's more than I would think of spending on a body and (b) because the EVF still isn't as pleasant to use as an OVF, and having fun shooting is very important to me in photography as a hobby.   Still, it gives hope for me as a mirrorless customer, I guess!

Still, it was lots of fun to check out and well worth the half hour. 

« Last Edit: November 02, 2017, 09:29:47 PM by Talys »

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First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« on: November 02, 2017, 09:24:14 PM »

Ryananthony

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2017, 09:57:24 PM »
Thank you  :) I missed Broadway Cameras Demo days.

Talys

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2017, 10:12:58 PM »
Thank you  :) I missed Broadway Cameras Demo days.

Yup!  That's where the event was at.  There were 5-6 employees + Sony fellow (I forget his name, even though I asked :( ).  Literally nobody else came in for anything, during the 30-45 minutes that I was there.

Jopa

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2017, 04:42:46 AM »
Talys, thank you for the review! Finally a non-biased non-paid one.

#2 you can define in the camera - either disable the face detection completely (if you don't want the camera to prioritize on faces) or if you care about a particular person - register their face so the camera would pick that person out of the crowd. It does require you to digging into the menu though :)

As far as I remember they demoed the A7r2 to bloggers with the 24-105 only, so most likely the firmware was fully ready only for this lens and the Sony guy wasn't aware of this fact (otherwise he won't let you to mount the 70-200 :) ). Most likely your assumption the camera was rushed towards Christmas is correct.

ahsanford

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2017, 12:26:39 PM »
Talys, well done.  Really appreciate the detail.

Thoughts (my numbers don't correspond to yours):

1) -1 on 128 GB+ cards.  I prefer to keep them smaller as my PC chokes in general trying to scan/triage what's on the card, what's new vs. what's already been imported, even basic searching for a specific shot number for RAW ACR work, etc.  I've noticed considerably better performance / less head-banging and spinning wheels with 64 GB cards.  I don't know if this is a card reader I/O speed issue or just the pains of having the PC quickly sift through so much data.

2) Surprised to hear you say it feels like an A7R II when it has the added thickness of the A9 and that new joystick.

3) Regarding 15 stops DR: Sony claims it's the same sensor but it has some new pipeline/architecture handling it.  We'll see how that pans out.

4) 'Sony advantages with their lenses for video' may stem from all of their glass being FBW, but I'm no video jockey.  In comparison, a (say) L lens with mechanical override ring USM (i.e. ideal for stills) may demonstrate video AF in a jumpy fashion compared to something more like a Sony stepping motor FBW lens.

5) I'm personally surprised a camera company eager to get professionals is walking around a pre-production model with such glaring issues -- it might only reinforce concerns that mirrorless isn't worthy of their business yet.  It's one thing if you need to reset it, menus lack polish, etc. but AF needs to work, $2500 lenses needed to sing with it, etc.

Again: nice work! 

- A

SecureGSM

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2017, 01:02:36 PM »
That 15 stops if DR claim was a one tough call.  Sony Marketing guys smoke too much wacky stuff as of late.

http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm#Canon%20EOS%205D%20Mark%20IV,Sony%20ILCE-7RM2,Sony%20ILCE-7RM3



3) Regarding 15 stops DR: Sony claims it's the same sensor but it has some new pipeline/architecture handling it.  We'll see how that pans out.


- A
« Last Edit: November 03, 2017, 01:05:56 PM by SecureGSM »

Jopa

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2017, 06:05:03 PM »
That 15 stops if DR claim was a one tough call.  Sony Marketing guys smoke too much wacky stuff as of late.

http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm#Canon%20EOS%205D%20Mark%20IV,Sony%20ILCE-7RM2,Sony%20ILCE-7RM3



3) Regarding 15 stops DR: Sony claims it's the same sensor but it has some new pipeline/architecture handling it.  We'll see how that pans out.


- A

I bet that's DxO stops not the real ones. And I'm pretty sure DxO can "fine tune" the DR so it will look like 15. Sony is a partner and a sensor supplier for their crappy camera.

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2017, 06:05:03 PM »

Talys

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2017, 12:45:12 AM »
@SecureGSM - We have good weed in BC.  It's like 4k HDR weed!  :)

@Jopa - I think it didn't matter to him what kind of stops they were, as long as it was more a bigger number than the Nikon D850 :P

Sony guy put a lot of emphasis on how the A7RIII was "Better than Nikon",  comparing some direct stats and also some stuff like Nikon cheats on many of its claims because they are only technically true under specific, conditions (something that Sony would never do, of course). 

Perhaps noteworthy, he barely mentioned Canon except to say that he used to shoot Canon but got tired of new cameras without great features.  If anything, the subtext was Sony A7RIII + Canon Lens = win, so please preorder an A7RIII!

In other threads people have mentioned that perhaps the true motivators for launching cameras with various feature sets is between Sony/Nikon for the #2 spot, rather than either making a run at the #1 spot. 


That 15 stops if DR claim was a one tough call.  Sony Marketing guys smoke too much wacky stuff as of late.

http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm#Canon%20EOS%205D%20Mark%20IV,Sony%20ILCE-7RM2,Sony%20ILCE-7RM3



3) Regarding 15 stops DR: Sony claims it's the same sensor but it has some new pipeline/architecture handling it.  We'll see how that pans out.


- A

I bet that's DxO stops not the real ones. And I'm pretty sure DxO can "fine tune" the DR so it will look like 15. Sony is a partner and a sensor supplier for their crappy camera.



Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2017, 01:06:30 AM »
Thanks for the detailed writeup.  I did not get to read it all, but enjoyed what I did read.

bwud

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2017, 01:17:12 AM »
I bet that's DxO stops not the real ones.

I really doubt they're downsampling before publishing a camera specification. The trade group they belong to (CIPA) requires ISO 15739 be used to measure and publish dynamic range specification, and ISO 15739 doesn't involve downsampling.

There has been some talk of the camera working in 16-bit until writing to the 14-bit RAW container. ISO 15739 specifies for cameras with removable lenses that a light source (with specific reqts) be set such that the camera it just shy of clipping. Maybe the sony in capture mode with 16-bits has a modicum more headroom than the 14-bit container (i.e. the pixel saturation exceeds a 14-bit container), and that works to their advantage when evaluating the noise.

Either way, I would be very surprised if they would completely depart from the industry standards to which they're a member.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2017, 01:24:57 AM by bwud »

SecureGSM

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2017, 06:41:33 AM »
here:

http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm#Canon%20EOS%205D%20Mark%20IV,Sony%20ILCE-7RM2,Sony%20ILCE-7RM3

measured against A7RII and 5D IV. yes, in camera exposure blending ( Multi Pixel shift whatever mode) - will "extend" DR somewhat wide, of course. that is, likely,  where this 15 stop of DR claim is originated from


Either way, I would be very surprised if they would completely depart from the industry standards to which they're a member.

bwud

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2017, 10:03:42 AM »
here:

http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm#Canon%20EOS%205D%20Mark%20IV,Sony%20ILCE-7RM2,Sony%20ILCE-7RM3

measured against A7RII and 5D IV. yes, in camera exposure blending ( Multi Pixel shift whatever mode) - will "extend" DR somewhat wide, of course. that is, likely,  where this 15 stop of DR claim is originated from


Either way, I would be very surprised if they would completely depart from the industry standards to which they're a member.

I was referring to sony’s claim of 15 stops, not Bill Claff’s measurements.

privatebydesign

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2017, 10:21:35 AM »
here:

http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm#Canon%20EOS%205D%20Mark%20IV,Sony%20ILCE-7RM2,Sony%20ILCE-7RM3

measured against A7RII and 5D IV. yes, in camera exposure blending ( Multi Pixel shift whatever mode) - will "extend" DR somewhat wide, of course. that is, likely,  where this 15 stop of DR claim is originated from


Either way, I would be very surprised if they would completely depart from the industry standards to which they're a member.

I was referring to sony’s claim of 15 stops, not Bill Claff’s measurements.

The problem in all this is not what it is measured, it is where you put the goal posts.

The 'industry standard' is a laughably unusable irrelevance that consigns much of that DR into noise levels that mean there is no usable image data, Bill Claff has chosen a SNR of 20%, which is a point at which he believes shadow detail is lost to noise (and I am not saying he is incorrect).

The root of the issue is we all have different ideas on what is usable, or correctable, noise levels in our images. Sometimes a SNR of 20 is perfectly OK, other times maybe not, but we have to set a baseline somewhere and to his credit he goes to lengths to explain and rationalize his methodology.

Interestingly, and I'd like to hear his reasoning, some here have argued that 14 stops in 14 bit files isn't necessarily a hard limit as a log curve could be applied to the linear sensor data in camera, his assumption is that 14 stops of DR is a limit in 14 bit files and his calculations are based on 14 stops minus the amount lost to the 20% SNR. That is beyond my expertise so an informed input on that specific would be welcome.
Too often we lose sight of the fact that photography is about capturing light, if we have the ability to take control of that light then we grow exponentially as photographers. More often than not the image is not about lens speed, sensor size, DR, MP's or AF, it is about the light.

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2017, 10:21:35 AM »

ahsanford

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2017, 10:21:48 AM »
I was referring to sony’s claim of 15 stops, not Bill Claff’s measurements.

Surely they meant in DXO's terms, in which a few EXMOR sensors have been sitting around 14.5 in the past few years.

- A

Jopa

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2017, 10:43:24 AM »
Sony guy put a lot of emphasis on how the A7RIII was "Better than Nikon",  comparing some direct stats and also some stuff like Nikon cheats on many of its claims because they are only technically true under specific, conditions (something that Sony would never do, of course). 

Perhaps noteworthy, he barely mentioned Canon except to say that he used to shoot Canon but got tired of new cameras without great features.  If anything, the subtext was Sony A7RIII + Canon Lens = win, so please preorder an A7RIII!

That sounds plain ugly. Sony is trying to convince everybody to "switch", promising their photography will significantly improve, and everybody who switched will get a Pulitzer no doubt. It's ok that we're still developing the system and it's buggy as h3ll, but it's cool, you switch and we'll figure out everything later.
Sony A7RIII + Canon Lens = lousy AF, but yes, please pre-order an A7RIII.

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Re: First impressions - A7R III preproduction unit
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2017, 10:43:24 AM »