Sony A7r III Pre-Review

Sony A7r III Pre-Review and Initial Thoughts

By Scott Gietler


The Sony A7r III builds upon the Sony A7r II not with any dramatic improvements or changes, but with a large number of small improvements that all add up to more than the sum of the parts. Are the improvements enough to warrant moving up to this camera from a compact or micro-four thirds camera? Has Sony upped their game enough for dSLR users to move to this smaller setup? Read on to find out

We've included some photos taken with the Sony A7r II. After we take the Sony A7r III underwater we will add some photos and videos taken with that camera.

Sony A7r III - Compared to the Sony A7r II

The major improvements of the Sony A7r III include a much longer battery life, improved auto-focus speed, a 2nd memory card slot, faster continuous shooting, and true slow-motion video in full HD. In addition, there are numerous other smaller improvements. How significant is the auto-focus speed improvement when shooting underwater? We will need to test the camera to find out. We think it will be noticeable, but we still don't expect it to match the speed and responsiveness of a high-end dSLR setup.

The Sony A7r III boasts a new front-end LSI (Large Scale Integrated) processor and a faster BIONZ processor, which allows for many aspects of the camera to work faster.

The sensor is the same in the A7r II and the A7r III, and we don't expect a noticeable difference in the images.

Sony A7r III Upgrades:

  • Battery life almost doubled (Well needed upgrade!)
  • 2nd SD card slot added. One slot is UHS-I, one slot is UHS-II
  • Continuous shooting now 10fps instead of 5fps
  • 120fps video supported in 1080p mode versus 720p mode in the A7r II
  • EVF resolution increased from 2.4M to 3.69M
  • Max ISO 32000 instead of 25600
  • RAW buffer 76 images instead of 23 images
  • 5 axis stabilization rated to 5.5 stops from 4.5 stops
  • Low light auto-focus rated to -3EV from -2EV
  • New  Hybrid Log Gamma profile for 4K video (useful for new 4K HDR TVs)
  • New S-Log3 profile which allows 14 stops of dynamic range
  • New Pixel shift mode for improved sharpness & dynamic range for still landscape shots on a tripod
  • Bluetooth support added
  • Same sensor! And still 42.4 megapixels. 4K video is still 30p


Pixel Shift Feature

Here is a video on the pixel shift feature of the Sony A7r III. The camera takes two photos, 1 second apart - shifting the pixels by 1 for the second photo, and combining the results. Note that this only works for completely still objects.


Sony A7r II photo in the Cenotes


Upgrading from a Compact?

Compact shooters wanting to move up have the most difficult choice. Olympus micro-four thirds camera? Sony A7r III? dSLR? The choices can be daunting, and we recommend you discuss your choice with one of our staff members. If you do not want to compromise on image or video quality, are not price sensitive, but want to shoot some video and/or don't want a full size dSLR system to lug around, the Sony A7r III might be the best choice for you.

Upgrading from a Mirrorless?

Shooters and videographers using a micro-four thirds or Sony Nex or A6000 series mirrorless camera will be pleasantly surprised by their upgrade to the A7r III. In return for a slightly larger setup, they will experience a noticeable improvement in image quality, video quality, responsiveness and focus speed The bokeh / background blur from a full-frame sensor will also give an entirely new element to their creative photos and videos.

Upgrading from a dSLR?

DSLR users wanting a small system and better video capabilities will be smart to consider the Sony A7r III. The body and housing are smaller, although some of the lenses and dome ports are not necessarily smaller than the dSLR equivalents. The Sony setup will not necessarily be much less expensive either

For Underwater Videographers

For photographers on assignment who have to produce both still images and videos, the A7r III is a dream camera that will make their editors happy. Shooting in video mode offers great low-light performance, 4K video, focus peaker, and easy custom white balance.

For people shooting only professional video, you may be better served by the not yet released Sony A7s III, which will have better low-light capabilties and hopefully better bitrates, better codecs and possible 4K at 60p. The A7r III only supports 8-bit codecs, while cameras like the GH5 support 10 bit codecs which allow for a billion color combinations vs 16 million for an 8-bit codec.

Other stand-out features include the improved 5-axis image stabilization, which does a great job of reducing the jitters and wobbles of hand-held videographry, both topside and underwater.

Like the A7r II, the A7r III can output uncompressed 8-bit 4K video to an external recording over HDMI, like the Atmos Shogun. 8MP screen grabs can be captured while recording 4K video.

You can shoot slow motion 120 frames per second video in full HD mode now (1080p). The A7r II limits you to 720p.

If you are experienced with more advanced video editing, the new Hybrid Log Gamma compatability means that playback on new HDR televisions is more easily supported, without having to color grade. The Sony A7r III also supports both S-Log 2 and S-Log 3. If you are not familiar with S-Log profiles, it is similar to shooting stills in "Raw format", except for video - the video output looks flat and needs edited to bring out the full colors and dynamic range, but offers the potenital for much greater dynamic range.

Last, but not least, the A7r III can take 4K video in either full-frame mode or Super 35 mode. In Super 35 mode, an 18 megapixel crop of the sensor is used, resulting in sharper images and video with less aliasing and moire. Lenses like the Canon 8-15mm fisheye are the equivalent of using a 12-22.5mm lens in Super 35 mode. Super 35 mode can also give better high ISO performance, particularly above ISO 3200.


Best Lens Choices for Underwater


For both stills and video, the Sony 16-35mm F4 lens is a top choice. Photographers who wish to take close-focus wide-angle shots of coral reefs may go for the 28mm prime lens with the fisheye conversion lens for the widest possible angle of view, or the 28mm with the Nauticam wet-wide angle lens for maximum flexibility underwater. All of these options are very sharp and will result in exceptional wide-angle photos.

The fisheye conversion lens can be used behind a large or a small dome port, while for the Sony 16-35mm F4 lens, an 8-inch or larger dome is recommended.


The Sony 24-70mm F2.8 or the Sony 28-70mm F4 are the two main choices here, along with the 35mm F2.8 portrait lens.


The Sony 90mm macro lens is the solid choice for small fish and macro subjects. There is also a 50mm macro lens, but underwater photographers will find that the 90mm lens fits most of their needs. The 90mm macro lens is exceptionally sharp and will produce a very high quality photo.

Underwater Video

We recommend using either the Sony 16-35mm F4 lens, or the Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens in Super 35 mode. For tighter shots, either the Sony 24-70mm or 28-70mm zoom lenses can be used.

Canon Lenses

By using the metabones adapter, full-frame Canon lenses like the Canon 8-15mm fisheye, Canon 16-35mm F4 or  the Canon 100mm macro lens can be used. However, you may find auto-focus performance is affected, versus using a native Sony lens.


Sony A7r III review
Sony A7r II + fisheye conversion lens


Underwater Housings for Sony A7r III 

Will it fit in the A7r II Housings?

The Sony A7r III has a depth of 74mm, vs 60mm for the A7r II. Because of this large difference, we think it is unlikely that the existing housings will work with the Sony A7r III. You can pre-order these housings on our website.

Nauticam A7r III Housing

Nauticam will be leading the pack with their excellent A7r III housing, due out soon. Expect a wide range of lenses and port sizes to be supported, but you will pay a premium to get this maximum flexibility. Use of the metabones adapter will be supported. Previous versions of the Nauticam A7 housings have also supported use of several Nikonos lenses.

Ikelite A7r III Housing

The Ikelite Sony A7r III housing, made of polycarbonate, will be a great value at a significantly lower price point at its competitors. The most common lenses will be supported. The retails price will most likely be $1,500 USD, and use of the metabones adapter will be supported.

Aquatica A7r III and Sea & Sea A7r III Housings

Aquatica and Sea & Sea both made smaller machined aluminum housings, and we expect the Aquatica to be at a particular sweet point in price for a light weight aluminum housing. The Sea & Sea A7r II housing supported an optional TTL converter. The Aquatica housing is expected to include a flash trigger. Both housings will support using the metabones adapter.

We'll update this article as release dates for the housings are better known.

Nauticam A7r III Underwater Housing
Nauticam A7r II Housing. We expect their A7r III housing to be similar.


Availability & Purchase

Pre-order the Sony A7r III body from Bluewater Photo. Cameras are on the way, and the body will be available on December 7th. We also stock all popular Sony lenses.


Final Thoughts

The Sony A7r III camera will be able to produce exceptional quality underwater photos and videos. Whether it is the right choice for you, depends on your specific needs. Still not sure after reading this article? Reach out to us at 310-633-5052 or email and get an unbiased recommendation from Scott or our highly knowledgeable staff.

Once we get the camera in the water, we'll be paying particular attention to the auto-focus capabiltiies, image stabilization, and on the lookout for any potential rolling shutter or over-heating issues. Stay tuned!


Beautiful Kelp Scene