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Sony A7S III review: The best mirrorless camera for video, maybe everything

The A7S III is nearly identical to the A7R IV, which is a good thing because the A7R IV is Sony’s best handling camera yet. At 699 grams, it’s surprisingly light considering all the tech packed inside. It also feels natural to hold and use, thanks to the nicely contoured grip and assortment of logically placed manual controls.

Those include shooting control dials for shutter and aperture, a joystick, control wheel, mode dial, exposure compensation dial and multiple buttons. I wish the mode dial had a push-to-lock button, so you don’t have to awkwardly hold the button while turning the dial and I also slightly prefer the layout on Panasonic’s S5, as it has dedicated dials and a button for shooting and AF modes. Still, the handling on this camera is among the best.

Sony has finally, finally fixed its awful menu system and now uses cascading folders like Panasonic’s latest cameras. Those make it much easier to find settings and remember where you are, though a few things like the log functions are still a bit hard to find. 

Better still, the main and quick menus can be fully operated using the 3-inch touchscreen. With all of Sony’s previous cameras, the touch display was only useful for setting touch focus. Now, you can adjust things without any buttons, which is particularly useful when you’re filming with the display toward yourself.

It also fully articulates, which is really a must these days for a video-centric camera. It’s now feasible to use this camera for vlogging or solo shooting. 

Sony CFexpress Type A card for the A7S III

Steve Dent/Engadget

Since Sony builds the OLED electronic viewfinders used in most cameras, it’s not shocking that the A7S III is the first to get its new 9.44-million dot EVF. It offers a huge 63 percent increase in resolution over the A7R IV, though frankly I didn’t notice much difference in sharpness. (Weirdly, footage seems to be sharper when played back than when shooting.) It’s a bit brighter though, which is always welcome.

Another first for Sony is the dual, dual card slots. They not only support two UHS II SD cards, but also Sony’s new fast but tiny CFexpress type A cards. For most types of shooting you can stick to cheaper SD, but you’ll need CFexpress in certain situations — more on that shortly. 

The battery is the same as the one in the A7R IV, and I could shoot video for around three hours on a charge. Plus, it can handle up to 600 photos, according to CIPA’s standards. In other words, you don’t have to worry much about the battery dying mid-shoot.

Finally, it has all the ports you need on a video-centric camera, including USB-C for both charging and data transfers, along with microphone and headphone ports. If you need more than two channels of audio, you can use Sony’s hot shoe-mounted XLR-K3M audio adapter. Topping off the good news, it has a full-sized HDMI port that’s far less likely to cause problems if you use an external recorder — and the camera even comes with a cable protector.

Video

Sony A7S III full-frame mirrorless camera review

Steve Dent/Engadget

That brings us to this camera’s forte, video. Almost everything that I ever complained about past Sony mirrorless cameras has been addressed. You can shoot 4K at up to 120 fps, more than any other hybrid mirrorless camera except Canon’s EOS R5, giving you some crazy creative options. If you shoot 1080p, the A7S III delivers the best HD quality of any Sony mirrorless camera, because it can supersample the entire sensor. It also supports 240 fps for super slow-mo effects.

If you want to give your computer a break, you can use the new “S&Q” (slow and quick) motion mode to capture at 60 fps or 120 fps with playback limited to 24 fps with no audio. The advantage of that is that you get the same smooth slo-mo, but the footage is a lot easier to edit afterwards. 

What’s more, it supports 10-bit capture in all 4K modes. Combined with Sony’s log and HLG modes, it delivers high dynamic range video perfect for HDR or post-production work. Just be mindful that high frame-rate 4K 10-bit video at maximum quality requires a fast and costly CFexpress card — with 80GB and 160GB cards costing $200 and $400, respectively. 

You can even capture 4K 60 fps RAW footage to an Atomos Ninja 7 recorder, though the exposure is baked into the image, giving you fewer options in post and negating some of the advantages of RAW video. That might change with a future firmware update, however. 

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