An Upgrader’s Notes on the new A7rIII Pt. 2

This is the second part of my series of notes on the upgrade to the A7rIII. In the last part I said that the improved manual focus capability was my favourite new feature. This time I’ll talk about the AF improvements, which are what probably most people have focussed on. The last part will be about haptics and settings: rather than just list my settings and say you must use them, I’ll talk a bit about why they are right for me, and what might be right for you.

Tracking and Frame Rate

Continue reading An Upgrader’s Notes on the new A7rIII Pt. 2

An upgrader’s notes on the new Sony A7rIII Pt 1

This is not a review. You will have to look elsewhere for actual tests on the A7rIII. Perhaps DXO for noise and DR (or Photons to Photons) or DPR for an overall take.

But you don’t need such a review if you already a Sony ILC user; especially if you are an A7rII user. The image quality of this new camera is pretty much the same. Sure it has maybe a solid half stop more dynamic range at base ISO but there are few of us for whom that matters much other than bragging rights. And, to forestall screams in the comments section, it looks like it’s a bit better from ISO 25K and up, but that’s just a bit of harmless raw-cooking fun. There is a touch of reduction in the pattern noise in highlights which could, rarely, appear in the R2 when darkening skies at mid ISO. That’s gone. In fact that’s the best IQ improvement in my book. But not by itself worth the upgrade tax.

So you aren’t buying this camera for the IQ improvements. Same resolution,  same other qualities—so should you buy it if you can afford it? And if so, why?

The usual suspects are the new frame rate — 10 fps or 8fps in the mode where you can keep track of what’s going on, better AF, new viewfinder, joystick, battery, pixel shift. Here’s a series of my takes on what’s new and what’s good after a week of use.

Manual Focus

I didn’t expect this to be what I most love about the camera, but it is. The manual focus experience is hugely improved. Batis lenses, and some of the Zony lenses, which used to be a little hard to manually focus, are now vastly easier. I’m not 100% sure why: I plan to follow up. Part of it is that the viewfinder is so much crisper you can see the image pop in and out of focus. My suspicion is that the effectively very long travel these focus-by-wire lenses have means that the changes in focus were too subtle to see on the old finder. As a result, in frustration, we twisted the ring quickly and then got the image too far out of focus. But with the new higher resolution finder the long travel becomes an advantage and you can nail focus with probably greater accuracy (but maybe less pleasure) than a standard damped helicoid. That’s my best guess. But I do wonder if in fact the camera is overriding the lens firmware and making the travel a little different, or changing the speed difference at which it goes faster. That’s something to look into. Of course true manual lenses are easier to focus as well, and that can only be the new viewfinder and magnification. So for whatever reason this is my No 1 favourite thing about this all singing and dancing autofocus camera. Better manual focus.

Closely related to that is the AF joystick, or MF joystick as I call it. By choosing the option to make initial magnification 6x, you can use the following lovely workflow. Use the joystick to move the focus point to exactly where you want it. Press the joystick to magnify (you need to set this up as your preferred option). Then either press again for higher mag, or just focus and shoot. Unlike the r2 you don’t have to exit magnification to shoot, so there’s much less delay. Combined with overall less shutter delay, it’s a joy.

So that’s the first great thing about the R3. For me, it justifies upgrade by itself. Now you know why my sample image for this section was a lens whose design goes back to the 1930s. The (manual) Zeiss C-Sonnar 1.5/50. The other stuff is great too, though, and that comes in the next part.

If you can’t wait, you can buy it from B&H through our affiliate link

 

 

Beginner’s Guide to Manual Lenses on the Sony a7

Okay, everybody is talking about how manual lenses work so well on the Sony a7 series but how does it actually work? And which results can I expect? Read on if you want to know.DSC00720

Zeiss Distagon 2.8/28  ~ $250
Olympus OM 2.8/100 ~ $100
 Minolta MC 1.4/50 ~ $60

Why should I use manual lenses?

    • They can be very cheap, you can get a great 1.4/50 lens for $50. For most applications such a lens will give you 90% of the performance of a $1000 Zeiss 1.8/55 FE. For the $1000 you would have to pay for that Zeiss you can buy an excellent set of five lenses from 20 to 300mm.
    • You have a huge choice between thousands of lenses ranging from exotic ones with lots of “character” to some of the very best lenses available.
    • There are 30-year-old primes with better image quality than many modern lenses. Of course progress has happened in recent years but still affordable primes are often sharper than very expensive modern zooms.
    • Old lenses are usually beautifully built from nothing but metal and glass which makes it a joy to handle them. They can last a lot longer than modern lenses which are full of electronics and very complex designs, both of which make them more likely to fail.
    • They also hold their value much better than modern lenses. With some patience you can sell most manual lenses without a loss but with new lenses you can expect to lose 30% in the first year.
    • Manual focusing can be very enjoyable. This certainly depends on application but personally I enjoy working with fully manual lenses a lot more than with any AF lens and I would choose a good manual focus lens over an AF lens (almost) any time. Check out our manual photographers series to read other photographers stories who feel similar about this.
Minolta MD 2/50 ~$25

Why shouldn’t I use manual lenses?

Continue reading Beginner’s Guide to Manual Lenses on the Sony a7