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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



Best Sony FE Landscape Lenses for the Light Traveler and Hiker

User Characterization: Ordinary travel-by bike or car or planedoesn’t prevent you from taking many of the lenses we have recommended here. But there’s one kind of travel which places serious demands on the weight of your equipment. Hiking for many days, taking your accomodation and food on your back. Or even (In the style that many European outdoor photography enthusiasts may be used to) walking through mountains going from refuge to refuge.

This is a kind of travel that takes you to amazing landscapes that you can’t access any other way. But also, every gram of lens is a millilitre of water you can’t carry, or a gram of food you can’t have. Travelling light through the land, keeping pack weight down, is by far the best way to do this. Outdoors people will spend a fortune to reduce the weight of their knife by ten grams, their tent by fifty grams and so on. Because we know it all adds up, and when it adds up it means less food or a less enjoyable and slower experience.

For some this means that it’s a little compact camera that goes with them on wilderness adventure. But what to take if we still want to do top notch serious landscape photography with our A7 series camera?

Continue reading Best Sony FE Landscape Lenses for the Light Traveler and Hiker

Sony FE landscape lenses – Part 1: Only the best is good enough


Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8 | f/8.0 |

In this series we will explore sets of landscape lenses for different user types and at different price points. We are starting with the best performing FE lenses money can buy. The other parts will be released soon.

  1. Only the best is good enough
  2. The light traveler and hiker 
  3. The casual landscape photographer  
  4. The poor student 

Continue reading Sony FE landscape lenses – Part 1: Only the best is good enough

A $400 lens kit for your Sony a7 series camera

Five years ago I was a broke student and manual lenses were a way for me to get much more creative freedom and image quality for my very limited money. This post is aimed at people just like my 5-years-younger self who have a very limited budget but want to get the most out of it. I think that manual lenses are a smart way to deal with a limited budget since I wouldn’t know another way to get image quality on that level for a similar budget. Sure, manual focus can be a limiting factor for some applications but most people are surprised how far they can get with manual focus.

When I started with manual lenses there was very little reliable information about manual lenses available so I had to spend a lot of time to tell apart the good from the bad lenses. Now 5 years later I have reviewed several dozen lenses and gained a good oversight which I would like to share with you in this artice.

Continue reading A $400 lens kit for your Sony a7 series camera

Canon FD 300mm 1:2.8 L Review: Exceptional performance for $750

The Canon FD 2.8/300 L was one of the most highly regarded manual super tele lenses in the 80s. Today it can be had for much less money and in this review I evaluate how it performs today on a modern mirrorless camera.

Image Samples

You can find all images shown in this image in full resolution in my Canon FD 300mm f/2.8 L flickr album.

Continue reading Canon FD 300mm 1:2.8 L Review: Exceptional performance for $750