Sony now has three mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that share the ‘Alpha 7’ name so we thought we’d put them all side-by-side to find out how they line-up.
The new Sony Alpha A7 Mark III is the newest of the three cameras, arriving in February of 2018 with new 10fps high-speed shooting, 4K HDR video, improved AF, improved battery life, 3inch touch-screen, USB tethering and more. The Sony Alpha A7 Mark III is the younger brother to the Sony Alpha A7 Mark II, of which it has a number of improvements over, while the Sony Alpha A7 Mark II is the middle brother which arrived in 2015, after the much older, and original, Sony Alpha A7, introduced in 2013.
As well as comparing the specs of each camera, we’ll also be commenting on how they feel in the hand and how they perform in regards to ISO, white balance and general photo quality. Plus, we’ll also be taking a look at the videos each camera has produced so those who regularly capture footage with their cameras know which will suit them best.
If you’d prefer to just look at a specifications table, scroll to the bottom of the article where you’ll find the camera specs compared side-by-side.
The sensor size remains the same in the Sony Alpha A7 Mark III (24.2MP) but, it’s now a Back-Illuminated CMOS Sensor, with Evolved Image Processing, that’s built-in, rather than just a full-frame CMOS sensor, so low light performance should be better and it also means readout speeds should be improved.
Sony Alpha A7 II Sensor and IS unit.
In-camera 5-axis image stabilisation has been improved, to give up to 5-stops compensation on the Sony Alpha A7 Mark III which is a slight improvement over the 4.5 stops found on the Mark II. The original Alpha A7 doesn’t have IS built-in, instead relying on lens-based image stabilisation.
The improvements continue with AF as the A7 Mark III features 693 phase-detection AF points, with 93% AF coverage of the full-frame sensor, which is 576 more phase-detection AF points than what’s found on the A7 Mark II and Mark I. Having said that, the focus speed on both the A7 Mark II and A7 is reasonably quick and back when it was released, you could even describe the focus speed of the A7 as ‘rapid’.
Sony says that the autofocus (AF) performance of the A7 Mark III is twice as quick as the A7 Mark II which we will be able to confirm when we’ve put the camera through a full test. During the brief time we’ve spent with the camera so far we are happy to report that it is responsive in use and focus seems quick.
You can shoot at 10fps in high-speed+ continuous shooting mode, with continuous AF, using either the mechanical shutter or the electronic shutter with the A7 Mark II which is double what the A7 Mark II can capture when using continuous shooting (5fps, same as the original A7). Of course, this means you’re less likely to miss a crucial frame which is never a bad thing.
Camera Body Design
All three cameras have a similar design but you can see in the above image that Sony improved the grip on the A7 Mark II and kept with this larger rubber handgrip design on the newer A7 Mark III. The eyecup surrounding the EVF has also had a redesign so it fits better when you hold the camera up to your face. As for buttons and dials, they’re all in similar places, however the Mark II and Mark III have additional custom buttons, and the Mark III has a new S&Q setting on the mode dial.
Turn the cameras around and you find the screen along with EVF and a few more buttons. A 3inch tilting touch-screen is built into the A7 Mark III, the same as what you find in the A7 minus the ‘touch’ part. The A7 Mark II also features a 3inch tilting screen (it’s not a touchscreen either) but it does have 1,228,800 dots whereas the A7 Mark II and A7 only have 921K dots. We said that the improved resolution tilting screen ‘looks great’ on the A7 Mark II and this is still true on the A7 Mark III with the added bonus that you can access menus and set the focus point via it, too. The Mark III features a new AF-ON button, a rear joystick, and dual SD card slots on the side, from the Sony Alpha A9 and A7R Mark III.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) built into the A7 Mark III is improved, featuring 2.36M dots compared with the 2.359M dots found in the EVF on the A7 Mark II and A7. The EVF on the A7 Mark III also offers 0.78x magnification. The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) quality on the A7 Mark II is excellent, offering a clear and crisp display, so we have no reason to doubt that the EVF on the A7 Mark III will perform just as well. Although, the eye-detection sensor can be overly sensitive at times on the A7 Mark II so, hopefully, Sony might have tweaked this on the A7 Mark III.
Size & Weight
All three cameras feel well built and fit well in the hand with the improved grip on the A7 Mark II and Mark III making them even more comfortable to hold. The original A7 is the lightest out of the three weighing just 416g while the new A7 Mark III weighs the heaviest at 650g. Dimensions wise, there’s not that much difference in the three cameras apart from the depth has grown by a few mm on the A7 Mark III.
Anyone who has used the Sony Alpha A7 or A7 Mark II previously will be happy to hear that the battery life on the A7 Mark III has been improved, with those who use it able to capture up to 710 shots using the LCD screen (350 shots on the A7 Mark II and 270 on the A7) . This is because it shares the same battery from the Sony Alpha A9 and A7R Mark III, which also means it’s compatible with the same battery grip and battery accessories as the A9.
The ISO range goes from ISO50, all the way up to ISO204800 on the Sony Alpha A7 Mark III which is a massive range when compared to the cameras that came before it. Of course, for the lowest noise and best detail possible we would recommend using lower ISOs but when the ISO figures climb, performance wise, the cameras still do cope well. As we’ve not had the Sony Alpha A7 Mark III in the studio for testing yet, we aren’t able to fully comment on its performance but in the few ISO shots we did capture, results were still excellent at ISO3200 and ISO6400 where, previously, the A7 Mark II did start to show a loss of detail which is encouraging.
Take a look at the ISO chart images captured with each camera and see what you think for yourself.
Sony Alpha 7 ISO test images
1/13 sec | f/2.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 50
1/80 sec | f/4.5 | 35.0 mm | ISO 800
1/800 sec | f/8.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 25600
Sony Alpha 7 II ISO test images
0.8 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 50
1/20 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 800
1/640 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 25600
Sony Alpha 7 III ISO
1.3 sec | f/5.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 50
1/20 sec | f/5.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 1600
1/3200 sec | f/5.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 204800
We don’t have white balance test shots for the Sony A7 Mark III yet but Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well with a slightly warm colour cast under tungsten lighting, with the tungsten preset giving a more accurate result on the A7 Mark II. AWB performs well under fluorescent lights on the A7 Mark II, as well, with a slightly warm result, with the fluorescent preset giving a more accurate result. As for the A7, Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten lighting, with the tungsten preset giving very similar results. Similarly, AWB performs well under fluorescent lighting, and the fluorescent presets give different colour casts.
Take a look at the white balance test images captured with the two older cameras below and see what you think for yourself.
Sony Alpha 7 White-balance test images
AWB Tungsten f/7.1 | 1/10 sec | f/7.1 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200
WB Fluorescent1 f/7.1 | 1/6 sec | f/7.1 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200
AWB Fluorescent f/2.8 | 1/40 sec | f/2.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200
Sony Alpha 7 II White-balance test images
AWB Tungsten | 0.3 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
AWB Fluorescent | 1.6 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
WB Fluorescent | 1.6 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Photo Quality & Comparison
Portraits look better when captured with the A7 Mark III as do low light images and it also performs better in mixed light. We did say that contrast was quite high in images captured with the A7 Mark II and as a result, converting the raw images so detail in shadows could be pulled out was advised and this looks like it still may be true for the A7 Mark III but we’ll confirm this when we have the A7 III in for testing. Exposure is reliable and as you’d expect, digital filters are built into all three cameras. On the A7 Mark II, panorama results are good, and well stitched together, with a good resolution image produced. In fact, results are better than those captured by the A7.
Below you’ll find sample photos captured with all three Sony Alpha 7 cameras so you can compare the results for yourself.
Sony Alpha 7 Sample Photos
Guitars | 1/60 sec | f/4.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 800
Stars | 8 sec | f/2.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 3200
Yellow Leaves | 1/160 sec | f/9.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100
Sony Alpha 7 II Sample Photos
Alhambra Bradford | 1/200 sec | f/9.0 | 70.0 mm | ISO 100
Night Shot | 1/80 sec | f/1.8 | 55.0 mm | ISO 1600
Portrait | 1/60 sec | f/1.8 | 55.0 mm | ISO 320
Sony Alpha 7 III Other sample images
Pink Candy | 1/160 sec | f/2.8 | 70.0 mm | ISO 200
Pop | 1/160 sec | f/2.8 | 34.0 mm | ISO 12800
Rolls-Royce | 1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 61.0 mm | ISO 100
Portrait using new HVL-F60RM flashgun | 1/125 sec | f/2.8 | 70.0 mm | ISO 200
Most new cameras have 4K video built-in and the Sony Alpha A7 III is no different offering 4K HDR video recording. This is an upgrade from the previous two Alpha 7 models which just recorded Full HD with stereo sound. All three cameras feature microphone, headphone and HDMI ports. Plus, the A7 Mark III also has MicroUSB and USB Type-C connections.
The new Sony Alpha A7 Mark III will be available for £2000 body only, or £2200 with 28-70mm lens, from April. The Sony Alpha A7 Mark II is priced at £1,149 without a lens or for £1,399 with a kit lens and the Sony Alpha A7 is priced at £789.99 body only or you can purchase it with the 28-70mm lens for £949.
|Sony Alpha 7||Sony Alpha 7 II||Sony Alpha 7 III|
|Pixels||24.3Mp (Megapixels)||24.3Mp (Megapixels)||24.3Mp (Megapixels)|
|Sensor Type||Exmor CMOS||Exmor CMOS||Back-lit CMOS (B.S.I.)|
|Sensor Size (width)||35.8mm||35.8mm||35.8mm|
|Sensor Size (height)||23.9mm||23.9mm||23.9mm|
|Screen resolution||921k dots||1228k dots||921K dots|
|Shutter speeds shortest||1/8000sec||1/8000sec||1/8000sec|
|Shutter speeds longest||30sec||30sec||30sec|
|ISO sensitivity||100 – 25600||50 – 25600||50 – 204800|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2,359,296 dots||2,359,296 dots||2,359,296 dots|
|Video FPS||60p, 25p||60p, 25p||60p, 25p|
|Optical Zoom with Video||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|USB||USB 2||USB 2||USB-C|
|Battery Type||Info-Lithium Battery (NP-FW50)||Info-Lithium Battery (NP-FW50)||Info-Lithium Battery (NP-FZ100)|
|Battery Life (CIPA rating)||270shots||270shots||710shots|
|Box Contents||AC Adapter (USB), Rechargeable Battery Pack (NP-FW50), MicroUSB Cable, Shoulder strap||AC Adapter (USB), Rechargeable Battery Pack (NP-FW50), MicroUSB Cable, Shoulder strap||AC Adapter (USB), Rechargeable Battery Pack (NP-FZ100), MicroUSB Cable, Shoulder strap|