[Note: the A7III body only is currently back-ordered. —MJ]
Mind you, I'm not trying to get into any arguments. We're all friends here. I just do my thing, run some trials, do a lot of looking, get a feel for things, and render my personal opinion. That's all. I'm not even saying I'm right. If your opinion differs, I have absolutely no problem with that. If you refuse to shoot with anything smaller than medium format or anything bigger than 1", that's completely cool with me.
(There's always a "but" when a blog post starts out like that, isn't there?)
Here are a few Sony A7III samples at 100%. Or rather, if you double-click on them on a computer, they will open and you'll be able to see the full 800-pixel-wide size.
They're all smaller sections of larger frames, and I'll give just one example of that as it's not a difficult concept. Like, for instance, if this is the the full frame:
...Here's the "detail." Note that the blog software, for some unknown reason, does soften the image slightly. Probably some sort of auto-compression. The files opened in Photoshop CC look just a bit more crisp than the popup. But you can get the gestalt from the images as they appear on the blog page.
So here are some more small details of larger test shots:
As with the first one these are all just details of larger whole frames. For instance the test shot of the flowers looks like this:
But it's not just the detail and "sharpness" that impresses me about the Sony A7III's files, not just the accuracy of the colors and the impressively easy way it has with dynamic range. Just as nice is the flexibility of the files and their responsiveness to corrections in ACR and Photoshop. There's no strain. It's like the opposite of the iPhone, where noise proliferates quickly and highlight detail can be like walking a knife's edge, often spilling over into the ugliness of a blown channel. The Sony sensor gives you such flexibility that you're not wedded to the narrow way the capture "wants" to look; it admits of various interpretations.
What I like about this is that as I do my corrections I find the file kind of "snaps" into my recollection of how the scene looked. As you get the HDR balance right, or as you recover the color of the real light, the file kind of arrives at a feeling of visual rightness.
It's funny—I used to say that the bigger the negative, the harder it was in the field and the easier it was in the darkroom, and the smaller the negative, the easier it was in the field but the harder it was in the darkroom. That's why I always shot 35mm, because my chops were never the strongest with the camera in my hand but I was a darkroom ninja. Well, the Sony A7III reminds me that there is still some truth to that old adage even in the digital imaging age. It's a more demanding camera when the camera is in your hands, but then once you get those scrumptious files into post, that's when it takes it easy on you. It locates a lot of the fun of photography to in front of the computer. Too subtle a point? Maybe I'm just musing, I don't know.
David Brown said yesterday, "I think we're to the point where all cameras are 'good enough,' as in, if the photographer gets the basics right...the person viewing the photos won't be complaining about any obvious deficiencies." Phil Service's fastidious comparison of the Sony A7RIII and iPhone 8 (in good light) that he shared with us also reinforces this. I agree that we're to the point that all cameras are good enough, but with one important caveat: as long as we ourselves like the camera we're using and are happy using it!
At any rate, it just sure is nice to have those gorgeous, forgiving A7III files to work with, that's all I'm saying.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Ernest Zarate: "I've been fortunate enough (or cursed enough) to have largish hands. Little things have never felt 'right' in my hands, including cameras. When I've used smaller cameras, my hands have felt cramped as they try to conform to ergonomics not designed for them. When I read people raving about the joy of their small camera and its light weight, tiny dimensions, ease-of-carry, etc., I am very happy for them, but I know that would not be me. I've held and used enough of these mini-marvels to validate that belief as well.
"Long way of getting around to say I've always found the dimensions of FF cameras comfortable in my hands. The added benefits of the FF format (including those your article points out) have increased the pleasure of these cameras. I also find a certain level of reassurance with the heft of this format (or, as Boris the Blade says, 'Heavy is good. Heavy is reliable'). Of course, like all things, one does reach a point of diminishing returns, and camera size is the same for me. I find FF cameras have that very nice balance, the Goldilocks balance of 'just right.' For me, FF works on many levels."
Dennis: "I really like that way of looking at sensor size. I think I'm going to remember it and let it guide me going forward. (Of course, knowing it doesn't lead to a decision—we still have to choose the compromise!) One thing that's kind of interesting is that smaller sensors are ridiculously capable (I now shoot with two Sony RX models with 1" sensors), the cameras that let them sing are pretty pricey, and at the other extreme, FF kits that give you those malleable files are within reach—more or less, depending on what you need for lenses, but certainly more than most of us ever felt medium format was. So what we have today is a set of harder choices, I think—a wider range of compromises that are more acceptable than in film days, from crazy capable fixed lens cameras offer 24–600mm equivalent range with an ƒ/4 lens that you can shoot at ISOs that beat slide film up to FF that lets you print bigger than you'll ever print, but is more reasonable to buy and carry than medium format ever was."
Eric Rose: "I sold my Nikon FF pro series camera over a year ago and went to Panasonic Micro 4/3. I have not regretted it one little bit. The only camera that might interest me in the future will be a Nikon mirrorless."
David Raboin: "I'm enjoying these last few posts about FF files vs. smaller cameras. After shooting exclusively FF and cell phones for a decade I bought a Micro 4/3 last November. Between my phone, aging Canon 5D Mark III, and my new Panasonic GX85, I shoot somewhere north of 3,000 pictures a month and edit (with the intent to display) about 100 of those photos each month. Here are my observations.
"The phone inspires the most creative and powerful compositions of any of my cameras. Part of that is because I don't think about settings with the phone, but I think I get better compositions with the phone mostly because of its superior screen. I love getting the camera away from my face and forcing unique perspectives. With the phone that's super easy. I can see the screen in the harshest light. The problem with my phone is the files fall apart in post. With many of my phone pics I must embrace the gritty, over-processed look.
"I've found that my Micro 4/3 Panasonic GX85 produces acceptable files, but not especially lovely files. The photos have ample detail and stand up to moderate to major edits. And, like a phone, I can get the GX85 away from my face and take pictures from the best angles, but unlike a phone, the GX85's screen stinks, especially in bright sun.
"And then there's my well-worn Canon 5D Mark III. That camera is old, I got it two days before my son was born. That means I've been shooting with it for five and a half years now. The 5D Mark III is hands-down still my best camera. The files are head and shoulders above my Panasonic Micro 4/3. There's more dynamic range, more editing latitude, better colors, and better realism. What a treat it is to view a card full of Canon images after spending time with the smaller cameras. I can only imagine how pleasing it must be to work with a newer Sony sensor.
"I don't know the science behind it to explain my findings, but FF photos look nicer. I dream of a mirrorless FF camera with a large cellphone-sized display."
Marcelo Guarini: "The camera is sharp (and the lens) indeed, and it has tons of dynamic range. I think it's superb for photographers who want to reproduce reality as much as possible, which is not my case. I seek more of a subtle graphic results, mostly B&W. To me, even the iPhone is OK, although just one lens is not enough.
"Micro 4/3 is my choice because of size, weight and excellent small lenses (12mm ƒ/2, 35mm ƒ/1.8, 50mm ƒ/1.8, 45mm ƒ/1.8, 75mm ƒ/1.8) and then the beautiful ƒ/0.95 Voigtländers that produce that dream look at ƒ/0.95. I can walk for hours with a couple cameras and four or five lenses. Micro 4/3 is just so fun for me.
"I agree, we have arrived to the point that all cameras are good enough, and you can choose whichever is up to your wealth and meets your taste and style."
Kenneth Tanaka (partial comment): "Delighted to see you taking that loaner Sony A7III for a walk, Mike. I’ve not used one myself but I did end up adopting the Sony A7 line as my primary platform shortly after the first A7R was introduced. (Not an easy decision after being a Canon man since college days.) Having used the A7RIII for about a year I cannot imagine wanting or needing anything more in a 35mm-class camera. That sensor combined with Sony’s finest FE lenses is simply unbeatable in most dimensions for producing the (technically) best imagery. Yes, I use other cameras but my Sony A7RIII is the 'big gun' in this format.
"As an aside, illustrating the relative quality of that Sony on any Internet venue is nearly impossible. We reached the level of presentable sufficiency for this medium quite some years ago. It’s really in print where the men get separated from the boys, so to speak. I spent much of this past winter making reference proof prints of a decade-long body of work that employed many cameras in many situations. The A7R[x] images were, indeed, usually the most robust and easiest to tune."
Mike replies: Re "illustrating the relative quality of that Sony on any Internet venue is nearly impossible," true dat. As for the A7RIII, I couldn't afford one even if I could afford one. But I'm happy to take your word for it (and John Lehet's, although I think his is an A7RII).