Sony A7iii review: still worth it in 2021?

Originally released in 2018, is the Sony A7iii full-frame camera still a good camera? What's The Best puts it to the test.

Sony A7iii review: still worth it in 2021?

by Curtis Moldrich |

When it comes to mirrorless cameras, it’s Sony – not Nikon, Canon or Fuji – that has traditionally been ahead of the curve. Starting off with the A7, the Japanese brand has carefully developed its full-frame, mirrorless offerings – and its most recent consumer-friendly body is the new A7iii. (We’re leaving the smaller A7C to one side for now).

Released all the way back in 2018, it’s now three years old – centuries in tech time – but it might still be a great purchase for enthusiasts looking to upgrade their equipment. So, is the Sony A7iii a good buy in 2021? Keep reading to find out.

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Build and quality

Before discussing exactly what the A7iii can do, it’s worth thinking about how it looks and feels. Like most Sony bodies, the A7iii appears functional and clean, and in sheer compactness it slays any DSLR and most other mirrorless cameras too.

A largely metallic construction makes it feel solid in the hand despite its toy-like proportions. There’s also a touchscreen at the back – which isn’t as useful as it sounds: The Sony A7iii sticks with a tilt screen, so its effectiveness will vary depending on the type of shooting you do.

Sony A7iii in use
©Photo: Sony

Usability

Inevitably, Sony’s petite proportions lend an unsecured feel to shooting. It’s difficult to fit four fingers on the handgrip – and those with larger hands will find themselves holding the A7iii with just three fingers. And this ethos of compactness over ergonomics crops up all over the camera.

Some buttons on the A7iii are hard to get to, and the AF Joystick doesn’t feel great – but these controls still offer up a significantly better experience than using the Sony’s menus. Despite being one of the biggest electronics companies in the world, Sony has given the A7iii one of the most unintuitive interfaces I’ve ever used.

Featuring a novel’s worth of pages, near-encrypted shorthand and strange UI quirks, it’s both dense and inaccessible when you first turn the camera on. The only good thing? Wade through it when you first start using the A7iii, and you won’t need to delve into them as much during normal use – especially if you map key functions to the Sony’s customizable buttons.

The joystick, used to move the AF area around, is also extremely subjective in use: some people seem to love it, though I found it relatively flimsy – especially when compared to the rest of the camera. As for the touchscreen? There’s weirdly no touch functionality for browsing in menus, but it can be used to move the AF point around a bit like a trackpad. This feature works when you’ve got your eye to the camera, and I found it lightyears ahead of the joystick.

Sony A7iii top
©Photo: Sony

Performance

Despite a body that seems to be designed for spec sheets rather than actual people, the Sony is great to shoot with – and it’s all down to the performance on offer. A 24.2 MP BSI Exmor R CMOS sensor provides more than enough resolution for most users, and with a burst rate of 10fps, you get lots of chances to nail moving subjects.

Things like focus type are easy to dial in using a function button, while there’s even an exposure dial and customizable buttons to ensure you have everything to hand. Get everything right, and you shoot sharp pictures with more accurate colours than you’d expect from previous Sony cameras. Dynamic range is particularly good on the A7iii; somehow the Sony can salvage shadow information on even the most underexposed pictures, and it can bring images back from the dead. Even at three stops, things still look relatively natural.

Video is equally crisp, though the Sony shows its age with 4K footage at 30fps, rather than the 60fps you’ll find in newer mirrorless cameras. What’s more, the viewfinder resolution also feels pretty low – as does the touchscreen at the back – and both make the camera feel closer to its age. The former can even cause issues when shooting; it’s particularly washed out, so it’ll often make you underexpose.

However, part of the appeal of the A7iii is just how well performs when used on autopilot. 693 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection focus points nearly cover the entire frame, and it makes capturing in-focus subjects super-easy. At the same time, animal AF and human AF technology mean the A7iii can quickly latch onto the eyes of a person or pet – making it easier to capture important moments and slick portraits. Despite being three years old, it’s still only just behind Sony’s most recent cameras – and on par with fresh competitors, such as the Nikon Z6ii.

Sony A7iii screen

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Price

Three years down the line, the Sony now clocks in at around £1700, which puts it a few hundred under the competition – but that’s where the savings begin. Sony has been pretty clever when sharing info with third-party lens manufacturers, so the Sony FE mount benefits from a range of cheaper glass from brands such as Sigma and Tamron – as well as Sony-built lenses. You can stick with Sony G Master glass if you’ve got the cash, but you can also use Tamron or Sigma lenses that offer 90% of the performance for 50% of the asking price.

The 5-axis in-body stabilization means you don’t have to spend more on stabilized lenses, and it also unlocks a world of manual lenses for those looking to experiment. Open up the A7iii, and you’ll find two SD cards slots, slower but much more common than the CF Express or XQD cards that some competitors use. The Sony will even charge via USB-C, a standard used by more and more phones and gadgets.

Sony A7iii screen and interfaces

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Verdict

Three years in, the Sony A7iii is still attractive to enthusiast photographers, especially at its current price. Sure, the 4K video lags at 30fps, the EVF and touchscreen could be better, and the AF tech is ever so slightly behind Sony’s most recent cameras – but those are all relatively easy things to overlook. Harder to ignore is the Sony’s odd ergonomics and UI – but it’s possible to get used to them over time, or buy accessories to improve things.

If you’re looking for a solid entry to the mirrorless, full-frame world – and one that comes with a thriving ecosystem of glass – you could do much worse than the Sony A7iii. Sure, there’s almost certainly an improved A7iv on the way – but whether you’ll need its extra features is another story.

Score: 4.5/5

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Curtis has worked in the technology sector for the last few years, reviewing and testing the best audio gear, laptops and gadgets at titles including The Telegraph, Mixmag and Expert Reviews. Now the online editor of CAR magazine, he's a keen sim-racer, too.

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