Gear

Sony A7R II vs Sony A7R III – Should You Upgrade?

The Sony a7RIII caught everyone off guard when it was launched in October, but now that it’s here, what does it mean for users of the previous version – the a7RII? Should they be reaching for the credit card to upgrade, or are a7RII users pretty much good with what they’ve got? Let’s find out.

Design and ergonomics:

Design wise, both cameras look pretty much the same from the front and top. Both bodies are weather-sealed and it’s only when the cameras are viewed from the rear is any change noted. On the MkIII, there’s the addition of a joypad, which replaces a function lever that was present on the MkII. The two models use Sony’s E lens mount, meaning there is a decent amount of optics available to photographers and the other difference on the exterior is the additional of a second SD slot for a7RIII users, as the MkII only features a single memory card slot.

So, not a huge amount has changed on the exterior with both cameras measuring the same and the a7RIII weighing in just 32 grams heavier than its predecessor, which is still much lighter than full-frame cameras like the Nikon D850 (1005g) and the Canon 5D MkIV (890g). Internally, both cameras are built around a full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor that gives 42.5-megapixels of resolution – however, the a7RIII’s sensor benefits from an updated Bionz X processor and can write data almost 1.8x faster than the a7RII. Both cameras also benefit from 5-axis image stabilisation – having this technology built into the camera body means that every lens you use benefits from the shake reduction.

It’s when we take a look at the focus and speed specifications do we find the real reasons a7RII users may be tempted to trade up. The newer a7RIII can offer 425 contrast detection AF points, up from 25 on the MkII. That’s a huge jump in AF points and stacks the odds of capturing a sharp image well in your favour – especially if you are shooting moving subjects, such as wildlife or sports photography. To keep up with this new autofocus system, the a7RIII can shoot ten frames per second (twice as fast as the a7RII). Ten frames per second may not seem blisteringly fast when you consider there are cameras that can shoot double this burst rate, but when you remember each image is 42.5-megapixels, it becomes clear how Sony are breaking new ground with the a7RIII.

Both cameras have 3-inch tilting screens (only the a7RIII’s is touch-sensitive) and Electronic Viewfinders to line up scenes and compose images, but the resolutions of both are increased on the newer a7RIII with the EVF now 3686k-dot (compared to the a7RII’s 2359k-dot) and the LCD resolution now 1440k-dot, up from the Sony a7RII’s 1229k-dot resolution.

With a slightly re-jigged rear button layout, both the a7RII and the a7RIII feature a 3-inch tilting LCD.
With a slightly re-jigged rear button layout, both the a7RII and the a7RIII feature a 3-inch tilting LCD.

Image quality:

Both models are professional level cameras and, with 42.5-megapixels of resolution, are not only capable of capturing images rich in colour and high in detail, but also able to make prints well in excess of A3 size. What’s more, all that resolution enables photographers to crop heavily into an image to rejig composition without compromising image quality. When it comes to image quality though, there are some differences in the camera’s specifications worth noting.

The a7RIII has a higher dynamic range, which means it will be able to capture more detail in the scene and, when editing, photographers will be able to rescue more highlights and shadows from the pixels. This is particularly useful for landscape photography, as being able to recover detail in an overexposed sky can save a photo. What’s more, the a7RIII has a higher ISO ceiling. While the a7RII was limited to a native ISO of 25600, the a7RIII’s native ISO tops out at 32000. Both cameras feature no AA (Anti-Aliasing) filter, meaning images should be sharper, though this comes at an increased risk of moire.

The Sony a7RIII offers two SD card slots, Bluetooth and a faster burst rate of 10FPS.
The Sony a7RIII offers two SD card slots, Bluetooth and a faster burst rate of 10FPS.

Video:

Budding videographers have plenty to appreciate from both the a7RII and the newer a7RIII. Both cameras shoot ultra high quality 4K video up to 30p, making it suitable for professional use.What’s more, both cameras offer ports for headphones and an external mic, so enhanced audio can be captured and monitored.

There are differences between the two cameras though; the a7RIII can shoot Full HD at up to 120fps – meaning it can create dramatic slow motion sequences. The a7RII can also shoot 120fps, but only at the lower quality 720p setting. What’s more, while both cameras benefit from Sony’s S-Log2 picture profiles, only the MkIII can offer the newer S-Log 3 and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) profiles.

Both the a7RII and the a7RIII offer 4K video, but only the newer a7RIII can shoot Full HD at 120FPS to make slow motion footage.
Both the a7RII and the a7RIII offer 4K video, but only the newer a7RIII can shoot Full HD at 120FPS to make slow motion footage.

Other features and verdict:

Along with the extra focus points and faster burst rate, there are a number of other features worth bearing in mind if you are choosing between buying a a7RII or a7RIII or indeed are looking to upgrade from the MkII to the MkIII.

For example, the battery life between the two cameras is very different. The a7RII can manage 290 shots on a full charge, but the a7RIII is far more efficient and squeezes out 650 shots from a single charge. The longer battery life is a real plus point for professionals who may be out in the field for extended periods of time without access to charging points. Another feature the a7rIII brings to the table is a flash sync port to connect flash and the addition of connectivity functions. While the a7RII has Wi-Fi, the a7RIII bring Bluetooth and NFC to the mix to make it easier to connect the camera to smart devices and transfer imagery.

Overall, the a7RIII is a camera that builds on the success of the a7RII. Both cameras are compact in design but deliver high resolutions and excellent video specifications. The a7RIII now adds speed to the mix, making it suitable for professionals who also want to capture action as well as statics subjects. If you are new to the Sony system and are looking to buy an a7R, the MkIII is the obvious choice despite its higher price tag thanks to the extra burst rate speed, increased focus points, extended dynamic range and upgrades to video specifications. Unless the quicker, 10FPS burst rate is essential, existing a7RII users may feel the camera offers them enough already.

 Sony a7RIISony a7RIII
Price$ 1,499.00$ 2,490.00
Sensor42.5-MP Full-frame42.5-MP Full-frame
Lens mountE-mountE-mount
5-axis IS  
Max native ISO2560032000
Max burst rate5FPS10FPS
LCD3-inch tilting3-inch tilting
Touch-sensitive LCD  
AF points (contrast detection)25425
4K video  
Full HD at 120FPS  
Bluetooth  
Weight625g657g