Final thoughts on my weekend with the A7iii

Final thoughts on my weekend with the A7iii

So I’m going to attempt to pull my thoughts on the A7iii together here- and I give you due warning, this will be a long and seriously photo-geeky post that most people will find boring and probably confusing 😉

I was all ready to upgrade from my Canon 5D mark iii to a mark iv when I started seeing all the hoopla about the new Sony mirrorless, the A7 mark iii. After reading all about it and watching many videos on YouTube I was left drooling but unsure whether this was the right thing to do- my biggest concern being whether I could use the A7iii with my existing stable of Canon lenses as I really couldn’t face trying to sell them all and start again. So I decided to try it out for myself and I rented an A7iii along with the 2 best reviewed available adapter that would allow me to mount my existing lenses, the Sigma MC-11 and the Metabones V. I would try the new camera with the adapters with all my lenses and use them in a real world test by shooting around the church where I work, including the Sunday morning services.

Just to spoil the surprise, I have to send the rented gear back tomorrow, but I have already placed an order with B&H for an A7iii with kit lens and a Metabones V adapter- although the camera is backordered so I may not see it for a few weeks 🙁 The camera, kit lens and adapter all together are still cheaper than a refurbished 5D mark iv!

The A7iii is an amazing piece of gear! It is not by any means perfect, but for me, I think it is the right way to go (with some caveats). The autofocus system is quite simply fantastic, even with the adapted lenses it blows the one on both my Canon 5Diii and 7Dii out of the water! The eye focus is a total gamechanger and, for the sort of pictures I take, especially around the church, it has about doubled the percentage of “keepers”; with a 70-200mm lens it even locks on to someone in the pulpit from the back of the church 🙂

I have been posting my thoughts, along with example pictures over the last few days, which you can see in these posts:





But I will try and pull the good and the bad, in no particular order, together here…

As I have said, the autofocus is amazing, but it is not perfect. I do not really shoot video, but I did try the video mode only to find that with either adapter the video autofocus is basically non-existent. Both the MC-11 and the Metabones seemed to work equally well with all my lenses, and though I didn’t do any scientific testing I would say the MC-11 seemed miniscully more responsive with my Tamron 24-70, and the Metabones had a slight edge with the Canon lenses, but there was not enough in it to make that sway my decision. In the end I have gone with the Metabones V (even though it is the more expensive of the two) mostly because it will allow me to mount both EF and EF-S lenses (the MC-11 will not allow you to mount a crop lens). I have a couple of nice EF-S lenses I’d like to still be able to use, in particular my EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro- an absolutely lovely lens! The Metabones also passes a little more EXIF information along that shows up in Lightroom, and has a couple of modes (“green” and “advanced”, I played around with “advanced” briefly but it didn’t seem to do much very well in the limited time I had to test, and “green” mode worked so well there didn’t seem to be much point) and they seem to be pretty good about keeping their firmware up to date.

Not all the autofocus modes work with the adapters, “wide”, “center” and “flexible spot” work really well, but “zone”, “expand flexible spot” and “lock on AF” do not. I did not find this a problem as I almost entirely used “flexible spot” and found the ease with which I could move the focus area around the entire screen a joy. Eye AF is a total marvel, but it doesn’t always lock on on it’s own- I did find on occasion that I would need to use the regular AF to get in in the “area’ and then it would work perfectly- I use back-button focus so I set up the “AF on” button as autofocus and the “AEL” button next to it as eye AF (the customization possibilities of this camera are almost endless!). I did find that I would sometimes hit the “movie record” button next to the “AF on” button by mistake, but that was soon dealt with by disabling that button in any but movie mode (though I did find the large black box it would throw up on both the screen and the EVF telling me that mode was unavailable if I did then hit it by mistake very annoying!)

Before leaving the subject of autofocus I should mention one other thing I found that may be more important to others- in continuous shooting when using a lens on an adapter the focus is locked on the first frame in “Hi+”, “Hi” or “Mid” no matter what you set in the menus. It will track in continuous “Lo”, but if you are looking to take advantage of the 10 fps to shoot sports or other action you are out of luck with an adapted lens 🙁 I discovered this by accident and found it confirmed in the online info about the Metabones on their website. This is not a huge issue for me as though I will be selling my 5Diii to partly finance the purchase of the A7iii I will be keeping my Canon 7Dii as my backup body, and that shoots 10 fps too and the autofocus system is better than the 5Diii anyway. But I will be buying the A7iii with the kit lens (which is half the price of buying it separately  if you get it bundled) partly so I will have a native lens in case I do need one for sports or in case I want to shoot more video in the future.

My small collection of vintage lenses are an absolute joy to use with the A7iii. Even though I was using them via 2 adapters in a couple of cases (for example and M42 to EF, and then the EF to Sony in the case  of my Helios 44-2) they worked beautifully. having the EVF show you exactly what you will get exposure-wise when shooting manual (and this is a huge boon with any lens!) along with the excellent focus peaking and the fact that you can zoom in on both the screen and/or the viewfinder at the touch of a button (I set it to the “trash” button) makes working with manual focus wonderful- actually better than the old split-screen viewfinders in old SLRs. And add to that the in-body stabilization and it’s a winning combination!

The in-body stabilization is great- and with the switch on the Metabones V if you have a stabilized lens you can choose whether you want the lens or the camera body to do the stabilizing. I didn’t have time to do a lot of testing which would work better (and I wonder if one uses more battery than the other?), so I mostly just left it set on the in-body with all my lenses, stabilized or not, and it works very well indeed! In fact I did some direct comparisons with the two Canon 70-200 lenses I have, the f/4 L non-stabilized and the f/2.8 IS L II which is stabilized, and using the excellent in-body stabilization there is really almost nothing between them, In fact if I didn’t already have them I would just get an f/2.8 L non-stabilized one instead and have the speed without the extra weight and rely on the A7iii for the stabilization!

Silent shooting is a huge plus when shooting in a church, but it will take some serious getting used to! I’m so used to the reassuring “clunk” of my 5D shutter, even in “quiet” mode, that I can’t quite believe it’s actually taken a picture without hearing it- I found that I actually lost a few shots because I found myself subconsciously pushing the shutter button extra hard to make sure I was taking a picture and jerking the camera beyond even what the IBIS could handle. I’m sure I will learn to trust it over time, but it’s seriously weird if you’re someone like me who came from SLRs originally 😉

I think that hits most of the main points… I do wish the Sony was a little bit larger as I do have quite large hands and am used to the bulk of a 5D, but I’m sure I will get used to it, and the menu system is a little cumbersome, but once I had customized a few buttons and added a few things to “My Menu” that became much less of an issue, but I would recommend watching one of the excellent “set up” videos people have put on YouTube as there is a LOT to go through and it would be a shame to miss some amazing feature that this camera has just because it’s buried in the menus and you didn’t see it.

Many thanks to LensRentals for the A7iii and the MC-11 (which both arrived a day early), and to BorrowLenses for the Metabones V. I would have preferred to rent everything from one place, but LensRentals did not have the Metabones V (though they did have the IV) and BorrowLenses did not have an A7iii available for the dates I wanted. I shall be very sad to take the two packages to the UPS store in the morning.

It just remains to say, I hope this may help someone in their decision about whether this camera is a good buy to use with Canon lenses (trust me- it is, go for it, you will not be disappointed!), and to list the lenses I used. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email and I will try my best to answer.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L II, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L, Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS L, Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC, Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro, Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5, Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 mount), Starblitz 28mm f/2.8 (FDN mount), Canon FD 35-105mm f/3.5 (FDN mount modified to EF).


Update- at the request of a friend I have added a post with direct comparison pics between the Sony and my Canon 5D… A7III VS. 5DIII

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