Shooting the TCSTV Sony A7R III Field Test

  By Jordan Drake

It’s always a treat when Chris and I each get a copy of a new camera when we shoot an episode, so not only can Chris take photos and video, but I can film the entire episode on the camera in question. That was the case when we went to Sedona for our A7R III field test. You can find out Chris’ thoughts on the A7R III in the embedded video, but I wanted to give my impressions using the camera the way I do every week, shooting our show.

The A7R II had very different image quality when recording in full frame mode or in the Super 35 crop mode. I wanted to really test the difference on the new model, so I brought the APS-C Sigma Art 18-35mm F1.8 (my staple lens for shooting TCSTV) to shoot the first half of the video in crop mode, then switched to the Sony 28-135mm F4 video lens for the second half, while recording in full frame mode. I intended to shoot most of the episode on a monopod, but there was miscommunication and I was stuck either shooting handheld or using a giant Manfrotto video tripod. Obviously, I spent most of the trip shooting handheld.

I was immediately impressed by the revised handling of the A7R III. The buttons and dials all have a much more positive feel, and the new electronic viewfinder is incredibly crisp! I found that I could usually tell if a shot was in focus without having to magnify the image, a good thing as Sony’s punch-in magnifier is notoriously poor. The dual card slots allowed me peace of mind, in case a card failed, and the battery life is as good or better than the wonderful Panasonic GH5. The stabilizer proved more useful than in the A7R II, but still lagging behind Panasonic and Olympus’ implementation.

Shooting video in a hot air balloon was a spectacular experience that I hope to repeat again! I expected to just shoot aerials at distant subject, but we were incredibly close to the beautiful cliffs of Arizona. The balloon proved such a stable platform, it was easy to get drone style shots. The helicopter was another matter, and really put the A7R III’s stabilizer to the test. It was impossible to record audio as well, so we had to go with a musical montage for that part of our adventure!

Photo credit: Gordon Laing of

I spent several late nights and early mornings recording time lapses. This brings me to one of my biggest issues with this camera, the lack of any built-in time-lapse functionality. Rest assured, the A7R III is one of the best time-lapse cameras ever made, but you’ll need to grab a traditional plug-in intervalometer to make use of it, something my old A6000 didn’t require! The nights were a lot of fun and I got to spend some time chatting with Drew Geraci, who shot the famous opening time lapses for the Netflix show House Of Cards.

At the end of the week, I had truly enjoyed my time with the A7R III. If you require top-notch photo quality, but also need some high-end video capability in the same body, this is the best option out there. I was initially surprised by the feature set of this camera, but then thought of a similar situation from just a few years back. When Canon followed up the revolutionary 5D Mark II with the more refined, but less headline-grabbing Mark III many photographers and videographers called it a huge disappointment. The Mark III is now considered on of the most well rounded digital cameras ever produced and I expect that the Sony A7R III will be thought of in much the same way.