Written by Stan Foxworthy
Those of you who don’t know, I completely switched over to the Olympus M43 system in November of 2016 from my Canon professional gear. I completely sold it all off and haven’t found anything that compares thus far.
The Olympus M43 System is lighter weight, smaller size, plus it is a fully fledged mirrorless professional camera that had the build (freeze proof, dust proof and weatherproof), features (dual card slots, phase detection AF) to complement their amazing line of M Zuiko PRO and Premium lenses.
However, just the other day, my friend and owner of ShootRentals.com, Michael Kadlubkiewicz (aka Mike K) stopped by with the new Sony A7III for me to check out. Because I love shooting with a 50mm, he included the Sigma 50mm Art with the Sigma MC-11 converter. For me, this makes for quite the front heavy unit and makes sense to shoot with both hands. Another good friend and professional photographer, Larry Monteith, dropped off the compact and beautiful Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 to make the comparison a little more level and easier to hold.
But as always being curious, I like to see what is available from the various camera manufacturers. I had heard from a number of other photographers that the new A7III was quite the accomplishment from Sony.
At first glance, it looks small, sleek and about the same size as the E-M1 MkII, but without the more “anatomic fit” feel of the Olympus. As I started to go through the menu system to set up my prefered shooting options, I was reminded of why I didn’t care for the A7R… What a painful experience! I often wonder if any photographers are consulted on camera menu layouts?
When I have to take the time to Google search everyday camera setup because I can’t make heads or tails of simple things like turning off the rear LCD screen and only using the EVF (has to be set up in the menu first), I can only imagine the frustration of a photographer in the field. I am a big proponent of learning one’s gear inside and out, and I’m sure if I spent a couple of weeks with the A7III, it would be easier, but it’s nice when a camera is intuitive to use right out of the box.
Comparing images from both cameras, I don’t see really any difference in the files, as they both look great. Zooming in to 100%, the main thing I noticed was a slight gain in noise in the shadow area on the Oly files. The most striking difference for me is in the actual handling of the camera. Where the Olympus feels sculpted and intuitive, the Sony feels like it was carved out of a block of aluminum, aesthetically pleasing but not form fitting for my hand, and not nearly as easy to access the functions without studying the camera. The use of Larry’s lens made the camera much more manageable, and the auto focus seemed to be quicker with a native lens instead of the adapted Sigma. Neither option was anywhere as fast focusing as the E-M1 MkII, which is blazingly fast! Ultimately, I don’t want to be putting large, full-frame lenses on a small camera body, as it makes for more cumbersome shooting (and more weight to lug around!).
I also found in use, the A7III still has quite a noisy shutter even with the electronic first curtain sounding almost like a DSLR. Being spoiled by the image stabilization offered by the Olympus, I was also disappointed with the Sony’s IS not being up to the task. Where I am hand holding at a third or half a second with the E-M1 MkII, the Sony shows movement at 1/20th of a second. I know what you’re thinking; a few years ago, we’d all be lugging around a tripod, so I shouldn’t complain so much!
Without a doubt, the Sony A7III is a fantastic unit, and if the E-M1 MkII wasn’t available I would likely be shooting with the A7III / A7RIII. But for now, I’m not tempted.
See below for some more comparison images from both cameras: