Michael Erlewine

Initial Thoughts on the New Sony A7R3: Hands-On

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The Sony A7R III arrived today. The menu system is the usual nightmare. What I need is a list of how to set it up instead of figuring it out all over again. So far, I can’t determine yet how to magnify the view so I can shoot from it. It’s not in the same league as the new Nikon D850 except perhaps in the pixel-shifted image, which of course, is why I bought it.

 

If I had any sense, I would send the whole thing back and just use the Nikon D850. LOL.

 

The pixel-shift on the A7R3 is easy to use, but for a focus-stacker very tedious, physically, but they seem to have done it right. The results are outstanding. Scary. Part of me would like to just send it back, but I probably won’t. In other words, it is not a lot of fun so far, especially since Adobe has not yet supported it. The thought of doing a 100-layer stacked image is daunting even to consider. Ouch!

 

The tiny paper manual ONLY tells where to look at an online version and when I do, there is about nothing there that really explains much of anything. We are really on our own. You would think that with all that money Sony must have, they could hire someone like Thom Hogan, etc. to write it right. Someone will make a fortune making it easy to know how to use this camera.

 

Looking at a pixel-shift image (my main interest) in Sony Imagining Edge Software is upsetting. For example, comparing the color in an image (pixel-shift) and the same image exported to PS as a TIF is troubling. The color is enough different between the two to make me wonder. The enclosed image (just a screen grab) shows the TIF colors in PS are more balanced than the same image at the same 100% in the Imaging Edge Software. The TIF is much better-balanced color. I must be the Sony Software as opposed to the image itself.

 

I guess I’m getting old, not only physically, but tired of endlessly moving to new equipment with all the attendant difficulties. I just want to take photos, but I can see this is a never ending stairway and perhaps not going to heaven, either. LOL.

 

With all my griping, the pixel-shift image at first blush is damn good. I have no excuse to send it back! Not being much of a field-shooter anymore, I don’t like the dinky-ness of the A7R3.

 

Anyway, I have the A7R3, am (sort of) getting used to it and am afraid I will have to keep it. LOL. We will see.

 

A7R3-PS.JPG

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Thanks for sharing your findings, Michael. 

 

I think at some point in our journey as photographers we have to stop and ask ourselves just where we are going with all the gear-mongering we do? What is it that we are actually looking for? Tough to do, but once you get it into your mind that all we are doing is making photographs and not trying to find a cure for cancer it gets a little easier to manage. :) 

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Here is a proof-of-concept stacked image taken with the Sony A7R3 using pixel-shift as follows:

 

This is what I call a “short stack,” in this case six pixel-shifted images (each image using four pixel-shifts). These six resulting TIF images were then stacked using Zerene Stacker to produce a final stacked image.

 

Because I only took six images, there are areas in the photo that are not in focus, perhaps most easily seen in the Spadix (large vertical in center), where I focused on the bottom and top of the Spadix, but not in the center. If I were to take a more normal stacked image, it might have 50 or more layers, but here, to save time, I just made six images.

 

The result shows me that the A7R3 will work well for focus stacking, especially if they ever automate it better than they have now. I had to do each of the six images separately, since I don’t know how (or if) there is a way to batch process these at this point. I am impressed by the color and (unlike my Nikon D850), the A7R3 did not require much of any color adjustment. Interesting.

 

I was using the APO-El Nikkor 105mm on the Cambo Actus, with the Sony E-mount, and a little time delay. So, to repeat myself, I see no reason why this setup will not be excellent for focus stacking. However, to be really useful, we would need software that accessed a folder and automatically processed all the 4-image pixel-shift packets in that folder and (for me) then converted the composite images (in this case six) into TIF files, ready to stack in Zerene Stacker.

 

Aside from adjusting the exposure level, I did not post-process this image much at all.

 

Sorry if this is a little sloppy, but I am doing it for me and sharing it with you, if you can find it helpful.

_A730023-2-CV-65-777.jpg

Edited by Michael Erlewine
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Here is an single image (unstacked) at f/16 to give you an idea of what the A7R3 can do. This is pixel-shifted using the Voigtlander 65mm Macro lens for Sony E-mount.

_A730047_PSMS-CV65-F16.jpg

Edited by Michael Erlewine

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14 hours ago, Michael Erlewine said:

I am impressed by the color and (unlike my Nikon D850), the A7R3 did not require much of any color adjustment. Interesting.

 

This was one of my most compelling observations when I moved away from Nikon to Olympus all those years ago. I remember experiencing lots of frustration with the Nikons when it came to colour fidelity. I don't think the Nikon's are necessarily bad at colour, it's just that you have to work harder in post to achieve what I feel is a more true-to-life result. A lot of that comes down to the colour profiles that Nikon provide. They aren't really good, so the use of things like X-rite Color Passport are essential for Nikon users looking to get perfect colours. 

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I am “trying” to test out the Sony A7R3 in single-shot and pixel-shift mode, testing it against itself and also as close as I can to see how it compares to the Nikon D850.

 

These shots are taken on the Cambo Actus Mini technical camera, using the D850 and A7R3 cameras in as close to the same conditions I can manage.

 

They were shot within minutes of each other in natural light coming in a window on a snowy and overcast day. The lens is the APO-El Nikkor 105mm lens at f/5.6.

 

The larger image is just an overview shot, a pixel-shifted image from the Sony A7R3 to provide context.

 

There are two crops:

 

One is with the Nikon D850 “as taken” and a second shot as cleaned up in post. Obviously, the second image could be to whatever taste we want. This comparison does show me that the Nikon is similar (to a degree and IMO) to what we call S-log in video. It is a bit of a canvas that we must tweak and finish in post, while I notice that the images from the A7R3 are much more finished and ready-to-go. I may prefer the S-log qualities; not sure yet.

 

And the second image compares a single image from the A7R3 with an image that has been pixel-shifted. As for this, I don’t see all THAT much difference between the two for all the pixel-shifting work. So I hope others can test this themselves and weigh in here with your thoughts. Yes, I see some differences, but not as much as I expected.

 

Of course, I have a lot more to do to form my own opinion of what I am seeing.

 

_A730075_PSMS EL105 2048.jpg

_A730075 El105 SINGLE-Pix3el-Shift.jpg

Nikon D850 Single Before-After.jpg

Edited by Michael Erlewine
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