My Sony A7Riii is a great, even cutting-edge consumer camera. The features on it are a look into the future of photography and specifically camera design. However, I cannot in good-conscience recommend it for pro use because of non-existent Sony support and its arcane menu system.
My photo experience is essentially all with Nikons (beginning in 1975) and my review is from that perspective. I have been a pro wedding photographer, now retired and often doing shooting of people, business meetings, recitals, plays, as well as business and church events.
My A7RIII purchase was primarily because of its silent operation. In this regard, I needed a silent camera for low-light use (typically 1/125 sec at ISO 10000~12500) and need to have a focal length to 300mm. The A7Riii replaces a Nikon D750 and DF in this role as they are unacceptable because of the sound level of their shutters/mirrors. I also purchased a Sony FE 70-300mm G zoom to mostly stand-in for my AF-S 28-300mm Nikkor.
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After about 500 exposures (on the electronic shutter) I noticed two adjacent spots on the frames in the upper right corners. I tried blowing the sensor with clean air to no avail. I went back and looked at my out-of-the-box test frames and found I had missed the spots because of density in those areas of the frames. I decided to let Sony handle this under warranty.
My warranty card informs me to contact www.sony.com/support or call 1-800-222-SONY (7669). I first tried the website and could not find it. I found a similar one that informed me that U.S. warranty repairs are handled by calling 1-800-222-7669. I first dialed this on May 29 and got a recording that did not have the numbers to press for the category I needed. While I listened, the recording then terminated with the words: “I’m sorry, I appear to be having difficulty . . . please try again later, goodbye.” I retried on May 29 through June 4 (I have a lot of time left on my warranty) and heard the same recording and hang-up. I then realized I was apparently in line with Sony customers who need repairs on their walkman and earbuds – not a $3000 camera.
A net search revealed Precision Camera (PC) who does Sony authorized warranty repairs. At PC, I spoke with a human(!). In a couple hours I appeared at the Fed EX store with my strong package and pre-printed mailing label from PC. I asked about insurance and was told that I was covered to $100. No more coverage was available so I went to the UPS store and got $3000 of insurance coverage and added two-day ground. The bill was $77.04 (VA to CT). Sent it. Incidentally, PC’s usual non-warranty A7Riii repairs run $388 or so.
In five days, PC returned the camera after cleaning the sensor. Spots are gone and the camera is back on-line. The takeaway is that I never reached Sony. The difference between this experience and Nikon’s repair service is – not in the same ball park – in fact, it’s not on the same planet.
The A7Riii’s expansive and unintuitive menu system can only be mostly mastered by rote memory and practice. But, speeding through too many menu locations is still not a solution. One reviewer described the menu system as imperfect. Imperfect is that the A7Riii’s memory cards and battery go in reversed or that the battery charger light turns off after charging – making you install the battery in the body to see if its fully charged.
Some have stated that its seven memory settings may mitigate the arcane menu system. They may, but I use three memory settings just for my narrow application and the menus still drive everything, especially in unexpected situations not in your memory settings.
If you’ve read this far, compared to my Nikons, the A7Riii is unparalleled in its: silent operation, always-bright and detailed viewfinder in low-light, and excellent facial recognition performance over the full frame. It also has excellent high ISO performance. I prefer Nikon’s colors, but the Sony frames have very good color in just about all applications and only small changes are ever needed in post processing. The Sony 70-300mm G zoom is expensive and large but smooth handling and an excellent optical performer. In its zoom range, it is a match for the Nikkor in sharpness. It also has a metal exterior to the Nikkor’s plastic. However, I doubt if the Sony is metal underneath its shell.
So, if you’re a person who will depend on an A7Riii for your livelihood:
1. Call 1-800-222-7669
2. Find a repair shop you trust who can repair your A7Riii on demand
3. Check out an A7Riii menu system to see if you can deal with it for your needs
Hint for new Sony owners: an A7Riii in Sony-speak is an “ILCE-7RM3.” You will need to know this.