The Sony a9iii is one of the most highly anticipated mirrorless cameras in recent years. As the successor to the incredibly popular a9ii, the a9iii brings a host of upgrades and improvements that make it an even more capable camera for professionals. In this in-depth review, we’ll take a close look at the a9iii’s specs, features, performance, image quality, and how it compares to other top-tier cameras on the market.
Sony a9iii Review – Overview and Key Features
The Sony a9iii is a mirrorless camera with a 24.2MP full-frame stacked CMOS sensor and the latest BIONZ X image processor. It has an impressive max shooting speed of 20fps with full autofocus and auto exposure tracking. The a9iii offers 693 phase detection AF points covering 93% of the image area, along with advanced subject tracking and Real-time Eye AF capabilities.
Other key features of the a9iii include:
- 5-axis in-body image stabilization up to 5.5 stops
- UHD 4K30p video with S-Log2/S-Log3 profiles
- 10fps shooting with mechanical shutter
- Dual SD card slots with UHS-II compatibility
- Large capacity Z battery for up to 690 shots per charge
- Weather-sealed magnesium alloy body
- 3.0” tilting touchscreen LCD
For professional photographers who need speed, accuracy and versatility, the a9iii delivers impressive capabilities in a compact mirrorless body. It’s designed for shooting fast action like sports and wildlife, with excellent continuous shooting performance. The advanced autofocus system keeps subjects locked even during high speed bursts. And the balanced resolution of 24MP provides enough detail without generating huge file sizes.
Build Quality and Handling
The Sony a9iii has an outstanding build quality that lives up to its pro-level status. The body consists of magnesium alloy panels over a rigid magnesium shell, making it lightweight yet highly durable. Extensive weather-sealing ensures the a9iii can withstand dust, moisture and freezing temperatures when shooting outdoors. Ergonomics are excellent with a deep comfortable grip and well-placed controls. At just 673g, the a9iii is lighter than comparable DSLRs while still feeling robust in hand.
For photographers who need to react quickly, the a9iii offers a number of advantages. The electronic viewfinder provides a bright, crisp display with minimal lag. The AF-ON button allows back-button focus control, while the multi-selector joystick speeds up AF point selection. There are also a multitude of customizable buttons that can be assigned to frequently used functions. Dual card slots offer flexibility in recording and storing images. Overall, the a9iii provides professional handling capabilities in a compact mirrorless design.
Image Quality and Performance
Equipped with a backside illuminated 24.2MP Exmor RS CMOS sensor and BIONZ X processor, the a9iii delivers excellent image quality with wide dynamic range, low noise, and incredible color reproduction. The combination of sensor and processor allows for a native ISO range of 100-51200 that can be expanded to 50-204800. Images are rich and detailed with accurate colors straight from camera. At 24MP, the resolution provides flexibility for making large prints or heavily cropping.
In terms of speed, the a9iii really shines thanks to its advanced processing capabilities. It can shoot continuously at 20fps with full autofocus/autoexposure tracking, without any viewfinder blackout. The fast sensor readout enables an extremely quick anti-distortion shutter capable of 1/32000 sec flash sync speeds. When tracking fast erratic subjects like birds in flight, the a9iii easily captures the decisive moment.
For events, sports, and wildlife, the a9iii delivers incredible performance. The 425 point phase detection AF system offers lightning fast focus acquisition and tracking even on continuously moving subjects. Real-time Eye AF detects and focuses on eyes in both humans and animals. There are also sophisticated subject tracking algorithms that automatically follow your subject around the frame. All this allows for an extremely high percentage of sharp, in-focus images when shooting bursts.
4K Video Recording
In addition to its superb still image quality, the a9iii provides very capable video performance as well. It can shoot full-frame oversampled 4K video up to 30p, with support for Super35 crop mode. The a9iii offers pro-level features like S-Log2/S-Log3 for maximum dynamic range and flexibility in post-production. You can also output uncompressed 4K to an external recorder via the HDMI port.
Video AF speed and subject tracking are also excellent thanks to the fast sensor readout and powerful BIONZ X processor. Eye AF works seamlessly when shooting people, keeping faces and eyes sharply focused. There are also useful tools like Focus Transition that shifts focus smoothly between subjects. Overall the a9iii provides professional videographers and multimedia shooters with a highly capable hybrid camera for both stills and video.
Low Light Performance
Sony cameras are well regarded for their low light capabilities, and the a9iii continues this with its excellent high ISO performance. Images shot at sensitivities as high as ISO 12800 still retain lots of detail with manageable levels of noise. At ISO 51200 and 102400, noise and loss of detail become more apparent, but images are still very usable for certain scenarios or can be cleaned up a bit in post processing.
The a9iii provides particularly good low light autofocus performance, even in near darkness. It utilizes illuminated AF points and advanced algorithms to maintain fast, accurate focus when shooting night scenes or in dim indoor conditions. This allows you to confidently use fast aperture lenses for available light photography.
Between the sensor, image processor and 5-axis stabilization, the a9iii delivers reliable handheld shooting in low light. You can capture sharp images at slower shutter speeds and still keep ISO relatively low, which is incredibly useful for any moving subjects. For difficult light or when flash is not permitted, the a9iii allows you to get shots other cameras might miss.
The Sony a9iii uses a high capacity NP-FZ100 battery which provides outstanding battery life for a mirrorless camera. CIPA ratings show up to 690 shots per charge using the rear LCD, or 480 shots using the EVF. This allows for all day shooting on a single battery charge, especially if you utilize the power saving modes.
The NP-FZ100 battery can be charged in-camera via USB-C or AC adapter, or removed to use an external charger. Third party options from reputable brands work well and are less expensive alternatives to the Sony-branded battery. Having 1-2 extras on hand for a long shoot or travel is recommended.
Compared to DSLRs, the a9iii’s battery life is quite impressive for a mirrorless camera. The power efficient processor, electronic shutter option, and lack of an optical viewfinder all help to maximize shots per charge. For professionals on long assignments, the battery endurance is more than sufficient and comparable to most mid-range DSLRs.
Connectivity and Accessories
The Sony a9iii contains wireless connectivity for both image transfer and remote control functions. It has integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth which allow you to pair the camera with a smartphone or tablet. Using the free Sony Imaging Edge app, you can transfer JPEGs to your mobile device or remotely control the camera. This makes it easy to share images on the go straight from your camera.
The a9iii also has a wired LAN terminal for file transfer or tethered shooting over a network. You can pair the camera with software like Capture One for robust studio-oriented workflows. For storage, the a9iii has dual SD card slots that both support fast UHS-II media. This allows overflow, backup or separation of file types during shooting.
Some recommended accessories for the a9iii include:
- Extra batteries and external charger
- Sony GP-X1EM Grip for extended shooting
- External recorder like the Atomos Ninja V for 4K video
- L-plate bracket for seamless switching between vertical and horizontal orientation
- Fast UHS-II SD cards to take advantage of buffer clearing speed
How Does It Compare?
The Sony a9iii is positioned at the top end of the mirrorless camera market for sports, action and wildlife photographers. Its closest competitors are the Nikon Z9, Canon EOS R3 and Sony’s own a1. Compared to these cameras, the a9iii holds its own extremely well in terms of speed, performance and image quality.
The Nikon Z9 surpasses the a9iii in resolution at 45MP and offers 8K video, but is a larger, heavier and more expensive camera. The Canon EOS R3 lacks the resolution of the a9iii at only 24MP. And the Sony a1 bests the a9iii in some areas like 50MP resolution and 30fps bursts, but comes at a significantly higher cost.
For professionals who don’t necessarily require the ultimate resolution or speed, the a9iii provides a very compelling package. It remains extremely quick at 20fps, while providing smaller file sizes than higher resolution cameras. For the majority of sports and action photographers, the a9iii represents the sweet spot in terms of performance, features and value.
Pros and Cons
- Incredible 20fps burst shooting with accurate AF/AE
- 693 point phase detection AF covering 93% of image area
- Excellent subject tracking and Eye AF capabilities
- Dual UHS-II SD card slots
- Large capacity battery provides all-day shooting
- 4K video with pro features like S-Log
- Rugged, weather sealed magnesium alloy body
- No built-in flash
- Only contrast detect AF when shooting 4K video
- No 8K video recording
- Touchscreen does not articulate fully
Is the Sony a9iii Worth It?
For professional and high-end enthusiast photographers who need speed, performance and great image quality, the Sony a9iii is an outstanding choice. It can capture incredibly fast action with accuracy and deliver pro-level results. The focus system and subject tracking are class-leading in the mirrorless category.
It may not offer the ultimate resolution or 8K video of some newer models. But at around $2500, the value proposition of the a9iii is extremely attractive. There are few other cameras that can match its performance and capabilities at this price point. For many professionals, the resolution and video specs are more than sufficient for their needs at a great value.
If you are looking for a top-tier camera specifically designed for sports, action, and wildlife photography, the Sony a9iii is one of the best options out there. It provides incredible autofocus, speed and image quality in a rugged yet lightweight body. For those applications, the a9iii stands out as a top recommendation and a worthwhile investment for photographers looking to maximize their keepers.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Sony a9iii
What types of photography is the Sony a9iii best suited for?
With its incredible burst shooting speeds, advanced autofocus and tracking capabilities, the a9iii excels at action and movement oriented photography like sports, wildlife, and birds in flight.
How good is the autofocus on the a9iii?
The AF system on the a9iii is outstanding. It offers wide frame coverage with 693 phase detection points, real-time tracking, and excellent Eye AF for both people and animals. The a9iii locks focus quickly and accurately even on fast moving subjects.
Does the a9iii have in-body image stabilization?
Yes, the a9iii features 5-axis sensor shift image stabilization that provides up to 5.5 stops of compensation. This allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds when handholding the camera.
What is the buffer depth when shooting bursts on the a9iii?
When using a UHS-II SD card, the a9iii can shoot 239 compressed RAW images before the buffer fills at 20fps. This provides an extremely deep buffer for extended high speed bursts.
How good is the 4K video quality on the a9iii?
With full pixel readout and no pixel binning, the 4K/30p video on the a9iii is very detailed and sharp. You can also output cleaner 4K video via HDMI to an external recorder.
Is the a9iii a good camera for beginners?
While beginners may find the a9iii overkill, it does provide excellent automatic modes and menus that are straightforward to navigate. However, the price makes it hard to recommend solely for beginners.
How long can the battery last on the a9iii?
Sony rates the NP-FZ100 battery for approximately 480-690 shots per charge depending on use of rear LCD vs EVF. This provides all day shooting ability on a single battery.
Does the a9iii have built-in Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity?
Yes, the a9iii has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built-in. This allows you to wirelessly transfer images to your smartphone or control the camera remotely.
Can you charge the a9iii battery via USB?
Yes, the a9iii battery can be charged internally via USB connection to an external power bank or AC adapter. This provides a convenient charging option when travelling.