I’ve had the Sony Alpha a7RIII for a little while now, and I’m ready to name my three most favorite features. These features aren’t exclusive to the a7RIII, or even the a7III, or even the a7, or even Sony cameras in general, but these have become “must-have” features for me over the past few months.
Let’s get into it.
Wait, wait, before we get started… keep in mind that these are just my opinions. Every photographer has their own way of working, their preferences for equipment, and so forth. I primarily shoot landscape, cityscape, and architecture, so the features and settings that I reach for are necessarily different than those preferred by sports shooters or portrait shooters.
Also bear in mind that I was a Canon DSLR shooter for decades until making the mirrorless switch, which I also did for particular reasons that may be unique to me, and so a lot of what I look for in a camera now is based on that philosophy that I have carried forward.
OK, just had to get that off my chest.
The a7RIII has three mode dial positions that will recall a nearly complete group of settings that you have stored in the camera’s internal memory. I wrote about how I use this feature at length in my post How I Use Sony Camera Settings Recall. Each “bank” of saved settings appears on the mode dial as “1,” “2,” and “3.”
In short, I have a “base” configuration for general handheld shooting, and another for tripod-mounted sunrise/sunset shooting. Using the settings recall feature, I can get set up to shoot much more quickly and also save myself the embarrassment of diving into a day of shooting without noticing that I left some setting at an extreme value.
I’ve come to rely on the settings recall feature more and more since switching to the a7RIII, and I think if you give it a try, you will, too.
Zebra stripes is a really cool feature that not many still cameras have. I’m pretty sure that practically all professional video cameras have this feature, but it hasn’t found its way into all still digital cameras yet.
What this feature does, quite simply, is draw animated black and white stripes through any over-exposed areas of the image. Of course, this is only possible if you are viewing the camera’s preview image on a digital screen, which is one reason why this feature is less useful for DSLRs.
If your DSLR has a “live view” mode, it may offer zebra stripes, but since the Alpha cameras are mirrorless, your viewfinder is always a digital screen, and therefore this kind of extra data can be layered on the picture at all times.
I find zebra stripes to be immensely useful when I am doing my best to “expose to the right,” which I wrote about long ago in Expose to the Right! The Right, I Say!.
To boil that down for you: expose your images to the right of the histogram because your camera’s sensor captures more detail in the brightest tones. If you’re using zebra stripes, just avoid causing any zebra stripes. Problem solved!
It’s no secret to readers of this blog that I love histograms. When I used to shoot Canon, the histogram in the image preview was one of my favorite features because it allowed me to understand the exposure range of my image even if I was viewing the screen in bright sunlight, or while wearing sunglasses.
Protip: don’t always trust what an image looks like on the display, especially when it comes to exposure! But of course you still want to be sure you have an image with a properly distributed tonal range and that you’re not clipping shadows or highlights too much. That’s where the histogram comes in.
The reason I think the histogram is such a killer feature on the a7RIII is the same reason I felt this way while shooting the NEX-7 and the a7RII. When you have an electronic viewfinder, that histogram can just be there, all the time, no matter what.
In the image on the right, you can see that the right edge of the data in the histogram is clipped because I’m demonstrating zebra stripes and the image is purposely overexposed by two stops.
And that, to me, is the real killer app; the omnipresent histogram, always showing you exactly what your exposure really is.
These features aren’t exclusive to the a7RIII, or even to Sony cameras, but the zebra stripe and histogram functions are uniquely useful on mirrorless cameras when you have access to that feedback at all times.
What are your “must-have” camera features? What are your most-hated features? Let me know in the comments below.