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What Is a Breadboard and How Does It Work? A Quick Crash Course

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The breadboard is the bread-and-butter of DIY electronics. Breadboards allow beginners to get acquainted with circuits without the need for soldering, and even seasoned tinkerers use breadboards as starting points for large-scale projects. If you are taking your first steps in the world of DIY or microcontrollers, you might have received a breadboard in your Arduino starter kit 4 Best Starter Kits for Arduino Beginners 4 Best Starter Kits for Arduino Beginners There are plenty of great beginner Arduino projects that you can use to get started, but you’ll need an Arduino and some components first.

Here’s our pick of 4 of the best starter kits for… Read More or Raspberry Pi starter kit The Best Raspberry Pi Kits for Your First Project The Best Raspberry Pi Kits for Your First Project Planning on a Raspberry Pi-based project? You’ll need more than just the low-cost computer, but what else? A kit is a great way to get started with structure and peace of mind. Read More .

Let’s look at what a breadboard actually is, where they came from, and how you can make use of them.

What Is a Breadboard?

A breadboard is a simple device designed to let you create circuits without the need for soldering. They come in various sizes, and the design can vary, but as a general rule they look something like this:

If you’ve never seen one before, you might wonder how to tell which holes do what. It becomes a little easier to understand what’s going on when you see one from the bottom.

Seeing it from this perspective makes it easier to understand what is going on. The two larger pieces of wire down each side are typically used to connect a power source to the board. They are usually referred to as power rails.

The other smaller pieces of wire running perpendicular all the way across the board are used for components in your circuit. This diagram will help visualize this pattern from the top. What Is a Breadboard and How Does It Work? A Quick Crash Course

The power rails run horizontally as two rows at the top and bottom. Meanwhile, the vertical columns run inwards as you move down the board. If you were to pull any one of these metal pieces out, you would see their purpose.

They’re designed to grab onto the legs of any components pushed through the breadboard holes. This allows you to test circuits without having to worry about soldering, or making a good contact with the board. What Is a Breadboard and How Does It Work? A Quick Crash Course

As a general rule, this is how all breadboards operate, though they can come in a variety of sizes. Some breadboards have binding posts to attach to a power supply, but you can get by just fine without them. Also, most breadboards are designed to clip together, in case you need loads of room for a mega-project!

What Is a Breadboard and How Does It Work? A Quick Crash Course Before we move on, there is one other notable feature of breadboards to know about:

Integrated Circuits (IC) and Dual In-Line Packages (DIP)

See that little gap in the middle of the breadboard? That gap is there for a reason.

Integrated Circuits! What Is a Breadboard and How Does It Work? A Quick Crash Course Integrated Circuits (IC) are in almost every electronic device.

They run motors, regulate voltage, act as timers, perform logic tasks, and do pretty much anything you need them to. ICs can have different numbers of pins, sizes, and functions. However, many ICs comply to a standard called Dual In-Line Packages (DIP), meaning they all share a set width.

That width is–you guessed it–exactly the right size to fit across the gap in the middle of the breadboard. This makes it much easier to work with ICs without worrying about accidentally connecting the wrong pins together.

How Are Breadboards Used Today?

In recent years, almost all entry-level electronics involve the use of either an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi. While there are many things you can do with a Raspberry Pi that require no external components 20 Awesome Uses for a Raspberry Pi 20 Awesome Uses for a Raspberry Pi With so many cool projects for the Raspberry Pi, it can be hard to decide what to make.

In this mega guide, we round up 20 of the very best projects around! Read More , things get interesting when you use microcontrollers with DIY circuits. The Blink sketch for Arduino–typically the first thing beginners do–can be modified to use an actual LED and resistor combo on a breadboard. What Is a Breadboard and How Does It Work? A Quick Crash Course

Using what we know already, we can see that the wire from pin 2 of the Arduino goes into the power line, before being bridged to the positive pin of the LED. A resistor goes in line with the negative pin, and the other end of the resistor goes into the ground side of the power line, before returning to the GND pin of the Arduino. If you want to try this yourself, view the code for the modified blink sketch.

Pin Power

For simple projects like this, the power rails are not always used, but if you need to use multiple components which all require power, you can provide power from the power pins of an Arduino or Raspberry Pi

What Is a Breadboard and How Does It Work? A Quick Crash Course The picture above shows a servo, which requires power as well as instructions from the Arduino. We run cables from the 5v and GND pins of the Arduino to the top set of power rails.

We then bridge the gap at the other end to supply power to the bottom power rails, and use small pieces of wire to provide power to the VCC and GND wires of the servo. This bridging technique for the power lines is a good practice to get into, as it’ll ensure your components always have access to power no matter where they are on the breadboard. For a slightly more in-depth project using Arduino, LEDs and a breadboard check out our Traffic Light Controller Arduino Programming For Beginners: The Traffic Light Controller Arduino Programming For Beginners: The Traffic Light Controller Last week, we learnt about the basic structure of an Arduino program and took a closer look at the ‘blink’ example.

Hopefully you took the opportunity to experiment with code, adjusting the timings. This time,… Read More beginner tutorial. You use a breadboard the same way for standalone amateur electronics projects, as you would for Raspberry Pi builds.

For an example project using multiple components, simple code, and a practical outcome, take a look at our Raspberry Pi Door Sensor Play Your Own Theme Tune When You Enter the Room With Raspberry Pi Play Your Own Theme Tune When You Enter the Room With Raspberry Pi Have you ever wanted to arrive home to a personal welcome? In this simple Raspberry Pi project we’ll use a reed switch to trigger a tune when a door is opened. Read More tutorial.

What If You Don’t Have a Breadboard?

If you don’t have a breadboard, it is still possible to create simple circuits, but it’s just a little less convenient. One method is to use a variation of point-to-point construction, either soldering components directly together, or wrapping wire around each component leg to join them.

This method is incredibly fiddly, however, and if you are forced to use this method, it can help to use electrical tape to hold everything in place.

Proto-Board vs. Breadboard

An easier but more permanent method is to use proto-board. These boards are covered in holes with copper rings around them, allowing you to create circuits by soldering components in place and connecting them with wire or more solder.

This is a much more permanent solution though, and usually comes later in the process once you know your circuit is going to work without any problems! What Is a Breadboard and How Does It Work? A Quick Crash Course This image is from our Motion Activated Christmas Wreath Upgrade Your Christmas Wreath With a Motion Activated LED Matrix Upgrade Your Christmas Wreath With a Motion Activated LED Matrix This DIY Christmas wreath uses an Arduino and LED matrix to produce an amazing light-up display that’ll impress your friends and family. Read More tutorial and is the perfect example of a project that would require the use of proto-board over a breadboard.

Printed Circuit Boards (PCB)

A final example would be to make your own printed circuit board for a project.

This is a permanent solution, made custom for your circuit. Usually, printed circuit boards are the last step after testing on both breadboard and proto-board. There are many companies which will make PCBs to order, though it is possible to make them yourself at home if you want the full DIY experience.

YouTuber Extralife has a video explaining how the process works:
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Take Your First Steps With Arduino or Raspberry Pi

The breadboard is the perfect accessory to learning electronics at any level. Whether you are taking your first steps with Raspberry Pi beginner projects Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners These 10 Raspberry Pi projects for beginners are great for getting an introduction to the hardware and software capabilities of the Pi, and will help you get up and running in no time! Read More or Arduino beginner projects 10 Great Arduino Projects for Beginners 10 Great Arduino Projects for Beginners Completing an Arduino project gives you a sense of satisfaction like no other.

Most beginners aren’t sure where to start though, and even beginner’s projects can seem rather daunting. Read More , the breadboard is the place to start your tinkering.

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The Camera You Should Want: Fstoppers Reviews the Sony a7 III

Sony has been making waves with the a7R III and a9, but a lot of photographers don’t need those crazy levels of resolution and frame rates. Instead, they look for a quality camera that can do almost anything asked of it at a reasonable price. The Sony a7 III may just be that camera, with an awesome feature set, excellent performance, and an aggressively competitive price.

Check out our full review.

Key Specifications

  • 24-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor
  • 693 phase detection AF points with 93 percent frame coverage
  • ISO range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-204,800)
  • UHD 4K 30p with HLG and S-Log3 Gammas (6K oversampling at 24p and 5K oversampling with 1.2x crop at 30p)
  • 2.36-million dot OLED EVF
  • 3-inch, 922,000-dot tilting touchscreen
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot Stabilization
  • Continuous rate: 10 fps
  • Buffer: 89 raw, 177 JPEG
  • Dynamic range: 15 stops
  • Built-In Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Anti-flicker mode
  • Dual SD slots
  • USB 3.0 Type-C port
  • Magnesium alloy chassis with weather-sealing
  • Battery life: 710 shots

Design and Handling

If you’ve used previous generations of the a7 series, you’ll appreciate the ergonomic and control improvements on the a7 III. My first foray into the series was the a7R II, and the difference in the third generation (both the a7R III and a7 III) is noticeable. When asked to sum it up, I told a friend that the third generation feels like an intuitive photographer’s camera as opposed to a computer housing a great sensor.

The a7 III is still a small camera by full frame standards, but Sony’s efforts to refine the design pay off here. I’m 6’2″ and have long fingers, so the mirrorless cameras of yesteryear have always been a bit rough for me to use. Sony increased the size of the grip on the a7 III, and that makes it far more comfortable to hold and shoot with.

The second benefit is that because my hand now conforms naturally to the camera, I can use muscle memory to find controls without removing my eye from the viewfinder, which makes me far quicker when I’m shooting. It also makes for more stabilized shots, as the camera sits deeper in the palm of my hand instead of being gripped by my fingertips. Dials are bigger as well, which helps to map out the geography of the camera in your muscle memory.

Altogether, the ergonomics and controls are a definite step forward and should make most any photographer happy. The only complaint I have is that the AF-ON button is a smidgen small and too close to the viewfinder for my taste. Because I (and many other photographers) use that for back-button autofocus, I need to be able to find it and press it quickly with my eye to the viewfinder, and jogging my thumb over the AF joystick and below the dial makes it a bit difficult not to accidentally activate another function or poke my own face.

It’s not a huge issue once you get used to it, but I’d prefer the button to be a bit bigger and more closer to the outside of the camera. The four custom function buttons are always a welcome addition as well, particularly C1 and C2, which sit in an ideal position directly behind the shutter button. Having all the customization options for the controls is great, as though Sony’s menu system is still a bit confusing, once you get used to it, it offers a high degree of flexibility, and you can really set the camera up to give you maximal access to your specific needs.

For example, I frequently shoot events that require me to be ultra-quiet, and I use my C3 button to toggle the silent shutter on and off. Furthermore, it’s not just the custom function buttons that can be customized; almost any button on the camera can have its functionality changed. If you take the time to set up the camera to your liking, it can become incredibly intuitive in your hands and keep you out of the menu and your eye to viewfinder more often.

The AF joystick is responsive and works well to help you navigate through all those AF points. One small complaint is that the AF point (particularly in spot mode) is a bit difficult to see, and as it zips around the screen, it can be easy to lose. I’d prefer a more contrasty point, but that’s something that can be addressed in a firmware upgrade.

At 2.36 million dots, the viewfinder is a lower resolution version than that found in the a7R III and a9 (3.68 million). And though I noticed a difference compared to my a7R III, the viewfinder isn’t bad. It’s plenty bright enough, and the resolution difference never had an appreciable practical consequence when shooting: I could still frame and track just as accurately, which is what I really care about.

More importantly, it refreshes quite quickly; I had no problem following a darting bird through the 200mm end of a zoom lens, which should make those photographing action quite happy. The a7 III comes with dual card slots, which allows for the degree of redundancy professionals need. Note that only one slot supports faster UHS-II cards, however in practice, the deep buffer never made me run into any issues when recording to both slots.

The larger grip also allows for a bigger battery — much more in fact. Sony claims a 2.2x capacity increase, which brings the a7 III into line with midrange DSLRs.

Autofocus

As mentioned, the a7 III sports 693 phase detection autofocus points that cover a whopping 93 percent of the frame. To say this is compositionally freeing is an understatement.

The system is quite powerful on paper and with that 10 fps continuous rate, one would hope it can keep up. The good news is that in practice, it comes through.

AF-S

In single mode, focusing is quick and accurate. Like other Sony cameras, the a7 offers an array of focusing areas: wide, zone, center, flexible spot, expand flexible spot, and lock-on AF (for tracking in continuous mode).

I typically use flexible spot or expand flexible spot and have had no issues with the camera nailing focus precisely and accurately. In low-light conditions, where mirrorless cameras have traditionally struggled in the past, the a7 was a champ, consistently focusing accurately and with rather impressive speed given the lack of illumination. The AF joystick works well and makes it easy to select one of the hundreds of AF points.

In the above shot, I repeatedly defocused and focused on the lower center fastener of the closest swing.

The a7 focused impressively quickly and accurately without fail, despite the extremely low light levels.

Eye AF

The latest iteration of Eye AF is impressively good. For still or almost-still subjects, you should have no issues with locking on to the subject’s nearest eye, which makes shooting at wide apertures a breeze. With the high customizability of the camera, I simply mapped Eye AF to the AEL button, which I don’t use.

Now, I can slide my thumb over from the AF-ON button and instantly activate it, a tremendous benefit if, for example, you’re shooting a wedding reception and want to capture a quick portrait. Moreover, it works quite well in continuous AF as well. Whereas my hit rate was near 100 percent in the tracking below, it was about 90 percent when I repeated the test with Eye AF, which is remarkable considering the small target and movement.

Furthermore, the camera smartly switched back to tracking the face if it lost the eyes.

AF-C and Tracking

The a7 III really shows off its autofocus prowess here. Having 10 fps in an entry-level full frame camera is great, but if the continuous autofocus cant keep up, there’s not much point. The good news is that the a7 III can keep up and then some.

It has the best autofocus tracking I’ve seen in an entry-level full frame, and with that 10 fps continuous rate, it’s a very viable option for sports and wildlife photographers. In the above GIF, I set the frame rate to match that of the camera, so you’re seeing what I saw in the viewfinder at the same speed. The a7 had no problem tracking her, as you can see below.This test matched my experience with the camera in general.

It tracks subjects well, even if they move erratically across the frame (such as the diving birds I shot over Lake Erie). Combined with a deep buffer and fast continuous frame rate, the a7 III is a viable action camera.

Manual Focus

The a7 III carries with it the rest of the a7 line’s strong manual focus aids, which make it very easy to get a shot if you’re using adapted legacy glass or need to manually focus for whatever reason. While the Eye AF is very good, I also love using the zoom aid, which I have set to zoom in wherever the AF point is located the moment I switch to manual focus and grab the focus ring.

This makes it exceedingly easy to make sure the eyes are tack-sharp in a portrait. Focus peaking also works quite well, making it rather simple to see what areas are in focus. Depending on what you’re shooting, you might prefer one over the other; I generally like the zoom aid as I’m concerned about the same area every time with portraits (the eyes), while landscape shooters and videographers might prefer peaking.

I also shoot classical music concerts with an adapted Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens, and its autofocus motor is loud enough to bother patrons, so I’ll switch on focus peaking or the zoom aid, and in tandem with the silent shutter, my shooting in undetectable. Whichever aid you choose, you should be pleased by the experience.

Burst and Buffer

Sony rates the a7 III at a 10 fps burst rate, which matches what I saw in practice. Of course, a fast burst speed and deep buffer means a higher probability of capturing peak action or the exact moment you want.

For example, in the above shot, I wanted to capture the water as it splashed over the center of the rock outcropping.

The waves were a bit unpredictable that day, so I prefocused and started firing off bursts, and sure enough, I got the shot I wanted. Having that frame rate also helped me capture this bird with its wings in a photogenic position. This is also where the buffer really stepped up.

At 89 raw files, you can shoot for almost 9 seconds before filling it, which is more than enough to cover pretty much any action: sports, birds, or otherwise. Sports and wedding photographers, photojournalists, and more should enjoy the deep buffer. One thing to note is that because only one card slot is UHS-II, if you set the camera to record to both cards, the buffer will clear more slowly.

In practice, I didn’t run into this issue because the buffer was deep enough to keep up with what I was shooting, but if you’re shooting extreme amounts of action, it’s something be aware of.

Image Quality

24 megapixels is near the sweet spot of full frame cameras in terms of balancing resolution and noise performance, and the a7 III handles the balance well. Overall, images are sharp with excellent dynamic range and noise performance, while Sony’s color science continues to improve.

Color

Color is noticeably better than the second generation a7 series cameras. Skin tones in particular look far better, rendering much more organically and taking much less work in post.

People tend to look more full of life with smoother and more pleasing tones. Portraitists should be quite happy with the files that come out of the camera.

In general, colors are vivid and saturated, with pleasing, smooth transitions and a lot of flexibility in post. The should make shooters of any genre happy.

Dynamic Range and File Latitude

Dynamic range remains one of the best aspects of the a7 series, and the a7 III continues to impress.

For landscape shooters, this means less bracketing to keep the sky and earth in check. For portraitists, it means being able to underexpose to protect the highlights and bring the subject back up without perceptible penalty. For me, the real joy of this is the latitude one gains in post-processing.

I can push files much further in the spirit of experimentation or in extreme cases of protecting the highlights (such as a glass wall behind a stage on a sunny day), and the files still look great.

High ISO

High ISO performance is top notch. Files look excellent up to ISO 3,200, with 6,400 and 12,800 certainly being serviceable. At ISO 25,600 and 51,200, you’ll notice fairly prominent grain, but sharpness and decent dynamic range remain, especially if you expose correctly (shooting with an EVF helps this).

ISO 102,400 and 204,800 should be reserved for emergencies, but the situations in which you’ll need those are few and far between, if ever. More importantly, at the ISOs the vast majority of photographers use, the a7 III puts out great images. (Note: the caption of each image in the above gallery shows the EXIF data, including ISO.)

Other Features

Stabilization

Simply put, Sony’s in-camera stabilization is good — really good. It’s even better when combined with a lens with OSS (optical steady shot).

I really hate getting out a tripod unless I plan on shooting lots of shots with it over a longer period of time, so the ability to handheld whenever possible is great for me. Such a situation happened above as I was walking around at night and noticed the windmill framed beautifully by the buildings. I knew I wanted some motion, so I decided to see how far I could push the stabilization.

The above shot was at 105mm and a shutter speed of 0.5 s. Following the standard rule, that’s a stabilization benefit of 5.7 stops — absolutely ludicrous. Of course, not all lenses have their own stabilization, but the great thing about in-camera stabilization is that it works with any lens.

Even if you’re adapting 40-year-old glass, you get the benefits.

Silent Shutter

The silent shutter is one of my favorite parts of the camera. Before I started shooting mirrorless, when I shot classical music concerts, I had to use my knowledge of the piece and timing to shoot during loud portions. Unfortunately, this meant I missed a lot of interesting moments, and if it was something like a solo harp piece, I was really up the creek without a paddle.

One thing to note is that due to sensor readout rates, you’ll occasionally see artifacts.

For example, note the curve in the second violinist’s bow in the above shot (taken on the a7R III). In practice, this was a rare problem for me and was far outweighed by the benefit of a truly silent shutter.

Weather-Sealing

In the a7 III’s manual, Sony says: “This camera is designed to be dust and moisture-resistant, but is not waterproof or dust-proof.” In all reasonable shooting situations, I didn’t have a problem. The worst I experienced came just after I shot the above image, when an unexpected wave smashed the rocks to my right and drenched me in 44-degree lake water.

Despite my idiocy, the camera kept shooting without a hitch. I would feel more than comfortable shooting with it in light rain or any of the standard conditions a landscape or wedding photographer might encounter.

Battery Life

The a7 III is rated for 710 shots, and in practice, I exceeded that easily. For reference, the 5D Mark IV is rated for 900 shots and the Nikon D750 is rated for 1,230, while the a7 II was rated for 350 shots.

In other words, Sony has taken a huge step forward with the latest model and brought it into the same general realm as other professional bread-and-butter cameras. In general, the battery lasts long enough that you won’t have the mirrorless anxiety of the past. Wedding photographers in particular should be happy to know they’ll have to swap out batteries less often and worry less about missing shots.

Video

The a7 III video feature set is just as impressive as its still set:

  • Full frame 4K/24p oversampled from 6K
  • 4K/30p oversampled from 5K at 1.2x crop
  • 1080/120p
  • HLG and S-Log3 Gammas

Simply put, the 4K/24p is beautiful: it’s crisp and gives truly impressive detail, and the Log profiles combined with the great sensor allow plenty of file latitude in post.

The 6K oversampling makes for gorgeous footage full of vivid detail, and with the lack of a crop in 24p, you can easily get those ultra-wide shots. If you use 4K/30p, you can expect a slight loss of quality (plus the 1.2x crop factor), but the footage still looks excellent. You also get the normal array of Sony assistants, namely focus peaking and exposure warnings.

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1080p video looks great as well (my thank to Pat Black Visuals for providing this extra footage).

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Though the camera has excellent manual focus aids, if you prefer autofocus in video, Sony provides several options, including Center Lock-on AF, Spot AF, and Wide AF (which seeks out faces), as well as touch focus.

You can also adjust things like AF drive speed and tracking sensitivity for more cinematic focus racks and better tracking depending on the situation. Of course, the in-body stabilization is massively useful for video shooters as well and allows you to get steadier handheld footage. Vloggers may have a bit of trouble since the LCD screen isn’t fully articulating.

You can use the PlayMemories Mobile app on your smartphone as a viewfinder, those this means both your hands will be tied up if you hold the camera in your other hand. This functionality can be very useful, however, if you want to place the camera somewhere before an event, for example, and control it from far away.

What I Liked

  • Ergonomic and control improvements
  • Highly customizable interface
  • Responsive viewfinder
  • Very good battery life
  • Powerful and accurate autofocus system with excellent tracking
  • Helpful manual focus aids
  • Fast burst rate with deep buffer
  • Improved color, particularly skin tones
  • Excellent dynamic range and file latitude
  • Strong high-ISO performance
  • Superb in-body stabilization
  • Good weather-sealing
  • Great quality video
  • Price

What I Didn’t Like

  • Only one card slot is UHS-II
  • LCD screen does not fully articulate
  • AF-On button placement and size
  • AF point can be hard to see
  • Menu system is still confusing

Conclusion and Purchase

While there’s always room for improvement, it’s hard to find serious faults with the camera Sony has made at the price point it sits at. Simply put, the Sony a7 III is the best all-around camera out there, and it’s priced at a truly impressive point.

With its great sensor, excellent autofocus performance, high frame rate, excellent low-light performance, good battery life, and high-quality video output, there are few situations or genres it can’t tackle with ease.

While the crazy frame rate of the a9 and the high resolution of the a7R III are often the talk around photography circles, the a7 III quietly checks almost every box 95 percent of photographers and videographers need checked at a price far below those of its bigger siblings, and for that, it’s a no-brainer to recommend it wholeheartedly.

You can purchase yours here.

The Camera You Should Want: Fstoppers Reviews the Sony a7 III

Sony has been making waves with the a7R III and a9, but a lot of photographers don’t need those crazy levels of resolution and frame rates. Instead, they look for a quality camera that can do almost anything asked of it at a reasonable price. The Sony a7 III may just be that camera, with an awesome feature set, excellent performance, and an aggressively competitive price.

Check out our full review.

Key Specifications

  • 24-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor
  • 693 phase detection AF points with 93 percent frame coverage
  • ISO range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-204,800)
  • UHD 4K 30p with HLG and S-Log3 Gammas (6K oversampling at 24p and 5K oversampling with 1.2x crop at 30p)
  • 2.36-million dot OLED EVF
  • 3-inch, 922,000-dot tilting touchscreen
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot Stabilization
  • Continuous rate: 10 fps
  • Buffer: 89 raw, 177 JPEG
  • Dynamic range: 15 stops
  • Built-In Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Anti-flicker mode
  • Dual SD slots
  • USB 3.0 Type-C port
  • Magnesium alloy chassis with weather-sealing
  • Battery life: 710 shots

Design and Handling

If you’ve used previous generations of the a7 series, you’ll appreciate the ergonomic and control improvements on the a7 III. My first foray into the series was the a7R II, and the difference in the third generation (both the a7R III and a7 III) is noticeable. When asked to sum it up, I told a friend that the third generation feels like an intuitive photographer’s camera as opposed to a computer housing a great sensor.

The a7 III is still a small camera by full frame standards, but Sony’s efforts to refine the design pay off here. I’m 6’2″ and have long fingers, so the mirrorless cameras of yesteryear have always been a bit rough for me to use. Sony increased the size of the grip on the a7 III, and that makes it far more comfortable to hold and shoot with.

The second benefit is that because my hand now conforms naturally to the camera, I can use muscle memory to find controls without removing my eye from the viewfinder, which makes me far quicker when I’m shooting. It also makes for more stabilized shots, as the camera sits deeper in the palm of my hand instead of being gripped by my fingertips. Dials are bigger as well, which helps to map out the geography of the camera in your muscle memory.

Altogether, the ergonomics and controls are a definite step forward and should make most any photographer happy. The only complaint I have is that the AF-ON button is a smidgen small and too close to the viewfinder for my taste. Because I (and many other photographers) use that for back-button autofocus, I need to be able to find it and press it quickly with my eye to the viewfinder, and jogging my thumb over the AF joystick and below the dial makes it a bit difficult not to accidentally activate another function or poke my own face.

It’s not a huge issue once you get used to it, but I’d prefer the button to be a bit bigger and more closer to the outside of the camera. The four custom function buttons are always a welcome addition as well, particularly C1 and C2, which sit in an ideal position directly behind the shutter button. Having all the customization options for the controls is great, as though Sony’s menu system is still a bit confusing, once you get used to it, it offers a high degree of flexibility, and you can really set the camera up to give you maximal access to your specific needs.

For example, I frequently shoot events that require me to be ultra-quiet, and I use my C3 button to toggle the silent shutter on and off. Furthermore, it’s not just the custom function buttons that can be customized; almost any button on the camera can have its functionality changed. If you take the time to set up the camera to your liking, it can become incredibly intuitive in your hands and keep you out of the menu and your eye to viewfinder more often.

The AF joystick is responsive and works well to help you navigate through all those AF points. One small complaint is that the AF point (particularly in spot mode) is a bit difficult to see, and as it zips around the screen, it can be easy to lose. I’d prefer a more contrasty point, but that’s something that can be addressed in a firmware upgrade.

At 2.36 million dots, the viewfinder is a lower resolution version than that found in the a7R III and a9 (3.68 million). And though I noticed a difference compared to my a7R III, the viewfinder isn’t bad. It’s plenty bright enough, and the resolution difference never had an appreciable practical consequence when shooting: I could still frame and track just as accurately, which is what I really care about.

More importantly, it refreshes quite quickly; I had no problem following a darting bird through the 200mm end of a zoom lens, which should make those photographing action quite happy. The a7 III comes with dual card slots, which allows for the degree of redundancy professionals need. Note that only one slot supports faster UHS-II cards, however in practice, the deep buffer never made me run into any issues when recording to both slots.

The larger grip also allows for a bigger battery — much more in fact. Sony claims a 2.2x capacity increase, which brings the a7 III into line with midrange DSLRs.

Autofocus

As mentioned, the a7 III sports 693 phase detection autofocus points that cover a whopping 93 percent of the frame. To say this is compositionally freeing is an understatement.

The system is quite powerful on paper and with that 10 fps continuous rate, one would hope it can keep up. The good news is that in practice, it comes through.

AF-S

In single mode, focusing is quick and accurate. Like other Sony cameras, the a7 offers an array of focusing areas: wide, zone, center, flexible spot, expand flexible spot, and lock-on AF (for tracking in continuous mode).

I typically use flexible spot or expand flexible spot and have had no issues with the camera nailing focus precisely and accurately. In low-light conditions, where mirrorless cameras have traditionally struggled in the past, the a7 was a champ, consistently focusing accurately and with rather impressive speed given the lack of illumination. The AF joystick works well and makes it easy to select one of the hundreds of AF points.

In the above shot, I repeatedly defocused and focused on the lower center fastener of the closest swing.

The a7 focused impressively quickly and accurately without fail, despite the extremely low light levels.

Eye AF

The latest iteration of Eye AF is impressively good. For still or almost-still subjects, you should have no issues with locking on to the subject’s nearest eye, which makes shooting at wide apertures a breeze. With the high customizability of the camera, I simply mapped Eye AF to the AEL button, which I don’t use.

Now, I can slide my thumb over from the AF-ON button and instantly activate it, a tremendous benefit if, for example, you’re shooting a wedding reception and want to capture a quick portrait. Moreover, it works quite well in continuous AF as well. Whereas my hit rate was near 100 percent in the tracking below, it was about 90 percent when I repeated the test with Eye AF, which is remarkable considering the small target and movement.

Furthermore, the camera smartly switched back to tracking the face if it lost the eyes.

AF-C and Tracking

The a7 III really shows off its autofocus prowess here. Having 10 fps in an entry-level full frame camera is great, but if the continuous autofocus cant keep up, there’s not much point. The good news is that the a7 III can keep up and then some.

It has the best autofocus tracking I’ve seen in an entry-level full frame, and with that 10 fps continuous rate, it’s a very viable option for sports and wildlife photographers. In the above GIF, I set the frame rate to match that of the camera, so you’re seeing what I saw in the viewfinder at the same speed. The a7 had no problem tracking her, as you can see below.This test matched my experience with the camera in general.

It tracks subjects well, even if they move erratically across the frame (such as the diving birds I shot over Lake Erie). Combined with a deep buffer and fast continuous frame rate, the a7 III is a viable action camera.

Manual Focus

The a7 III carries with it the rest of the a7 line’s strong manual focus aids, which make it very easy to get a shot if you’re using adapted legacy glass or need to manually focus for whatever reason. While the Eye AF is very good, I also love using the zoom aid, which I have set to zoom in wherever the AF point is located the moment I switch to manual focus and grab the focus ring.

This makes it exceedingly easy to make sure the eyes are tack-sharp in a portrait. Focus peaking also works quite well, making it rather simple to see what areas are in focus. Depending on what you’re shooting, you might prefer one over the other; I generally like the zoom aid as I’m concerned about the same area every time with portraits (the eyes), while landscape shooters and videographers might prefer peaking.

I also shoot classical music concerts with an adapted Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens, and its autofocus motor is loud enough to bother patrons, so I’ll switch on focus peaking or the zoom aid, and in tandem with the silent shutter, my shooting in undetectable. Whichever aid you choose, you should be pleased by the experience.

Burst and Buffer

Sony rates the a7 III at a 10 fps burst rate, which matches what I saw in practice. Of course, a fast burst speed and deep buffer means a higher probability of capturing peak action or the exact moment you want.

For example, in the above shot, I wanted to capture the water as it splashed over the center of the rock outcropping.

The waves were a bit unpredictable that day, so I prefocused and started firing off bursts, and sure enough, I got the shot I wanted. Having that frame rate also helped me capture this bird with its wings in a photogenic position. This is also where the buffer really stepped up.

At 89 raw files, you can shoot for almost 9 seconds before filling it, which is more than enough to cover pretty much any action: sports, birds, or otherwise. Sports and wedding photographers, photojournalists, and more should enjoy the deep buffer. One thing to note is that because only one card slot is UHS-II, if you set the camera to record to both cards, the buffer will clear more slowly.

In practice, I didn’t run into this issue because the buffer was deep enough to keep up with what I was shooting, but if you’re shooting extreme amounts of action, it’s something be aware of.

Image Quality

24 megapixels is near the sweet spot of full frame cameras in terms of balancing resolution and noise performance, and the a7 III handles the balance well. Overall, images are sharp with excellent dynamic range and noise performance, while Sony’s color science continues to improve.

Color

Color is noticeably better than the second generation a7 series cameras. Skin tones in particular look far better, rendering much more organically and taking much less work in post.

People tend to look more full of life with smoother and more pleasing tones. Portraitists should be quite happy with the files that come out of the camera.

In general, colors are vivid and saturated, with pleasing, smooth transitions and a lot of flexibility in post. The should make shooters of any genre happy.

Dynamic Range and File Latitude

Dynamic range remains one of the best aspects of the a7 series, and the a7 III continues to impress.

For landscape shooters, this means less bracketing to keep the sky and earth in check. For portraitists, it means being able to underexpose to protect the highlights and bring the subject back up without perceptible penalty. For me, the real joy of this is the latitude one gains in post-processing.

I can push files much further in the spirit of experimentation or in extreme cases of protecting the highlights (such as a glass wall behind a stage on a sunny day), and the files still look great.

High ISO

High ISO performance is top notch. Files look excellent up to ISO 3,200, with 6,400 and 12,800 certainly being serviceable. At ISO 25,600 and 51,200, you’ll notice fairly prominent grain, but sharpness and decent dynamic range remain, especially if you expose correctly (shooting with an EVF helps this).

ISO 102,400 and 204,800 should be reserved for emergencies, but the situations in which you’ll need those are few and far between, if ever. More importantly, at the ISOs the vast majority of photographers use, the a7 III puts out great images. (Note: the caption of each image in the above gallery shows the EXIF data, including ISO.)

Other Features

Stabilization

Simply put, Sony’s in-camera stabilization is good — really good. It’s even better when combined with a lens with OSS (optical steady shot).

I really hate getting out a tripod unless I plan on shooting lots of shots with it over a longer period of time, so the ability to handheld whenever possible is great for me. Such a situation happened above as I was walking around at night and noticed the windmill framed beautifully by the buildings. I knew I wanted some motion, so I decided to see how far I could push the stabilization.

The above shot was at 105mm and a shutter speed of 0.5 s. Following the standard rule, that’s a stabilization benefit of 5.7 stops — absolutely ludicrous. Of course, not all lenses have their own stabilization, but the great thing about in-camera stabilization is that it works with any lens.

Even if you’re adapting 40-year-old glass, you get the benefits.

Silent Shutter

The silent shutter is one of my favorite parts of the camera. Before I started shooting mirrorless, when I shot classical music concerts, I had to use my knowledge of the piece and timing to shoot during loud portions. Unfortunately, this meant I missed a lot of interesting moments, and if it was something like a solo harp piece, I was really up the creek without a paddle.

One thing to note is that due to sensor readout rates, you’ll occasionally see artifacts.

For example, note the curve in the second violinist’s bow in the above shot (taken on the a7R III). In practice, this was a rare problem for me and was far outweighed by the benefit of a truly silent shutter.

Weather-Sealing

In the a7 III’s manual, Sony says: “This camera is designed to be dust and moisture-resistant, but is not waterproof or dust-proof.” In all reasonable shooting situations, I didn’t have a problem. The worst I experienced came just after I shot the above image, when an unexpected wave smashed the rocks to my right and drenched me in 44-degree lake water.

Despite my idiocy, the camera kept shooting without a hitch. I would feel more than comfortable shooting with it in light rain or any of the standard conditions a landscape or wedding photographer might encounter.

Battery Life

The a7 III is rated for 710 shots, and in practice, I exceeded that easily. For reference, the 5D Mark IV is rated for 900 shots and the Nikon D750 is rated for 1,230, while the a7 II was rated for 350 shots.

In other words, Sony has taken a huge step forward with the latest model and brought it into the same general realm as other professional bread-and-butter cameras. In general, the battery lasts long enough that you won’t have the mirrorless anxiety of the past. Wedding photographers in particular should be happy to know they’ll have to swap out batteries less often and worry less about missing shots.

Video

The a7 III video feature set is just as impressive as its still set:

  • Full frame 4K/24p oversampled from 6K
  • 4K/30p oversampled from 5K at 1.2x crop
  • 1080/120p
  • HLG and S-Log3 Gammas

Simply put, the 4K/24p is beautiful: it’s crisp and gives truly impressive detail, and the Log profiles combined with the great sensor allow plenty of file latitude in post.

The 6K oversampling makes for gorgeous footage full of vivid detail, and with the lack of a crop in 24p, you can easily get those ultra-wide shots. If you use 4K/30p, you can expect a slight loss of quality (plus the 1.2x crop factor), but the footage still looks excellent. You also get the normal array of Sony assistants, namely focus peaking and exposure warnings.

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1080p video looks great as well (my thank to Pat Black Visuals for providing this extra footage).

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Though the camera has excellent manual focus aids, if you prefer autofocus in video, Sony provides several options, including Center Lock-on AF, Spot AF, and Wide AF (which seeks out faces), as well as touch focus.

You can also adjust things like AF drive speed and tracking sensitivity for more cinematic focus racks and better tracking depending on the situation. Of course, the in-body stabilization is massively useful for video shooters as well and allows you to get steadier handheld footage. Vloggers may have a bit of trouble since the LCD screen isn’t fully articulating.

You can use the PlayMemories Mobile app on your smartphone as a viewfinder, those this means both your hands will be tied up if you hold the camera in your other hand. This functionality can be very useful, however, if you want to place the camera somewhere before an event, for example, and control it from far away.

What I Liked

  • Ergonomic and control improvements
  • Highly customizable interface
  • Responsive viewfinder
  • Very good battery life
  • Powerful and accurate autofocus system with excellent tracking
  • Helpful manual focus aids
  • Fast burst rate with deep buffer
  • Improved color, particularly skin tones
  • Excellent dynamic range and file latitude
  • Strong high-ISO performance
  • Superb in-body stabilization
  • Good weather-sealing
  • Great quality video
  • Price

What I Didn’t Like

  • Only one card slot is UHS-II
  • LCD screen does not fully articulate
  • AF-On button placement and size
  • AF point can be hard to see
  • Menu system is still confusing

Conclusion and Purchase

While there’s always room for improvement, it’s hard to find serious faults with the camera Sony has made at the price point it sits at. Simply put, the Sony a7 III is the best all-around camera out there, and it’s priced at a truly impressive point.

With its great sensor, excellent autofocus performance, high frame rate, excellent low-light performance, good battery life, and high-quality video output, there are few situations or genres it can’t tackle with ease.

While the crazy frame rate of the a9 and the high resolution of the a7R III are often the talk around photography circles, the a7 III quietly checks almost every box 95 percent of photographers and videographers need checked at a price far below those of its bigger siblings, and for that, it’s a no-brainer to recommend it wholeheartedly.

You can purchase yours here.

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