Eric L. Woods

I love the Sony A7III. When it comes to digital devices love is a rarely used term if at all. Really like? Yes. Love? Not usually with digital cameras. The Pentax K-1 came close by ticking all of my nostalgia boxes and bringing full-frame digital greatness to my K mount legacy lenses.

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 Screw Mount

But it weighed like a Buick and I prefer mirrorless over DSLR. And with a magic adapter, those K lenses can AF on Sony.

Random

The Leica Q came really close, but it was undone by its high price and fixed lens compromise.

Leica Q (Type 116)

Fujifilm digital bodies pull me in with their film camera like aesthetics and feel…

Fuji La Part 2

…but, similar to my experience with the digital Olympus PEN F, fall short of their film ancestors in the end.

Love is typically reserved for film gear in my photography universe. I have an unhealthy attachment to quite a few film cameras considering the strong likelihood that some will irretrievably pack it in at some point. This attachment is very subjective and has little to do with logic. Some would say it makes no sense at all in this digital age. But I do not listen to them. So what gives with the Sony A7III then?

Well, it is such an objective knock it out of the box on every level performer that it triggers a subjective reaction. Not the prettiest. Not the best ergonomics. But it does not matter since it does everything I ask of it with ease. No missed focus or blown exposure. Excellent RAW files and JPEG colors are greatly improved over previous generations. It has not put a foot wrong yet and is the most dependable performer I have ever used.

Kauffmann Wedding - The Reception

And all of this IBIS, fast/accurate phase detect focusing, 10fps, 4K, touch screen, personalized menu, dual card, day-long battery, low light, lens adapt-a-pa-looza, 24MP full-frame, baby A9 goodness can be yours for less than $2,000 list (Currently on sale for even less). It is currently the bang for buck no-brainer of full-frame camera-dome in my opinion. Some may perform better at a specific task, but most also have a glaring fault elsewhere that knocks them out of serious contention as an all arounder. The A7III is great at many a task while at the same time being very good at near everything else.

So why so much rambling on about the A7III in a post about the a6100?

a6100

Because after a few days with the a6100 and shooting it back to back with the A7II and A7III I now understand what I have in my hands.

Sony had me thinking it was an upgraded a6000. It is actually a baby A7III…

…sans IBIS, 2 card slots, and larger battery.

But crucially also one that costs well more than a thousand dollars less. If Sony had opened with that description I would have saved myself time and money and bought one day one.

Please note that none of those missing items take away from the crowning achievement of the A7III. Its insane AF. I just took a third trip down Fujifilm memory lane and what ended up upsetting the apple cart is AF. The Fujifilm cameras were not bad at all. Quite good actually. But, like most systems I know of, they fall behind Sony’s unimpeachable AF performance.

From now on I will stop trying to emulate the film experience with digital. It is simply impossible. When I want that experience I will grab a film camera.

GW690III

With digital AF is king.

Through the viewfinder and navigating the menus, it is functionally an A7III with a crop. All other differences/omissions, except perhaps IBIS, only come into play outside of the shooting experience.

Compared to the A7III

  • Minuses
    • One card slot.
    • No IBIS.
      • To my surprise, this has not bothered me nearly as much as I thought it would have. Perhaps because I regularly shoot film at or less than ISO 800? Maybe its blindingly fast AF helps offset motion blur due to handshake? Perhaps my insistence on shooting film cameras in low light conditions when I probably should not has conditioned me to use handheld techniques that benefit me with digital?

Rollei RPX400 w/ Contax G1

    • For my purposes not a lot of good, small APS-C glass. Better lenses tend to be large APS-C lenses. The two pancakes I have tried (20mm f/2.8 and pancake PZ) and quickly sold are definite weak spots in the lineup. I really wish they would release an improved v2 of their pancake 20mm or release a new one. The current pales compared to my two favorites, the Samsung (Yes, Samsung. I still own an NX300 just to use this lens occasionally.) 30mm f/2 and the Fujifilm 27mm f/2.8, whose only crime is not working on Sony. More on this below, but thankfully third party glass has come to the rescue.
    • Challenging ergonomics for those with beef mitts like myself due to small camera size.
    • Meh battery performance.
  • Same as
    • Everything else.
      • Touch screen
      • 4K
      • 11fps slightly better than 10fps.
      • Snappy performance from the latest processor.
      • AF speed and accuracy.
      • etc…
  • Pluses
    • The small size that challenges beef mitts also makes it much more portable than the A7 series.
    • Shares mount with and expands the functionality of my existing full-frame lenses. I love the way I can use this to expand the usefulness of my 70-200mm f/2.8 to an effective 105-300mm without losing light like I would with the nearly as expensive as an a6100 Sony 1.4x teleconverter. (Never could make sense on why someone would buy the 1.4x converter when you could buy a whole camera and get a 1.5x crop. The 2x converter makes a bit more sense… Wait a minute. Could I use a 2x converter with an a6100 for an effective 210-600mm? Eesh. Walking away slowly from that rabbit hole.)
    • Built-in flash.
    • Value.

The real surprise for me was how the a6100 cleans the A7IIs clock. Costing a few hundred less the a6100 really showed the age of the A7II.

Compared to the A7II

  • Minuses
    • No IBIS.
      • Again. Not as big of an issue in use as I thought it would be.
    • Lack of good, small glass APS-C glass as listed above.
      • Using small Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8 FE full frame FE lens instead until Sony coughs up a v2 pancake that is sharp wide open. Your move Sony.

a6100

  • Same as
    • One card slot.
      • Omission more easily forgiven on the diminutive a6100.
    • Meh battery performance.
    • Though the A7II camera itself is more in hand friendly due to its size it lacks the A7IIIs handling upgrades that the a6100 received like a touch screen and My Menu so I am calling ergonomics a wash.
  • Pluses
    • Shared mount expanded lens functionality advantages listed above.
    • Built-in flash.
    • Focusing. Here was the biggest surprise. Back to back the a6100’s AF performance absolutely massacres the A7II. And the A7II by itself is not bad. I would place it above many competing brands. Currently sitting at hundreds less I was surprised at how well the a6100 performs which leads me to…
    • Value. I would be hard-pressed to choose between the A7II and a6100 if I had to regardless of price. So when considering the fact that the a6100 costs hundreds less it makes for a great value. Even with a crop sensor and no IBIS there is a great chance that I would choose the a6100. Focusing is that good.

As a result, my use case has shifted for the three bodies. The A7III sits on top of the food chain as the best performance/capabilities/value champion for the foreseeable future. The a6100 was going to mainly be my everyday knock around body. The A7II used to sit behind the A7III, but the second body will now be the a6100. This leaves the A7II mainly as an A7III backup in the event of an A7III failure or when a second full-frame is specifically needed.

This hints at one of the things I really like about Sony’s model tier strategy. Unlike other companies, they do not tend to punish their customers for not buying their most expensive bodies. Instead of stripping desirable features from lower-tier bodies Sony tends to make base models really good and upper-tier models even more awesome.

For example, I would like an A9 because it is the top model or an A7RIII or Air7RIV because more MP than I will ever need. But the A7III shares enough goodness with all of these cameras, even down to its design and ergonomics, even sharing a grip with two of them, that the A7III does not feel like a compromise.

As an example look at the refreshed a6xxx line. Yes, the a6400 and a6600 offer more features and are definitely worth their asking price, but did Sony remove anything that hinders your ability to capture wonderful images from the a6100? No.

The a6100 is a great little camera. I am all in for Sony (digital) now.

Samples below and an ongoing album here.

a6100

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-ELW

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