Released five years after the original A7, the Sony A7III marks the third generation of Sony’s ‘entry’ level full-frame mirrorless camera series. Based around an updated 24.2-megapixel back-illuminated full-frame sensor, the A7 III punches well above its weight with a rich feature including a 693 phase-detect autofocus system, 10 frames per second, internal 4k video, and silent operation. With an attached price tag of $1,999, the A7 III might be the most complete entry level full frame camera model on the market. In this article, I will provide information on how to best set up your A7 III and explain each of the important settings.
Top Dials and Buttons
The body is nearly identical to that of the A7RIII and only upon a close examination do physical differences between the two models become apparent.
The top left surface lacks any physical controls while the upper-right surface of the A7III is like previous models, with a mode dial (which lacks a locking mechanism and swaps three Custom modes of the A7RIII for a Scene mode), a shutter release with an ON/OFF power collar, a dedicated exposure compensation dial, and a pair of custom buttons.
The camera mode dial is where you set the main camera operating modes. The options are as follows:
- P: Program
- A: Aperture Priority
- S: Shutter Priority
- M: Manual
- 1: User Set
- 2: User Set
- SCN: Scene
- Auto: Full Auto
Of these different modes, there are three which I find very useful: Manual, Aperture Priority, and Memory Recall (labeled as 1 and 2). I usually work in Manual Mode as this gives me the most control over the camera settings. This mode is made a whole lot easier to use on a camera such as the A7 III due to the electronic viewfinder which enables you to see the exposure in live time. The Memory Recall (MR) is a feature enables you to store specific camera settings for different situations and assign them to one of the two Memory Recall options on the dial. This is very useful for quickly changing the camera to specific pre-defined settings.
The second dial is the exposure compensation dial. This dial is used in conjunction with the Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Program modes and allows you to adjust the exposure manually by dialing either a negative (darken) or a positive (brighten) value. You can go from -3 to +3 on the dial.
The C1 and C2 function buttons next to the mode dial are by default used for setting White Balance (C1) and Focus Area (C2). Since I mainly shoot in Manual Mode, I like to change C1 to ISO while I keep C2 on the default of Focus Area. Further down in the article, I will walk you through the process of customizing the different custom buttons on the A7 III.
The back of the camera is identical to the A7RIII, which means that it is lightyears ahead of the A7II, which it replaces. First, the Custom 3 button now joins the Menu button on the left side to make room for a repositioned movie record button which moves next to the EVF. The C3 button is programmable, just like the other custom buttons, and by default is set to change the camera’s focus mode (AF-S, AF-A, AF-C, DMF and MF). I dislike the automatic EVF/LCD switching on the camera as I find the sensor in charge of automatically switching between them too jumpy. The best solution is to have a directly accessed manual two-way (EVF/LCD) toggle button and this is where the C3 button comes in. Later I will show you how to change this in the Custom Menu. The menu button right next to the C3 button is used for accessing the camera menu and is where you make changes to many of the camera settings.
Sony has moved the video recording button compared to the A7II, and it is now much more accessible while hand-holding the camera. This button shuffle also permits for more room on the right-hand side where there are two very welcome additions of dedicated AF-ON and AEL buttons. The AF-ON button is an essential feature for photographers wishing to employ back-button focus techniques and I personally always set my cameras for back-button focusing. The AEL button is useful for locking exposure.
Below the AF-On button and to the right of the display is a new multi-selector joystick. The joystick grants immediate control over moving the cameras autofocus points. The new AF joystick replaces a great source of frustration on previous Sony mirrorless cameras and gone are the days of endless clicks and menu searches when trying to move an AF point.
Further below is a multi-functional selector wheel which allows for quick scrolling through menus, quick exposure changes, as well as access to specific functions by pressing each of the four corners.
There are two extra buttons beneath the multi-functional navigation dial in the form of the Playback and C4 / Trash buttons. Playback enables you to play back images on the LCD and the C4 / Trash button can be used to delete unwanted images during playback. When the camera is not in Playback mode, the C4 serves as another programmable function button.
There is also the Fn (Function) button, which is important enough to warrant its own section:
The Fn button is a useful button that pulls up a mini menu of its own. You can then make quick changes to the most important camera settings such as ISO, White Balance, Drive and Focus modes. Although you can modify and customize the function menu to your liking through the main menu, I keep mine set to default organization.
The settings available in the Fn menu are as follows:
- Drive Mode: The A7III lacks a dedicated Drive Mode Dial (Like on the A9), which means that you need to change drive mode via the Fn menu or to assign this function to one of the custom buttons. I mostly keep mine set to “Single Shooting” and change to “Continious Shooting” when I shoot action or I photograph handheld in low light to help increase my chances of getting a sharp shot in a burst. I sometimes switch to Self-Timer when photographing on a tripod to avoid camera vibrations.
- Focus Mode: The default “AF-A” (Automatic AF, which is a combination of AF-S and AF-C modes) should work well for most scenarios, but if you need to switch to continuous or manual focus, this is where you do it from.
- Focus Area: This mode allows you to select one of the different focus area types such as Wide, Zone, Flexible Spot (small, medium and large) along with Expanded Flexible Spot and Lock-On AF. The choice of which focus area to select depends on the subject. For tracking moving subjects I found that Lock-On Focus works beautifully on the A7III, but I also used Zone and different Flexible Spot variants while taking photos of still subjects such as landscapes.
- Exposure Compensation: 0.0, I generally use Manual Mode and so I don’t often need to use exposure compensation. If I am in Aperture Priority I will use the dedicated exposure compensation dial.
- ISO: I tend to like selecting my ISO value, but you can also employ Sony’s excellent “ISO Auto” so that the camera automatically chooses the ISO for you. The “ISO Auto” feature works very well with the Sony and has all the advanced features available on Canon and Nikon DSLRs. I usually leave Minimum ISO at 100, while setting Maximum ISO to 6400. While you can only see the minimum and maximum ISO options within the ISO setting, you can also navigate to the camera menu and set the minimum shutter speed in ISO Auto mode (ISO AUTO Min. SS option in Exposure1 sub-menu).
- Metering Mode: Multi, but sometimes I use spot metering with more difficult subjects.
- Flash Mode: AutoFlash Comp: 0.0
- White Balance: AWB (Auto White Balance)
- Creative Style: Standard. Don’t bother with creative styles, as they are irrelevant when shooting in RAW.
- Quality: RAW
- Select Rec. Media: Slot 1. Since the A7III is equipped with two SD card slots, you can choose which SD card to write to by default.
- Shoot Mode: Manual
Now let’s explore the A7 III’s menu so you can see which settings we recommend:
Menu1 (Camera Icon 1)
Tab 1/14: Quality/Image Size1
- Image Quality: RAW
- RAW File Type: Compressed and Uncompressed. Unfortunately, Sony has yet to implement a “Lossless Compressed” option, so you will have to live with either losing some image quality in your RAW files by choosing “Compressed” or end up with huge files by choosing “Uncompressed RAW”. Personally, I like to shoot “Uncompressed”, as I want to make the maximize the quality of the files and ensure that I have the most latitude when I post-process. Unlike on the A9, the burst rate does not drop when shooting in Uncompressed RAW vs. Compressed RAW.
- JPEG Quality: Extra fine. Not relevant for RAW.
- JPEG Image Size: L:24M.
- Aspect Ratio: 3:2
- APS-C/Super 35mm: Leave on default of Auto.
Tab 2/14: Quality/Image Size2
- Long Exposure NR: OFF, greyed out in RAW
- High ISO NR: Default (-), grayed out in RAW
- Color Space: AdobeRGB. While color space does not matter for RAW files, I use AdobeRGB because it gives a more accurate histogram to determine the correct exposure (since the camera shows histogram based on camera-rendered JPEG image, even if you shoot exclusively in RAW).
- Lens Comp: Irrelevant when shooting RAW
- Shading Comp.: Auto
- Aber. Comp.: Auto
- Distortion Comp.: Off
Tab 3/14: Shoot Mode/Drive
- Scene Selection: Greyed out unless set via mode dial
- Self-timer Type: Self-Timer (Single)
- Bracket Settings:
- Bracket Type: Cont. Bracket
- Selftimer during Brkt: 2 Sec
- Bracket order: -> 0 -> +
- Memory Recall: Only available when MR 1 or MR2 mode is selected on the camera mode dial on top
- Memory: Allows quickly saving current settings to a memory bank. An excellent way to create different presets for different shooting conditions.
- Memory Select Media: Slot 1 or 2
Tab 4/14: Shoot Mode/Drive2
- Reg Cust Shoot Set
- Recall Custom hold 1 through 3: An advanced menu option that lets you create up to three Custom Hold presets, which can be assigned to different buttons on the camera. Then, you can instantly override your camera settings with defaults you set ahead of time. You have to choose which settings to include or exclude from this override by selecting items from a list: Shoot Mode, Aperture, Shutter Speed, Drive Mode, Exposure Comp., ISO, Metering Mode, Focus Mode, Focus Area, and AF-On (whether or not to engage AF). This allows you to create three wholly unique recall options with different settings and assign each one to any number of buttons on the A7 III.
Tab 5/14: AF1
- Focus Mode: AF-S, AF-A, AF-C, DMF and MF
- Priority Set in AF-S: Balanced Emphasis
- Priority Set in AF-C: Balanced Emphasis
- Focus Area: Expanded Flexible Spot
- Wide: Camera chooses AF over all sensor
- Zone: Camera offers a cluster of focus points
- Center: Spot in Center of the Frame
- Flexible Spot (S,M,L): Spot in Center of the Frame
- Expandable Flexible Spot
- Lock-on AF: Expand Flexible Spot Tracks Area Object Tracking
- Focus Settings: Allows moving and changing focus points
- V/H AF Area: AF Point + AF Area. This allows you to store focus points by orientation, a useful feature when switching from landscape to portrait mode.
Tab 6/13 AF2
- AF Illuminator: Auto
- Center Lock on AF: Off
- Set. Face Prty (priority) in AF: On/Off
- AF Track Sens: 3 (standard) If you are photographing faster moving subjects using Lock-On AF, I recommend setting to a faster setting like 4.
- AF System: Default
- AF w/ shutter: On or Off depending on if you employ Back Button Focus. If you want to use the back button focusing (AF-ON) as I do, set it to Off and use the AF-ON button on the back of the camera.
Tab 7/14: AF3
- Pre-AF: Off
- Eye-Start AF: Off
- AF Area Regist: Off – Allows you to save a focus point to a particular area of the frame
- Del. Reg. AF Area: Allows you to delete the registered AF point.
- AF Area Auto Clear: Off
- Disp. Cont. AF area: On
Tab 8/14: AF4
- AF Micro Adj: For calibrating a lens
Tab 9/14: Exposure1
- Exposure Comp: 0.0
- Reset EV Comp: Reset
- ISO: Your selected ISO value or ISO AUTO
- ISO Auto Min SS: Standard, but you can change it to “Fast” or “Faster”.
- Metering Mode: Multi or Center
- Face Prty in Mlti Mtr: On
Tab 10/14: Exposure Mode2
- Spot Metering Point: Focus Point Link
- Exposure step: 0.3EV
- AEL w/shutter: Auto
- Exposure Std. Adjust: Only use if you understand the function and its purpose
Tab 11/14: Flash
- Flash Mode: Flash Off
- Flash Comp: 0.0
- Exp.comp.set: Ambient&Flash
- Wireless Flash: Off
- Red Eye Reduction: Off
Tab 12/14: Color/WB/Img. Processing
- White Balance: Auto or desired White Balance depending on the light.
- Priority Set in AWB: Standard
- DRO/Auto HDR: Off
- Creative Style: Standard or Neutral
- Picture Effect: Off, greyed out in RAW
- Picture Profile: Off
Tab 13/14: Focus Assist1
- Focus Magnifier: Used for zooming in while focusing
- Focus Magnif. Time: No Limit
- Initial Focus Mag.: x4.7
- AF in Focus Mag: On
- MF Assist: On – a neat feature that automatically zooms in when you move the focus ring in manual focus mode. I set it to Off if I feel I can manual focus without any assisting.
- Peaking Setting: Off
- Peaking Color: Red, but you can experiment with any color you feel best suits you.
Tab 14/14: Face Detection/Shoot Assist
- Anti Flicker Shoot: Off
- Face Registration
- Regist Faces Priority: On
Menu 2 (Camera Icon 2)
Tab 1/9: Movie1
- Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority, greyed out if not in Movie Mode
- Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority, greyed out if not in S&Q mode
- File Format: XAVC S 4K
- Record Setting: 24p 60m
- S&Q Settings:
- Record Setting: 24p
- Frame Rate: 120 fps
- Proxy Recording: Off
Tab 2/9: Movie2
- AF Drive Speed: Normal
- AF Track Sens: Standard
- Auto Slow Shut: On
- Audio Recording: On
- Audio Rec Level: 25 (change depending on needs)
- Audio Level Display: On
Tab 3/9: Movie 3
- Audio Out Timing: Live
- Wind Noise Reduct: On
- Marker Display: Off
- Marker Settings: All Off
- Video Light Mode: Power Link
- Movie w/ shutter: Off
Tab 4/9: Shutter/Steady Shot
- Shutter Type: Electronic Shut. On if you want silent shooting
- e-Front Curtain Shut: On
- Release w/o Lens: Enable
- Release w/o Card: Disable
- SteadyShot: On
- SteadyShot Settings:
- SteadyShot Adjust.: Auto
- SteadyS. Focal Len.: Grayed out in Auto
Tab 5/9: Zoom
- Zoom: Default (-), grayed out in RAW
- Zoom Setting: Optical zoom only
- Zoom Ring Rotate: Default
Tab 6/9: Display/Auto Review1
- DISP Button:
- Monitor: “No Disp Info”, “Histogram”, “Level” and “For viewfinder” checked. Display All Info is too cluttered and Graphic Display occupies too much of the screen.
- Finder: “No Disp. Info”, “Histogram” and “Level” checked.
- FINDER/MONITOR: Monitor Manual – I am not a big fan of the Auto switching between the monitor and viewfinder. I set the C3 button to switch between them when it is clicked.
- Finder Frame Rate: Standard
- Zebra Setting: Off
- Grid Line: Rule of 3rds Grid
- Exposure Set. Guide: Off
- Live View Display: Setting Effect ON
Tab 7/9: Display/Auto Review2
- Cont. Shoot. Length: Not Displayed
- Auto Review: Off
Tab 8/9: Custom Operation1
- Custom Key (Shoot.) –
- Control Wheel: Not set
- Custom Button 1: ISO, given that I use Manual Shooting Mode, I prefer to have quick access to the ISO setting
- Custom Button 2: Focus Area
- Custom Button 3: Finder/Monitor Sel.
- Custom Button 4: Not Set
- Multi-Slc Center Btn: Recall Custom hold 2 (I set Custom Hold 2 for birds-in-flight scenarios. To do this I set it to Manual Mode, 1/2000 of a second shutter speed, F/5.6, Auto ISO, Wide Focus Area. Everything else is left unchanged)
- Center Button: Recall Custom hold 3
- Left Button: Not Set
- Right Button: ISO
- Down Button: Not Set
- AEL Button: Recall Custom hold 1 (I set my Custom Hold 1 for panning and motion blur scenarios. To do this, I set it to Shutter Priority Mode, 1/25 of a second shutter speed, Auto ISO and my desired focus mode. Everything else is left unchanged).
- AF-ON Button: AF On
- Focus Hold Button: Focus Hold
- Custom Key (Video): The custom buttons can be set to behave different when recording videos on the camera. I personally don’t care for these, so I leave them at their default values
- Custom Key (PB): The custom buttons can be set to behave differently when playing back images on the camera. I personally don’t care for these, so I leave them at their default values
- Function Menu Set.: Default, this is what controls what the menu looks like when you press the “Fn” button on the back of the camera
- Dial Setup: This is to control what the dials do in Manual Mode. Front Dial SS (Shutter Speed) and Back Dial F/no. (Controls for aperture)
- Av/Tv Roate: Normal
Tab 9/9: Custom Operation2
- Dial Ev Comp: Off
- MOVIE Button: Always
- Lock Operational Parts: Off
- Audio Signals: Off or All depending on your preference
Tab 1/3: Network1, Tab2/3: Network2
Personally, I don’t care much for this menu as it deals with image transfer to your smartphone. To save battery I recommend turning Airplane Mode to “on”.
Playback (Play Icon)
Tab 1/3: Playback1, Tab 2/3: Playback2 and Tab 3/3: Playback3
- Display Rotation: Off
- Select PB Media: Slot 1 or 2, selects from which card slot to playback media.
Setup (Toolbox Icon)
Tab 1/7: Setup1
- Monitor Brightness: Manual
- Viewfinder Bright: Auto
- Finder Color Temp: 0
- Gamma Disp. Assist: Off
- Volume Settings: 5
- Delete confirm: “Cancel” first
Tab 2/7: Setup2
- Display Quality: Standard
- Pwr Save Start Time: 1 Min
- Auto Pwr OFF Temp: Standard
- NTSC/PAL Selector: Don’t touch unless you know what you are doing
- Cleaning Mode: Cleans camera sensor
- Touch Operation: Off or On (change depending on your requirements)
Tab 3/7: Setup3
- Touch Panel/Pad: Touch Panel Only
- Touch Pad Settings: –
- TC/UB Settings: Don’t touch unless you know what you are doing.
- Demo Mode: Greyed Out
- Remote Control: Off
- HDMI Settings:
- HDMI Resolution: Auto
- 24p/60p Output: 60p
- HDMI Info. Display: On
- TC Output: Off
- REC Control: –
- CTRL FOR HDMI: On
Tab 4/7: Setup4
- 4K Output Sel: –
- USB Connection: Auto
- USB LUN Setting: Multi
- USB Power Supply: On
- PC Remote Settings: PC Only
- Language: English
Tab 5/7 Setup5
- Date/Time Setup: Set up Date/Time
- Area Setting: Set up Timezone
- Copyright Info: For adding copyright info metadata to images
- Format: for formatting the SD memory card in one of the card slots
- File Number: Series
- Set File Name: DSC
Tab 6/7: Setup6
- Select REC Media: Slot 1 or Slot 2
- Select REC Folder: Greyed out
- New Folder: Unimportant
- Folder Name: Standard Form
- Recover Image DB: Unimportant
- Display Media Info: Shows what’s on the card
Tab 7/7: Setup7
- Version: Displays firmware version
- Setting Reset: Will reset the camera settings or reinitialize the camera
My Menu (Star)
If you have certain menu options that you access often, this is where you can add them. I put Focus Setting, Focus Area and AF System in here for quick access.
That covers the camera settings you need to know in order to set your Sony A7III properly! If you have any questions about the suggestions above, feel free to ask in a comment below.