Sony’s third generation mirrorless camera, the A7R III, has been quite a popular choice ever since it came out among photographers who use the Sony camera system. The Sony A7-series cameras have a myriad of different settings and buttons, which can be confusing to understand, especially for first-time Sony users. So, in this article, we will explain the complex menu system on the A7R III and provide our recommendations for every camera setting. Although these are just our personal recommendations – and, yes, there are other good ways to set the Sony A7R III – the settings below are a great place to start if you are trying to get a hang of this camera.
Before going into the camera menu, let’s first get started with the exterior controls. The Sony A7R III has a lot of menu options, but there are some things that you can only control with the external controls.
1) Camera Mode Dial, C1 and C2
Similar to the Sony A7R II, the Sony A7R III has a rather simple layout on the top plate. Aside from the hot shoe, there are only two dials and two function buttons you will be dealing with.
The first dial close to the flash unit is the camera mode dial. This is where you set the main camera operating mode, whether it is Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual or one of the Auto or Scene modes. As explained in my understanding camera modes article, I usually shoot in Aperture Priority mode, since it gives me control over the most important camera setting – aperture. The camera does the rest of the exposure calculation work quite well.
This leaves three modes that I find to be the most useful on the A7R III: Aperture Priority, Manual and Memory Recall. Although the Memory Recall (MR) mode is targeted at more advanced photographers that want to store settings for different situations, I would encourage every A7R III owner to explore this mode, since it can be very useful when changing from one shooting scenario to another. All you have to do is access “Shooting Menu 7” in the camera menu, then save your settings in one of the three memory banks.
If you don’t want to go that route yet, I would encourage you to try using the Aperture Priority mode instead of the Program Mode, Auto or Scene modes.
The second dial is the exposure compensation dial. This one is used in situations when the camera does not yield a proper exposure in modes like Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Program and you want 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. Since this dial does not have a lock feature like the camera mode dial, you might sometimes end up with overexposed or underexposed shots, so don’t forget to take a look at the dial every once in a while, particularly when you take the camera out of your camera bag.
Similar to Nikon DSLRs, the Sony A7R III is equipped with two function dials on the front and the rear of the camera. While these two dials are primarily used for adjusting the exposure during shooting, their functionality can change depending on what you are doing. For example, when you are in either Manual modes, the rear dial will adjust the shutter speed, while the front dial will adjust the aperture (default behavior, which you can flip through the menu). In Aperture Priority mode, both dials will adjust the aperture, whereas in Shutter Priority mode the functionality of both will shift to adjusting the shutter speed. When playing back images, both dials can be used for moving between images – you get the idea.
The C1 and C2 function buttons next to the camera mode dial by default are used for setting White Balance (C1) and Focus Area (C2). Personally, I like keeping C2 for changing the focus area, but I change C1 to “Focus Magnifier”, so that I can instantly zoom in to the scene and verify focus accuracy. This way, I also subconsciously know that the two custom buttons on the camera are used for focus-related operations. Further down in this article, I will walk you through the process of customizing the different custom buttons.
2) Rear Buttons
The rear of the Sony A7R III is a lot more functional compared to other parts of the camera, thanks to a number of different navigation and function buttons. Just like other Sony mirrorless cameras, the A7R III is definitely “right-heavy” on the back, with most of the buttons located to the right of the camera LCD. The C3 button located to the left of the electronic viewfinder is programmable just like the other custom buttons and by default is set to change camera’s focus mode (AF-S, AF-A, AF-C, DMF and MF). I keep it at its default value and program the three main custom buttons to focus-related tasks. The Menu button right next to the C3 button is obviously used for accessing the camera menu – that’s where you make changes to the camera. Here is how the back of the camera looks:
Sony moved the video recording button from the side of the camera right next to the viewfinder, which is a welcome change, as it makes it easier to access the button when hand-holding the camera. But the biggest, and the most welcome two additions on the A7R III that weren’t there on previous generation Sony A7-series cameras are the dedicated AF-ON and AEL buttons that are used for back-button focusing (useful when using the focus and recompose technique) and for locking the exposure. It is so much nicer to have these buttons instead of the AF/MF and AEL switch that Sony has been previously using! Anyway, I personally always set my cameras for back-button focusing and I will walk you through the process below.
Another excellent addition is a dedicated joystick that can be used for quickly moving the camera’s focus point. This has been one of my biggest frustrations with Sony mirrorless cameras, since there was no quick way to move focus points before. This one button solves the problem!
2.1) Fn / Function Button
The Fn (Function) button is a very useful button that you will be using to make quick changes to the most important camera settings such as ISO, White Balance, Drive and Focus modes, etc. Although you can modify and customize the function menu when the button is pressed, I rarely touch the default values. Let’s go through these real quick:
Drive Mode: I mostly keep it at “Single Shooting”, but 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: Flexible Spot: M. This mode works great for selective focusing. Unfortunately, by default, there is no quick way to change the focus point. But don’t worry, there is a way to set the center button of the rear rotary dial (the one below the “Fn” button), so that when you press the button, you will be able to easily move the focus points. We will set this up later on in the camera menu
Exposure Compensation: 0.0, I prefer to use the rear bottom button on the rotary dial for accessing exposure compensation instead.
ISO: Set this one to “ISO Auto”, so that the camera chooses ISO automatically for you. The “ISO Auto” feature works really well and has all the features of modern Auto ISO implementations found on Nikon and Canon DSLRs. I usually leave Minimum ISO at 100, while setting Maximum ISO to 3200 – anything above ISO 3200 is too noisy for my taste. While you can only see the minimum and maximum ISO options within this 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). By default, the camera will set the shutter speed using the reciprocal rule, but you can change values from “Slower” all the way to “Faster”, as well as being able to set a particular shutter speed you want to stick to.
Metering Mode: Multi, but sometimes I change to Spot metering when a situation calls for it (see my article on metering modes)
Flash Mode: Auto
Flash 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.
Prioritize Rec. Media: Slot 1. Since the A7R III is equipped with two SD card slots, you can choose which SD card to write to by default.
Shoot Mode: Aperture Priority (changes depending on your shooting mode)
2.2) Navigation and Other Rear Buttons
The multi-functional navigation dial on the back of the camera is very useful and can be used to navigate through the camera menu, make quick exposure changes, as well as access specific functions by pressing each of the four corners. “DISP” switches between different views on the camera LCD; “ISO” allows changing camera ISO; the left side is used to access camera drive mode, while the bottom side can be configured for accessing other functions.
There are two extra buttons beneath the multi-functional navigation dial – Playback and C4 / Trash. Playback is obviously 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. While I prefer to use the C4 button as a “Focus Magnifier” I ended up setting the C4 button to “Metering Mode” (to toggle between the different metering modes). Unfortunately, Sony currently has a bug in its firmware – if you set “Focus Magnifier” to other buttons, you can press the buttons several times for zooming in during MF operation – the C4 / Trash button does nothing when pressing it several times.
3) Camera Menu
Unfortunately, Sony’s menu system is a big mess and it is far from being user-friendly or intuitive, even in the third iteration. Sony tried to organize the menu and it made it even worse in my opinion, with an awfully high number of menus and sub-menus to access. As you will see below, there are lots of menu options to go through! Even the menu system of Olympus cameras, which I find to be rather complex to navigate through, is more organized in comparison. Let’s go through each menu setting.
3.1) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 1, Quality/Image Size1)
- File Format: RAW
- RAW File Type: Compressed. Unfortunately, there is no “Lossless Compressed” option, so you will either have to live with losing some image quality in RAW files by choosing “Compressed”, or you will end up with huge “Uncompressed” RAW files. Personally, I change mine to “Uncompressed”, as I want to take a full advantage of the camera. But for most photographers out there, Compressed will work just fine and they probably won’t be able to tell the difference between the two.
- JPEG Quality: Extra fine. Not relevant for RAW files anyway, but if you occasionally shoot JPEG, might as well get the highest quality.
- JPEG Image Size: L:42M. Keep at the highest resolution, but again, this is only when shooting JPEG instead of RAW.
- Aspect Ratio: 3:2
- APS-C/Super 35mm: Don’t change, only relevant for cropping images.
3.2) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 2, Quality/Image Size2)
- Long Exposure NR: On
- High ISO NR: Default (-), grayed out in RAW
- Color Space: Although color space does not matter for RAW files, I use AdobeRGB because it gives a slightly 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.: Off
Chro. Aber. Comp.: Off
Distortion Comp.: Off
3.3) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 3, Shoot Mode/Drive1)
- Drive Mode: Single Shooting
- Bracket Settings:
Selftimer during Brkt: 2 Sec
Bracket order: – -> 0 -> +
- Px. Shift Multi Shoot.: Off. This is a new setting that allows the A7R III to shift pixels in sequence in order to capture a very high resolution image. Unfortunately, the camera does not have a way to create a single image and you will need to use either Sony’s software or other third party tools to create a single image from pixel shift file sequences.
- Memory Recall: Only available when when MR 1, MR2 or MR 3 mode is selected on the top of the camera.
- Memory: Allows quickly saving current settings to a memory bank. An excellent way to create different presets for different shooting conditions. I usually toggle between two presets – for Landscapes and People. For landscapes, I set camera mode to Aperture Priority, Manual Focus, ISO to 100, turn Auto ISO off and turn off other irrelevant settings such as face registration. For portraits, I set the camera to AF-A focus mode, ISO to Auto, and tweak other relevant settings. You can create up to three different presets.
- Select Media: Slot 1, for selecting which memory card to write to.
3.4) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 4, Shoot Mode/Drive2)
- Reg Cust Shoot Set: An advanced menu option that allows creating up to three Custom Hold presets, which can be assigned to different buttons on the camera. I personally don’t use this feature, but it could come in handy for making quick changes to the camera without having to switch to different camera modes.
3.5) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 5, AF1)
- Focus Mode: Automatic AF (AF-A)
- Priority Set in AF-S: Balanced Emphasis
- Priority Set in AF-C: Balanced Emphasis
- Focus Area: Flexible Spot
- Focus Settings: Allows moving and changing focus points
- Swt. V/H AF Area: AF Point Only. This setting allows storing focus points by orientation, a useful feature when switching from landscape to portrait mode.
3.6) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 6, AF2)
- AF Illuminator: Auto
- Center Lock-on AF: Off
- Set. Face Prty in AF:
Face Priority in AF: On
Face Dtct Frame Dsp: Off
- AF Track Sens: 3 (Standard)
- AF System: Default (-), works only in combination with some lenses
- AF w/ shutter: On – if you want to use the back button focusing (AF-ON) to focus and recompose, set it to Off and use the AF-ON button on the back of the camera, as explained earlier.
3.7) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 7, AF3)
- Pre-AF: Off
- Eye-Start AF: Off – do not enable this, as it could drain the battery. This setting will automatically detect if you are using the viewfinder and try to focus. And if you put it against your body, the camera will indefinitely try to acquire focus.
- AF Area Regist.: Off – allows saving a focus point to a particular area of the frame. You will need to program a button to recall the focus point.
- Del. Reg. AF Area: If you want to delete the registered AF point.
- AF Area Auto Clear: Off
- Disp. cont. AF area: On
3.8) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 8, AF4)
- Phase Detect. Area: Off
- AF Micro Adj: Off, don’t do this unless you want to calibrate a lens
3.9) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 9, Exposure1)
- Exposure Comp: 0.0
- Reset EV Comp.: Reset
- ISO: ISO AUTO
- ISO AUTO Min. SS: Standard, but you can change it to “Fast” or “Faster” if you have shaky hands
- Metering Mode: Multi
- Face Prty in Mlti Mtr: On
3.10) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 10, Exposure2)
- Spot Metering Point: Focus Point Link
- Exposure Step: 0.3EV
- AEL w/ shutter: Auto
- Exposure Std. Adjust: Don’t touch this unless you know what you are doing
3.11) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 11, Flash)
- Flash Mode: Fill-flash
- Flash Comp. 0.0
- Exp.comp.set: Ambient&flash
- Wireless Flash: Off
- Red Eye Reduction: Off
3.12) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 12, Color/WB/Img.Processing1)
- White Balance: Auto
- Priority Set in AWB: Standard
- DRO / Auto HDR: Off
- Creative Style: Standard
- Picture Effect: Off (grayed out in RAW mode)
- Picture Profile: Off
3.13) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 13, Focus Assist)
- Focus Magnifier: Used for zooming in while focusing. I set my “C1” button to do this, as explained above.
- Focus Magnif. Time: No Limit
- Initial Focus Mag.: x6.2
- AF in Focus Mag.: On
- MF Assist: On – a great feature that automatically zooms in when you move the focus ring in manual focus mode.
- Peaking Setting:
Peaking Display: Off (can be useful in some situations, so you might want to turn On and experiment with manual focusing)
Peaking Level: Mid
Peaking Color: Red
3.14) Shooting Menu 1 (Page 14, Shooting Assist)
- Anti-flicker Shoot.: On
- Face Registration: Access this to register people’s faces
- Regist. Faces Priority: On
3.15) Shooting Menu 2 (Page 1, Movie1)
- Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority, only available in Movie mode
- Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority, only available 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
3.16) Shooting Menu 2 (Page 2, 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
3.17) Shooting Menu 2 (Page 3, Movie3)
- Audio Out Timing: Live
- Wind Noise Reduct.: On
- Marker Display: Off
- Marker Settings: All Off (depending on your video shooting needs)
- Video Light Mode: Power Link
- Movie w/ shutter: Off
3.18) Shooting Menu 2 (Page 4, Shutter/SteadyShot)
- Silent Shooting: Off
- e-Front Curtain Shut.: On. Good idea to keep Electronic Front Curtain Shutter turned On to avoid shutter shock.
- Release w/o Lens: Enable
- Release w/o Card: Disable
- SteadyShot: On. By default I would recommend to keep this setting On, but if you shoot from a tripod, you should turn SteadyShot Off.
- SteadyShot Settings:
SteadyShot Adjust.: Auto
SteadyS. Focal Len.: – (grayed out in Auto, but if set to Manual, it is possible to dial a specific focal length)
3.19) Shooting Menu 2 (Page 5, Zoom)
- Zoom: Default (-), grayed out in RAW
- Zoom Setting: Optical zoom only
- Zoom Ring Rotate: Default, only available with some lenses
3.20) Shooting Menu 2 (Page 6, 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: Auto – will automatically switch between viewfinder and LCD.
- Finder Frame Rate: Standard
- Zebra Setting:
Zebra Display: Off
Zebra Level: 70
- Grid Line: Rule of 3rds Grid
- Exposure Set. Guide: On
3.21) Shooting Menu 2 (Page 7, Display/Auto Review2)
- Live View Display: Setting Effect ON
- Cont. Shoot. Length: Not Displayed
- Auto Review: 2 Sec
3.22) Shooting Menu 2 (Page 8, Custom Operation1)
- Custom Key (Shoot.):
Control Wheel: Not set
Custom Button 1: Focus Magnifier. Once you do this, you will be able to use the C1 button to zoom in while focusing. Pressing the same button several times will allow you to zoom in up to 11.7x (pixel level).
Custom Button 2: Focus Area
Custom Button 3: Focus Mode
Custom Button 4: ISO AUTO Min. SS
Multi-Slc Center Btn: Focus Standard
Center Button: Eye AF
Left Button: Drive Mode
Right Button: ISO
Down Button: Px. Shift Multi Shoot.
AEL Button: AEL hold
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
Custom Button 1: Follow Custom (Sht.)
Custom Button 2: Follow Custom (Sht.)
Custom Button 3: Protect
Fn / SmartPhone Button: Send to Smartphone
- Function Menu Set.: This is what controls what the menu looks like when you press the “Fn” button on the back of the camera. Function Upper and Lower – leave these at default, unless you know what you are doing
- Dial Setup: This is to control what the dials do in Manual Mode. Keep at default unless you want to swap the dials.
- Av/Tv Rotate: Normal
3.23) Shooting Menu 2 (Page 9, Custom Operation2)
- Dial Ev Comp: Off
- MOVIE Button: Always
- Lock Operation Parts: Off
- Audio signals: Off
3.24) Network1 and 2
I don’t care for or use these, but if you are planning to transfer images to your smartphone from the camera, this is where you would do it all from. If you are not planning to do that, it might be best to keep “Airplane Mode: On” to save battery life.
3.25) Playback1, 2 and 3
- Display Rotation: Off – I don’t like it when the camera flips verticals and ends up with all that dead space – I would rather rotate the camera myself and see the whole image.
- Other settings are used for accessing specific playback functions
- Monitor Brightness: Manual
- Viewfinder Bright.: Auto works pretty well
- Finder Color Temp.: 0
- Gamma Disp. Assist: Off
- Volume Settings: 7
- Delete confirm: “Delete” first – don’t want to scroll when I need to delete something
- 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: used for cleaning the camera sensor
- Touch Operation: On (change depending on your requirements)
- Touch Panel/Pad: Touch Panel Only
- Touch Pad Settings:
Operation in V Orien.: Off
Touch Pos. Mode: Absolute Position
Operation Area: Right 1/2
- Demo Mode: Off, grayed out
- TC/UB Settings: Don’t touch unless you know what you are doing
- Remote Ctrl: Off (turn on for remote control via a smartphone / tablet)
- HDMI Settings:
HDMI Resolution: Auto
24p/60p Output: 60p
HDMI Info. Display: On
TC Output: Off
REC Control: –
CTRL FOR HDMI: On
- 4K Output Sel.: –
- USB Connection: Auto
- USB LUN Setting: Multi
- USB Power Supply: On
- PC Remote Settings: PC Only
- Language: English
- Date/Time Setup: Set up Date/Time
- Area Setting: Set up Timezone
- Copyright Info: For adding copyright info metadata to images
- Format: for formatting SD memory card
- File Number: Series
- Set File Name: DSC
3.32) Setup 6
- Rec. Media Settings: This is where you can set how images or video are recorded to the two SD card slots
Prioritize Rec. Media: Slot 1
Recording Mode: Standard
Auto Switch Media: On
- Select REC Folder: Skip this
- New Folder: Skip this
- Folder Name: Standard Form
- Recover Image DB: Skip this
- Display Media Info.: Shows what’s on the card
3.33) Setup 7
- Version: Display firmware version
- Setting Reset: will reset the camera settings or reinitialize the camera
3.34) My Menu Setting
If you have certain menu options that you access often, this is where you can add those from.
I hope you found this article useful. Please note that the above settings work for me and they might not necessarily suit your needs. It is best that you explore your camera and learn about each setting as much as you can in order to take advantage of all the available features and customizations!