How Useful are the Sony a7r iii’s High ISO Settings in Real-World Shooting?

How useful are the Sony a7r iii's high-ISO settings that go all the way up to ISO 102400? I shot some images to find out.

The Sony a7r iii has a well-earned reputation for low-light shooting. It has a superb full-sized sensor and a wide ISO range, going from 50 through 102400. But just how useful are those very high settings?

When you compare an image shot at ISO 102400 with one at ISO 50, you can see obvious differences. There’s more noise or mottling, less dynamic range, and the colors are less rich and true.

But those things aren’t necessarily dealbreakers. If the only way you’re going to get the shot is with a high ISO, just how high can you viably go with the a7r iii?

To find out, I’ve shot some photos at the highest ISO settings on the a7r iii. I recognize these aren’t necessarily the most compelling visual images, but what I was trying to do was to test and then share some real-world examples in case others were similarly curious.

These were shot in RAW and only minimally processed in Lightroom (with noise reduction zeroed out). You can click on each image to open a full-size version if you’d like a closer look.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 64000.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 80000.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 64000.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Taken with a Sony a7r iii at ISO 102400.

Conclusion

The high-ISO performance of the a7r iii is pretty remarkable. Yes, there are tradeoffs. You lose some dynamic range, color fidelity, and there is definitely more noise and loss of details, all of which is especially noticeable when you view at 100%. Even with RAW, you can’t recover much from the shadows or highlights. But the costs are remarkably light compared to state-of-the-art sensors of even a few years ago. It wasn’t long ago that you were happy if you got usable images out of ISO 3200. That we can now come to expect usable images at ISOs in the six digits is pretty extraordinary. Even if you wouldn’t necessarily want to be using these high-number ISOs in everyday shooting, it’s sure nice to know that you have the headroom if you need it and that the resulting images will be usable for many situations.

You can find the Sony a7r iii in a variety of different configurations at B&H Photo.

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  • Cloudflare is returning a file access denied error message when you try to open the full size orginal image, stating that you do not allow resource hot linking....

    • Thanks for the heads up. I think this is now fixed (hard to confirm because I'm having trouble replicating the issue this end).

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