The Best Camera Accessories for Sony a7 III, a7R III, a7S III and a9
UPDATED: October 1, 2018
With the announcement of the A7 III, A7R III, and soon the A7S III, the full frame DSLR world has finally taken notice of the things that made me switch a few years ago. I’ve long had a guide to Sony a6xxx accessories, but with so many new members of the full frame Sony family coming on board, it is time to aggregate a guide for the a7’s. Of course, most of this would be useful to owners of the A7 II/A7R II/A7S II and earlier models, but there are a couple notable differences in batteries and SD cards.
The purpose of this guide is to steer you toward accessories that are more size-, price- and/or performance- appropriate for the Sony mirrorless world. I’ve tried to take into account the sensibilities of professionals and enthusiasts alike, including the videography crowd who are near and dear to my heart.
I’ll update/expand this once a month, or as I find items that I feel supersede or fill the gaps in what is listed below. If you’ve got suggestions, of course, feel free to let me know.
Those of you who choose to slap a battery grip on your camera won’t have too much trouble using common dSLR bags or the bags you may already have. For the rest of us going commando, finding the right bag for mirrorless cameras including the a7 III series remains a challenge. I tend to prefer bags that offer quick access, structure and customizable interiors. Here are my thoughts:
If you need slim and light, the Lowepro Slingshot Edge 250 AW (Amazon | Adorama) and the smaller 150 AW are, in my estimation, the best attempts at a mirrorless bag to date. The 250 is strong, comfortable and deceptively roomy, enough width for an A7 series camera with a 70-200, an extra lens or two, as well as a good number of accessories in the top compartment. It has anchor straps for a small tripod and a rain poncho hidden in the bottom. Slings aren’t my favorite, but hopefully Lowepro is starting a trend toward low-profile bags in general – I would definitely buy a full-sized backpack based on the Slingshot Edge profile.
Because they often double as purses and satchels, there have always been some slimmer messenger-style bags in circulation. I tend to steer clear of those with a central zipper, which scrape against the camera and lens in use. I’m not a fan of big front flaps that have to be moved aside nor having to clasp the flap down every time, but those are common design features. After considering at dozens and dozens of messenger bags, I think the Lowepro Streetline SL 140 (Amazon | Adorama) and SH 180 (Amazon | Adorama) come closest to what I look for. The SL 140 has the notable advantage of being able to operate smoothly as a sling as well. Peak Design’s Everyday Messenger (Amazon | Adorama) is extremely innovative, and in mostly good ways. There is some real genius at work, but the price is pretty steep, so at the end of the day the Lowepros are just more practical.
Lowepro is now the first to offer a credible backpack designed for mirrorless – the M-Trekker BP-150 (Amazon). I have not gotten my hands on it yet, but for those who don’t care about quick access, it certainly looks promising. I think the Lowpro ProTactic (Amazon | Adorama) line is amazing in every way but the dimensions. If they had a version with the height and width of the 450, but the profile depth of the 250, that would be about perfect. Of course, the same goes for the Fastpack… if there was one with the profile of the slingshot 250, that would be hard to beat as well.
We need full-size packs with half or two-thirds the depth, and no one seems to offer it yet. When I find the right thing, I’ll update you right here.
Lens adapters allow you to mount a world of interesting glass to your Sony E-mount camera. There once was no complete guide to Sony lens adapters – so I built this one, and regularly update it. If you don’t already own lenses, then I would suggest looking at some vintage M42, Canon FD, and Nikon F lenses, which are easy to find and easy to adapt. One simple suggestion is the Nikon Series E 50mm f1.8 pancake lens – one of the best cheap pieces of glass out there. For a more artistic kind of lens, the Russian made Helios 44-2 58mm F2 is pretty amazing. If you do your research and are careful buying on eBay, you can have a full case of excellent lenses for the price of one modern lens. See The Complete Guide to Sony Lens Adapters.
If you’re trying to use your auto-focus Canon EF lenses, consider the Sigma MC-11 or Metabones IV.
If you would like to give autofocus to some inexpensive manual lenses, think about the Techart Pro Leica M to Sony E-mount adapter. This is a pretty interesting little device. You’ll have to adapt your lenses to Leica M first, but there are cheap options listed in the Guide.
In the A7 III, A7R III and a9, there are two SD card slots. While both are compatible with UHS-II cards, slot #2 is actually limited to UHS-I speeds. Also note that absolutely nothing these cameras do explicitly requires a UHS-II card, but using one in slot #1 will help your camera clear its photo cache faster. There are no benefits where video is concerned. To record 4k video, Sony does mandate that the card must be at least a “UHS-I class 3” card. Don’t know what that really means? Don’t worry, neither does anyone else – just look for these symbols: The SD Association isn’t terribly bright when it comes to labeling, but it is trying. They have added a “Video Speed Class” rating, like this: . All “v30” cards are UHS-1 class 3 by default and all are capable of handling anything a Sony mirrorless camera can throw at them today.
UHS-II supply and demand:
At the moment, full size UHS-II cards are ridiculously expensive. A 128GB full-size UHS-II SanDisk Extreme Pro card is $255 (Amazon). So consider doing what I do, and use microSD cards instead. The microUSB UHS-II Lexar 128GB 1800x (Amazon) is $160 and the SanDisk (Amazon) variant is $208. I switched to microSD a while ago and it has simplified my life, making it easier to move data between tablets, cameras and laptops.
On the flip side, there’s no shame in staying with UHS-I for now. Sure, your cache will take longer to clear, but the a7 III series cameras all have very large caches. A 128GB UHS-I SanDisk Extreme Pro (Amazon) will run you only $63 in SD form… $80 for microSD (Amazon).
Some additional advice:
I do tend to stick with SanDisk for SD cards. That’s not my unequivocal endorsement, that’s just my experience. I have no problem recommending solutions from Lexar, Samsung and even Sony to a degree, but I do recommend sticking to brands who manufacture their own chips.
Also, consider buying several smaller, cheaper SD cards and stash them in convenient places other than your camera bag… like a dark, cooler place in the car, at work, wallet (microSD is awesome for things like this), etc. I can’t even tell you how many times that has come in handy.
We do finally have some 3rd party NP-FZ100 batteries, so you’re no longer limited to Sony’s NP-FZ100 battery (Amazon) for now. Note that so far, the 3rd party batteries I’ve seen will not give you equivalent run time, and many people complained that the first batch of Wasabi batteries caused problems with their cameras. Wasabi released a second batch soon thereafter. The Sony battery charger (Amazon) that ships with your camera supplies 1.6A @ 8.4V. This will charge the battery about twice as fast as charging it inside the camera over USB. There are a few 3rd party chargers starting to trickle out now, but so far they simply can’t charge the battery as fast as the native charger. I’ll update this when I see something worthy.
The A7 III, a7R III and a7S III can all charge OR power the camera (mostly) via microUSB or USB-C. Whichever you plug in first will provide charge (Yes, I tried using both at the same time). Unfortunately, like earlier cameras, they can only accept so much amperage via USB; you can’t fully power the camera over USB alone. HOWEVER, you can seriously extend the battery life a little USB augmentation. The camera will draw about 2/3 of the power it needs from USB when recording 4k video. You can use any USB charger or USB battery pack that provides at least 1A of current. I offered a DIY USB battery solution for the Sony a6300 here… but the same principles apply to the A7 III series.
Dummy Battery/AC power –
We FINALLY have NP-FZ100 dummy batteries! Took forever for those to start showing up. Sony does offer this weird-but-interesting quad-battery dummy power adapter, under the obvious model name: NPAMQZ1K (Amazon). It’s nutty expensive but innovative in its own way.
Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. There are apps that allow your computer or phone to remote control your camera, but they usually clunky or incomplete. Nothing quite works like a physical, purposeful remote with physical, purposeful buttons for your physical, purposeful hands. Sony makes a few, and they’re good, but I’ve also been satisfied with the cheaper alternatives.
Wireless (Infrared) –
The infrared receiver on A7 series cameras is in the front of the camera, so depending on your purposes, these remotes can be more or less useful. Sony makes the RMT-DSLR2 (Amazon | Adorama), which can provide a great deal of control over your camera, navigating settings, menus and even controlling powerzoom lenses like the APS-C 16-50mm (Amazon) and 18-105mm (Amazon). The JJC RM-DSLR2 (Amazon), which I own, does the same job for a lot less. If you don’t want as many buttons, you can get a simple infrared shutter release like this.
Wireless (RF) –
A radio-based shutter release requires a receiver to be connected to the camera, but allows remote control without line of sight. The Sony RMT-VP1K (Amazon| Adorama) is a simple shutter release, plus video controls (start/stop and zoom rocker). There are a couple more photography-centric remotes that offer more features, the Pixel RW221-S2 (Amazon) and Viltrox JY120-S2 (Amazon) both offer some control over shooting mode, while the Pixel TW283-S2 (Amazon) is a complete remote intervalometer.
The Sony RM-SPR1 (Amazon | Adorama) is a one-button wired shutter release and the RM-VPR1 (Amazon | Adorama) is a wired version of the RMT-VP1K mentioned above that offers some video/zoom control. They’re both quite expensive. The Pixel RC201 (Amazon) is an inexpensive alternative to the SPR1 if you just need a shutter release. For video control, I own the Fotga AE367 (Amazon), a VPR1 alternative, and it has worked very well for me (I have it mounted to my shoulder rig). There are many wired intervalometers, but most are the same, sold by different brand names. I happen to have one from Hongdak (Amazon), which is a few dollars cheaper than the same unit from Neewer.
There are no perfect camera straps, but the neckstrap that comes with your camera is less perfect than most. While no one can tell you what will work best for you, I’ll give you some basic concepts. Neckstraps are good when your gear is very light, slings are good when your gear is heavy. Wide, padded neoprene is better than a narrow strip of the finest leather. Never use a strap with those plastic pinch quick releases. Consider a safety tether. For video shooters, think about how you transition from photography to video.
I’m a sling guy, and I used the Blackrapid slings for years and years. The current Curve (Amazon) or Sport (Amazon) are very comfy. I had always discounted Peak Design’s Slide (Amazon) as a bit gimmicky and, frankly, it doesn’t look like it would be comfortable. Turns out that I was wrong… it’s very comfy and the “gimmicks” are actually well thought out, user-friendly advantages. I’ve gone back and forth, but I’ve settled on the Slide for one important reason – when I am wearing the camera behind my back, I want it to stay put. With the Blackrapid slings, the camera dangles and bounces. I typically have to keep my hand on it. With the Peak, it just stays where you put it. The down side of the Slide is that it is often slower to draw the camera up because the whole strap has to slide around you. On the Blackrapid, the camera is free to slide along the strap, so the motion of raising the camera is more fluid. Also, the peak will tend to creep up your neck unless you flip it over to the grippy side.
All told, I like the Peak a little bit better for pedestrian/travel/hiking, but if I was shooting a wedding or something where the camera is rarely at rest, I’d prefer the Blackrapid. I think the average person will like the Peak better… Pros may have a tougher choice. Note that the Peak can serve as both a sling and a neckstrap, has an interesting quick release system and works even with a tripod plate on the camera. They do make a Slide Lite (Amazon), which they say is scaled for mirrorless cameras, but that has a thinner strap, so I see it this way – if you prefer a neckstrap, go with the Slide Lite because it is less bulky. If you prefer a sling, or if you have heavier lenses, the regular sized Slide will be more comfortable.
There are two primary types of tripods, photo and video. Photo tripods are typically lighter, more compact, and have an extendable central post upon which a ball head is mounted. Video tripods are typically heavier, often having double posts for legs rather than single tubes. Most notably, a video tripod will usually have a leveling “bowl” at its center, supporting a fluid panning head.
Of course, current tripod sensibilities were formed when there was a clear distinction between photo and video cameras. In the hybrid world, we have cameras that can competently do both in a tiny, lightweight package. Tripods, and how we use them, are evolving.
For those just staring, here are a few suggestions:
For Photography: The MeFoto Roadtrip or Globetrotter (Amazon), are fantastic travel tripods. They differ from the higher-end Benro Travel Angels in that they are not as well sealed from dirt and sand that can eventually wear out the leg locks, but from my experience, you would really have to be shooting in the muck for that to become an issue. For a bit less cash, I have used the Zomei Z818 (Amazon) and found it to be a very credible substitute for the MeFoto Roadtrip or Manfrotto Element Big. A couple notes: While in-body-stabilization allows you to use lighter-weight tripods with abandon, there are circumstances where you may benefit by heavier-duty, or models with special features. Outdoor timelapses benefit by a well-anchored, heavier tripod. If you have to use a light tripod, consider using it at minimum height, add sandbags, etc. Those who are frequently shooting around the ocean would do well to have a tripod with well sealed legs, and clean and oil any exposed metal as the salt air will deteriorate them.
For Filmmaking/Videography: This is not where you want to go super cheap, and it usually makes sense to buy the head separate from the legs. A sturdy set of legs and a smooth, fluid head is critical to vibration free, smooth panning. In my opinion, the minimum requirement for a “great” pan head is one that has independent controllable fluid drag for both tilt AND pan (not just a locking screw). The the lowest-priced qualifiers are the Manfrotto 500AH (Amazon) and the Manfrotto 502AH (Amazon) heads, which are really nice, but are quite large and heavy at 3.5 lbs. For a little more, there is the 2.5 lb Sirui VH-10X (Amazon). I’ll also mention the dirt cheap, plastic, yet oddly competent Velbon PH-368 (Amazon) which is sold under many names. There are many lower cost video head options, but all of them will either lack panning drag control, or won’t offer enough of it, like the Manfrotto BeFree Live video head, which just doesn’t offer enough resistance for smooth panning shots.
You can, of course, put these heads on a photo tripod, but for stability, consider some strong two stage video legs. They don’t have to be all the expensive. A cheap way to go is to get the cheapest kit you can, like the Fancier WF717 (Amazon), which has perfect fine legs and a 75mm bowl, then replace the head with something better. The prices jump from there, but so do the benefits. A carbon fiber video tripod can provide all the stability while being light enough to lug around just about anywhere, like the the Manfrotto 535 (Amazon) I picked up a decade ago and will likely have for life.
One note on quick releases – Manfrotto has a quick release plate system which was designed for much much larger, much much heavier cameras. In the mirrorless world, however, I recommend switching to the much smaller Arca-Swiss type clamps/plates, common to the photography world. For the 502AH head, I simply attach a long arca clamp to the Manfrotto plate. I have a square (bi-directional) Arca plate on my camera almost always, and I have adapted almost everything I have so that I never have to remove it – even my my LED lights get a plate and my light stands get a clamp, if not a small ballhead. I’ve seen plates on ebay for $1.89 with free shipping from Hong Kong, so it’s cheap to stock up.
For most people (On/Off camera) –
It’s pretty clear that Godox has the best bang for the buck where flash is concerned. Even the low end tt350-S (Amazon) has high-speed sync and can as a radio master or slave for on or off camera situations. Running on two AA’s the tt350-S doesn’t have the oomph for balancing harsh sunlight or filling large halls at a distance, it does have everything the average shooter needs in close, indoors or out. The size is just perfect for the a6000 or a7 series cameras. For more power, there’s the 4-AA driven tt685-S (Amazon) and the lithium-ion driven V680II-S (Amazon), which are nearly identical but for the power. As a function of the lithium ion battery, the 680II-S tt recycles a little faster but lasts a lot longer than the 685-S. Either are credible for professional use but come at a consumer price. For fully off-camera solutions, there X1T-S (Amazon) transmitter is nice, but there’s a new XPRO-S (Amazon) transmitter that’s even better.
Misc. for Video Shooters/Filmmakers
Handheld Gimbal/Stabilizer –
If you ask me, the “brushless gimbal” is one of the greatest technological advancements for independent filmmakers. This is a motorized stabilizer that keeps your camera steady no matter what. The technology is improving at lightning speed , but the best bang for the buck at the moment is the Zhiyun Crane Plus (Amazon), partially because it performs well, but also because it is far easier to set up and use than most. The fact that it is also reasonably priced among its peers is gravy.
External Recorder –
External records provide a lot of utility for video shooters: It’s a large LCD that can be placed wherever it is needed, assisting focus, framing, exposure and color tasks, all while recording in higher-quality codecs without a time limit. There are several options, but the Atomos Ninja Flame (Amazon) is a mature, refined, feature=packed product that just works extremely well. The lower priced Blackmagic Video Assist 4k (Amazon) is also very good and improves with each firmware upgrade.
The world of audio is deep and this paragraph will not summarize it, except to convey one truth: Audio is important. That said, choosing the right way to capture audio is a black art laced with competing objective and subjective factors that bring out religious ferver. On the upside, everyone agrees that the microphone that comes on your camera is crap and should never, ever, be used. You don’t have to spend a lot to improve your audio 100x, but improving it another 100x is where you have to make tough choices that reflect your budget. My recommendations here are for the lowest of budgets. For an on-camera microphone, the Rode VideoMicro (Amazon US/CA/UK) is a good place to start. It’s tiny, inexpensive, and punches above its weight class. Vloggers may prefer a wired lavalier mic – I use the Boya BY-M1 (Amazon US/CA/UK) in many of my videos, partially because it’s cheap, but also because it hops from my camera to my phone with ease and sounds good, if a little bass-y. For a smaller option (not for smartphones), I like the JK Mic-J 044 (Amazon US/CA/UK). For a wireless lav, the lowest cost system that I like is the Azden Pro XD (Amazon US/CA/UK). There are many cheaper options, but they sacrifice too much for my taste3.Click edit button to change this text.