Using Burst Mode on the Sony a7iii (Simple!)

If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably wondering how to shoot in burst mode on your Sony a7iii.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place!

In this quick & concise guide, I’ll go over how to use burst mode, the various related settings, and what situations it works best in.

Let’s dive in!

action photo of a car driving

The Basics

Burst Mode vs Continuous Shooting

First off, before we begin, I want to point out that “continuous shooting” is exactly the same as burst mode.

You’ve likely seen the term used in various articles on drive modes and such.

Continuous shooting and burst mode are interchangeable terms.

Consider reading my article on drive modes first if you’re unfamiliar with the concept.

Change Your Focus Mode

Before we get any further, you’ll want to switch your focusing mode to AF-C.

Open your focus mode settings and switch to AF-C.

This way your camera will refocus in between frames to insure nothing is blurry or out of focus.

If you’re unfamiliar with the various focus mode settings, go give my a7iii focus modes guide a quick read.

Again, don’t forget to change your focus mode. It’s very important when burst shooting!

Where to find the burst mode setting?

Switching to burst mode is quick and simple.

  1. Hit the left side of the rear dial
  2. Scroll through the drive mode settings
  3. Select continuous shooting (burst) mode
  4. Select burst mode speed (Lo, Med, Hi, Hi+)
  5. Refer to the image if needed
location of the drive mode setting

Now, if you hold down the shutter button, you’ll notice the camera continuously taking pictures until you let go.

What do the speeds mean? (Burst Rate)

The listed burst mode speeds (Lo, Med, Hi, Hi+) just determine how many frames per second the camera is able to shoot.

  • Lo speed shoots 3 frames per second
  • Med speed shoots 6 frames per second
  • Hi speed shoots 8 frames per second
  • Hi+ speed shoots 10 frames per second

As you can see, the maximum FPS of the Sony a7iii is 10 frames per second.

This is pretty fast, and the camera will quickly hit the SD card buffer.

car driving through city at night
High speed burst will cause the camera to hit the SD card buffer pretty quickly.

What is a buffer?

A buffer, in the context of a camera, is the limit in which photos can be transferred to the SD card.

You see, modern digital cameras create massive file sizes when shooting in RAW, thus SD cards eventually slow down and have to catch up.

During this “catch up” time, the burst speed of the camera substantially slows down as the remaining images get written to the SD card.

Sony a7iii Buffer Cap

So what is the buffer cap on the Sony a7iii? This is kind of hard to answer as it depends on a lot of factors (file sizes vary across photos).

Generally, you can expect about 35-40 uncompressed (14-bit) RAW images before the camera locks up.

If you shoot with compressed RAW (12-bit), that number doubles to roughly 70-80 (but never shoot with compressed RAW please!).

sd cards laying on a table
Here’s a generic photo of some SD cards… because why not?

Avoiding Hitting the Buffer

Having your camera freeze up in any sort of situation isn’t fun, but luckily it’s pretty easy to avoid hitting the buffer.

  • First, consider shooting with a lower speed (Lo or Med).
  • Second, don’t just hold the shutter button down. Think about your shots.
  • Third, switch to JPEG if absolutely needed. File sizes are substantially smaller.

Finally, make sure you have a fast enough SD card.

The a7iii supports both UHS-I and UHS-II cards. Unsurprisingly, UHS-II is substantially faster. I’ve had really good luck with this one in particular (affiliate link)

When to Use Burst Mode

Now that we’ve covered all the basics and technical mumbo-jumbo, when should you actually use burst mode/continuous shooting?

Quite a few situations, actually. From model photoshoots to sports, there’s many situations where it comes in handy.

Photographing Fast Action

First up, and perhaps most obviously, is fast action.

You’re photographing an epic race and a bike comes sliding around a corner. Mud and dirt are flying everywhere.

You hold down the shutter button and burst mode captures a perfect shot of the action.

Of course, you’ll have to insure you have the correct shutter speed when shooting fast action.

Shooting around at least 1/250th of a second will guaranty you have clean shots with minimal motion blur (higher, like 1/1000th of a second, may be needed for VERY fast subjects).

Portrait Shoots

Now, on the flipside of things would be “slow” action.

Although it might sound odd, I like to use burst mode when shooting portraits.

I’ll have my subject move around, spin, etc. and keep burst mode on low speed to capture subtle bits of movement.

I’ve employed this tactic a lot over the years with great results.

Keeping the camera on burst mode allows you to capture a lot of candid movements and expressions that you may not have noticed otherwise.

When Shooting Macro (For Focus)

Low speed burst is also handy in certain macro situations.

Have you ever tried to take a macro shot of a flower just to have a minor gust of wind come through and mess up your focus?

Shooting in burst mode allows you to get a few extra frames to (hopefully) compensate for temporarily missed focus.

It’s not always foolproof, but I’ve had good luck getting a better ratio of sharp macro shots with this technique.

Important Moments

Finally, I’ve used burst mode simply to capture more important moments throughout life.

As an example, I take a lot of pictures during family holidays.

I’ll generally run low burst mode and fire off a few shots for every situation.

This way, I have a much higher chance at getting the “perfect shot” where someone wasn’t blinking or making an awkward face.

car drifting on sand dunes
Burst mode can be incredibly powerful once you learn how to use it.

Conclusion

To recap what we’ve learned:

  • Switching to burst mode via the menus
  • The various speeds (and what they mean)
  • What is a buffer and how to avoid it
  • Good for photographing fast action
  • Good for portrait shoots (to capture subtle movement)
  • Useful for increasing keeper ratio for macro photos
  • Perfect for capturing can’t-miss important moments

As you can see, learning how to properly use burst mode is invaluable for your photography. It’s useful for pretty much everything!

By the way, if you’re looking to dive more into the various settings, check out my a7iii-focused articles on focus modes along with the other drive modes.

If you’re looking to master full manual control, read my a7iii-specific guides on shutter speed and adjusting aperture.

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Using Burst Mode on the Sony a7iii (Simple!)”

  1. Hi! I have a question as my A7iii is only shooting 2 shots on all the Continuous Mode selections (lo, mid, hi and hi+). Is there something that I’m not seeing in the menu that I might be able to up the number of shots to what you have listed in your article above? I feel like I’ve scoured the internet about this and can’t seem to figure out how to up the number of shots taken in the various continuous modes. Thanks in advance!

    • Hmm, that’s odd. The only thing I can think of is that your SD card might be bottlenecking it. Do you have a fairly new and high-end card? If not, you’re probably hitting the “buffer” really quickly.

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