Sony a7iii Drive Modes (Explained!)

Have you looked through the settings on your Sony a7iii and been curious about what the “drive mode” setting does?

Ever wondered how to use the self-timer or shoot an HDR photo?

In this quick and concise guide, I’ll be going over every single option in the drive modes category.

Let’s jump in!

man holding camera

The Basics

Where to find the drive mode setting?

Finding the location of the drive mode setting is actually really easy.

  1. Press the left side of the rear dial
  2. Use the dial to scroll up or down
  3. Select your desired drive mode
  4. Refer to the image if needed
location of the drive mode setting

Yep, it’s that simple.

As an additional note, if you’ve changed your custom buttons at some point, the drive mode settings can also be accessed by hitting the Fn button.

The Modes

Single Shooting

What is it?

The first mode on the list is the “single shooting” mode. It’s pretty self explanatory.

You push the shutter button and the camera takes a single picture.

All you do is compose the shot, take the picture and that’s all there is to it. Very simple.

When to use it?

This is by far the most commonly used mode (especially when combined with single-shot AF) and is useful for all sorts of subjects.

I’d suggest using it in any situation where you have a static subject and only need to take a single image.

Examples include: cityscapes, landscapes or anything else that doesn’t move around.

chicago skyline during fall
Single shooting works best for static subjects.

Continuous Shooting

What is it?

When using continuous shooting mode, your a7iii will continue shooting photos while the shutter button is held down. As soon as you let go of the button, it’ll stop.

As long as you’ve set your focus mode to AF-C, the camera will even refocus between every frame.

The speed of continuous shooting is adjustable between low, mid, high, and high+. The a7iii can shoot 10 frames per second (maximum) in RAW (more information on burst speeds here).

When to use it?

Using continuous shooting mode is always best when you need to capture a lot of action.

Take for example you’re watching a race. As cars are sliding around a corner, you put the camera into burst mode and capture the movement. I’ve also used it in portrait shoots (on low speed) to capture subtle movements.

Do keep in mind that you’ll need a fast SD card (affiliate link) in order for the camera to continue high-speed shooting. On that subject, I go over a lot more information regarding continuous shooting in my a7iii burst mode article. I’d highly suggest checking it out.

Self Timer

What is it?

This next mode is one that you’ve probably used at some point in your life (most likely on a phone camera at least).

You set the time (in this case 2, 5, or 10 seconds) and then hit the shutter button.

Then, a few seconds later, the camera will take the picture by itself.

When to use it?

Self Portraits & Group Photos

The most obvious use case for this would be if you’re taking self portraits or attempting to get into a group shot.

You set the timer, get into the frame, and a few seconds later the camera will capture the image.

Stability on Tripods

The second use of this mode is for stability. Even if your camera is on a tripod (affiliate link), touching the shutter button will cause tiny vibrations to ripple through the camera, possibly creating minor motion blur in images.

For this reason, using a self-timer allows you to be completely hands-free when the camera takes the image, removing any possibility of camera shake.

This is invaluable for taking long exposures as it’ll insure you get the cleanest image possible (do note that you could also use a remote shutter release instead).

sunset picture of chicago
Avoid camera shake during long exposures by using self timer mode.

Continuous Bracket

What is it?

The next mode is used for a photography method called “bracketed exposure” (which could also be called HDR).

Multiple frames are taken at different exposures and then combined in post processing for a more evenly lit image.

Generally, you’ll use a tripod for stability and consistency, and then stitch the images together in Lightroom (known as an HDR merge).

When to use it?

High Contrast Situations

The most typical use of bracketed exposure is for high contrast situations.

If you’re shooting a sunset for example, you can shoot a series of images to properly expose both the dark foreground and the bright sky.

After, you can merge them in post to create an image that’s much more evenly lit than what the camera would normally be able to capture.

Niche/Pointless Modes

Sony cameras also offer a few… less useful modes. They have their fringe niche cases but I’d suggest generally not using them.

Either way, we’ll cover them really quick.

Single Bracket

The single bracket exposure mode is similar to continuous bracket except that it only shoots one image at a time.

This can be useful, but in the vast majority of cases I’d rather just use continuous bracket because it’s quicker and easier.

WB Bracket

White balance bracket is the same exact concept except for white balance.

If you’re shooting in JPEG, I suppose I could see a use for this. However, shooting in RAW already allows such extensive white balance manipulation that I find this mode to be relatively pointless.

DRO Bracket

Finally, we have the “dynamic range optimizer” bracket. This mode will shoot 3 images with various levels of DR optimization.

Once again, RAW images don’t even use DRO, so this is another very niche and largely pointless mode.

The three final drive modes are pretty niche, but they have their uses in certain circumstances.

Conclusion

That’s all there is to drive modes. Like I said, there’s a few useless ones, but the others (continuous shooting, timer and bracket) are incredibly useful in a variety of situations.

If you’re interested in mastering more of your camera’s manual settings, be sure to read my a7iii-specific guides on shutter speed and focus modes.

Thanks for reading!