Sony NEX-F3 Hands-on Preview
Since this preview was published we have collaborated with Jeff Keller of The Digital Camera Resource Page to produce a full, 14-page review of the Sony Alpha NEX-F3 which you can read here.
The NEX-F3 is the latest entry to Sony's mirrorless camera lineup, replacing the NEX-C3. It was only two years ago that the company introduced their NEX line of small form-factor cameras housing DSLR-sized APS-C sensors. Yet in a sign of the company's unmistakable belief in the growth potential of the Mirrorless market, Sony is now offering what is essentially a third generation model, one that sits below the mid-range NEX-5N and the highly regarded enthusiast offering, the NEX-7.
The NEX-F3 shares many of the core features of its predecessor, the NEX-C3. Yet the NEX-F3 also incorporates specs and functionality that come from more recent NEX and SLT cameras. A built-in flash is one of the more prominent additions, along with a design and styling aesthetic that calls to mind both the NEX-5N and NEX-7. Like those cameras, the NEX-F3 features a prominent hand grip and a shutter button that sits forward of the camera's top plate. Video specifications are improved over its predecessor, with the NEX-F3 outputting AVCHD 1080 video at 60i or 24p. The camera includes Sony's most current accessory port which can be used to connect an electronic viewfinder or a stereo microphone.
Under the hood, the 16MP APS-C sensor is an update of that on the NEX-C3 and, we're told by Sony is supported by a newer processor than the one found on the NEX-5N. The NEX-F3 has a top ISO of 16,000. Note that in Auto ISO mode the camera will go up as high as ISO 3200, instead of limiting itself to ISO 1600 as it did in the NEX-C3. The NEX-F3 also offers a Superior Auto mode - something we regretted not seeing in the NEX-C3 - in which the camera can select among multi-shot modes for expanded dynamic range and noise reduction as needed.
While not an oversized camera by an means, the NEX-F3 is a larger and slightly more bulky camera than any past or current NEX-series model other than the NEX-7. As you can see below, it is a noticeably larger camera than the NEX-C3. Yet at a list price of US$599, the NEX-F3 is clearly aimed at users coming from a point and shoot experience rather than DSLR owners. The F3 is the first NEX camera to not feature an external charger - instead it comes with a higher-current (about 1.5A, rather than the usual 0.5A) USB power adapter that allows the fast USB charging Sony has been introducing to its Cyber-Shot compacts.
|The NEX-F3 gains some bulk compared to the NEX-C3. Much of the size difference can be attributed to the NEX-F3's more prominent hand grip, front-mounted shutter button and built-in flash.|
Going by the spec sheet alone, the NEX-F3 is not likely to turn the heads of those who are not already interested in a NEX-series camera. In many ways the NEX-F3 merely catches up to advances Sony has made in cameras launched since the NEX-C3. From the SLT-A57 there's the 'By Pixel Super Resolution' intelligent interpolation, with the 'Clear Image Zoom' it brings. And an 'Auto Portrait Framing' feature that looks for a good portrait crop in images with a face in them and saves an upsized crop alongside your original image.
The NEX-F3's most significant raison d'être is perhaps that it contributes to a more coherent lineup of NEX cameras in terms of features and styling. Displayed alongside the NEX-5N and NEX-7, the NEX-F3 looks and feels (in-hand) part of a very consistent design philosophy.
Sony NEX-F3 specification highlights
- 16.1MP CMOS sensor
- ISO 200-16000 (200-3200 in Auto)
- Built-in flash
- AVCHD 1080i60 HD movie recording with built-in stereo mic
- Rear LCD that tilts up 180º
If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).
Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.
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