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First Impressions: Sony NEX F3

by Chris Gampat on 05/17/2012

The Sony NEX F3 has been leaked across the internet before when someone accidentally published their story. Images of the camera spilled out across the web. Well believe it or not, the camera is real. And we’ve known about it for quite a while and also were able to get our hands on it for some play time.

So how did it perform?

Editor’s Note: Don’t call this a review at all. However, Sony has told us that the image quality that we got from the units at the event was final, though the camera’s firmware was not.

UPDATE: The NEX F3 is available at B&H Photo in Silver and Black

Tech Specs

– 16.1 MP same as A37

– Latest Bionz processor

– ISO 100 to 16,000

– 1080p HD at 24p or 60i

– The option of recording at an MP4 Codec in 3:2 mode

– Auto Portrait Framing (a very gimmicky feature that essentially just crops your image.)

– 180 degree LCD for easier self portraits, but unfortunately no touchscreen built in.

– Built in flash that can be pulled back a bit to function like a bounce flash, but it won’t lock into place.

– Improved battery performance to 470 images per charge

– Charge on the go via USB to PC if you’d like. That’s perfect for vacations

– Accessory terminal for you to add the trufinder or the microphone

– Ergonomic grip addition like the 5n.

– 3fps

– Silver, black and white.

– Shipping in June $599 with kit lens

Ergonomics

The Sony NEX F3 feels very much like the NEX 5N: and is therefore really quite awesome. We reviewed the 5N and fell it love with it. There is a full grip just like on the 5N and there is also a screen that flips up. In the case of the F3 though, the screen flips all the way up: and that is designed for people that want to take portraits of themselves.

More importantly, I see it being useful to bloggers that want to record videos of themselves similar to what they do on their webcam.

The top of the camera is characterized by the shutter button, on/off switch, Behind that is the one touch-video record button, which my thumb hit at times accidentally. Plus there is the accessory port/shoe and the pop-up flash.

The back of the camera sports a little textured area for better grip, a playback button, a button to pop the flash up, a dial with four way controls, and two function buttons.

Autofocus

Something that impressed me quite a bit was the fact that the Sony NEX F3 was able to target the subjects that I actually wanted in focus without much of a hassle. Previous NEX models have not been able to do that: they would instead focus on something totally different and would then force me to switch to the center point, focus, and recompose if I could. But there is an inherent problem with the plane of focus then being thrown off.

During my testing period, I found the NEX F3 to be spot on when it came to single focus selection. It didn’t track that quickly though. In fact, I still believe that phase detection is still the best method when it comes to tracking moving objects: contrast AF just isn’t there yet.

Image Quality

The images in this post are JPEGs from the camera resized for the web to 150DPI. There wasn’t much editing done except for some sharpening, color edits, boost to contrast, and giving the images a slight bump in clarity.

Speaking humbly, the F3’s image quality floored me when in the right lighting conditions. Other files would obviously need much more editing, but when you’re in the right situation and environment, you’ll walk away in absolute love of your images.

Sony took other journalists and I along to Chelsea Piers to photograph figure skaters, Carnival folk, and along New York City’s High Line: a place I frequent in order to review the cameras that come in and out of my hands.

Though I am no sports photographer, I can say that the image quality from the camera’s JPEGs wasn’t too shabby. I did start to see some apparent noise at 1600, but I am not able to process the RAW files at the time of writing this post. I do have them though, and that will change soon.

This camera is targeted towards consumers who know nothing about cameras. Everyday someone comes up to me and says, “I want to buy a DSLR and I want to take great pictures but I know nothing about cameras and don’t want to learn a thing about them.”

First off, what I often say is that you need to have a creative vision first. Second, I often recommend the NEX C3, which we’ve also reviewed here on the site. With the F3 now replacing the C3, there does indeed seem to be more consumer friendly features such as the new tilting screen and the awesome image quality. Those people will also typically only shoot JPEGs, and the images from this camera will be more than good enough for them.

These days, my work is more in the portraiture space. The colors that this camera rendered were breath-taking and it has a lot going for it including a bounce flash to aid with tricky lighting situations. I have to really give it to Sony when it comes to skin tones.

Here are some more image samples from my day with the camera.

This photo was taken with direct flash

This is the flash bounced towards the ceiling

Another with Bounce flash

Same photo instead with natural light

First Impressions

So far, the Sony NEX F3 seems like an excellent camera when paired with the TruFinder. The fact that it features a bounce flash is something that also makes it extremely tempting. For the audience that it is targeted toward, it may perhaps become an extremely hot camera; the only downside is the fact that it isn’t so pocketable anymore due to the grip. But if you put the camera in a nice leather half case, you’ll have a winner.

More will come once we get our hands on an actual review unit.

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