Sony NEX-F3 review
July 7, 2012
Price as Reviewed:£499.00
With a built-in flash and an over-the-top, front-viewable rear screen, Sony’s entry-level NEX-F3 is targeted at all family members
Taking self-portraits may not be the priority for most serious photographers, but among teenagers and holidaymakers looking to immortalise themselves in a time or a place, it is a popular pastime. The rear screen on the Sony NEX-F3 not only flips up to 90° and down by around 10° for waist-level or overhead shooting, but it will also angle all the way up and over the camera to a full 180° for viewing from in front of the lens. While most cameras offering front-of-lens viewing use a combined horizontal and vertical movement to place the screen either at the side or underneath the camera body, placing it over the top is a more natural arrangement for composition and aids viewing. Positioning the screen in this way while in any of the auto modes will automatically engage the auto portrait setting, so when the shutter is pressed there is a 3sec timer that allows the camera to be steadied and thus reduce camera shake.
For those photographers not interested in self-portraiture, the NEX-F3 still has plenty to offer. First, the sensor is a new 16.1-million-pixel CMOS device. This fractional drop in resolution from the 16.2 million pixels of the NEX-C3 is more than compensated for by a 1⁄3EV rise in maximum sensitivity, with the camera now offering an ISO 200-16,000 range. The new sensor also allows video to be captured in full HD 1080 (50i), using the AVCHD format.
As with previous NEX models, SteadyShot Inside is featured in the lenses rather than the body, and is included in the SEL 18-55mm kit lens. The shooting modes, which are accessed from the rear dial, include the regular PASM options, as well as Sony’s iAuto and the new Superior Auto (iAuto+) modes. Like iAuto, Superior Auto analyses the scene and applies the relevant scene mode, but it also employs one of three processing modes (handheld twilight, anti-motion blur and backlight correction HDR) and, if required, will take a burst of three images that can be combined for the finished shot. Metering is offered with centreweighted and spot options in addition to the multi-segment, 1,200-zone evaluative setting.
The NEX-F3 shoots in raw and JPEG formats, or both simultaneously. The ARW raw files are already compatible with the latest Adobe Camera Raw, and the camera comes with the PlayMemories Home software for image management.
The inclusion of a flash is a significant feature for this model, but is perhaps more to do with the intended audience. With higher ISO sensitivities flash becomes less essential, but not having a unit built in may have been off-putting for entry-level users. The flash pops up quite high from the body and can even lean back with the aid of a finger to bounce the light if required. With a guide number (GN) of 6m @ ISO 100, it is slightly less powerful than the GN 7m external unit on the NEX-C3, but refreshes faster at 3secs.
Battery life has been improved through power saving, and now offers a projected 470 shots per charge rather than the 400 shots of the NEX-C3 despite using the same battery. The unit charges in-camera via a USB cable from a PC or wall socket.
- Video: 1080 (50i) AVCHD (25fps output), 720p MP4 (30fps)
- External mic: Yes (through Sony accessory port)
- Shutter Type: Electronically controlled focal-plane shutter
- White Balance: Auto, 6 presets, Kelvin, plus custom setting
- Built-in Flash: Yes (GN 6m @ ISO 100)
- Memory Card: SD, SDHC, SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo
- Viewfinder Type: N/A (port for optional EVF)
- Output Size: 4912 x 3264 pixels
- LCD: Articulated 3in LCD with 921,600 dots
- White Balance Bracket: No
- AF Points: 25-point (contrast AF), centre, flexible spot, multi-point
- Max Flash Sync: 1/160sec
- Sensor: 16.1-million-effective-pixel, APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm) CMOS sensor
- Weight: 225g (body only)
- Focal Length Mag: 1.5x
- Exposure Modes: iAuto, Superior Auto, program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, scene selection, sweep panorama, 3D sweep panorama
- Power: Rechargeable NP-FW50 Li-Ion (470 shots)
- File Format: JPEG, ARW (raw), AVCHD/MP4
- Drive Mode: 5.5fps
- Shutter Speeds: 30-1/4000sec in 1⁄3EV steps plus bulb
- Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
- Focusing Modes: Single, continuous, manual
- DoF Preview: No
- Dimensions: 117.3 x 66.6 x 41.3mm
- Metering System: 1,200-zone evaluative metering, centreweighted and fixed centre spot
- Connectivity / Interface: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, HDMI
- Compression: 2-stage JPEG
- ISO: 200-16,000
- Lens Mount: Sony E mount
- RRP: £530 (with 18-55mm kit lens)
- Exposure Comp: ±3EV in 1⁄3EV steps
- Tested as: Enthusiast CSC