The Sony NEX-F3 is a pocket-sized, entry-level compact system camera, announced in May 2012. It is being tested here with the standard Sony E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens, which is a 35mm equivalent of 27-82.5mm. It is available in black or silver for £449.00 with the above lens.
Sony NEX-F3 Features
The NEX-F3 has a 16.1 megapixel sensor, which is designed to capture more light for low noise images and full HD video recording (videos also have stereo sound). It uses E-mount interchangeable lens, but you can purchase a separate converter to attach A-mount DSLR lenses. You can double the magnification of your lens by using Clear Image Zoom.
Superior Auto mode makes picture taking easy, automatically adjusting the cameras settings for the scene. There is also the full range of manual modes which you would find on a DSLR. When shooting portraits skin tones are adjusted to create flattering results, with the camera then cropping them automatically using Face Detection, great if you are shooting in a crowd.
Background Defocus Control allows you to adjust depth of focus which is previewed on the screen. Other shooting modes include sweep panorama, artistic picture effects, high-speed shooting upto 5.5fps, auto HDR, handheld twilight and soft skin.
The NEX-F3 has a similar sized body to an advanced compact camera, with a lot of the weight and bulk coming from the lens. If you'd like to reduce the overall size so that you can keep it in your pocket, you can purchase the E 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens, available for just under £200. There is a substantial grip, with a rubber coating, which makes it easy to hold the camera, there is also a rubberised area on the rear for your thumb.
There isn't a huge number of buttons, with the on/off switch on the top, with the playback and movie record buttons placed on an edge which is at a 45° angle. The shutter release sits on an edge which is actually more visible from the front of the camera. On the rear is a rotating wheel with a button on the middle. There are two other buttons, what these do is indicated on the screen.
The menu systems is a little unusual, press the menu button and you get a choice of 6 options: shooting mode, camera options, image size, brightness / colour options, playback and set-up. The brightness / colour options are where you can also find exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, metering, flash compensation, DRO / HDR, and creative style (colour options such as vivid, standard, black and white etc.), which is not where I expected the options to be. Image size is where you set the image size for still, 3D, and panoramic shots, as well as video size. Camera options are where you can set the drive mode, flash setting, AF/MF, Face detection etc. Set-up is where you can customise the buttons you use, as well as set further shooting options, main settings, and memory card tools. Finding your way around these menus does get easier over time.
The 3 inch tilt-angle TruBlack 921k dot LCD screen can rotate 180°, making it easy to shoot self portraits, or if you have it at 90°, it makes shooting objects low down much easier. It is a pleasure to use, with pictures looking great during shooting and when viewing back.
Rated at 410 shots, we were able to take just over 650 photos before the battery was exhausted. The camera uses an info-lithium ion rechargeable battery, this means it can tell you how much charge the battery has left, in %. We tested the camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot-to-shot time, continuous shooting etc. and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot (without flash)
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting with flash
Speed priority continuous
Speed priority continuous with flash
Focusing is very quick, we found it a little quicker when using the lens zoomed out as much as possible. Continuous shooting and speed priority continuous record at full 16 megapixel resolution, and at 5.5fps is pretty impressive.
Sony NEX-F3 Performance
Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Sony NEX-F3 Sample Photos
Sample Photos - Colour reproduction is superb and images are consistently well exposed. Focusing is fast and generally accurate, although when shooting portraits in low light it did occasionall focus on the wrong person, such as someone in the background. Portrait shots have decent skin tones, even when shooting with the flash (example below) and are free from red-eye.
Sony NEX-F3 Lens test images
Lens Performance - Images have an ample amount of detail throughout the zoom range when shooting with the kit 18-55mm lens, with a good control on purple fringing. It is also possible to get close enough to take a decent macro shot.
Sony NEX-F3 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - There is no noise at ISO 200, with barely noticeable increases through ISO 400, 800 and 1600. At ISO 3200 there is a slight loss of detail, and a little more is lost at ISO 6400, although images remain sharp. More detail is lost at ISO 12800, with images becoming soft in places, the highest setting of ISO 16000 even more detail is lost, with images softer still.
Sony NEX-F3 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Under the incandescent lights there is an orange cast when using the AWB preset, with the incandescent preset taking the better image. Under the fluorescent lights it is the AWB preset which excels. There are four different presets for fluorescent lighting, the -1 setting performs fairly well, with the other three all taking images with a colour cast.
Panorama 4 | 1/320 sec | f/13.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 200
Panorama mode - Panoramas are taken using the sweep method and they look excellent, even when viewed full size you can see an excellent amount of detail and no signs of any stitching issues.
Sony NEX-F3 Scene modes
The pictures above have been taken using some of the scene modes available on the NEX-F3.
Sony NEX-F3 Digital filters
Digital Filters - The NEX-F3 has a number of creative styles and picture effects available to enhance your pictures, with a range of examples above.
Lenses Available: The Sony E Mount has a range of lenses covering 16mm to 210mm, the equivalent of 24mm wide angle to 315mm telephoto and a choice of seven lenses currently available, with one pancake and three prime lenses, a 30mm macro, 24mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens and a 50mm f/1.8 portrait lens. Sony has announced plans to release 8 more lenses over the next two years, bringing the total to 15 lenses. There are also lenses available from Tamron, Sigma and Samyang.
Video - Video quality is excellent, below is a video recorded in full HD with stereo sound. Head over to the ePHOTOzine Youtube page and you can watch a video which shows the use of zoom during recording.
Value For Money
The Sony NEX-F3 is available for £499.00 with the E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens. Below are a number of other entry level compact system cameras from varying manufacturers.
The Sony NEX-F3 is a fantastic choice for those looking at their first interchangeable lens camera. It is very simple to use once you have familiarised yourself with the menu systems and takes excellent pictures, with fantastic detail and colour reproduction. If you're not sure yet how to get the best from using manual controls, you can still take excellent pictures using the Superior Auto mode, which selects the best camera settings for you automatically.
If your budget is slightly limited, you may have to consider the Nikon J1, but the NEX-F3 has a larger sensor, meaning better image quality and less noise, there is also a wider range of lenses available. We also like the fast 5.5 fps continuous shooting, excellent battery life and rubber grip. All this means the Sony NEX-F3 comes highly recommended.
The Sony NEX-F3 takes great images and is easy for the beginner to use.
Sony NEX-F3 Pros
Superior Auto mode works really well
5.5 fps continuous shooting
Substantial rubber grip
Very good battery life
Image quality is excellent with great colour reproduction
Good noise performance throughout ISO range
Sony NEX-F3 Cons
Occasionally focused on wrong place in low light
Lenses are quite large
Non standard flash mount
Menu system is unusual and takes some getting used to