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Sony NEX-F3 Mirrorless Camera Review

Daniel Bell reviews the entry level Sony NEX-F3 mirrorless compact system camera which has a 16.1 megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor.

|  Sony NEX-F3 in Mirrorless Cameras
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Sony Nex F3 Front 4

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 Flash Up

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.

Sony Nex F3 Top

Key Features

  • 16.1 megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor
  • E-mount interchangeable lens system
  • In-lens optical image stabilisation (with compatible lenses)
  • 3 inch tilt-angle TruBlack 921k dot LCD screen
  • Full HD movie (1920 x 1080i) with stereo sound
  • ISO 200-16000
  • 5.5 fps high speed burst shooting
  • Sweep Panorama
  • Auto HDR
  • Superior Auto mode
  • 2x Clear Image Zoom
  • Auto Portrait Framing
  • Full manual controls
  • Artistic Picture Effects
  • Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto
  • Background Defocus Control
  • Handheld Twilight mode
  • 8x Precision Digital Zoom
  • High-speed 25 multi-point AF
  • Soft Skin mode, Face Detection and Smile Shutter
  • D-Range Optimiser
  • Built-in pop-up flash
Sony Nex F3 Tilted Screen

Sony NEX-F3 Handling

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.
Sony Nex F3 Rear

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.

Shutter Response   0.05 secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.4 secs
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response   0.3 secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   1.5 secs
Shot to Shot (without flash)   0.8 secs
Shot to Shot with Flash   1.1 secs
Continuous Shooting   2.6 fps
Continuous Shooting with flash   1.2 fps
Speed priority continuous   5.5 fps
Speed priority continuous with flash   1.0 fps

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 Battery And Memory Card

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 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 TamronSigma 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.

Nikon J1 Olympus PEN E-PL3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 Samsung NX200 Pentax K-01
Nikon J1 Olympus PEN E-PL3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 Samsung NX200 Pentax K-01
£295.00 £349.00 £429.00 £441.00 £499.00

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Sony NEX-F3 Verdict

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
Tiltable screen
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


Sony NEX-F3 Specifications

Image Sensor
Pixels16.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4912
Pixels (H)3264
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.5mm
Sensor Size (height)15.6mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921,600
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • AB
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 25600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-3
Viewfinder ResolutionNo Data
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting5.5fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
Video FPS25p, 50p
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Wi-FiNo Data
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • Memory Stick (Sony)
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeNP-FW50
Battery Life (CIPA rating)410shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsCamera, Shoulder strap, Battery Charger, Infolithium Battery (NP-FW50), USB Cable, CD-ROM, Flash, Standard Zoom Lens (18-55mm OSS)

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Photographs taken using the Sony NEX-F3

Rum Point, Grand Cayman My GardenMeal timeRobinHidden RobinIce Queen66/365 Morning Training28/365 Fern23/365 ACE TANGO 17.322/365 From Buds3/365 Tech2/365 WarmerAutumn is only around the corner you know !On the Hill

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franken Plus
20 5.5k 4 United Kingdom
20 Aug 2012 4:56PM
I know we don't get a lot of sunshine these days but what's it like composing in bright light?

21 Aug 2012 7:02PM
Hi Ken, I found it fine in bright light.
josa 10 25 Czech Republic
21 Aug 2012 9:16PM
The used lens isn't very sharp....Sad otherwise a great camera.
Niknut Plus
12 3.4k 82 United Kingdom
22 Aug 2012 4:46PM
Great review, with some lovely quality results !!....especially in the Hi-Res images !

Looking at the 'top-plate' of the camera, the built-in flash looks to be the larger
rectangular 'flap', to the right of the lens centreline ?? what's the smaller flap
situated on the lens C/L ??????.......if it's a socket to take an EVF it's gonna be a
cracking piece of kit !!!!

I much prefer to have a viewfinder to compose my if it takes an EVF of
the same quality as the NEX-7 then for me it's a winner !!!! The EVF on the NEX-7
is a beaut., but it's offset to the rear top-left-corner, which doesn't appeal...I feel
it's ergonomically 'right' when it's on the lens C/L....?????

Though I dare say an accessory EVF is gonna be another 250..?? it's getting
rather pricey.......& Sony cameras don't seem to come down in price, as others tend
to do ..???????

The noise control seems to be top-notch too, at least up to ISO 1600.......which makes
the package a very tempting proposition !!!.....where's me piggy-bank ???.Grin
22 Aug 2012 7:30PM
Good news and bad news. Good news, yes, it can take an EVF: Bad news, 319 from Sony. The socket can also be used for a microphone. But yeah, I loved using the camera, would certainly buy one myself if I had the money.
Niknut Plus
12 3.4k 82 United Kingdom
22 Aug 2012 7:50PM
319 !!!!!!!!!!....strewth !!!......don't think my state-pension will stretch that far !!!!

That isn't the 'gold-plated' version is it ?????.Grin
josa 10 25 Czech Republic
22 Aug 2012 8:04PM
@Niknut-the only gold will be your VISA card...Wink

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