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Sony Alpha NEX-F3 Digital Camera Review$599.99
The Sony NEX-F3 doesn't feature a physical mode dial, instead relying on a shooting mode menu where you can find a picture of, of course, a dial. The NEX-F3 doesn't offer much in the way of new shooting modes if you've used a previous NEX camera, with options for intelligent auto, superior auto, scene modes, the usual PASM program and manual modes, as well as sweep panorama and its 3D variant.
The Sony NEX-F3's control scheme doesn't allow for a great deal of direct manual control, but when using the aperture priority, shutter priority, or manual modes you can use the rear control dial to select shutter speed or aperture. In manual mode you can switch between the two by pressing the exposure compensation button.
The Sony NEX-F3 has generally quite good focus performance, but it's highly dependent on contrast. In shooting stills this often locks on just fine in bright areas, with face detection aiding on portraits. In low light we found focus was quite limited, though the red AF illuminator is quite bright and targets the center of the frame well. Still, focus isn't nearly as snappy as it is in bright light (obviously), and there's little to no confirmation when the camera thinks focus has been achieved.
The camera offers four focus types: single autofocus, continuous autofocus, manual focus, and auto focus with manual adjustments. The autofocus system can choose from 25 points across the sensor, with the option to track focus across the frame once it has locked on.
Manual focus is aided in two ways on the Sony NEX-F3. The first is with a typical digital zoom that enlarges a portion of the frame (selectable by the user) where you can better see fine details in order to judge focus. The NEX-F3 offers another great feature that is more useful, called focus peaking. Focus peaking highlights high contrast edges (which are typically in focus) in a bright color, selectable by the user in the "Setup" menu. This is great for quickly adjusting focus on the fly, especially if you're planning on using third party lenses adapted to the NEX system, as most non-Sony lens adapters will remove autofocus capability.
When shooting with the NEX-F3 you can record your images in RAW, JPEG, or RAW+JPEG filetypes. The maximum image size the camera can record without using the panorama modes is a 3:2 4912x3264 (16 megapixels), with options for 3568x2368 (8.4M), and 2448x1624 (4M) shots as well. If you want a widescreen image, you can shoot in a cropped 16:9 ratio which maxes out at 4912x2760 (14M), with smaller options also available. The camera's sweep panorama modes will also turn out a single image of a much larger size, but it's the result of a composite of several images that are aligned in-camera. The camera's 3D modes also work in this way, recording in the standard .MPO 3D format.
The Sony NEX-F3 doesn't afford the user a great deal of choice when it comes to control. The rear control scheme sets most of the controls for you, and unfortunately this often means that changing simple settings like ISO require a trip into the menu by default. With many of the more common options put into odd places, that can be a frustrating experience. The custom menu helps to alleviate this.
If you go into the camera's menu. Go into Setup > Custom Key Settings > Soft Key C Settings. From there select custom, which will open up the five numbered custom options below. Here you can select up to five functions to occupy the custom menu, letting you put things like picture control, creative style, ISO, white balance, metering mode, and HDR modes within easy access. You have to give up easy access to the shooting mode menu, but as that's just two presses away in its own dedicated sub-menu, it's a trade well worth making.