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Sony Alpha NEX-F3 Digital Camera Review$599.99
Kit Lens & Mount
The Sony NEX-F3 makes use of the same 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens that appears with other Sony NEX models. It's a fine lens, offering a 3x optical zoom, but it isn't particularly compact or much of a high-end performer. It offers a focal ring with some ridges for grip to it, with a focus ring on the front. The lens is focus-by-wire, but it does allow for some very delicate changes, with focus peaking included on the NEX-F3 to assist.
The Sony NEX lens system is developing slowly, but it does offer some decent options. The biggest advantage in favor of going with an NEX camera like the F3 may be its adaptability. The design of the camera allows it to be adapted to just about any lens system, so spare lenses, old lenses, and lenses from other manufacturers are usually workable on an NEX body with the right third-party adapter.
The image sensor in the Sony NEX-F3 is a 16.2-megapixel Exmor APS-C image sensor, the same size as you'd find in any entry- or mid-level DSLR. The sensor is the same size and total resolution as the excellent sensor found in the Sony NEX-5N, though it's impossible to tell without tearing the entire camera apart. Still, it's a good bet that it's something similar. For a full performance breakdown on this image sensor, please visit our image quality pages.
Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared
The APS-C image sensor in the Sony NEX series is one of the reasons these cameras all tend to do well in our performance tests for low light and high dynamic range. The large sensor is what separates the Sony line of compact interchangeable lens cameras from other mirrorless systems, as only Samsung use a sensor this large in models this compact. That has some drawbacks, however, as the lenses also have to be larger (to cover that large of an imaging area) compared to competing systems from Pentax, Nikon, Olympus, and Panasonic, all of which use smaller image sensors and thus can utilize more compact lenses.
The Sony NEX-F3 has a rear 3-inch display with a resolution of 921,600 pixels. The display is highly detailed and it does quite well when in an indoor setting, but it does struggle whenever you have to frame a shot with the sun shining over your shoulder onto the display. To combat this, the screen is mounted on an articulated hinge that lets the screen angle upward a full 180 degrees or downward 13 degrees. The ability to face the screen towards your subject is extremely useful in certain situations, especially when framing self-portraits and group shots. It does come at the expense of some downward angle freedom that other NEX cameras have, but the screen has a large enough angle of view that overhead shots are still easy to frame.
The built-in flash on the Sony NEX-F3 greatly resembles the flash assembly that is found on the Sony NEX-7, and it appears to be the exact same unit. It has a guide number of 6 meters at ISO 100, with a listed recycle time of three seconds (a second faster than the NEX-7, actually). The flash pops up from the top plate of the camera, sitting on a rather delicate collection of hinged arms. The flash seems sturdy enough on its own to survive normal use, but it's release is mechanical, not electrical, so the flash can pop up from the body even when the camera is powered down. It's not too delicate, but one rough trip in an unpadded bag could bend or damage the flash if it were to release while inside.
The Sony NEX-F3 offers three ports on the camera body itself. On the left side of the body behind a small plastic flap are the mini-HDMI and micro-USB ports. Both are standard ports, with the NEX-F3's standard accessories including the micro-USB cable. On the top plate of the camera is the Sony proprietary accessory port, which is compatible with the same FDAEV1S tiltable viewfinder that can be used with the Sony NEX-5N.
The Sony NEX-F3 uses the NP-FW50 battery, which has been used on many Sony models in the last couple of years. It's a removable, rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. It has a capacity of 1080mAh, and is quite compact. The Sony NEX-F3 does not ship with an external battery charging cradle, instead using the body as a charger via its included micro-USB cable. The camera does come with a USB-AC charging adapter (at least in the US), so you can plug the camera into the wall to charge it.
The Sony NEX-F3 can use either Memory Stick PRO Duo type cards or Secure Digital (SD) cards. The camera is compatible with both standard SD and PRO Duo as well as HG-PRO Duo, SDHC, and SDXC cards. If you have those cards already you'll be fine, though if you're buying new cards we recommend purchasing SDHC-type cards as they're essentially the industry standard, with nearly identical performance to Sony's proprietary memory. The cards slot into a dedicated memory compartment just beside the battery on the bottom of the camera. This is also right next to the tripod mount, which puts them essentially out of reach whenever the camera is mounted to any standard tripod plate.