Sony Launches F3

Sony Announced today the details of the PMW – F3 Camera. A PL mount, Super 35mm sensor, 24P video camera. While not cheap at an estimated under $19,000, it is also not expensive for a S35 sensor. The camera signals a huge shift and a creative opportunity for film makers and documentarians.

The Camera has interchangeable lenes. The PMW-F3’s PL mount adapter can accommodate both PL and Sony’s upcoming zoom lenses, and offers compatibility with a variety of cine lenses such as Arri, Cooke, Fujinon and Zeiss. Sony is supporting this PL option with a new remarkably affordable PL lens kit. The PL mount prime lenses , which includes 35mm/50mm/85mm T2.0. On a per lens basis this rumored to be even less than Red Prime lenses, but Sony UK’s web site is stating that these three lenses will be ” supplied as standard”.

It appears that this means there will be two versions one with and another without lenses – the unconfirmed price for the lens version is around $27,000. Sony are also developing EX mount zoom lenses to suit the new larger sensor that as with the EX3 couple to the zoom rocker in the hand grip and will have manual / auto iris to suit more reality TV/broadcast work. The camera has built in ND filter options: off: 1/8ND, and 1/64ND

10Nov/f3/pmwf3_6The recording
The on-board recording capability of the new F3 camcorder is based on Sony’s well established XDCAM EX workflow and uses Sony’s SxS ExpressCard recording media. The primary recording format is XD-CAM style to SxS cards on camera via 2 card slots but via secondary recording units, you have an uncompressed option – an option that will make this camera very popular. One could start out now with a SxS workflow knowing you can move to a more high end uncompressed 10 bit S-Log workflow in the future.

There is no recording tape format on the camera. Recording formats include 1920×1080, 1440×1080, and 1280×720 at 23.98/25/29.97p, 50/59.94i and, in standard definition mode, 25/29.97PsF and 50/59.94i. Filmmakers can also take advantage of the F3’s under and over cranking capabilities , shooting from 1 to 30 fps at 1920×1080 (17 to 30 fps in dual-link mode) or 1 to 60 fps at 1280×720 (17 to 60 fps in dual-link mode).

Sony is also planning to introduce a compatible SR Memory Portable Recorder for the PMW-F3 camcorder. SR Memory, Sony’s new high-speed, high-capacity card format, will give users the ability to record directly to the industry standard HDCAM-SR codec using the SR Memory Portable Recorder connected to the F3 camera’s single-link and dual-link output.


The Super 35mm CMOS imager delivers shallow depth of field, with high sensitivity and low noise levels. The camera has ISO 800, F11; and S/N ratio of 63db in 1920×1080/50i/60i mode, as well as great latitude.

Additionally to normal recording, “S-Log” or “Hyper Gamma” can be selected. This can significantly increase the camera’s latitude. S-Log is Sony’s unique approach to the raw “Digital Negative,” allowing access to the full dynamic range of the Super35mm imager for maximum flexibility in image manipulation during post production. This capability allows users to take advantage of already well-established HDCAM-SR and other file-based workflows.

The camera will also supports LUTs, necessary for dailies and on-set colour management. Up to four LUTs can be stored in the camera and stamped onto the footage recorded on the SxS card, whilst the unprocessed S-Log output is simultaneously captured on an external 4:4:4 recording device. This creates the perfect off-line/on-line workflow solution for highest possible image quality.


Form factor

The camera looks much like a Sony EX3 or normal video camera. It weighs approximately 2.4kg. The PMW-F3K is equipped with a newly developed, colour LCD screen with a high resolution of 1920 x 480 pixels. Unlike the EX3 there is no eye piece or electronic view finder on the side of the camera for shoulder work but there is an EVF piece at the rear and a fold out LCD monitor on the left hand side.

The PMW-F3 is just the latest stop on Sony’s digital 35mm roadmap, continuing the path in digital motion picture production from “film style” cameras like the F23 and F35 – but much more cost effective.

The PMW-F3K includes genlock and timecode interfaces, making it ideal for multi-camera operation and entry level HD studio use. There will be a 3D System Link option. Using this option you can easily synchronise timecode, genlock and control functionality with a single cable, locking together left and right cameras to simplify 3D acquisition. This is expected to be available in about April 2011.


Key for any SLR cinematographer or film maker doing documentaries – the camera has dual XLR inputs, manual audio controls with audio monitoring and a detachable mount for a shotgun mic.

First impressions

This camera is for the film maker who cut their teeth on the Panasonic P2 and now wants interchangeable lens, a larger sensor but does not want to go the SLR route with its limited 10 minute takes and poor audio tools. The camera has some minor design issues such as using it for shoulder work, but the large sensor means shallow depth of field and this is a huge plus.
It must also not be underestimated how valuable it is to have a Sony badge on the camera. For a world of television cinematographers and engineering departments – Sony means it works, it is well made, there are local support and service engineers and the camera will function right out of the box.

10Nov/f3/pmwf3_2Does it compete with the 5D Mark II – for some people yes. There will be film makers and individuals that want to just take one camera anywhere they go, and the 5D Mk II works very well being the most popular hybrid Stills/motion solution still. While the 5D may have some serious limitations it is also a fraction of the price of the Sony and smaller to pack. The Sony however nails it for those film makers who want a simple workflow, with audio that provides great images – with a shallow depth of field and filmic look, and unlike the 5D MKII the Sony can use PL mount lenses.

Does the F3 compete with the new Epic coming from Red? Not particularly. The Epic should have wider dynamic range with its HDRx option, and while they both have PL mount lens options. the 5K RAW workflow of the Epic is very different from the planned sLOG 4:4:4 uncompressed workflow of the F3. Does it compete with the Scarlet? For some people it will be a serious option vs the Scarlet. There is no date yet on the Scarlet camera’s delivery, and even with the newly announced HDRx mode for the Scarlet, there may be film makers who want PL mount and are over waiting for the Scarlet.

10Nov/f3/pmwf3_8Who should buy one?

Documentarians especially those doing interviews, – and who want outstanding image quality, far less restricted running times, no overheating problems and who perhaps grew up on the P2 form factor and need audio handled on camera.

What matters the most is how this camera looks. If it, and the new ultra cost-effective PL lenses perform then the workflow of this camera will win over a lot of film makers. Sony has committed to a more cost effective solid state camera with a large sensor and solid features.