cameras

Sony Alpha NEX-F3 Review

A little grip goes a long way with Sony's solid, affordable follow-up to the NEX-C3

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Science Introduction

The Sony Alpha NEX-F3 is a solid entry-level DSLR designed to offer the simple usability point-and-shooters expect, but it also manages to squeeze in the the raw picture quality expected by DSLR vets.

Sharpness & Stabilization

The NEX-F3 produced some very sharp images across the focal range with its 18-55mm kit lens.

In our test chart, the edges of our targets looked crisp at the middle apertures, and only slightly soft at wide or narrow apertures. Generally speaking, this is the behavior you'd expect from any respectable lens. The main failing of the 18-55mm kit lens seems to be chromatic aberration, which blurs edges with a mix of blue and orange fringing. This also reduces contrast and apparent sharpness.

To combat this, the camera boosted contrast where possible, which occasionally left some digital-looking white halos around high-contrast objects. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but unless you want a dramatic oversharpening effect, we recommend turning sharpness down when possible, or simply shooting RAW.

Color & Color Modes

The Sony NEX-F3 traded strict color accuracy for vivid, oversaturated images.

We found that the Sony NEX-F3, like many entry-level Sony cameras, produced distinctly oversaturated colors by default. Even modes that are supposed to produce more accurate, natural colors (such as portrait) were overdone compared to what most cameras would output. At the default saturation level, the best color accuracy we could achieve still resulted in an error of 3.06 (we generally like to see less than 2.7 from an interchangeable lens camera). Even when we turned down saturation manually, we could only force color error to drop to around 2.8 in the standard and portrait modes.

Images really pop, but you’d be loath to take a portrait with any of those modes.

Furthermore, every default creative style color mode resulted in an image with saturation boosted well above the ideal. The lowest saturation we saw was still 115% of the ideal. For reference, most cameras only cross 115% of saturation in their “vivid” color modes, where colors are intentionally boosted to extremes.

The Sony NEX-F3’s vivid, sunset, and landscape modes all pushed saturation north of 130%, which is just ridiculous. The resulting images really pop, but you’d be loath to take a portrait with any of those modes, unless you want your tanned subject to look like a Roald Dahl character.

There are also six color modes called “creative styles.” These include standard, vivid, portrait, landscape, sunset, and black & white. Each mode enables changes to contrast, sharpness, and saturation on a +/- scale, with the defaults set to zero (save for black & white, which has no saturation to adjust). We found the standard mode to be the most accurate, with a color error of 3.06, and portrait came in close behind at 3.49. The other modes don’t specifically target or benefit from color accuracy—average color error is over 4. These modes all feature oversaturated, rich colors.

Other Tests

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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