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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Noise profile

ISO 200 JPEG

ISO 200 vs. ISO 400 JPEGs

Low-light video

ISO 800, JPEG

ISO 1600, JPEG

Color

Sharpness, 18-55mm lens

Auto Portrait Framing

Auto Portrait Framing and pixel bloat

While the Sony Alpha NEX-F3's JPEGs look best at ISO 200 -- look at the shadowed area under the currency to see the processing artifacts as low as ISO 400 -- overall the F3 has a decent noise profile for its price class.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
The camera does very well at its base sensitivity, ISO 200, displaying no visible JPEG artifacts.

(1/100 sec, f9, multi meter, AWB, ISO 200, 18-55mm lens at 55mm)
Caption by
You can see how much detail gets lost due to overzealous processing between ISO 200 and ISO 400.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
You can see that the F3 delivers very good tonality in high-contrast video. At full size, however, the low-light video doesn't look very sharp, though that could be the meh quality of the 50mm f1.8 lens I shot with.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
While I could nitpick on comparison shots, overall the F3's JPEGs retain detail and tonality very well at ISO 800.

(1/80 sec, f2.5, -0.7 EV, spot meter, AWB, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8 lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
It's fine for viewing at reduced sizes, but by ISO 1600 the JPEGs turn into paintings at 100 percent view.

(1/80 sec, f1.8, spot meter, AWB, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8 lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The standard Creative Style -- there's no neutral -- renders bright, saturated colors without any noticeable hue shifts. The white balance is a bit cool in my shots because of the overcast conditions.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
I think there's a hair too much sharpening, but overall the lens and body deliver a reasonably sharp image.

(1/100 sec, f8, multi meter, AWB, ISO 200, 18-55mm lens at 55mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
New to this generation of cameras is the Auto Portrait Framing feature; in Superior Auto mode, when you frame a picture of a person in landscape (wide) orientation it will automatically create a crop that more attractively positions the person in the photo, and save both it and the original (though it seems to randomly choose between portrait and landscape orientations). This is a clever and useful idea for newbies.

(1/500 sec, f4.5, multi meter, AWB, ISO 200, 18-55mm lens at 30mm)
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After it crops the photo, Sony feels compelled to unnecessarily bloat it back up to 16 megapixels. At ISO 200 and when viewed at 50 percent, Sony's Clear Image Zoom interpolation technology used for uprezzing does produce a photo that looks sharper than simply cropping the original, if somewhat oversharpened. However, at higher ISO sensitivities (in other words, in any indoor portrait you'll take), it simply exacerbates the other artifacts in the photo. And even at ISO 200, the interpolation mushes up detail that looks sharp in a regular crop.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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