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CNET First Look
Sony Alpha NEX-F3 hands-onThe NEX-F3 is a nice upgrade from your point-and-shoot if you're looking for the versatility and photo quality of a dSLR without the bulk.
Sony's entry level, Alpha NEX-F3, interchangeable lens camera, isn't a drastic departure from the C3 which it replaces. But it does add a built in flash and has a slightly bulkier more workman like design. So, forget the new sensor. Although the same resolution, and a new metering system. So, it's a little bigger and heavier than the C3. I like the extra bulk of the F3. It's got a deeper grip for one thing, which makes it easier to shoot single handed. The body is made of polycarbonate and fells a little cheaper than previous models, but it's still pretty well constructed. The camera uses of the typical NEX design with programmable controls that are contextually labelled on the LCD. I really like this interface, so I'd love just one more button. I hate having to sacrifice the main button, which defaults to pulling up the virtual mode dial, in order to comfortably streamline the controls for my shooting needs. Like Panasonic ILC's, the flash can be tilted backwards for bounce, indirect lighting, in order to produce some much better shop. On the other hand, there's a lip around the record button, that's probably designed to prevent you from pressing it accidentally. But I find it, makes it annoyingly difficult to stop and start video recording. The talking LCD is the same one as the C3, but Sony's added a new twist. You can flip it straight up for self portraits and when it's on up position, it automatically goes into a self timer mode, but the countdown display appearing on the LCD. It then flips the photo automatically, so that it's normally oriented, rather than narrow oriented. This is a really nifty feature, if you're to self photographing sort. If you use a tripod with any regularity, I suggest you pass on the F3 though. While I appreciate that Sony moved the SD card slot out of the battery compartment, I think the new location, which is right next to the tripod mount, comes equally as problematic. New in this generation of cameras is the Auto Portrait Framing feature. In Superior Auto Mode, when you frame a picture of a person in wide orientation, it automatically creates a crop that's more attractively positions the person in the photo and it will save both the original and the cropped. This is really clever, unusual idea for new photographers. If you're looking for a camera with better lowlight photo quality than a point and shoot, the F3 definitely qualifies. While the F3 is generally pretty fast, and faster than the C3, it can also be (urked?) in some way inconsistent. Continuous shooting is a bit sluggish, but overall, the camera should be able to keep up with a toddler in bright sunlight. Well, the Alpha NEX-F3 doesn't wow me for any particular aspect of the camera. Overall, it's a nice pocket that should shoot many point and shoot upgraders, looking for the versatility and photo quality of a DLSR without the bulk. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Sony Alpha NEX-F3.