Sony, $699 (with 18-55mm lens) sony.com.au ★★★★
COMPACT system cameras are popular for one reason: they deliver highquality photos from small bodies. Sony has really embraced this smaller-is-handier philosophy and its NEX cameras are among some of the tiniest interchangeable lens cameras.
Its newest model bucks the trend, however, as the NEX-F3 actually puts on weight and bulk . . . and it’s better for it.
The NEX-F3 is an entrylevel compact system camera that replaces the year-old C3. Sony doesn’t reinvent the previous model but it has made it easier to hold and added handy features and tweaks.
The camera body now weighs an extra 31g and is almost 1cm longer and taller.
The gain isn’t bad news, however, because its predecessor was hardly overweight and the F3 is easier to hold, with a deeper grip.
Sony has also made other important additions to this shooter.
Its 3-inch screen not only tilts from the camera body but can now flip up vertically, putting the photographer in the frame.
This simple addition makes self-portraits and holiday snapshots significantly easier.
A flash has been built into the F3’s body, replacing the slightly awkward clip-in model in the C3. This flash can be angled upwards to bounce off ceilings and produce a natural lighting effect.
A hotshoe connection sits beside the flash for a micro- phone or viewfinder attachment, and the SD card slot has been moved from the battery compartment to its own space beneath the camera.
The sensor in this camera is still a generously sized APS-C model, for large, crisp images, but its resolution has dropped slightly from 16.2 to 16.1 megapixels. This sensor is now more sensitive to light, however, with an ISO rating of up to 16,000, and it can capture full high-definition video.
In practice, the NEX-F3 produces impressive images. Photos look crisp and clear, even up to 800 ISO, and there are plenty of modes and options to change the results. Eight scene modes feature on
its dial, from night portrait to sunset. Traditional modes are also available for confident snappers who want to set aperture, shutter speed or other settings manually.
Beginners can change a photo’s focus, depth of field, brightness or hue using the better-explained options in Intelligent Auto mode.
Its navigation system remains unchanged, which should please existing NEX users. But others may take time to adjust because there are no manual dials and modes can be changed only on screen.
Other problems include a longer start-up time of 1.6 seconds, and the migrant SD card slot is inaccessible when the camera is on a tripod.
But the NEX-F3 is a solid all-rounder. Those looking to invest in a compact system camera for the first time should appreciate its features and reasonably low price.