SONY NEX-F3

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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.

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