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April 4, 2011 / nicotvandenberg

“Size Matters:” New Sony PMW-F3 Super 35mm Camera

In a culture where size matters, Sony has released their new Super 35mm Sensor PMW-F3 camera. The past week I was able to attend a demo of the Sony PMW-F# hosted by Snader at Videofax rental house. Sony gave a brief presentation on the camera with a Q&A session, then most importantly gave us  some real hands on time with the camera.

So what is so exciting about a larger sensor? Well the larger sensor plane is what contributes to the cameras low-light capabilities and its depth of field abilities. Todays overwhelming popularity with blowing the background out of focus, prosumer camcorders are not cutting it with their 1/2″ sensors, and fixed lenses. Those of us who have become comfortable  shooting with HDSLRs, it has become very difficult to go back. We have been spoiled with a library of 35mm glass to use. But those of us who shoot daily with HDSLRs, also know they are not the end all be all cameras.

Cameras now such as the Sony F3 and the Panasonic AF100, have embraced the popularity of this HDSLR revolution and have developed their answer. But their answer is for the professional market. Price point is very much a factor with these cameras. Average Joe and soccer mom are not going to look to pick one of these up. The AF100 weighing in at just around $5,000 and the PMW-F3 a heavy weight, weighing in around $13,000. Both of these prices are only for the camera bodies, no lenses. So you can see the obvious price jump from the DSLR market.

The beautiful thing about these cameras is that they have begun to incorporate the large image sensor which we have become familiar with in our 5D mkii and 7D. Specifically the new Sony super 35mm sensor is made in the exact dimensions as a 16×9 frame, meaning the camera is utilizing the sensors full potential when shooting. Opposed to the line skipping sensor of the HDSLRs or the micro 4/3 sensor found in a Panasonic AF100.

The PMW-F3 has many features to offer, from its PL lens mount to an efficient media managed workflow. Anyone who has owned or operated a Sony EX-1 or EX-3 won’t be lost or left behind. The functionally of the F-3 is practically identical. From my hands on experience, the obvious bonuses was the traditional form factor, standard operating menus, and stereo XLR inputs. However those features really don’t mean too much to me. I am comfortable with DSLR design, what I am really interested in is the performance of the cameras image. This was really difficult to see in the studio environment where we had hands on time. But what I am most excited about is Sony “S-Log,” which can be best compared to RED Raw. Sony doesn’t want to name S-Log a raw Codec because well it isn’t but it is retrieving as much data as possible from the image. The camera will output a stand 4:2:2 color space to the traditional “SXS” media cards. However with a purchased firmware update, the camera will be able to output a 4:4:4 signal through its HD/SDI output. This alone is a feature that will really sell this camera. Giving this camera great dynamic range and latitude.

It’s difficult to really grade this camera at this point with such limited experience handling the camera. But so far I am impressed and excited to use this camera on a future project.


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