Sony Alpha NEX-F3 Digital Camera Review$599.99
Speed and Timing
The Sony NEX-F3 receives a moderate bump in speed over its predecessor, with Sony claiming it hits a max speed of around 5.5 frames per second. The NEX-F3 otherwise stays in line with what the NEX-C3 offered, with continuous shooting, a speed priority continuous mode, and the usual complement of self-timer options.
The Sony NEX-F3 includes single shooting, continuous shooting (with continuous AF), and speed priority continuous (with focus/exposure locked at first frame). The speed priority is the fastest, by far, but it has a limited capacity before that 5.5+ FPS speed dies off into something a little more pedestrian. The F3 also has custom bracketing options, which will rattle off three images with exposure shifted either 0.3 or 0.7 EV between shots. All these options are always available by hitting the left side of the rear control dial.
Sony made good on their claims with the NEX-F3, as we found its rated 5.5FPS was actually on the lower end of our test results. On average we saw the camera rattle off shots at around 5.7FPS. It's a small difference, but it shows Sony's not trying to pull a fast one here. The one cause of concern if you're looking for a solid sports shooter (at least when comparing the NEX-F3 to some faster cameras) is the limited capacity. The camera is only able to capture around 10-12 shots at the full speed before slowing down to a little more than one shot per second.
In the Sony NEX-F3's drive menu you can also find options for the camera's self timer, which includes the standard delay of two and ten seconds. In addition, there's a continuous self-timer that can rattle off three or five images after a 10 second delay—perfect for those family portraits where someone's always blinking.
The Sony NEX-F3 has generally quite good focus performance, but it's highly dependent on contrast. In shooting stills this often locks on just fine in bright areas, with face detection aiding on portraits. In low light we found focus was quite limited, though the red AF illuminator is quite bright and targets the center of the frame well. Still, focus isn't nearly as snappy as it is in bright light (obviously), and there's little to no confirmation when the camera thinks focus has been achieved.
The camera offers four focus types: single autofocus, continuous autofocus, manual focus, and auto focus with manual adjustments. The autofocus system can choose from 25 points across the sensor, with the option to track focus across the frame once it has locked on.
Manual focus is aided in two ways on the Sony NEX-F3. The first is with a typical digital zoom that enlarges a portion of the frame (selectable by the user) where you can better see fine details in order to judge focus. The NEX-F3 offers another great feature that is more useful, called focus peaking. Focus peaking highlights high contrast edges (which are typically in focus) in a bright color, selectable by the user in the "Setup" menu. This is great for quickly adjusting focus on the fly, especially if you're planning on using third party lenses adapted to the NEX system, as most non-Sony lens adapters will remove autofocus capability.