Sample Sony F3 footage and first impressions

The Sony F3 was launched to the press in the UK this week and I’ve been watching a ton of XDCAM footage direct from pre-production F3s today in my Berlin studio away from the wine and cheese parties. Am I impressed?

Without wanting to be emotional let’s be objective – You’d expect for the price not to see heavy aliasing, tons of noise and blown highlights. You just don’t.

Nor do I accept that it’s user error. The shot is properly exposed, maybe a little over but still – the highlights get blown very quickly, awful artefacts on the ceiling lights and a really quick fall off in gradation. The frame grab is direct from the camera and then graded to correct white balance.

I am sure my views risk upsetting a lot of people and maybe Sony will fix these issues on the final product but I really do not see anything in the images that make it nearly $20k better than a DSLR. Sure it’s better, but not THAT much better.

Add to that the fact there is no RAW, no 4K and image processing which isn’t exactly anything to write home about and my excitement drops even further.

I also believe that it just cannot compete with RED in the same price league for image quality. We’re talking $23k with lenses here. This is a camera which makes a RED ONE look like a comparative bargain even after you’ve added all the bits. It isn’t a cheap camera, yet from the way it handled the above scene, it is not a great deal different to a $1k Lumix.

Here’s what I saw from the footage posted earlier.

• For a chip rated at ISO 800 it seems awfully noisy, even in a brightly lit room
• Very heavy aliasing on the metal clip and lights in the sample footage
• Terrible blown highlights around the lamps and ceiling at the back of shot

Let’s look at what you don’t get for $20k.

• No RAW
• No 4K
• No 120fps
• Not even 60p in 1080p
• EVF at back of camera (should be at side)
• Not a modular design like RED
• Heavier than a DSLR
• No stealth factor

I admit that the camera isn’t aimed at me and my expertise lies with DSLRs. I want filmmaking to happen at the grass roots, for it to become more accessible. That’s what’s really exciting about DSLRs. So I have to admit to being a little bit emotionally invested in DSLRs succeeding in bringing prices down and deflating the industry to it’s basic core of picture making – without all the pomp, hype, expense, large crews and bloated equipment.

Pro video cameras are great for certain people, but I’m a freelancer with a DSLR, what more do I need? My eye. My electronic eye. A few Heath Robinson style hacks and tricks. The results are stunning. Why do I need the F3?

I just don’t understand at least from looking at the images, why people get excited about this stuff. 10bit footage is pointless when it has the kind of artefacts we see here. Try doing keying work with those aliased edges. You may as well have chosen a 7D. There is NO advantage from 10bit footage when you haven’t got the onboard image processing pipeline and RAW to exploit it.

Meanwhile, moire is absent and resolution is good but you can say that about the GH2 as well. From what I’ve seen the GH2 almost matches it for resolution in 1080p and the 5D Mark II appears to have less noise and better handling of highlights, though it has much softer footage.

So… can somebody tell me why image quality like this is worth $20k+?