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Age vs Beauty: Sony F3 vs A7 III

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The Cameras

In this corner, we have the Sony F3--episodic TV and corporate/commercial workhorse, best known for its use on season 1 of Key and Peele and the feature film Safety Not Guaranteed. Super 35 2.4K sensor that downscales to 1080p in-camera. 10-bit output up to 4:4:4 RGB. 

In this corner, the Sony A7 III--a modern hit, barely out and already one of the most popular mirrorless cameras around. Full frame 24 megapixel sensor that downscales to 4K from both the full sensor and from the APS-C crop. 8-bit 4:20 internally, with the option for 4:2:2 externally. 

The Test

I generally light my work, so I thought I'd test with a scenario I often face: talking head interviews. One big soft key, a soft backlight, something splashing the background, maybe a practical. Now, this is a hella lazy, sloppy lighting execution--the backlight is a little too far around, background splash not nearly strong or interesting enough, and there's a huge bit of blank wall amidst the clutter--but it does contain some useful information. More on that after the camera notes. Just keep in mind that it was a rush job and try not to be too critical. 

Each camera used the same Leica R 35mm Summicron set to f/5.6. This was to keep color, contrast, and sharpness consistent, as not all my Rs match perfectly and I wanted any differences in the image to be down to the cameras. I did not adjust the tripod distance, instead opting to let precise frame matching go in favor of minimizing inconsistencies. I'll do another test that keeps framing identical. 

Since I unfortunately couldn't get ahold of a color chart for this test, I have a few various colored objects in the scene to act as references. The sweater is a deep forest green, the hat is a pale pinkish-red, the UHaul logo is a distinct orange, and the furniture blanket is a nice primary blue. They don't line up with anything specific on a vectorscope, but I find the subtle differences in how these colors, along with my skin tone, are rendered is quite telling. 

Yes, that is me in the video. I am not a model, or really comfortable on camera at all. My being in the hot seat was PURELY a matter of desperation, as my roommate was busy and I didn't have another day free to do the test. So you'll have to deal with my pale, blotchy face and greasy hair this time. 

The F3 has two sets of clips: one taken internally in XDCAM, one externally in ProRes HQ (10-bit 4:2:2). I don't have access to a 4K recorder, so the A7III files were all recorded internally to the SD card. 

If you have any other questions on my methodology please feel free to ask. Even with the studio conditions, it's very possible that something was overlooked. 

What to Watch For

Personally, these are the elements I found most interesting.

-The colors of the various objects listed above, as well as their relative brightness. The A7, for example, makes the blue moving blanket much brighter.
-The big patch of blank wall behind me is a great place to watch for midtone noise, compression artifacts, and banding. 
-The black portion of the moving blanket, back right corner by the boxes, and the shadow by my left ear under the hair are good spots to look at shadow noise/compression.
-Obviously, the face is there for skin tone reference. I'm pretty pale, and exposed a stop above key to keep noise down, as I generally do in a real interview. This pushed my skintones into the flattest part of the LOG curve, smoothing them out a bit, but in this scenario that's not entirely undesirable. Just something to keep in mind. Additionally, my eyes are a pretty deep shade of blue, with some green flecks. The cameras and color profiles render them with mixed levels of success.
-My hair, beard, and eyes are all good places to look at for fine detail rendering, noise, and moire/aliasing. 
-The lightbulb and background splash were an attempt to look at highlight roll-off, but upon review it doesn't seem all that useful. The next test will use a stronger light doing a better scrape for DR/gradient, as well as a bulb with a filament to see how each camera renders hot highlight detail.

The Footage

These clips are straight out of camera/recorder, with no grading or edits. I could've at least trimmed them for brevity/convenience, but I...didn't want to. So. Sorry. 

You'll find them at this link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=159ig4Dq7emsxIE6GWpwj8H9SX73XMSQU

Feel free to download them and play around. I can show you my grading results, but I find nothing helps more than massaging footage yourself.

Here are the settings for each clip:


1. 1080p Cine1 F35Like ISO400 172.8* shutter f/5.6 (I don't know if F3 internal profiles suck or I just suck WITH them, but getting a good SOOC result with it still eludes me. Think I'll try the AbelCine stuff next.)
2. 1080p SLog1 SGamut ISO 800 172.8* shutter f/5.6 (ISO 800 is native in SLog, which is why it jumps here. Everything is otherwise identical.)
3. 1080p SLog1 SGamut ISO 1600 172.8* shutter f/5.6 (An attempt to test overexposure. In retrospect, I should've opened up to f/4 instead, but this still shows clipping behavior when cranking up ISO for exposure.)
4. 1080p SLog1 SGamut ISO 6400 172.8* shutter f/16 (High ISO noise test. The levels themselves are pretty good, so this is more a test of how much penalty you pay for cranking ISO to get by with smaller fixtures inside.)


1. 4K Cine4 SGamut3.cine ISO 400 1/50 f/5.6 Full Frame (with +15 or so saturation. My favorite out of camera profile so far.)
2. 1080p Cine4 SGamut3.cine ISO 400 1/50 f/5.6 Full Frame
3. 4K SLog2 SGamut3.cine ISO 800 1/50 f/5.6 Full Frame (I prefer SLog2 to 3 for banding and skin tones. Like F3, 800 is native for SLog)
4. 1080p SLog2 SGamut3.cine ISO 800 1/50 f/5.6 Full Frame
5. 4K SLog2 SGamut3.cine ISO 1600 1/50 f/5.6 Full Frame
6. 4K SLog2 SGamut3.cine ISO 800 1/50 f/5.6 Crop Mode
7. 1080p SLog2 SGamut3.cine ISO 800 1/50 f/5.6 Crop Mode
8. 4K SLog2 SGamut3.cine ISO 6400 1/50 f/5.6 Crop Mode
9. 4K SLog2 SGamut3.cine ISO 6400 1/50 f/5.6 Full Frame

Again, I'm happy to clarify any questions on my methodology. This was mainly to give me a nice broad spread of information on how my most used settings compare for quality.


I'm more curious what you guys think, so I won't say too much right away. My main take-away is that the F3 is nowhere near obsolete yet...in fact, it's my preferred camera for noise, color, skintones, gradation, and overall look. The A7 has the obvious advantages of full frame, strong internal recording, size/weight, and IBIS. 

Next, I want to see how each camera does with fluorescent, LED, and daylight skintones, as well as mixed color temps, motion, compression/bitrate issues, DR, and resolution/detail. If you have any suggestions for future tests, or anything you'd like to specifically see compared, just let me know and I'll do my best to throw it in. 

Thanks, and hope you enjoy!

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

The color looks more pleasing overall on the F3. 

I am terrible at judging color though. I was shooting on the A7III yesterday. The menus are terrible but otherwise its quite a remarkable piece of equipment. 

I just sold my Sony F3 to fund a Fuji XT3. They really seem to not be selling as much vs when I got it this spring. 

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I’ve posted various times that I look at a lot of videos on my phone. If I’m at my computer, I am there to write or edit, not to peruse the Internet. A lot of videos look good on a phone but some look exceptionally good and those are the ones I look for.

With that being said, the F3 wins hands down and looks noticeably better, even on my phone. 

There are definite color differences between the two cameras with the A7 rendering a cooler look and side by side one might think that the WB is different between the two.

But in the end, the F3 has a thicker, meatier image. As far as other details, I’d have to look on a bigger screen. The good news is that the F3 footage looks so good on my phone that it warrants a closer look on the computer.

Interesting test, thanks for sharing!

For your next test, please include a cat.

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There is a Korean auteur called Hong Sang-soo. His most recent cinematic releases were done on the F3. I had the pleasure of seeing them on the big screen and the images were very good. I personally don't think the two compare if you are talking about cinematic imagery. 

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35 minutes ago, Yurolov said:

There is a Korean auteur called Hong Sang-soo. His most recent cinematic releases were done on the F3. I had the pleasure of seeing them on the big screen and the images were very good. I personally don't think the two compare if you are talking about cinematic imagery. 

I love the work of Hong Sang-Soo. 

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The older the Sony, the better the skintones.

F35 = CCD beauty

Alpha A900 = Minolta goodness

F3 = Looks great from this test

And then came the NEX VG900. It was all downhill from 2012 on!!


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22 minutes ago, Andrew Reid said:

Did Venice colour science ever make it to the FS5 Mark II?

It was claimed to be there at launch.  

But honestly I'd rather get a cheaper FS5 mk1 on eBay (you're not missing much, the mk2 launch was one of the most disappointing mk2 launches in recent camera history), constantly tempted to do so once their price started to be within a thousand ish bucks of a FS700. (arrrghhh... but my will power is staying strong! Even though I distract myself by looking up other different cameras on eBay instead.... have you guys noticed how cheap the Panasonic FZ2500/FZ1000 are? :-o  The FZ100 is going to be cheap enough for the next ultra low budget camera challenge!)

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Used F3's are going close to a grand. When I get the Blackmagic 6G Monitor ( If they ever release the damn thing! ) the combo for 10-bit 4:2:2 would be pretty magic. I'll keep my Nikon Z6 to use when I want video AF and gimbal use. Wish the Blackmagic monitor accepted 4:4:4 .

Just got a LG C9 OLED to use as a grading monitor, and 8-bit stand out on it like a sore thumb. 

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2 hours ago, Geoff CB said:

Used F3's are going close to a grand.

Yeah, deprecation seems to have stopped/slowed down for now. 

I had noticed them go down to US$650ish, and I was getting all ready to buy them soon.... just wait for a bit cheaper! Only to see prices bounce up recently to US$800ish+ 

Oh well ?

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Great video. 

There is no chance I'd ever said it was shot with a Sony. Those deep reds and oranges.. 

Anyway, if you've got skills like this, the whole color science thing doesn't really apply to you. I'd definitely watch and still pretty much enjoy it, even if the skin tones were zombie-like. 

Having pleasant colors is like an icing on the cake, IMHO. 

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3 hours ago, heart0less said:

Having pleasant colors is like an icing on the cake, IMHO. 

And everyone wants icing on their cake. 

The F3 is a great camera. It really does have an extremely rich color output. The slog files also really handle over and under exposure very well. 

Like the other Sony’s I have used. It looks amazing outdoors and okay in mixed lighting. (From my experience.) 

I was using a Sony Swit with a dtap to power the Black Magic video assist. This was a super compact setup that worked really well. 

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