Sony has just announced two new digital cameras: a DSLR and a compact interchangeable-lens camera that both continue to push the envelope in regard to how small a DSLR is or how powerful a smaller camera can be. The Alpha SLT-A37 (available with an 18-55mm lens) is the successor to the Alpha SLT-A35 and can be seen as more of a refinement rather than a vast assortment of new features. The Sony NEX-F3 (available in silver or black) is the newest compact interchangeable-lens camera and is placed squarely in between a point and shoot and DSLR in terms of size, while matching the convenience of a point and shoot and the quality of a DSLR. Both of these cameras serve to offer the most convenience possible without lacking in features or control over how your images are produced. Both allow the use of interchangeable lenses, feature APS-C 16.1MP image sensors, utilize the BIONZ image processor for quick performance and low noise, and support full AVCHD video recording in 1080/60i, 24p formats.
The sensors in these cameras lend impressive detail and depth to your images while providing a high enough resolution for significant enlargements to be made from your image files. The BIONZ image processor unit provides all the necessary speed required for these sensors to function seamlessly, while also offering an effective reduction in noise and increased ISO sensitivity (up to ISO 16000). The clarity of images as a result of these two technologies is ideal for low-light shooting as well as fast-paced action photography. The image processors also allow for data-intensive, full-resolution 5.5 fps continuous shooting and 2D or 3D Sweep Panorama images.
Full HD 1080 recording is supported with both cameras in either the 60i or 24p frame rate. When shooting with these frame rates, your files will be recorded using the AVCHD format for outstanding clarity and motion detail. Additionally, you can record in a more standard, PC-friendly MP4 format in 1080/30p format. HDMI output is also supported with both of these cameras so you can instantly watch your HD movies on a compatible HD television. When viewing on a BRAVIA HDTV, the BRAVIA Sync system enables you to control playback directly with the television remote.
Auto Portrait Framing is a unique shooting mode that helps you automatically achieve optimally exposed and composed portraits in-camera. When working in this mode you make an exposure as normal, and then the camera will automatically recognize any people within the frame and crop and enhance the image. Cropping is done based on the rule of thirds, which will place your subjects slightly off-center for greater visual interest, giving more room in the frame in the direction in which your subject is looking. Once the new well-balanced, tighter composition has been recognized, other technologies such as Face Detection and Smile Shutter will be employed to produce an aesthetically pleasing portrait. This new image is saved in addition to your original image, so you can work from the original if desired.
Clear Image Zoom borrows some of the technologies from Auto Portrait Framing and effectively allows you to increase your focal length by 2x with essentially no image degradation. This function zooms in on the center of your image and will modify the camera’s auto exposure functions to suit the newly framed scene. This method of increasing focal length proves to be sounder than traditional digital zoom because the system of interpolation is only focused on the new composition versus discarded areas of the original scene.
Both of these cameras allow you to produce imagery that takes into consideration the limits of traditional exposure and metering systems. Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) significantly improves shooting backlit subjects by increasing the exposure on shadowed subjects while compressing the highlights into a manageable tonal value. By placing all of the exposure values into the range of a single image, tones appear longer and the overall exposure exhibits a more controlled sense of contrast with less discrepancy between blocked up and blown-out regions. Similarly, Auto HDR will create a high dynamic range image without the need of post production. The camera will automatically capture and compile three bracketed exposures—one for the highlights, one for the mid-tones and one for the shadows—and convert them into a single file with a range of tones greater than a typical single exposure can accomplish.
Multi Frame NR and Hand-held Twilight Mode also make use of combining multiple exposures into a single frame; however, these modes do so in order to compensate for the overall lack of luminosity within a given scene. Particularly useful when photographing under candlelight or outdoors at night, these modes create up to six exposures at once and combine them to increase the effective exposure and reduce the noise of your image. This works along the same lines as a multiple exposure with film but eliminates the need to only photograph from a tripod and discounts the inherent density buildup when layering imagery.
Both of these cameras come bundled with an adequate range zoom lens, giving you convenient wide angle to portrait length or telephoto focal lengths. The NEX-F3 is bundled with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens, which has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 27-82.5mm. This lens has been specifically designed for use with Sony NEX cameras and incorporates optical SteadyShot image stabilization and an internal autofocus motor for quick, silent focusing. The SLT-A37 comes bundled with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens (27-82.5mm equivalent). It incorporates a smooth autofocus motor for quiet focusing, which is especially helpful when recording HD video.
What truly separates this camera from other DSLRs is its speed and efficiency, due in part to Translucent Mirror Technology. This technology allows the camera to continuously monitor autofocus, even while shooting. Since the mirror used for the prism, focus and exposure settings is a one-way mirror, there can be constant monitoring of the scene while the image sensor is able to capture information (images) at the same time. By eliminating the lag time between focusing, you can always ensure your subjects are kept in sharp focus while not losing a moment of recording time. The translucent mirror even allows for full-time, 15-point phase detection AF while recording HD video, so constant attention to precise focus is being applied while videos are recording, which is ideal for filming motion or complex panning shots. The translucent mirror further lends itself to allow for 7-frame-per-second continuous shooting in Tele Zoom High Speed shooting mode. This mode magnifies the center of your image and is able to capture continuous 8.4MP stills with constant autofocus and auto exposure settings being applied while shooting.
For additional low-light photography benefits, the SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization helps to reduce blur and camera shake. By moving the stabilization system to inside the camera body, you can garner the benefits of sharper images with any A-mount lens (including macro and wide-aperture standard zoom lenses).
The Tru-finder electronic viewfinder features a bright, sharp 1.15-million dot effective resolution with 1.1x magnification and 100% frame coverage. Since this eye-level finder is electronic, detailed exposure information can be presented while monitoring and full-time viewing is possible even when filming HD movies. The 230K-dot 3" (7.6 cm) LCD allows tilting up or down for greater viewing options, including the option to tilt under the camera for self-portrait viewing. Both the EVF and LCD support Live View and allow you to preview the effects of your exposure settings, including white balance, focus, depth of field and 100% framing accuracy.
When working in AUTO+ mode, the SLT-A37 will automatically combine and make use of the intelligent features of the camera to produce images that are well-exposed in a quick and seamless manner. This mode will recognize the scene in which you are photographing and make use of the Auto HDR, DRO and other features to render images with outstanding clarity and definition in the simplest manner.
Since the translucent mirror does not require the movements that are necessary in other DSLRs, the body size is significantly reduced and lighter in weight. The smaller form factor makes this DSLR a more compact option without sacrificing the core functions of a single lens reflex camera. The design of the camera also integrates an auto pop-up flash that automatically fires when necessary or can be used to trigger optional wireless flashes. For greater functionality, the memory card slot also accommodates two styles of cards: a Memory Stick PRO Duo/PRO-HG Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
The most pronounced difference between this camera and a typical point-and-shoot camera is the ability to use interchangeable lenses, giving you greater image quality and a wider variety of focal lengths to choose from. Natively, this camera supports Sony’s small and lightweight E-mount lenses. However, when used in conjunction with the optional LA-EA1 or LA-EA2 adapter, this camera is also compatible with DSLR-sized A-mount lenses for a truly wide-ranging selection of optics.
The NEX-F3 features a large 3" (7.6 cm) 921K-dot LCD monitor for review and playback of your stills and videos. This screen utilizes TruBlack technology for increased contrast and vivid rendering of high-resolution imagery. Where this screen truly differs from the norm is its tilting capabilities; it is able to tilt a full 180° up for perfectly composed self-portraits. Additionally, the screen can tilt 13° downward, providing you with a truly wide range of viewing options no matter at what angle you’re photographing. Live View is supported full-time. Benefit from detailed exposure information and 100% framing accuracy while shooting movies or photos.
The Photo Creativity Interface emulates the experiences of shooting with a DSLR and allows you to pick and choose the effects you would like to apply to your images. Changes can be combined or removed in real time, giving more importance to the preview functionality offered. Functions supported include Picture Effect, Background Defocus Control, Soft Skin Effect, Color, Brightness, Vividness and Self-timer/Continuous Advance.
The NEX-F3 utilizes a number of autofocus features to ensure the sharpest and fastest focusing possible with a range of opportunities to control it as you see fit. The entire focusing system is based on a 25-point array that uniformly covers the entire image area, assuring focus even when the subject isn’t positioned in the center of the frame. The Intelligent Auto Focus function automatically pre-focuses while you compose the shot, reducing the amount of time required to hone sharpness to an absolute minimum. When you choose to forgo auto focusing and opt for manual modes, you can employ a Manual Focus Assist function that will magnify the viewfinder image, simulating the use of a loupe to survey details. A Peaking function is also integrated into the system for highlighting the edges of subjects and giving you a more objective basis for determining focus. This mode is especially useful in macro modes where selective focus is an element crucial to the entire image.
Sony’s introduction of these two new cameras further closes the gap between professional and consumer-grade cameras. They both successfully integrate many high-level features into compact bodies, giving you substantial image quality and control with the convenience and learning curve of a consumer-grade machine. Their interchangeable lens functionality provides a much wider range of available optics for use and allows you to truly home in on capturing pleasing images, no matter the situation.
|Sony NEX-F3||Sony Alpha SLT-A37|
|Camera Type||Compact interchangeable lens||Digital single lens reflex|
|Lens Mount||Sony E-Mount (A-Mount with optional adapters)||Sony A-Mount|
|Sensor Size||APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm)||APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm)|
|Sensor Type||Exmor APS HD CMOS||Exmor APS HD CMOS|
|File Formats||JPEG, RAW, MPO||JPEG, RAW, MPO|
|Image Resolution||16MP||16 MP; 8.4MP|
|Image Resolution (Sweep Panorama)||23MP (16:9)||Not specified by manufacturer|
|Aspect Ratio||16:9 (3D Sweep Panorama)||16:9 (3D Sweep Panorama)|
|Picture Effect||HDR Painting, Soft Focus, Miniature, Retro Photo, Soft High-key, Partial Color (Green/Blue/Yellow/ Red), Pop Color, High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Posterization (B/W, Color) and Rich Monotone||HDR Painting, Soft Focus, Miniature, Retro Photo, Soft High-key, Partial Color (Green/Blue/Yellow/ Red), Pop Color, High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Posterization (B/W, Color) and Rich Monotone|
|Dynamic Range Functions||Dynamic Range Optimizer||Dynamic Range Optimizer|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||Up to 5.5 fps||Up to 7 fps|
|Focus System Type||Intelligent AF, manual, manual with peaking||Full-time phase detection AF or manual|
|Autofocus Points||25 point||15 points|
|Exposure Metering Type||49-segment Multi, Center and Spot metering||1200-zone Multi, Center and Spot metering|
|Exposure Modes||Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual||Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual|
|Scene Selection||Portrait, Sports Action, Macro, Landscape, Sunset, Night View, Night Portrait and Handheld Twilight Shot||Portrait, Sports Action, Macro, Landscape, Sunset, Night View, Night Portrait and Handheld Twilight Shot|
|Creative Style||Standard, Vivid, B&W, Sunset, Portrait and Landscape||Standard, Vivid, B&W, Sunset, Portrait and Landscape|
|ISO Sensitivity||Up to ISO 16000||Up to ISO 16000|
|Image Stabilization||Optical SteadyShot||SteadyShot INSIDE|
|Video Recording Format||AVCHD, MP4||AVCHD, MP4|
|Video Compression||MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)||MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)|
|Video Image Size||AVCHD: 1080 (60i, 24p), MP4: 1080 (30p)||AVCHD: 1080 (60i, 24p), MP4: 1080 (30p)|
|Viewfinder Type||Not specified by manufacturer||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Resolution||Not specified by manufacturer||1,440K-dot|
|Viewfinder Coverage||Not specified by manufacturer||100%|
|Viewfinder Magnification||Not specified by manufacturer||1.1x|
|LCD Monitor Type||3.0" / 7.6 cm TruBlack||3.0" / 7.6 cm|
|LCD Adjustments||Down: 13°
|Tilt/Swivel (unspecified amount)|
|Flash Type||Built-in popup flash||Built-in popup flash|
|Memory Card Types||Dual format: Memory Stick PRO Duo/Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo and SD, SDHC||Dual format: Memory Stick PRO Duo/Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo and SD, SDHC, SDXC|
|Dimensions||Not specified by manufacturer||Not specified by manufacturer|
|Weight||Not specified by manufacturer||Not specified by manufacturer|