Mystery Revealed: Sony F3

No Baloney. Sony took the wraps off their new F3 Camera today in the heady atmosphere on the 35th floor of their New York Madison Avenue headquarters. Here’s another game-changer. As the Sony signs said at IBC,”It’s a 35mm world.” This was the camera shown as a prototype under glass at NAB and IBC, labelled “Affordable 35mm Camera”. “Affordable” was an understatement. More on economics later.

The new PMW-F3 camcorder is lightweight and small. The body (no lens) weighs 5.3 lbs (2.4 kg).

Dimensions:  5.9″ Wide x 7.4″ High x 8.3″ Deep – 151 (W) x 189 (H) x 210 (D) mm

Power consumption is an astonishingly low 24 Watts. It uses an on-board 12 volt battery like the BPU-60 for about 3 hours of run-time. No fans.

The new PMW-F3 camcorder has a Super 35mm single CMOS sensor: 23.6 x 13.3 mm. Diagonal: 27.1 mm. Looking at the front, you notice two distinctive things. That’s a PL mount in the picture above. But it’s an adaptor. You can remove it by turning the mounting ring on the body counter-clockwise. Underneath is a new stainless-steel Sony F3 mount. It is a little wider than a PL, somewhat reminiscent of Sony Ex-3 mounts. Why? Because of the second feature: notably the flange focal depth is remarkably shallow–I would guess around 18mm (though not measured or confirmed yet) — perhaps close to Sony’s NEX-5 and NEW-VG10 E-mount consumer still and video cameras. Shorter flange depth translates into lenses that are easier to build, non retrofocus, (think Leica M series rangefinder) and best of all, opens up the world of adapters. As if to prove this point, every PMW-F3 cameras will ship with a Sony F3 to PL mount adaptor. The PL mount includes contacts for Cooke /i Technology lens data (in the 12 o’clock position) and ARRI LDS (in the 3 o’clock position). What does all this mean? Alfred Piffl may have predicted correctly: it’s not just a PL mount camera world; cameras can have infinite choices of interchangeable mounts. It is, however, definitely a 35mm world. The DSLR revolution confirmed the appeal of larger sensors with their shallower depth of field.

The PWM-F3L package will shipping end of January or early February as a basic camera with PL adaptor (no lenses): list price will be around $16,000. Yes, the comma is in the correct place: $16K. The PMW-F3K package (list price around $23,000) consists of the camera, PL adaptor, and 3 Sony PL Primes. They will be 35, 50, and 85 mm T2.0 PL lenses and will support Cooke /i Technology. We don’t have further details on the Sony primes and are trying to guess whether they come from Sony’s expanding brand of Alpha (ex-Minolta) still lenses or somewhere else. Zeiss? Fujinon? Elsewhere?

We learned that Sony is also planning an affordable zoom lens with the Sony F3 mount (not PL). The shorter flange depth should allow this lens to be smaller and lighter than PL zooms.

The PMW-F3 looks like a Sony handheld camera. In fact, it is based on the XDCAM EX platform…which we’ll discuss in the next post.

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