Mar 082013
 

The Sony NEX F3 and SLR Magic Hyperprime 23 1.7 by Vernon Lim

I do not consider myself as being anywhere near a pro-photographer. Only two years back, I was still using a regular point-and-shoot. However, during one of my holidays in Taiwan at the end of 2011 with my girlfriend, I started wanting better shots after reviewing the photos I took, especially in low-light conditions.

I did a bit of research before deciding on Sony’s Nex-C3. I enjoyed using the camera so much that when I (sadly) misplaced it back August 2012, I immediately purchased Sony’s Nex-F3 as a replacement.

As is (probably) the usual story, whilst I was happy initially with Sony’s kit lenses, I began finding the lenses lacking in portrait-taking capabilities. Don’t get me wrong, Sony’s 16mm is pretty decent and very wide-angled, but I’m quite a sucker for bokeh and the F2.8 Aperture just didn’t produce enough of it.

I started looking around for cheap alternatives since I had a limited budget, and found SLR Magic’s range of 35mm toy lenses. I bought the 35mm f1.7 and the lens taught me a lot about manual focusing (which is really pretty easy with Sony’s focus peaking), but I personally found the effective 52.5mm FoV somewhat narrow.

Unfortunately, Sony’s wide-angle E-Mount prime (the Zeiss 24mm) retails at a rather ridiculous price here in Singapore (and probably everywhere else?), so that would never work for me. When SLR Magic launched their 35mm F1.4 late last year, I seriously considered trading up. Unfortunately, budget constraints prevented me from doing so, since I knew I would really want SLR Magic’s 23mm F1.7 which would eventually be launched as well.

When I emailed SLR Magic to discuss trading in my toy lens, they found out that I was heading off to Taiwan again in April this year for a wedding photography session with my fiancé, and the crew very nicely allowed me to purchase one of their 23mm F1.7 lenses pre-launch.

I was very pleased with SLR Magic’s offer, and took it up immediately. I have to say I am very happy with the new lens. This second-generation 23mm F1.7 is built very well, and has solidly-manufactured and smooth focusing and aperture rings. Photos taken are certainly way better than SLR Magic’s toy lenses, and I’ve not removed this lens from my Nex-F3 ever since I received it in my mailbox (shipping from Hong Kong to Singapore was a very quick affair too). I’d be happy to share some of the photos I’ve taken with you.

Note: All of the following shots were taken wide open at F1.7.

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The above 2 shots were taken quite close to the lens’ minimum focusing distance of 15cm. Such a short distance does offer a fair mimicry of macro photography, though I guess it probably can’t replace a real macro lens.

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Since I had the pleasure of using this lens during the Chinese New Year period, I managed to take this when I was being served one of usual local customary dishes during the festive period. This was snapped (rather luckily) as the final crackers were falling onto our appetizer.

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Night landscape photography still proved somewhat of a challenge, as I don’t bring a tripod around very often. Having a pair of rather shaky hands, I either have to get lucky whilst in Aperture-priority mode, or move to Shutter-priority and set a shutter speed of 1/30 sec or faster. The above two photos were taken at Clarke Quay and Collyer Quay respectively.

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On the rare occasion that I get to pig out (no pun intended), I would naturally bring along my Nex-F3. Food photography is a bit tricky wide-open, and I’m still learning how to take good photos with food.

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Lastly, here’s a photo of my fiancé and I. With the F3’s flip-up screen, self-portraits are really easy, especially with the wide-angle 35mm-equivalent FoV.

To summarize, this has been a really great lens to match the Sony Nex-F3. Considering its price and Sony’s rather limited selection of lenses, it is really well-built and produces excellent photos in my opinion. Also, together with Sony’s focus-peaking, manual focusing isn’t too difficult and with practice, it really becomes easy and natural to focus quickly.

I’d also like to thank Andrew at SLR Magic for letting me get my hands on this great lens before its official launch, and for his company’s excellent service levels.

Best Regards,

Vernon Lim

 

Jun 252012
 

Quick 1st Look Video: The Sony NEX-F3 and New 18-200 E Mount Black lens

Hello to all! Just received these two Sony products in the mail today – the new Sony NEX-F3 and the new Sony 18-200 E mount lens, the new black re-design version. The F3 is the replacement for the previous C3 (which I did not even review) and it is quite a bit bigger and it seems Sony copied the body design from the NEX-7. YES, the F-3 looks like a NEX-7 without the try-navi controls and built-in EVF.

The F3 brings the new design, a built-in pop up flash (like the 7), external EVF capability, iso 16,000 and a new sensor though the megapixel count stays the same at 16. They did make the charger a bit irritating though as you now have to plug-in the camera via USB to a wall wart to charge the battery. I much prefer the external chargers but at $600 for the APS-C body and lens I guess we can’t complain too much.

The F3 is more like a refresh than a new camera so those who have a NEX-5n or 7 will not want the F3 but to those who have yet to make a decision on a camera, this is another one to consider.

The new 18-200 came about because Sony tells me that the old one was really designed for the VG-20 camcorder and not really so much for the NEX camera bodies. The new lens is slimmer, feels solid, and is all black which IMO, looks much better. I took a few quick snaps in the year to test for AF speed and it seems to operate like the old 18-200 beast. I will be reviewing the NEX-F3 along with the 18-200 over the next week or two so stay tuned! Until then, take a look at the 1st look video below. Enjoy!

You can order the Sony NEX-F3 at B&H Photo using the links below:

Black NEX-F3
Silver NEX-F3
Sony 18-200 Black

May 162012
 

The new Sony NEX-F3 – An entry level NEX with nice design and features

Sony’s New α NEX-F3 Camera Packs DSLR-Size Sensor and Advanced Feature Set into Small, Stylish Body

 

SAN DIEGO, May 16, 2012 – Sony’s α NEX-F3 digital camera delivers professional quality photos with a compact, pocket-sized body, allowing consumers to explore the creative world of high-quality, interchangeable lens photography in a refreshingly fun and entertaining way.

The new NEX-F3 camera features the same space-saving mirrorless design as other models in Sony’s E-mount family as well as an advanced, 16.1 effective megapixel Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor, identical in size to sensors found in traditional DSLR cameras. The large sensor takes in more light during image capture, resulting in flawless, low-noise photographs and crisply detailed Full HD videos (60i/24p). Photographers can also easily create images with beautiful defocus effects, where the subject is focused sharply against a smoothly blurred background.

“Sony continues to redefine digital photography with our E-mount series, packing a large APS-C size sensor into a small, lightweight camera body to produce professional-quality images with ease,” said Mike Kahn, director of the Alpha business at Sony. “Featuring a diverse set of imaging technologies and offered at a great price, the new NEX-F3 model reinforces our commitment to this rapidly growing compact system camera market.”

The NEX-F3 camera adds a whole new perspective to self-portraits with a 180° Tiltable LCD screen, a first for Sony’s E-mount camera line. By simply holding the camera at arm’s length and flipping the LCD screen vertically, users can adjust the on-screen preview image and properly frame photos.

Additionally, the new model features a useful built-in flash to broaden shooting options indoors or in low light situations. Already introduced on Sony’s acclaimed NEX-7 camera, this pop-up flash handily brightens portraits and other shots without the need to carry an additional flash accessory.

The new NEX-F3 camera also includes the new Auto Portrait Framing feature for creating top-quality portraits quickly and easily. This innovative feature identifies a subject’s position in a composed image, and follows the “rule of thirds” to trim the scene appropriately around the subject’s face, creating a beautifully composed portrait. The cropped portrait is then boosted to full resolution using Sony’s unique By Pixel Super Resolution technology, which uses pattern matching to maintain superb image detail, tones and textures in the photo. Both the original and cropped image files are saved for review.

By Pixel Super Resolution Technology is also used for the “Clear Image Zoom” feature, which digitally doubles the effective magnification of any lens attached to the camera. Ideal for travel and everyday shooting, it’s a great way to boost maximum focal length without carrying extra hardware.

Other convenient essentials added to the new NEX-F3 camera include the Superior Auto mode, which intelligently recognizes a wide range of scenes and subjects and adjusts settings automatically. Battery stamina has been boosted to an industry-leading 470 shots (approx.) on a single charge – an approximate 18% improvement over its predecessor, the NEX-C3 model.

The camera is compatible with the FDA-EV1S viewfinder accessory (sold separately), which offers a high-contrast, high-resolution OLED viewfinder display and a wide viewing angle. The NEX-F3 model also features a high-quality, premium-feel grip for more comfortable handling and can be charged via either USB or a standard AC outlet.

 

New Lightweight 18-200mm Telephoto Zoom Lens for Sony α NEX

An ideal travel partner for the NEX-F3 camera, the new SEL18200LE E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS LE telezoom lens offers a powerful 11x zoom range and superb resolution in an easy-to-carry package. Smaller and 12% lighter than the SEL18200 lens, the new E-mount model features Optical SteadyShot to compensate for the effects of hand-shake. It also features Direct Manual Focus to give users precise control over focus settings, resulting in crisp, beautiful images.

 

Pricing and Availability

The new NEX-F3 compact digital camera will be available this June in silver, black and white with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens (model SEL1855) for about $600. The new SEL18200LE telezoom lens will be available this July in black for about $850.

The camera kit, new lens and a variety of compatible accessories including the LCS-EJC3 carrying case, STP-XSG1 shoulder strap and STP-WS2 wrist strap will be available at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.

 

 

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