Sony PMW-F3 Layout Review

I’ve been looking closely at the control layout of the recently announced Sony PMW-F3 camera and thought I’d share a few initial thoughts and review the layout of the camera compared to the Sony PMW-EX1 which I use regularly.

Left Side:

Sony PMW-F3 - Left Side

Sony PMW-F3 - cache record

Cache record wasn’t mentioned in the original specs on Sony’s website but there certainly seems to be provision for it looking closely at this side of the camera.

Sony PMW-F3 - 5600k button

Above the standard looking ND filter slider is a button that seems to allow instant selection of 5600K white balance. This is an interesting addition.

Sony PMW-F3 - S&Q motion control

Much like the EX3 the PMW-F3 looks to feature an instant access to S&Q motion knob. My guess would be that the white ring illuminates in the same way as the one on the EX3 and that the control knob can be used to enable / disable the feature and dial in overcrank / undercrank settings.

Sony PMW-F3 - audio controls

I like the way Sony seem to have put the audio controls on the side of the camera allowing the operator to adjust both input and monitoring levels in the same place as well as auto / manual options for each input. Not included are the int/ext switches from the EX1 because the F3 does not have an internal mic.

Sony PMW-F3 - headphone socket

The headphone socket is on the opposite side to that on the EX1 but it actually makes a lot of sense to put it on the same side as the output level controls and the LCD. I’m assuming the slots below are a speaker output for non headphone monitoring.

Update:  After seeing the camera at the London Launch event I’m pretty sure those vents are simply that, air vents. There is speaker grill under the handle housing.

Sony PMW-F3 - info buttons

These info option buttons are very similar to the EX1 and are placed above the LCD on the body of the camera. Much like the EX1 they appear to be assignable to provide alternate functionality.

Sony PMW-F3 - nd filter

ND filter selection looks to include a detent button as in the EX1R that allows a confident lock when the filter is in the correct position. The original EX1 could sometimes be set with the filter between positions and this feature was added to the EX1R to correct the issue.

Sony PMW-F3 - shutter switch

Better positioning of shutter on/off than the EX1 where it was hidden under the lens

Sony PMW-F3 - LCD

The LCD itself is the same as the one used on the EX1 & EX3. Having the ability the snap the LCD back into the body with the screen visible is a nice option. It’s interesting that Sony have moved away from the forward mounted LCD’s of their recent cameras though and reverted to this more classic positioning.

Sony PMW-F3 - bottom control switches

The gain and WB settings are in a sensible location followed by Zebra and Peaking functions for the LCD. These are followed by three more LCD / Info setting buttons that are usually found under the handle on the EX1. This again seems a much more practical position for these buttons. An additional assignable button is also positioned on this side.

Back:

Sony PMW-F3 - rear view

Sony PMW-F3 - viewfinder

The EVF is reported to be the same type used in the EX1R, an improved version over the one used in the original EX1. It appears to have a similar option to remove it as the EX1 as well as the usual diopter adjustment.

Sony PMW-F3 - mounting points

Here’s a view of what looks like mounting points on the handle. Let me know if you know what these are. The forward one is on the left side and the rearward one on the right. Heavy duty carrying strap? Motion control mounts?

Update: Various ENG shooters have suggested these are strap mounts, although the Sony Rep at the London launch event seemed to think they were related to focal length measurement. I’d say they are more likely to be strap mounts.

Sony PMW-F3 - dual link HD-SDI

The PMW-F3 has two HD-SDI outputs (note that standard SDI output is separate).  As standard 10bit 4:2:2 output is possible. An option to output using Dual-Link HD-SDI 10 bit RGB uncompressed is being added in April 2011, although Sony list this as “ideal for the high-end film production” so may come at an additional cost.

Sony PMW-F3 - menu controls

Menu control seems very similar to the back panel on the EX1.

Sony PMW-F3 - SxS slots

SxS slots on the back. Note that the power switch does not include the safety detent as added on the EX1R. Maybe this new design doesn’t need it.

Sony PMW-F3 - power input

Power input is now based on XLR connector, this is yet another indicator that the F3 is part of a more professional family than the EX series.

Sony PMW-F3 - connectors

Battery compartment takes the same BP-U batteries as EX1 & EX3. Not sure what that comb like object under the battery is, maybe some kind of heat sink?

Full range of BNC connectors include timecode and Genlock more akin to the EX3 than the EX1 plus Ports on the back for HDMI, i-Link, Mini-USB, Full Size USB (interesting!). An eight pin remote control input is also included along with an additional 10 pin socket marked as ‘Spare’. Could this be used for the 3D linking?

Right Side

Sony PMW-F3 - right side

The right side shows that the grip doesn’t appear to rotate in the same wasy as the one on the EX1 can. No button is visible to activate the movement and it doesn’t appear that the grip could rotate without hitting the audio input box.

Sony PMW-F3 - zoom rocker

Sony plan to release a range of zoom lenses using the PMW-F3 mount which explains the inclusion of an otherwise unnecessary zoom rocker on the grip. Also shown is the record preview button which is moved from the grip on the EX1 to the side of the body on the PMW-F3.

Sony PMW-F3 - audio input

XLR Audio input looks standard witgh Mic + 48V phantom options for each connector. Also shown is phono jacks for audio out, something that is not on the EX1 without the use of an AV conversion cable.

Top

Sony PMW-F3 - rear 3/4 view

In this shot you can see the the exposed connectors from the other angles do have decent quality rubber covers

Sony PMW-F3 - rec stop

Forward cold shoe and Rec / Stop buttons. It looks like dedicated rec and stop buttons with a sliding cover to protect from accidental activation.

Sony PMW-F3 - handle

Lots of mounting options on the handle. Like the EX3 the PMW-F3 has the ability to add a second rearward cold shoe as well as including a pair of threaded inserts in the handle itself.

Sony PMW-F3 - playback controls

Here you can see yet another mounting point on the top left side of the camera as well as the clip playback controls. There is a similar mounting point on the other side of the camera.

Sony PMW-F3 - LCD controls

Here you can see the LCD brightness controls behind the LCD itself. This also shows the way the S&Q and audio controls are moulded.

Front

Sony PMW-F3 - front view

Sony PMW-F3 - tally light

Here you can see that no internal mic is included on the PMW-F3. LED Tally light is shown.

Sony PMW-F3 - sensor & mount

S35 sensor. Note the electronic contact points around the lens mount, maybe to enable control over the optional zoom lenses which are being produced for the PMW-F3.

Cail commented (below) that the contacts are to allow /i communication with Cooke lenses and LDM Lens data with ARRI lenses.

Sony PMW-F3 - auto white balance

Another assignable button on the front along with an auto white balance button.

Here’s the specifications that Sony have provided so far (Taken from the product information PDF)

PRELIMINARY PRODUCT INFORMATION

The PMW-F3K is part of the CineAlta 24P family of di- gital cinematography products and its support for multiple frame rates includes a filmic 23.98P as well as S-Log workflows.

Sony’s ExmorTM Super35 CMOS sensor was designed with the benefit of two decades experience in Digital Cinematography, pioneering digital HD acquisition for feature films and broadcast TV through the legendary CineAlta product range. It brings a true ‘film look’ and superior image quality into reach for independent movies, pop promos, commercials and other applica- tions, as well as making the PMW-F3K an ideal B- camera for high-end feature film production.

The PMW-F3K is supplied with three high quality Sony lenses and an industry standard PL Mount adaptor providing compatibility with industry standard 35mm lenses. (Also available is the lens-less PMW-F3L.)

Exceptional flexibility is a key feature of the PMW-F3K along with with multiple workflow options. XDCAM EX’s proven high-speed, intuitive workflow offers seamless integration with leading nonlinear editing software – as standard. In addition, a 10bit 4:2:2 HD- SDI output opens up hybrid recording possibilities with a variety of external recording devices. And from April 2011, a Dual Link HD-SDI option will enable 10bit RGB uncompressed signal output – ideal for the high-end film production.

PrimeSupport

This product comes with PrimeSupport – fast, hassle- free repairs and a helpline offering expert technical advice. Which gives you the peace of mind that Sony is looking after your equipment, and your business.

PRELIMINARY PRODUCT INFORMATION

Please find preliminary information on PMW-F3K fea- tures below. This information is subject to change. More information will be made available soon.

ExmorTM Super35 CMOS image sensor

The PMW-F3K is equipped with a Super 35mm sensor which is the same size as Super 35mm film and has been specifically developed for digital cinemato- graphy. Its positioning within the chassis is exactly the same as it would be within a 35mm film camera – ensuring exactly the same optical performance with the unrivalled range of 35mm Cine lenses.

In addition, Sony’s advanced accumulated sensor technologies provide an excellent sensitivity of F11 (ISO 800)* and a remarkable signal-to-noise ratio of just 63 dB*. Unique ExmorTM sensor offers exceptional noise reduction and greatly reduces power consump- tion.

*All measured at 1080/59.94i and typical value.

Three High Quality 35mm Lenses supplied as standard

To make your entry into the world of 35mm as easy and economical as possible, the PMW-F3K comes sup- plied with three high quality Sony lenses (35mm, 50mm and 85mm, T2.0).

PL Mount Adapter for compatibility with 35mm Cine Lenses

The PMW-F3K is supplied with a PL Mount Adapter to provide immediate compatibility with the huge range of filmic 35mm lenses, including prime, digital cine- matography and even still lenses. There are also hot shoe electric interfaces for Cooke/i and ARRI LDS.

Sony F3 Original Mount for Zoom Lens

Sony plan to introduce a range of zoom lenses directly compatible with the F3 mount. More details will be re- vealed shortly. Zoom lens compatibility expands the operational flexibility of the F3 so it can be used for almost any application.

23.98P Native Recording

The PMW-F3K camcorder is the first compact cam- corder to be a member of the legendary Sony CineAltaTM family. It offers native 23.98P* recording which, in combination with advanced creative features such as selectable gamma curves, makes this cam- corder ideal for cinema production.

*In 1440 x 1080/23.98P (SP) mode, images are handled as 23.98P and recorded as 59.94i signals through means of 2-3 pull-down.

Slow & Quick Motion function

The PMW-F3K offers a powerful ’Slow & Quick Motion’ function – commonly known as over-cranking and under-cranking in film shooting – enables users to create unique ’looks’ or special effects with slow -and fast- motion images. This can be selected on the con- trol dial on the side of the camcorder.

The PMW-F3K can capture images at frame rates se- lectable from 1 fps (frame per second) to 60 fps in 720P mode and from 1 fps to 30 fps in 1080P mode, in increments of 1 fps, onto a single card. For ex- ample, when viewed at 23.98P, images captured at 60 fps will appear 2.5 times slower than normal. Con- versely, images captured at 4 fps will appear 6 times faster than normal.

With the ’Slow & Quick Motion’ function of this cam- corder, images are recorded natively without interpol- ating the frames. This means the quality of the slow – and fast- motion images is extremely high and incom- parable to those created in the editing process. In ad- dition, these slow -and fast- motion images can be played back immediately after shooting, without using any converters or processing on nonlinear editing systems.

1920 x 1080 HD recording using the ’MPEG-2 Long GOP’ codec

The PMW-F3K camcorder records 1920 x 1080 HD im- ages using the ’MPEG-2 Long GOP’ codec, which con- forms to the MPEG-2 MP@HL compression standard. ’MPEG-2 Long GOP’ is a mature codec – also adopted by the XDCAM HD and HDV 1080i series of products – which enables users to record stunning-quality HD footage with highly efficient, reliable data compression.

Selectable Bit Rates

The PMW-F3K camcorder offers a choice of bit rates – either 35 Mb/s (HQ mode) or 25 Mb/s (SP mode) – depending on the desired picture quality and record- ing time. The HQ mode supports both 1920 x 1080 and 1280 x 720 resolutions. The SP mode supports 1440 x 1080 resolution at 25 Mb/s, which provides compatibility with HDV 1080i products.

Multiple-format recording – 1080/720 and Interlace/Progressive switchable operation

The PMW-F3K camcorder offers a wide array of re- cording formats for multiple content creation applica- tions. Scanning mode is switchable between 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720, and 1440 x 1080 resolutions. Frame rate is also selectable from interlace and pro- gressive – 59.94i, 50i, 29.97P, 25P, and native 23.98P*.

In addition, 59.94P and 50P progressive recording is available in 1280 x 720 mode. The SxS memory card can simultaneously hold multiple files of any of these

recording formats, allowing for flexible use of the memory card.

*In 1440 x 1080/23.98P (SP) mode, images are handled as 23.98P and recorded as 59.94i signals through means of 2-3 pull-down.

Slow Shutter Function

The PMW-F3K camcorder offers a ’Slow Shutter func- tion’ for capturing clear images in low-light environ- ments. This allows the shutter speed to be extended to a maximum of 8 frames. The ’Slow Shutter func- tion’ not only increases camera sensitivity but also produces a special blurring effect when shooting a moving object, for enhanced shooting creativity. The shutter speed is selectable from 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7- and 8-frame periods.

High-quality uncompressed audio recording

In addition to HD recording, high-quality audio is an equally significant feature in the XDCAM EX system. The PMW-F3K camcorder records and plays back high-quality, two-channel 16-bit, 48-kHz linear PCM uncompressed audio.

Exceptional workflow flexibility

The PMW-F3K uses XDCAM EX’s proven high-speed, intuitive workflow offering seamless integration with leading nonlinear editing software. In addition, 10bit 4:2:2 HD-SDI output opens up hybrid recording pos- sibilities with content simultaneously recorded on in- ternal memory and, in uncompressed form, on a vari- ety of external recording devices.

From April 2011, a Dual Link HD-SDI option will en- able 10bit RGB 23.98/25/29.97PsF or 10 bit 4:2:2 108050P/59.94P uncompressed external recording – ideal for integration with highest quality production workflows such as HDCAM SR. The PMW-F3K also supports selectable Gamma, four levels of Hyper- Gamma and S-Log for a wide range of shooting condi- tions from standard to wide latitude. The PMW-F3K can simultaneously record LUT (Look Up Table) in- formation onto the internal media for additional work- flow flexibility.

3G-SDI is available for 10bit RGB 1080 23.98/25/ 29.97PsF or 10bit 4:2:2 1080 50/59.94P output.

SxS Memory Cards combine high transfer speeds and high reliability

Both SxS PROTM and SxS-1ATM* memory cards use the PCI Express interface to achieve an extremely high data-transfer speed of 800 Mbps – 1.2Gbps, and can resist considerable shock (1500 G) and vibration (15 G). Also, a unique ’Salvage function’ serves to re- store content damaged by power loss or memory dis- connection during recording**.

In addition, with an optional MEAD-MS01 or MEAD- SD01 Media Adaptor***, a high-speed Memory Stick- TM or SD memory card**** can be used as emer- gency or alternative recording media.

* SxS-1A memory cards support fewer re-writes than SxS PROTM memory cards. Notification is given when an SxS-1 memory card approaches its end of life.

** In some cases, images recorded just before an ac- cident may not be restored (several seconds). No warranty is given on always achieving content restor- ation.

*** Slow Motion and the Salvage function are not supported.

**** For information about memory devices, please contact your nearest Sony Specialist Dealer.

Long recording time

Utilising a mature and highly efficient compression format together with high performance SxS memory cards, the PMW-F3K can record superb quality HD im- ages for an exceptional 140 minutes* on a single 32Gb update SxS card. As the PMW-F3K features two memory card slots, this recording time is easily doubled to 280 minutes (with two 32Gb cards) and when recording across two cards, the transition is seamless without any frame loss.

*When recording in HQ (35 Mb/s) mode, recording time may be more than the above specified figure de- pending on the actual bit rate that is adopted during VBR encoding.

IT Friendly

The PMW-F3K is part of Sony’s highly successful XDCAM EX product family which supports a high speed nonlinear workflow. With XDCAM EX, recordings are made as data files in the “MP4″ format, which is widely used in a number of recent electronic portable devices and has been standardised by ISO.

File-based recording allows material to be handled with great flexibility in an IT-based environment – easily available for copying, transferring, sharing, and archiving. All these operations are accomplished without any ’digitising’ process required.

File-based data copying allows for degradation-free dubbing of footage, which can be performed easily on a PC. The file-based recording system also allows for material to be viewed directly on a PC – simply by in- serting the SxS memory card into the ExpressCard slot on a PC or Mac, or by linking a PC/Mac to the XDCAM EX unit via a USB2 connection. This works in just the same way as a PC reading files on an external drive. The file-based operation can dramatically im- prove the efficiency and quality of your workflow.

Immediate recording start and no overwriting footage

By virtue of recording on flash memory card, the PMW-F3K can start recording virtually the instant the camcorder is turned on. Moreover, the PMW-F3K automatically records on an empty area of the card – there’s no danger of overwriting existing content.

This is extremely convenient, as camera operators do not have to worry about accidentally recording over good takes, and they don’t have to search through footage for the correct position to start the next re- cording. In short, it means the camera is always ready for the next shot!

Instant-access thumbnail search with ’Expand’ function

Each time a recording is started and stopped on the PMW-F3K camcorder, the content is recorded as a single clip. During playback, users can cue-up to the next or previous clip simply by pressing the ’Next’ or ’Previous’ button, as you would do on a CD or DVD player.

Furthermore, thumbnails are automatically generated for each clip as a visual reference, allowing operators to cue-up to a desired scene simply by guiding the cursor to a thumbnail and pressing the ’Play’ button.

The ’Expand’ function allows one selected clip in the thumbnail display to be divided into 12 even-time in- tervals, each with their own thumbnail identifier. This is useful if you want to quickly search for a particular scene within a lengthy clip.

3.5-inch* Hybrid Colour LCD Screen / Viewfinder as per EX1R

The PMW-F3K is equipped with a newly developed, easy-to-view, colour LCD screen with a high resolu- tion of 1920 x 480 pixels. The LCD screen is located in an easy viewing position on the side of the camera.

The LCD Screen can also be used to instantly review recorded footage, as well as access the camera’s set- up menus and view thumbnail display status indica- tions such as audio meters, depth-of-field indicators, and the remaining memory and battery time. What’s more, the Hybrid LCD screen – which comprises trans- missive and reflective panels – offers clear viewing even in bright sunlight.

*Viewable area measured diagonally.

Genlock and Timecode Interfaces

The PMW-F3K includes genlock and timecode inter- faces, making it ideal for multi-camera operation and entry level HD studio use.

3D System Link option*

Using this option you can easily synchronise time- code, genlock and control functionality with a single cable, locking together left and right cameras to sim- plify 3D acquisition. *Available from April 2011.

Remote control capability

The PMW-F3K offers professional remote control of various camera features via standard Sony 8-pin con- trol interface. This allows use of Sony optional RM- B150 and RM-B750 remote control units offering in- creased flexibility for studio/location use.

Compact design

The PMW-F3K has a chassis built around its Super 35mm CMOS sensor. Its lightweight, compact design provides exceptional flexibility when shooting, partic- ularly as a B-camera. It also offers a ’best of both worlds’ combination of compatibility with 35mm lenses via a PL Mount adaptor, plus support for a huge range of other Sony and third-party digital cine- matography accessories.

Low power consumption

Sony’s chip design expertise means the PMW-F3K op- erates with exceptional efficiency with an average power consumption of 24W. This makes the camera more reliable, extends its battery operating time and is also environmentally conscious. With the optional BP-U60 battery attached, the PMW-F3K can record continuously for just under three hours (with dual-link option off).

Wide array of interfaces

The PMW-F3K camcorder comes equipped with a wide range of interfaces optimised for a variety of opera- tional needs. These include dual HD-SDI output, down-converted SD-SDI output, i.LINK (HDV) input/ output, USB2 and analogue composite output.

Additional Information

Only SxS memory cards are guaranteed for use with the PMW-F3K XDCAM EX cmcorder. USB based memory cards cannot be used with the XDCAM EX range. USB based memory cards might work with the XDCAM EX range in some cases, but Sony does not guarantee that all the functions will operate. The per- formance of USB based memory cards can vary.

I’ll keep updating this page as more information is made available but this certainly looks like it’s going to be an excellent camera. One thing that strikes me from these high-res images is that much of it looks to be made of metal. Of course that’s very hard to tell without touching it but certainly from the texture and moulding in these shots it looks that way.

Hopefully I can get my hands on the PMW-F3 soon and be able to provide a more fully featured review of the camera in terms of usage & performance as well as layout.

For an EX1 / EX3 user like me one of the main benefits of the F3 is that it’s likely to use a familiar menu system and uses many of the EX1’s components and specifications including the following…

• XDCAM-EX codec
• SxS media
• 3.5″ LCD & EVF (same as EX1R)
• BP-U batteries
• Uncompressed Linear PCM audio recording
• Cache Record
• Slow & Quick Motion
• Slow Shutter function
• Selectable resolution & framerates
• HDMI & HD-SDI outputs (optional Dual-Link HD-SDI uncompressed output)
• 2 x XLR audio inputs

Prices are starting to appear on the web now. B&H are listing the PMW-F3K (body only) option for $13,300and the PMW-F3L option with three lenses for $18,950. These prices are certainly in a different league to something like DSLR’s, Panasonic’s recent AF-100/101 or even the Sony EX-1 and EX-3, but then I doubt this camera has been created to compete in those markets.

My thoughts are that the PMW-F3 is more along the lines of a competitor to the Red cameras which have seen a really large take-up recently and must be competing with Sony’s big boys like the F23 and F35, the later of which is a camera costing over $200,000.

Considering it’s competition is likely Red, the PMW-F3 is actually aggressively priced and will be perfectly placed to compete in that market.

Please feel free to add your thoughts / suggestions if you think there’s anything else interesting that I’ve missed or for more details visit Sony UK’s official website.

Update: The Sony PMW-F3K and PMW-F3L are now available from B&H Photo Video

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  1. Very helpful review Paul…
    I’m looking forward to an update.

    The PMW-F3L body, now lists for $13,300US at B&H Photo in New York.
    I expect to pay about the same in Canada.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&SID=efgtxl03hp&sku=743863&AID=10655283&PID=3740040&is=REG&A=details&Q=

  2. Greatly detailed review along with informational photos.

    Do you think the market will see a Sony F5 (3+5=35mm) come out soon, to complete the Sony Super 35mm product line…?

    • K Reum
    • March 24th, 2011 4:10pm

    I just worked as an AC on a reality shoot using 2 PMW-F3s. We shot with shoulder rigs in a crowded restaurant using 17mm-55mm Nikon lenses. I’ve got to say that the images we got- especially in very low light- were absolutely beautiful.

    Word to the wise: the camera construction is not as robust as, say, the Red. The position and build quality of the viewfinder and LCD are hopelessly impractical for a shoulder rig set up, as they are in constant danger of being torn from their moorings by the slightest bump. Beautiful images, but you might want to stick to the tripod to avoid damaging this lovely lady’s delicate figure.

      • Cory
      • May 12th, 2011 11:59pm

      K Reum

      I have been working with the F3 for a couple months now and agree with the impractical location of the viewfinder and lcd for shooting off the shoulder. I am trying to find and external view finder that would mount in the shoe on the top of the handle. Do you have any suggestions?

      Cory

      • The SmallHD DP4 looks like it’s going to be a good option for that.

    • Steve
    • April 7th, 2011 2:14am

    Hi Paul: Just catching up on reading your website which I truly enjoy. Another great piece.

    Have you had a chance to use an F3 yet? If so, any more thoughts?

    Thanks.

    • Hi Steve.

      No, not yet I’m afraid, I’m still trying though.

    • rudra prasad kuikel
    • August 12th, 2011 7:34am

    hi
    sir i know that but i cofuse that prise ? about that plz how much attage ultra prime three lens ? Rudra from mumbai ( India )

  3. I work for 2 years with the Sony PMW-F3 and am very satisfied with the picture quality, even with 35MB internal recording. With the new Sony PMW-F5 and F55 I like it that there is now a search engine as it looks even better balance, 4 audio tracks, and the V-Mount battery connection.

    Andreas

    • Aleksi
    • May 22nd, 2013 8:38pm

    I think the “mounting points on the handle” can be use to mount an external loop viewfinder. (ENG style)

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