Sony PMW-F3 Announced

Quick links to early info on this large-format camcorder.

[Updated 2010-11-13: Added link to Jon Fauer’s preliminary report.]
[Updated 2010-11-11: Sony USA press release, shipping date, US prices.]

Sony has announced the PMW-F3, a 35mm-sized camcorder designed for interchangeable lenses. Think 35 Mbit/sec, 4:2:0 XDCAM EX; handycam form factor; new Sony F mount with a PL mount adapter; available as a body only or packaged with three new Sony cine primes (35mm, 50mm, 85mm T2.0). It will ship in February 2011.

Direct competition for the Panasonic AG-AF100? Think again: the US$16,000 body-only price is more than three times what the AF100 costs; with lenses it’s nearly five times as much (US$23,000. As usual, European prices are rather a bit higher… and that’s before VAT. Sigh). But then again, the camera has dual-link HD-SDI outputs for 4:4:4 10-bit offboard recording; S-Log gamma curves; loadable LUTs; a “3D link” terminal for stereoscopic applications; and a reported 12- to 13-stop dynamic range—think of it as a baby F35 or a RED ONE / Alexa competitor more than a challenge to the AF100.

Sony USA’s press release:


New PMW-F3 Delivers High Performance at an “Indie” Price

PARK RIDGE, N.J., Nov. 8, 2010 – Representing a breakthrough for independent producers and filmmakers in terms of features, performance and price, Sony Electronics is unveiling its first professional handheld digital production camera with a Super 35mm imager.

The new PMW-F3 camcorder is designed for a range of digital production applications — from commercial, documentary, television and feature film production to markets such as education, corporate and government and more.

“Sony has a long and successful track record of developing digital production technologies that give producers at any level access to the highest-quality imaging tools and the right workflow for their needs,” said Alec Shapiro, senior vice president, sales and marketing for Sony Electronics’ Professional Solutions of America group. “With the new F3, we’re putting the full power of our expertise to work for professional shooters, resulting in high-performance digital capabilities at an ‘indie’ price.”

The new compact camcorder has a basic list price of $16,000. That, combined with the availability of a low-cost PL lens kit, which includes 35/50/85mm T2.0 fixed focal length lenses, broadens the camcorder’s range of potential applications and gives users more flexibility in lens selection. For example, it is ideal for use as a 2nd unit 35mm camera to complement to Sony’s F35 and SRW-9000PL, which are also PL Mount, S-35mm cameras.

The new F3 camcorder is based on Sony’s XDCAM EX workflow and uses Sony’s SxS™ ExpressCard-based recording media format. Its Super 35mm CMOS imager delivers shallow depth of field, with high sensitivity and low noise levels (ISO 800, F11; and S/N ratio of 63dB in 1920×1080/59.94i mode), as well as wide dynamic range.

The camcorder offers shooters a wide range of image creation options. Through the use of an HD-SDI dual-link output for external recording (4:2:2 1080 50/59.94P as standard; and RGB 1080 23.98/25/29.97PsF as an option), footage shot with the F3 can be seamlessly inter-cut with content shot on Sony’s F35 or SRW-9000PL cameras.

Additionally, “S-Log” and “Hyper Gamma” can be selected. This can significantly increase the camera’s performance of dynamic range. S-Log is Sony’s unique approach to the raw “Digital Negative,” allowing access to the full dynamic range of the Super35mm imager for maximum flexibility in image manipulation during post production. This capability combined with the widely used SxS format lets users take advantage of already well-established XDCAM EX and HDCAM SR workflows.

Recording formats include 1920×1080, 1440×1080, and 1280×720 at 23.98/25/29.97p, 50/59.94i and, in DVCAM mode, 25/29.97PsF and 50/59.94i. Shooters can also take advantage of “slow” and “quick” recording, from 1 to 30 fps at 1920×1080 (17 to 30 fps in dual-link mode) and 1 to 60 fps at 1280×720 (17 to 60 fps in dual-link mode).

The PMW-F3’s PL mount adapter can accommodate both PL and upcoming Sony’s zoom lenses, and offers compatibility with a variety of cine lenses such as Cooke, Fujinon and Zeiss.

As with all its digital motion picture production technologies, Sony is also planning to introduce a compatible SR Memory Portable Recorder for the PMW-F3 camcorder. SR Memory, Sony’s new high-speed, high-capacity card format will give users the ability to record directly to the industry standard HDCAM SR codec using the SR Memory Portable Recorder connected to the F3 camera’s single-link and dual-link output.

The camera will also support Look-up Table (LUT), unique for dailies and on-set color management. Up to four LUT’s can be stored in the camera and stamped onto the footage on the SxS card, simultaneously using the camera’s dual link output with S-Log for the unprocessed image. This creates the perfect off-line, on-line workflow combining the SxS and SR codec, with the SR Memory Portable Recorder connected to the F3 and recording to the SR codec.

The PMW-F3 is just the latest stop on Sony’s digital 35 mm roadmap, continuing the leadership position in digital motion picture production that was solidified with “film style” cameras like the F23 and F35, and most recently with the first camcorder to integrate the HDCAM SR format, the SRW-9000PL.

“Sony cameras have shot everything from documentaries to big-budget blockbusters, winning industry awards and totaling more than $12 billion at the box office,” said Shapiro. “The F3 continues our history of innovation as the first professional camcorder to integrate S-35mm technology in an affordable, portable form factor.”

The PMW-F3 camcorder will be available in February 2011, for a suggested list price of $16,000 (PMW-F3L, without lens) and $23,000 (PMW-F3K (with PL Lens kit).

For further product information:
Visit the CineAlta blog at:
Follow CineAlta on Twitter @CineAltaNews.

More info:

Sony UK press release.

Sony UK’s PMW-F3 information.

(As I post this, Sony’s USA website doesn’t appear to have any PMW-F3 information available.)

• Alister Chapman’s blog post (with European prices).

Jon Fauer’s excellent early writeups on Film & Digital Times [if you aren’t checking every day or so, you’re missing out.]:

Mystery Revealed: Sony F3.

Sony PMW-F3 35mm Handheld.

Sony PMW-F3 Preliminary Report.

Things are getting… interesting… [grin]

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PVC Staff
Adam Wilt has been working off and on in film and video for the past thirty years, while paying the bills writing software for animation, automation, broadcast graphics, and real-time control for companies including Abekas,…

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