Sony intros new lenses, issues updates and drops the F3 S-log upgrade price

By Matt Allard

My Sony F3 with S-Log upgrade

Big news from Sony USA this week. You can now purchase the S-Log upgrade for your F3 for a mere $899 US. This is no doubt a direct response to the launch of the Canon C300. The S-Log upgrade was $3800 and came on a SxS card. The $899 price lasts until March with one small catch – the offer is only available currently to those purchasers in the US and if you already own the F3 the camera must be sent to Sony’s US service centre to have it installed. You can of course just buy a new F3 in America with the option already loaded for an additional $899. For those of US users who already paid $3800 for the upgrade you can get a $2500 discount on the Sony 18-252mm zoom lens or the SR1 recorder as a kind on consolation prize. It is unclear how this quite works when Sony USA is already offering mail in rebates already when buying the zoom or recorder.

Also this new offer only applies to people purchasing in the US so it screws me . A lot of overseas customers like me who paid full price for S-Log will be very angry with Sony and will get zero rebate!

This is however great news for people wanting to invest in a new F3 because it really makes it an interesting comparison with price and performance against the C300. While I still believe these cameras are quite different and both offer their good and bad points it shows Sony is worried about possible sales drops of the F3 with the C300 now available.

S-log For Dummies from Matthew Allard on Vimeo.

The C300 is retailing for $16K US while the F3 with S-Log is now $14,859. Sony also have incentives on new purchases of a FS100, offering Sony Vegas Pro and a free SDHC card. This will coincide with a firmware update in March 2012 that will make the FS100 a true world camera by enabling both PAL and NTSC frame rates (currently it is either a PAL or NTSC only model).

Speaking of firmware, there is a new version 1.31 for the F3 which has enabled a few new things and some updates. This from Sony:

3D shooting with 3D-Link and a power zoom lens is enabled (optional CBK-3DL01 3D-Link Option, 3D-Link cable, and SCL- Z18X140 power zoom lens are required):
• Linking function of the lens position (zoom, iris, and focus) on the main unit and sub unit, either constant linking or temporary linking enabled
• Iris offset adjustable when the lenses on both units are linked to move in sync
• Status indication of the lens condition (zoom, iris, etc.) on the main unit and that on the sub unit may not be the same even after the lens positions on both units has been synchronized.
• If Iris Position Sync, Focus Position Sync, or Zoom Position Sync under 3D-Link of the OTHERS menu is set to On for constant linking, pressing the assignable button to which the corresponding linking function is assigned does not activate temporary linking. Set the constant linking function to Off for activating the temporary linking. The linking function of this unit does not guarantee synchronizing in the same phase.

S-Log422 shooting is enabled (optional CBK-RGB01 RGB&S-LOG Output Option is required):
• 1.5G YPbPr422 & S-Log and 3G YPbPr422 & S-Log options available under Dual-Link & Gamma Select of the VIDEO SET menu

Synchro Rec (synchronized recording):
Synchronized recording via Dual-Link output enabled for normal recording (a recording device supporting Synchro Rec and Dual- Link output signals is required):
• Synchro Rec option under SDI Rec Control available. If Synchro Rec is started when the i.Link output or the Picture Cache Recording is active, or during playback (including Rec Review and thumbnail display), recording synchronization may not be achieved or distorted video recording may occur.

Wide-angle manual zoom lens:
(An optional SCL-P11X15 wide-angle zoom lens is required.) Status indication to observe the lens condition is enabled.

MF Assist setting:
The default setting for MF Assist of the CAMERA SET menu has been changed to Off

The Sony 18-252mm and 11-16mm lenses

Also available to order from today is the new Sony PL mount 11-16mm T3 short zoom. I was lucky enough to get one a few weeks ago to try out.

Below is my video lens review of the new Sony 11-16mm T3 PL zoom and Sony 18-252mm F3 mount zoom lenses.

Sony 11-16mm T3 PL and 18-252mm Sony F3 Lens Review from Matthew Allard on Vimeo.

This was all done in 3 hours on an afternoon in Tokyo. I was lucky enough to get Sony Japan (through System 5) to lend me these lenses to test. I do not have any commercial arrangement with Sony or System 5 and nor did I receive any of these products for free. If I want them I have to buy them like everyone else.

I’m not normally in front of the camera so please excuse the rambling and mistakes that are made.

More of a review than a test there are no charts, just me using the lenses for a few hours to get a general feel for them and to help me evaluate what I liked and didn’t like about them.

The Sony 18-252mm in use

I missed a few things in my video as I ran out of time. A few of the key things I forget to mention were that the 18-252mm zoom can be controlled via the F3 remote control. This is quite a cool feature and would be very handy on a jib, slider or dolly. The zoom itself is quite smooth and not jumpy but I didn’t check to see in the menus anywhere whether there was a way of increasing or decreasing the zoom speed. The auto-focus function was very slow and pretty much unusable. Another small concern is that the servo motor on the lens is quite loud, although in saying that I couldn’t hear it on the recorded audio. It would also be interesting to see if the remote connection on the back of the camera could be used with an external zoom controller as this would make the ease of use of the lens so much better. I didn’t notice any breathing (if there was it was very minimal) and I found it seemed to hold the focus through out the zoom range.

Would I buy either of these lenses? Thats a good question. The 18-252mm has a lot of strengths and some weaknesses. What it does offer is something that no other product has done before. A zoom rocker controlled Super 35mm lens with a big range. Yes it’s not fast aperture, but if your using it outside or in controlled lighting situations it’s pretty good. You can still get reasonable shallow depth of field despite it not being a fast lens. It’s not perfect, far from it, but it does offer a lot of convenience and a pretty nice image up until about 220mm.

The 11-16mm is quite nice. It’s fast for the range at T3 and is very sharp. It also handles flare and highlights very well. It is very expensive and probably too expensive in my belief. If this lens was $3-4k I would buy it on the spot, but $7K ! that’s a lot of money for any lens.

If you have any questions about either lens feel free to comment and I will be happy to answer. I’m sure I’ve missed out lots that people want to know!

About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Senior Field Cameraman, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for more 20 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He is a multiple ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) award winner. His Sword Maker story that was shot on a 7D won the prestigious Neil Davis International News Golden Tripod at the 2011 ACS Awards. He has covered news events in more than 35 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras, the Sony F3 as well as new Canon DSLRs.

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