Woohoo! First post! This is for everyone out there still using or curious about the venerable Sony F3. She’s old, but she’s great value, and in my opinion, offers a lot of versatility and a great image. They can be had for well under $1k on eBay and if you are tired of “keeping up with the Jonses” so to speak chasing specs, I believe this camera can offer a great budget option. Especially in a “doc” setting.
If you are working on commercial projects or have clientele with requirements maybe it won’t meet but let’s face it, a lot of folks on here and in the world of “new media” likely produce content for various social media networks or platforms ultimately viewable on phones. If you’re in the market for a new Mirrorless or DSLR or even a C100 style camera, you’d be remiss to not give it a little research. Which brings me to this post.
I work professionally on unscripted reality TV shows (The Last Alaskans, Life Below Zero, etc) as a Field Producer and a camera op. C300 has been the main choice since it’s inception. Everything is still HD. Some shows are starting to shoot log, most aren’t. I was looking for a camera to start a YouTube show about my wife and I on our small farm since both of us had been “laid off” (well she was, I’m basically always laid off until the phone rings but I have had a lot of work postponed). So I started looking back at the F3. I knew I wanted a S35 size sensor, and I wanted cheap. I still have an EX1 so I already had a few sxs cards and a card reader which helped me move in this direction. I also wanted a PL mount and the opportunity to rent/use specialty cine lenses.
A quick search on eBay shows a lot of these available in the $600-$900 range. I bought one.
My current setup is an F3 with the RGB upgrade which was purchased on eBay for $730, about $800 all said and done. It came with two 64gb SxS cards, a few batteries, and some rig accessories.
I purchased a used Fujinon MK 18-55 from Lensauthority for $2300 for it, and a $500 E-FZ Mount adapter from Duclos. Splurge, I know. That was before the virus really took hold. This lens is fantastic, has a good useable range, and has an 82mm filter thread which accommodates filters I already own. I run a 3 stop ND on the F3 most of the time because it’s built in ND’s aren’t quite strong enough in daylight situations.
So for $3600 I have a camera which is excellent in low light, sips battery juice, offers long recording times, and has a beautiful lens which is a joy to use. For me, to option to use cine-glass over still lenses was important. I have been very pleased with the image quality. It isn’t ultra clean and certainly not 4K but it has a certain aesthetic that to me, adds a level of grittiness or authenticity to the image. Examples of the footage can be seen here (mixed with EX1 and iPhone!)
Downsides: the viewfinder is crap and the LCD isn’t up to snuff with more modern options. If you are recording SLog internally to SxS cards, there’s no LUT or view assist so sometimes focus can be a little challenging but I just up the contrast all the way and add saturation and it’s worked pretty well. It’s also not a very bright LCD. I also with it had more ND options, but that’s pretty easy to get around. I record SLog internally and find it color corrects nicely in FCPX with Color Finale. I’m am a terrible colorist and honestly kind of hate doing it so don’t judge the camera by the grade!
Information about this camera is scattered across a spectrum of forums due to its age, so I wanted to take a stab at making a new resource for it for any current or prospective users. Does anyone else have any setups, thoughts, or questions? I’m happy to answer any questions also! Cheers!