Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

TALKING ABOUT THE SONY F3 “The noise figure of 63db is extremely impressive. The pictures I saw at IBC were some of the cleanest video images that I have ever seen. Noise performance is crucial in this market as most commercials and movies will receive extensive post work. Generally it is the cameras noise levels that will determine the limits of how far you can push the footage in post. To put this in to some perspective this camera has (according to the specs) over 60% less noise than an EX1. This puts this camera into a different league compared to some of the cheaper competition and puts it much closer to the F35 in terms of what you can do with it.”

I can’t wait to give one a try.

Alister Chapman (XDCAM USER.COM)

So just when we were all happy with the RED ONE…SONY bring out the F3, all the boards are buzzing with RED v SONY so lets have a good look at what RED have to be frightened of.

RED PRICE “Upon its introduction, in August of 2007, the RED ONE retailed for $17,500. Many advancements were made available, by virtue of the evolving firmware upgrades, while the camera maintained its original introductory price. In January of 2010, an upgrade to a newer sensor was made available, this being the same sensor that would ultimately be used in the new EPIC camera. The cost of this amazing upgrade, which offered increased dynamic range, a lower noise floor and increased ISO rating, was $5750. The upgrade included the newer M-X sensor, a sensor board replacement and an upgraded optical low pass filter (OLPF). The upgrade was received with such positive response that a large percentage of the existing cameras were upgraded, creating a new generation of RED ONE cameras, RED ONE M-X. In September of 2010, all of the requested upgrades were performed and it was possible to offer this new generation of camera, with the M-X sensor, as a current version. From this point forward, all RED ONEs would be offered as models, at a retail price of $25,000. This new generation of cameras would also boast that they were fully assembled in the USA, creating not only a new world standard, but also establishing these models as true collectibles.”

SONY PRICE TENTATIVE “Shipping from January you have 2 options…

Option one…PMW-F3K with three lenses (35, 50, 85mm F2.0) – Euros 20,700 ($28,532)

Option two…PMW-F3L body only model – Euros 14500 ($19,986). These cameras will be made in Japan.

What cameras does the RED ONE compete with. “Because the RED ONE is a digital cinema camera (and not an HD video camera), the list of competitors is a short one. Cinema, or film based, cameras offer resolution rated a little over 3K. The RED ONE, at 4K, provides approximately 3.2+K resolution, based on the slight hit of an optical low pass filter (OLPF) used to reduce the effect of aliasing. It is RED’s considered opinion that, going forward, a system must have at least 3K resolution to meet the demand of 4K projection technologies, now being promised by many of the major projector manufacturers. Digital cameras offered by many of RED’s “competitors”, such as Sony, Arri and others, only provide, at best, 2K, and most, only High Definition, which is just not enough information to be scaled to 4K projection. It is safe to say that RED’s biggest competition comes from film, and as the sensor technology continues to improve, while film’s days of progress are numbered, the promise of digital acquisition will be realized. The advantage film has currently is one of dynamic range. With each generation of RED sensor development, the gap becomes narrower and narrower.”

The Sony F3 uses a super 35mm CMOS sensor which is quoted at 25mm x 14mm. This is the first Super 35mm CMOS sensor from Sony as they have used CCDs in the past.

How does the RED ONE differ from a traditional HD camcorder “High Definition video cameras come in many flavors, recording anywhere from 720P resolution to as high as 1080P, using anything from a standard resolution sensor with pixel shifting to a true 1920 x 1080 pixel sensor, and using a variety of different compression and processing algorithms. In the very highest quality HD cams, those costing well into six figures, the RGB signal is not sub-sampled, offering the best HD quality at 4:4:4 (HDCAM SR). Typically, the chroma is sub-sampled at 4:2:2 RGB (DVCPRO HD) and 4:2:0 (HDV). Effectively, where HD tops out, resolution-wise, the RED ONE begins, offering 2K (2048 x 1152), 3K (3072 x 1728), 4K (4096 x 2304) and 4.5K (4480 x 1920)recording options. RED uses a sensor measured at 4520 x 2540 pixels, more than 5 times the number of pixels of the very best HD camera and, most importantly, records the signal as RAW, similar to a DSLR, with no color sub-sampling. All information travels in a single channel, as opposed to three separate RGB paths. Where a video camera requires the “baking in” of white balance, color and gain before recording, these are adjustments that can be made after the fact with a RED ONE, thus making the process of capture all the easier and more fool-proof. These attributes, plus the large S35 film-sized sensor, which provides the beauty of selective depth of field, both contribute to the enormous success of the RED ONE”

I find all this information rather “tekkie” to say the least, there is no doubt that the RED ONE has taken the world by storm and produces fantastic cinematic pictures, on the other hand the Sony F3 has just been announced and is due for shipping in January 2011.

There is a lot of excitement over the F3 and the people who it’s aimed at don’t seem to be bothered by it’s price and lets be honest if it uses the same size 35mm sensor as the F35 can you blame them. Sony have a lot more up their sleeves with the roll out of this new camera for example. “The SR Recorder will be recording using a proprietory memory pack, recording the open standard MPEG-4 HDCAM SR format. It will be considerably smaller than the SRW-1.”

It’s down to money and choice, I don’t doubt that the RED ONE has a large close nit family of passionate followers and owners and it’s made in the USA while the Sony F3 Super 35mm camera is collecting a lot of new friends and owners, in January, personally there is a market for both cameras and I get to play with an F3 next week so if you have any questions you would like me to ask Sony leave them in the comments box.

I will be filming a “WEBDOC” about the new Sony F3 and post it ASAP. PS. I am also taking one of my SxS cards with me and Bill Drummond is allowing me to film onto my card so I can also post you an image from the camera.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

4 thoughts on “Sony enter a RED patch with the F3 FilmLike camcorder

  1. Hi Philip,

    Could you ask Sony if there will be ANY possibility to hook up a hi-res Sony broadcast viewfinder to the F3? The camera looks fine, but without a proper viewfinder, it will just be of no use to me as a documentary cameraman. Also, I love to work from the shoulder, so the viewfinder should be somewhere in front; broadcast-camera-style.


    Love your site!

  2. Hello Philip. Can you ask them why it’s not 4:2:2 / 50 Mb/s! Like this it’s more or less an EX3 with a large sensor. And for this the baby is rather expensive. Do we want to carry around Nanoflash and KI Pro recorders with a camcorder born in 2011? In Europe the (broadcast industry) wants 4:2:2 / 50 Mb/s…

  3. I could not agree more, I told Sony at IBC that after the Canon XF305 all camcorders should be 50Mbs, 4:2:2 but I am one voice. They tell you that they talk to DPs yet so far I do not know anyone to whom they talk to. Alister Chapman who is one of their Sony ICE DPs would have certainly told them to produce this camera at 50Mbs.

  4. I also look forward to testing the F3… Red is a great camera, but releasing cameras before the kinks are out hasn’t been good for Red… I know a lot of people have put deposits on Red Epic… with continued delays on its release.
    That being said…
    I look forward to where Sony is going with this camera due to their proven track record in the industry.
    Kirk Gillon

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