Sony Intros Handheld Production Camera

The new PMW-F3 weighs 5.2 pounds without lens, has a basic list price of $16,000 and is designed for a variety of digital applications.

In a price/performance breakthrough for independent filmmakers and television producers, Sony today unveiled the PMW-F3, its first professional handheld digital production camera with a Super 35mm imager.

The camcorder, which weighs 5.2 pounds without lens, has a basic list price of $16,000. It competes with cameras that previously cost more than $100,000 and were designed for motion picture filmmaking. Combined with the availability of a low-cost PL lens kit, which includes 35/50/85mm T2.0 fixed focal length lenses, the prices reaches $23,000.

The new PMW-F3 camcorder is scalable and designed for a range of digital production applications — from commercial, documentary, television and feature film production to markets such as education, corporate and government. Sony also said it is ideal for use as a second-unit 35mm camera to complement to Sony’s F35 and SRW-9000PL, which are also PL Mount, S-35mm cameras.

The F3 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 a 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, which can increase the camera’s performance of dynamic range. S-Log is Sony’s 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 the 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 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 an 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.

Before the February rollout, Sony will hold showings at the University of Southern California and New York University film schools, targeting young documentarians and filmmakers at those universities.

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