From the moment I laid eyes on the Sony F3 camera, I knew this was something that would work for me. She was a small package. Easy to hold. I remember that day well. Looking at the monitor it was clear she was beautifully built. I was so happy to get my hands on her. Her image was incredibly crisp, vividly sharp, with gorgeous highlights. With my 50mm 1.4 lens, she was soft in all the right places. It was a look I hadn’t experienced before with a video camera. I was infatuated with her, and I couldn’t wait to take her out.
The large super 35mm sensor blew away anything that traditional video cameras had previously. Combined with the ability to use very sharp and fast cine lenses, this was a prescription for success. She instantly became my go to camera for shallow focus interviews. Even in NYC, where real estate is hard to come by, I have heard a lot of “Wows” from clients looking at the monitor. I am able to record almost 2 hours on one 32GB SxS card, and I can transfer it to a client’s drive in 15 minutes. The camera features more outputs that anyone could ask for, including HDMI, HD/SDI, and a dual link, which can send a clean signal to an outboard recorder. Most DP’s have outboard recorders like the Ki Pro mini, Sound Devices pix240, or the Gemini 444. A client can expect to pay a little extra for this, but will get a higher quality 10 bit recording. The F3 also can be set to S LOG, which offers the highest quality video. In fact, in that mode you can achieve 13 stops of dynamic contrast, but the client needs to be ready to work it over in post with color grading. The technical side of her only tells half of the picture. It is her creative features that really excite me.
The F3 encourages creativity. I can set the camera to shoot in slow motion or in quick motion. The push/dial on the side of the camera easily gets into this mode, and I can dial in specific frame rates very quickly. There are standard and angle shutter options, as well as a slow shutter, which can be dialed up or down for desired effect. One of the greatest things about getting away from tape cameras is the upgraded single frame and intervalometer features. Time lapses and stop motion are easily set up and recorded. I have a number of great picture profiles that I use. Some are there to match with other cameras like the Sony F800, and Cannon 5D. One has a flat gamma curve for S LOG work, and I have others with various levels of color saturation. In any of these I have choices to change the knee, gamma, or white levels. This gives me a lot of control as an operator to adjust a look quickly.
So, like any love affair, I took my F3 out on the town as soon as she was all dressed up and ready to go. I rigged her out on a Zacutto baseplate and rails on the front and back to accommodate a matte box for filters, and my Ki Pro Mini in the back. I mounted a cheese plate on top which offers a zillion screw threads for mounting options. I tried all of the electronic viewfinders available, and am so far not happy with any of them. I can snap on a soft shoulder pad on the bottom of the rig, and I use the Shape hand grips which mount on the rails in front of the matte box when it needs to be hand held. I use a Zacutto follow focus, which is essential with these lenses.
Our first date was a cheap one. I was booked on a job with Kelly Ripa, and along with other things to shoot, we were going to shoot an interview. As it was my first time out with her, I offered her up free to my client. It was a very fast set up, as I let the camera do the work for me. I can keep the lighting simple, use the best and fastest lenses I can get, and all I hear are “Wows”.
She is now a real working girl, strutting her stuff all over town. Not every job is appropriate for the F3, and it’s advisable to discuss your project needs with your DP in advance.