Sony's U.K. division has posted details about its new PMW-F3 camcorder, which will use a Super 35mm Exmor CMOS sensor with sensitivity equal to ISO 800 and a signal-to-noise ratio of 63dB. 1080 frame rates will be 59.94i, 50i, 29.97P, 25P, and native 23.98P. The camera also supports 720P in a variety of frame rates.
The F3 is positioned significantly higher than Panasonic's forthcoming AG-AF100/101: Its standard HD-SDI interface will output 10-bit 4:2:2, vs. the 8-bit output of the Panasonic AG-AF100, and in April 2010, a Dual Link HD-SDI option will be available that will output 10 bit uncompressed RGB and support 1080/59.94P and 50P. It will record using the MPEG-2 Long GOP codec at 35Mbps or 25 Mbps, not AVCHD. The F3 will support variable frame rates from 1 to 60 fps in 720P and from 1 to 30 fps in 1080P in 1 fps increments. SxS cards will be used for storage, and an optional adapter will support Memory Sticks and SD cards.
The F3 will have its own proprietary lens mount and will come with a PL mount adapter. Optional hot shoe interfaces will be available for Cooke /i and ARRI LDS lenses. Sony is offering some unique bundling options: The PMW-F3L will come without lenses, and the PMW-F3K will come with not one, but three lenses: 35mm, 50mm and 85mm, all at T2.0.
Both PMW-F3 models will ship in the U.K. in January. UrbanFox.TV is reporting that the "tentative list price" for the F3L will be 14,500 Pounds, and 20,700 Pounds for the F3K. Sony has also announced Japanese pricing, which converts into around $17,000 for the F3L. There's been a fair amount of push-back on the Internet to Sony's pricing. The U.S. list price for Panasonic's AG-AF100 is $4,995, and while the F3 has a bigger imager, 10-bit 4:2:2 HD-SDI output and an optional Dual-Link HD-SDI interface, it's hard to argue that those features make the F3 worth more than three times as much money as the AF100.
The F3's price puts it at where the RED originally was at its introduction, and while the current RED is more expensive, it's not that much more expensive. It appears that Sony didn't want to cannibalize sales of its EX3 camcorder by pricing the F3 too low, but if they keep their tentative pricing, they could end up helping Panasonic more than themselves. Panasonic positioned the price of the AF100 against DSLRs, while Sony appears to be positioning the price of the F3 against the rest of the CineAlta product line.