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Sony Alpha SLT-A37, NEX-F3 Announced; Previewed
by Allison Johnson -  5/16/2012

Sony unveils two new interchangeable lens cameras today, the translucent mirror Alpha SLT-A37 and the compact mirrorless NEX-F3. We took them both out for a test drive, check out the sample images and read on for all of the details on these new Sony offerings.

Both cameras offer an Auto Portrait function. This feature creates two image files when it detects a face as the subject of a photo, keeping your original image as framed and cropping another to follow a rule-of-thirds approach. They’re also both capable of a kind of digital zoom called Clear Image Zoom, a 2x magnification that offers a little more reach once you’re at the end of your telephoto range. Some advanced processing called By Pixel Resolution does the cleanup work to try and keep the final image looking natural and crisp.

Sony Alpha SLT-A37
The A37 will replace the A35, featuring a 16.1 megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor. It’s roughly the size and shape of a full-fledged DSLR, but it’s a lightweight at 448 grams. The A37 is capable of up to 7 fps burst shooting in a special telezoom mode or 5.5 fps in standard shooting. It utilizes a 15-point AF system with 3 cross-type sensors, and offers a native ISO range of 100-16000. A 1.44 million dot EVF offers 100% coverage, and the 2.6-inch LCD offers a rather low 230k-dots of resolution. The LCD is capable of tilting upward by 80 degrees and 45 degrees downward, providing a little extra help in framing shots from unconventional angles.

Sony Alpha SLT-A37

Sony Alpha NEX-F3
Replacing the entry-level NEX-C3, the F3 employs a 16.1 megapixel APS-C sensor and the latest-generation BIONZ image processor. It records a full 1080 HD video at either 60i or 24p. It now offers battery life of an estimated 470 shots per charge. It doesn’t offer a built-in EVF, but it does provide some flexibility with a 3.0-inch 921k-dot LCD capable of flipping 180 degrees upward, providing self-portrait shooters with a clear view of their subjects.

Sony NEX-F3 Sony NEX-F3

The F3 now offers a pop-up flash as well as a smart accessory hot shoe capable of accommodating compatible flash units. A new E-mount SEL 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS zoom lens will be offered for the NEX system, a lighter and more compact alternative to the original.

Hands-on: Sony Alpha SLT-A37 and Sony Alpha NEX-F3
The NEX-F3 features a familiar NEX form factor and build quality. The back panel offers the same control wheel and soft keys as found on previous and current NEX cameras, along with the much-maligned menus and interface. For a beginner (this camera’s target audience) who plans to stick close to automatic exposure functions, this won’t be much of an issue.

We took the F3 out to the ice rink at Chelsea Piers to see if it could keep up with some skaters. It did – mostly. While certainly fast enough for most applications, sporting events are still best left to DSLRs. Still, the F3 captured some of the action nicely. I’ve been a big fan of the NEX ergonomics; the front right-handed grip is sturdy with a nice texture for gripping.

Sony NEX-F3 Sample Image Sony NEX-F3 Sample Image

The Alpha A37 was more at home on the ice rink than the F3, and it stood up to a trial by fire when I shot a troupe of Coney Island sideshow performers. Fire-eaters, sword swallowers and snake handlers didn’t prove to be a challenge to the A37. Exposures were generally right on, and I was happy with image sharpness. Colors appear to be somewhat saturated, but not unnatural looking. The only issue I had was settling on a white balance in the shade of our makeshift performance space – auto mode tended toward a slightly cool cast. Of course, that wasn’t an issue while photographing a performer eating fire.

Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image

I can’t say I’m too impressed with Clear Image Zoom based on my first trial of this feature. While it’s a nice feature to have for an unexpected opportunity, it shouldn’t be relied upon to produce great prints. I tested it out in the A37 shooting ol’ Lady Liberty from quite some distance.

Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image
Wide Angle

Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image
Telephoto

Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image
Clear Image Zoom 2x

The telezoom 2x magnification is acceptable when not viewed at 100%, but looking closely will reveal some digital artifacts and evidence of over-processing. To be fair, the statue was barely visible in my wide angle shot, so it might be a nice feature for someone shooting a prime lens who wants some zoom reach in a pinch.

Sony NEX-F3 Sample Images

Sony NEX-F3 Sample Image Sony NEX-F3 Sample Image
Sony NEX-F3 Sample Image Sony NEX-F3 Sample Image

Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Images

Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image
Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image
Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image
Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Sample Image

Pricing and availability
The Sony Alpha SLT-A37 will be offered starting this June as a $599.99 kit with an 18-55mm lens or for $799.99 with a new 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens. The Sony NEX-F3 will also arrive in June, selling for an estimated $599.99 with an 18-55mm kit lens.