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Sony's newest NEX and DSLR have already graced these pages -- albeit in decidedly unofficial fashion -- but the time has come for this duo of shooters to be revealed to the world with the blessing of their maker. In case you didn't catch the earlier leaks, the NEX-F3 is the replacement for the much-beloved NEX-C3 as the entry-level ILC from Sony, while the A37 slots in the same place in the company's Alpha DSLR lineup. Sony's also rolling out fresh glass for each this July, in the form of an E-mount 18-200mm, F3.5-6.3 zoom lens for $850, and an 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 A-mount telephoto unit that'll set you back $500. Both the NEX-F3 and A37 will come with kit 18-55mm lenses and cost $600 when they go on sale in June, which makes them quite competitively priced as compared to their competition. An enviable pricing position, to be sure, but can they deliver the imaging goods? Well, we spent time with each on a tour of San Francisco recently, so join us after the break for our impressions and some sample photos.

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Sony NEX-F3 press shots

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Sony Alpha A37 DSLR press shots

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As we said above, the NEX-F3 is replacing the C3 at the low end of the NEX lineup, which means it has some pretty big shoes to fill. The new model differs from the old in a few important ways. First off, it comes in three colors (black, white and silver) and the F3's grip has hit the gym, and now looks and feels like a cross between the grip found on the NEX-5 and NEX-7. That means the shutter button is on the downward sloping portion on top of the grip, as opposed to the top of the camera, and we found the new design to be a distinct improvement from its predecessor. It was easier to maintain a solid hold on the F3 than on our own C3, plus the two-stage shutter button was in a more finger-friendly position, making it a joy to use. The power switch has stayed on top, separate from the shutter, and sports a new design that we didn't like as much as the toggle on our C3 -- the switch is oriented 90 degrees down from the C3's, which made it a bit awkward for us to operate with our thumb.

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Sony NEX-F3 hands-on

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Other exterior changes include: round, spun metal secondary buttons, a built in pop-up flash and a new screen hinge that rotates the rear display upwards 180 degrees to help out egomaniacs those who love taking self-portraits. There is a downside to the new hinge, however, as it has sacrificed articulation in the other direction. The F3's screen can't tilt downward as far as the C3's, which makes it more difficult to frame overhead shots.

ImageIn addition to the external changes, the F3 has picked up a new, 16.1-megapixel APS-C sensor that one-ups the C3's max 12,800 ISO with 16,000 ISO capabilities. It can take 1920 x 1080 videos at 60fps interlaced or 24fps progressive, whereas the C3 can only shoot in 720p. Unlike the C3, the new NEX is compatible with Sony's OLED external viewfinder attachment, and comes with a 1.5-amp USB charger instead of a separate external battery charger (now sold separately). Unfortunately, the camera is unusable while it's juicing up, but because it's got the same cell as the C3, you can still use your old charger if you decide to upgrade. And, Sony claims that the F3 is much more efficient with electricity -- it can get 470 shots per charge, up from 400 in the C3.

Anyone who's used the NEX cameras will instantly feel at home with the F3, as the user interface is identical to its brethren. The NEX-F3 does have a couple new tricks up its sleeve, though. There's an Auto Portrait Framing feature that automatically crops your photos to make the resulting composition obey the rule of thirds, and boosts it back to full resolution using Sony's By Pixel Super Resolution technology. The tech works by analyzing the picture's pixels to find and match patterns using Sony's vast, proprietary database (which is loaded on the camera) to fill in the blanks. Generally, we were able to get some very good results with the F3, and we certainly enjoyed the reach that Sony's new 18-200mm lens affords. That said, the resulting photos aren't appreciably different from what you get with a C3, so unless you absolutely must have 1080p video and are incapable of properly composing portraits on your own, we can't see upgrading. However, if you're looking to ditch your old point-and-shoot to dip your toe into the mirrorless ILC waters, you won't be disappointed with F3.

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Sony NEX-F3 sample shots

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Meanwhile, the A37 joins the A77, A65 and A57 in Sony's DSLR lineup. Like the NEX-F3, it's got a 16.1 megapixel APS-C sensor, only with 100-16,000 ISO capabilities (the F3's lower limit is 200 ISO). It also shoots 1920 x 1080 60i and 24p videos, and can snaps stills at up to 7fps at 8 megapixels or 5.5fps if you want the full 16.1-megapixel treatment. As with other Alphas, it utilizes Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology, which -- in tandem with Sony's phase detection tech that predicts your subject's motion -- enables it to maintain smooth focus while shooting video. It also packs the same object tracking and 15-point autofocus capability found in the A65, plus the Auto Portrait Framing technology mentioned above in a lightweight, one pound package.

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Sony Alpha A37 DSLR hands-on

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Speaking of that package, the A37 really fit well in our hands, and despite its bantam weight, it felt solidly constructed. The textured and formed grip fit our phalanges perfectly, and it's light frame was easy to handle. Both the EVF and tilting 2.7-inch LCD on the back worked beautifully for framing shots, letting us enjoy our brief time with the A37. Admittedly, we were more comfortable using the F3 -- not a surprise given that our primary camera is a NEX-C3. Overall, the A37 is a nice option for those looking for their first DSLR. At $600, the price is $100 less than a Nikon D3200 and $50 more than a Canon T3, but you get a higher-res sensor and greater ISO range than either (update: the D3200 has a higher resolution, thanks commenters!). The deciding factor, of course, is in the photographic results. In that respect, we think the A37 acquits itself rather well, but we'll let you see our results in the gallery below and make that call for yourself.

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Sony Alpha A37 sample shots

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Sony Introduces Speedy α37 Camera with Full-time Continuous AF Powered by Translucent Mirror Technology

New Model Features High-Quality 16.1MP APS-C Image Sensor, up to 7 fps Shooting, High- Resolution Electronic Viewfinder and more

SAN DIEGO, May 16, 2012 – Lightweight, easy to use and packed with a variety of useful features, the new Sony SLT-A37 camera is an ideal choice for consumers eager to explore the world of interchangeable lens DSLR photography.

The new α37 camera is the latest to feature Sony's acclaimed Translucent Mirror Technology, which delivers a potent combination of fast shooting, non-stop phase detection autofocus and continuous live image preview during still and full HD video (60i/24p) shooting. This innovative technology also allows the new α37 camera to grab split-second action with a burst of sharply focused images. Shots can be captured at up to seven frames per second in Tele-Zoom High Speed Shooting Mode, where the central portion of the sensor's image is magnified by approximately 1.4x.

The camera has a precision 3-cross 15-point AF system with tracking autofocus that keeps faces and fast-moving subjects in sharp focus. From action-packed sports to spontaneous family portraits, it will ensure that all the drama and beauty of that special moment is captured.

"Delivering lightning-fast shooting speeds and autofocus plus advanced full HD video capture, our innovative Translucent Mirror Technology continues to serve as the backbone of our A-mount line of cameras," said Mike Kahn, director of the Alpha business at Sony. "Featuring this unique technology plus a host of exciting new features and an attractive price tag, our new α37 camera brings a whole new meaning to the term 'entry level DSLR'."

Framing and focusing is easy with the camera's high-resolution Tru-Finder™ electronic viewfinder. With a high 1440k dot resolution, excellent contrast and 100% field of view, it matches or exceeds the abilities of many optical viewfinders. Adjustments to exposure and other creative picture settings can be previewed in real time, either via the Tru-Finder™ EVF or the tilt-angle 6.7 cm (2.7") Clear Photo™ LCD screen, making it easy to create shots with a customized, professional finish.

Additionally, the Sony α37 camera helps inexperienced photographers create top-quality portraits with ease. The new Auto Portrait Framing mode identifies the subject's position in a composed image and follows the "rule of thirds" to trim the scene and create a beautifully framed portrait. The cropped photo is then boosted to full resolution using Sony's unique By Pixel Super Resolution technology, which uses pattern matching to maintain superb image detail, tones and textures in the photo. Both the original and cropped image files are saved for review.

By Pixel Super Resolution Technology is also used for the "Clear Image Zoom" feature, which digitally doubles the effective magnification of any lens attached to the camera. Ideal for travel and everyday shooting, it's a great way to boost maximum focal length without carrying extra hardware.

The 16.1 effective megapixel Exmor® APS HD CMOS sensor inside the α37 camera captures finely detailed, low noise stills and Full HD video. It's teamed with the latest BIONZ® image processor that extends sensitivity to an ISO 100-16000 range, broadening options for low-light shooting without flash. Shared with all α A-mount cameras, SteadyShot INSIDE™ stabilization cuts the effects of camera shake by up to 4.0 stops for clearer handheld images with any A-mount lens.

The new α37 camera also features Superior Auto Mode, which intelligently recognizes a wide range of scenes and subjects and adjusts settings automatically.

New A-Mount 18-135mm Telephoto Zoom Lens and Accessories

A versatile match for the α37 and other Sony A-mount camera bodies, the new SAL18135 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 telephoto zoom offers a generous 8x (approx.) zoom range in a compact, go-anywhere lens that's great for travel, street photography and everyday shooting. The lens features a SAM design that assures smooth, rapid, whisper-quiet autofocus operation and Direct Manual Focus for accurate fine-tuning of focus. This sharp telephoto zoom lens will also be offered as a kit lens with the α37 and other Sony A-mount camera bodies.

Compatible accessories include the new PCK-LM11 semi-hard screen protector sheet, exclusively designed for a perfect fit with the LCD screen on the α37 camera, as well as the HVL-F43AM flash, LCS-BP2 backpack and a variety of other exciting products that complete the Alpha ecosystem.

Pricing and Availability

The new α37 digital camera will be available this June with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens (model SEL1855) for about $600. The new SAL18135 telephoto zoom lens will be available as a stand-alone product this July for about $500, and will be offered as a kit lens with Sony A-mount cameras beginning this August at the below approximate prices:
• α37 camera kit with 18-135mm lens: $800
• α57 camera kit with 18-135mm lens: $1,000
• α65 camera kit with 18-135mm lens: $1,200
• α77 camera kit with 18-135mm lens: $1,700

The camera kits, new lens and variety of accessories will be available at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.

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Sony's New α NEX-F3 Camera Packs DSLR-Size Sensor and Advanced Feature Set into Small, Stylish Body

Lightweight Model Features 16.1 Megapixel APS-C Sensor, 180° Tiltable LCD, Built-in Flash, Auto Portrait Framing and more

SAN DIEGO, May 16, 2012 – Sony's α NEX-F3 digital camera delivers professional quality photos with a compact, pocket-sized body, allowing consumers to explore the creative world of high-quality, interchangeable lens photography in a refreshingly fun and entertaining way.

The new NEX-F3 camera features the same space-saving mirrorless design as other models in Sony's E-mount family as well as an advanced, 16.1 effective megapixel Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor, identical in size to sensors found in traditional DSLR cameras. The large sensor takes in more light during image capture, resulting in flawless, low-noise photographs and crisply detailed Full HD videos (60i/24p). Photographers can also easily create images with beautiful defocus effects, where the subject is focused sharply against a smoothly blurred background.

"Sony continues to redefine digital photography with our E-mount series, packing a large APS-C size sensor into a small, lightweight camera body to produce professional-quality images with ease," said Mike Kahn, director of the Alpha business at Sony. "Featuring a diverse set of imaging technologies and offered at a great price, the new NEX-F3 model reinforces our commitment to this rapidly growing compact system camera market."

The NEX-F3 camera adds a whole new perspective to self-portraits with a 180° Tiltable LCD screen, a first for Sony's E-mount camera line. By simply holding the camera at arm's length and flipping the LCD screen vertically, users can adjust the on-screen preview image and properly frame photos.
Additionally, the new model features a useful built-in flash to broaden shooting options indoors or in low light situations. Already introduced on Sony's acclaimed NEX-7 camera, this pop-up flash handily brightens portraits and other shots without the need to carry an additional flash accessory.

The new NEX-F3 camera also includes the new Auto Portrait Framing feature for creating top-quality portraits quickly and easily. This innovative feature identifies a subject's position in a composed image, and follows the "rule of thirds" to trim the scene appropriately around the subject's face, creating a beautifully composed portrait. The cropped portrait is then boosted to full resolution using Sony's unique By Pixel Super Resolution technology, which uses pattern matching to maintain superb image detail, tones and textures in the photo. Both the original and cropped image files are saved for review.

By Pixel Super Resolution Technology is also used for the "Clear Image Zoom" feature, which digitally doubles the effective magnification of any lens attached to the camera. Ideal for travel and everyday shooting, it's a great way to boost maximum focal length without carrying extra hardware.
Other convenient essentials added to the new NEX-F3 camera include the Superior Auto mode, which intelligently recognizes a wide range of scenes and subjects and adjusts settings automatically. Battery stamina has been boosted to an industry-leading 470 shots (approx.) on a single charge – an approximate 18% improvement over its predecessor, the NEX-C3 model.
The camera is compatible with the FDA-EV1S viewfinder accessory (sold separately), which offers a high-contrast, high-resolution OLED viewfinder display and a wide viewing angle. The NEX-F3 model also features a high-quality, premium-feel grip for more comfortable handling and can be charged via either USB or a standard AC outlet.

New Lightweight 18-200mm Telephoto Zoom Lens for Sony α NEX

An ideal travel partner for the NEX-F3 camera, the new SEL18200LE E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS LE telezoom lens offers a powerful 11x zoom range and superb resolution in an easy-to-carry package. Smaller and 12% lighter than the SEL18200 lens, the new E-mount model features Optical SteadyShot to compensate for the effects of hand-shake. It also features Direct Manual Focus to give users precise control over focus settings, resulting in crisp, beautiful images.

Pricing and Availability

The new NEX-F3 compact digital camera will be available this June in silver, black and white with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens (model SEL1855) for about $600. The new SEL18200LE telezoom lens will be available this July in black for about $850.

The camera kit, new lens and a variety of compatible accessories including the LCS-EJC3 carrying case, STP-XSG1 shoulder strap and STP-WS2 wrist strap will be available at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide

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Sony NEX-F3 and A37 cameras hands-on and sample shots