Sony Sets Sites on RED with New 35mm Motion Picture Cameras PMW-F3L and F3K

While RED releases EPIC to production and Panasonic prepares to ship their AF100, Sony has announced their most significant small-form factor camcorder since the VX1000 (the original miniDV camcorder, released in 1995). The PMW-F3L and PMW-F3K -- which are the same camera, the "K" moniker indicates the inclusion of three kit lenses -- are Super 35mm CMOS sensor-based CineAlta cameras, with a PL lens mount and variable 1080p frame rates. Sony is not messing around -- these are pro cinema cameras. Let's take a look at the vitals:

  • Super 35mm-sized Exmor Sensor with ISO 800 sensitivity
  • 1080p: 29.97p, 25p, 23.98p; 60p and 50p available in 720p
  • 35 Mb/s (HQ mode) or 25 Mb/s (SP mode) MPEG-2 Long GOP codec
  • Dual HD-SDI output,* down-converted SD-SDI output, i.LINK (HDV) input/output, USB2
  • Genlock and timecode interfaces
  • SxS (ExpressCard/34) memory card recording medium
  • PMW-F3K ships with three Sony F2.0 primes: 35mm, 50mm, 85mm
  • 1920x480 16:9 3.5" viewfinder
  • 16-bit, 48-kHz linear PCM uncompressed XLR audio inputs

*Regarding the output options, Sony notes "10bit 4:2:2 HD-SDI output opens up hybrid recording possibilities with a variety of external recording devices. And from April 2011, a Dual Link HD-SDI option will enable 10bit RGB uncompressed signal output - ideal for the high-end film production."

All of this information has appeared at the Sony UK site, save one important specification: price. Given this is Sony we're talking about, I have no expectations of this coming in anywhere near the price of the less feature-rich Panasonic AF100. The PL lens mount is a good indicator that we're talking five figures, not four.

UPDATE: An astute commenter (thanks raitank) has noted that the price in Yen has been released in Japan; the price translates to $18,700 for the body-only PMW-F3L and $27,000 for the 3-lens PMW-F3L. While I expect the cameras to retail for a bit less in the States (if the past is prelude, our pricing should be lower than the directly-translated numbers, not to mention retailer discounts), this puts the cameras firmly in RED territory. In fact, the F3L seems to have been targeted exactly at the original RED ONE's $17.5k body-only price (though current RED cameras cost $25k with the upgraded Mysterium-X sensor, as seen in The Social Network). At $10k, these cameras are appealing to independent filmmakers; at $20k, they seem to be designed to be a B-camera for larger-budget productions that are already using full-size CineAlta cameras. The RED, after all, gives you a higher bitrate, RAW workflow, faster frame rates, and higher resolution -- and when (if?) the SCARLET gets released, there should be models available in exactly this same price range.

Sony also note some other interesting features, such as "3D System Link Option - Using this option you can easily synchronise timecode, genlock and control functionality with a single cable, locking together left and right cameras to simplify 3D acquisition. Available from April 2011." They also plan on introducing new zoom lens options in addition to the default PL mount: "The PMW-F3L is supplied with a PL Mount Adapter to provide immediate compatibility with the huge range of filmic 35mm lenses, including prime, digital cinematography and even still lenses. There are also hot shoe electric interfaces for Cooke/i and ARRI LDS... Sony plans to introduce a range of zoom lenses directly compatible with the F3 mount. More details will be revealed shortly. Zoom lens compatibility expands the operational flexibility of the F3 so it can be used for almost any application."

This is a very compelling camera, but there are of course a lot of unanswered questions. Here are the links, full specs below. With RED's SCARLET cameras delayed for who-knows-how-long, and Sony's stellar reputation as video engineers, it will be very interesting to see what price point the F3K/L cameras fall into. What do you guys think of these new Sonys?

PMW-F3K Overview
PMW-F3L Overview
PDF datasheet

Sony PMW-F3K Full Specifications

Mass Approx.2.4kg (Camera only)
Dimension (W x H x D) Approx.151x189x210mm (PMW-F3L, protrusion not included)
Power requirements DC 12V
Power consumption Approx. 24.0 W (Typical) (REC mode, HD-SDI Dual Link On, EVF On, LCD Monitor Off)
Operating temperature 0 to +40°C
Storage temperature -20 to +60°C
Battery operating time Approx.130 Min (HD-SDI Dual Link On) (w/BP-U60)
Approx.170 Min (HD-SDI Dual Link Off) (w/BP-U60)
Recording format MPEG-2 Long GOP
HD HQ mode: VBR, maximum bit rate: 35 Mb/s, MPEG-2 MP@HL
HD SP mode: CBR, 25 Mb/s, MPEG-2 MP@H-14
SD mode: DVCAM
Audio: Linear PCM (2ch, 16-bit, 48-kHz)
Recording frame rate PAL area:
HD HQ mode: 1920 x 1080/50i, 25p,
1440 x 1080/50i, 25p,
1280 x 720/50p, 25p
HD SP mode: 1440 x 1080/50i
SD mode: 720 x 576/50i, 25p
NTSC area:
HD HQ mode: 1920 x 1080/59.94i, 29.97p, 23.98p,
1440 x 1080/59.94i, 29.97p, 23.98p,
1280 x 720/59.94p, 29.97p, 23.98p
HD SP mode: 1440 x 1080/59.94i, 23.98p
SD mode: 720 x 480/59.94i, 29.97p
Recording/Playback time HQ Mode:
Approx. 100 min with SBP-32 (32 GB) memory card
Approx. 50 min with SBP-16 (16 GB) memory card
Approx. 25 min with SBP-8 (8 GB) memory card
SP/SD Mode:
Approx. 140 min with SBP-32 (32 GB) memory card
Approx. 70 min with SBP-16 (16 GB) memory card
Approx. 35 min with SBP-8 (8 GB) memory card
Lens mount PL mount (w/supplied lens mount adapter)
Focal length 3 lens supplied: 35mm, 50mm, 85mm
Aperture Value F2.0 to Close
Minimum Shooting Distance 0.35mm (35mm), 0.5m (50mm), 0.85m (85mm)
Focus Manual Focus
Filter diameter 95mm
Imaging device Super 35mm Equivalent Single Chip Exmor CMOS Image Sensor
Built-in optical filters OFF: Clear, 1: 1/8ND, 2: 1/64ND
Sensitivity (2000 lx, 89.9% reflectance) F11 (Typical)
S/N ratio 63 dB (Typical)
Shutter speed 1/32 - 1/2000 sec
Slow Shutter (SLS) 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 frame accumulation
Slow and Quick Motion function 720P: 1 - 60fps selectable (17-60 fps when HD-SDI Dual Link is active) 1080P: 1 - 30fps selectable(17-30 fps when HD-SDI Dual Link is active)
White balance Preset, Memory A, Memory B/ATW
Gain -3, 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18dB, AGC
Audio input XLR Type 3pin (female)x2, LINE/MIC/MIC+48V selectable
Composite output BNC (x1), NTSC or PAL
S-Video output n/a
Audio output RCAx2
Component output n/a
SDI output BNC (x1), HD-SDI/SD-SDI selectable
HD-SDI Dual Link Out BNCx2 4: 2: 2 1080 50/59.94P 10bit output
i.LINK IEEE1394 S400 4on Connector x1
Timecode input BNC (x1)
Timecode output BNC (x1)
Genlock input BNC (x1)
USB Mini Type-B connector (x1)
Headphone output Stereo mini-jack (x1)
Speaker output Monaural
DC input XLR type 4pin (male)x1
Remote 8-pin
Lens remote n/a
MIC n/a
HDMI output HDMI connector (Type A)x1
Viewfinder 0.45", Aspect Ratio 16: 9
Built-in LCD monitor
3.5", Aspect ratio 16: 9, Hybrid (semi-transmissive) type
Media Type ExpressCard/34 slot (x2) Interface
ExpressCard compliant

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Your Comment


The only obvious weakness vs the DSLR's is the ISO 800 sensitivity. I suppose for many professional applications super low light sensitivity is not an absolute requirement. Hopefully it will be another great option. It will be interesting to see how it stacks up against others in that price range in the coming year. Thanks for another great share!

November 8, 2010 at 12:44AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Here we go! The race is on! Merely two years after the 5D was discovered as a filmmakers' tool, the market reacts. No longer HDV or even SD DV for us poor country filmmakers :-)
These are great times. Now we can film high-quality pictures, we don't have to think about postproduction costs as much as before or fighting the short comings of a HDSLR.

I think Sony's cameras will do great (although Rodney Charters said in an interview, that he doesn't trust Sony to deliver a camera picture that doesn't look like video), and it's going to be next step up from the AF101.
This will be very interesting gear for commercial production, TV Shows (not the high end drama, but let's say comedies or lower budget european TV Shows and movies). Put a Atomos Ninja on it with 10bit 422 ProResHQ. (almost) No one will notice the difference to film.

November 8, 2010 at 12:53AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


of course, that would be the enhanced Ninja w/ SDI input (they said it could be on a future model). :)

November 8, 2010 at 1:11AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


That's an interesting point by Rodney. In Japan, the video aesthetic is seen as superior to film's, or so I'm told, so that could partially explain why Sony's cameras (even at the high-end) all have a very video-y look. Proof's in the pudding!

November 8, 2010 at 7:53AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

Really? Hm, now that's interesting. I think he was referencing this camera when it was just a prototype at NAB. link is here:

November 8, 2010 at 1:49PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Hi, Koo. Thanks always for your valuable info!
The price is already set at least in Yen and released here in Japan. It says in the release, PMW-F3K, with a set of three PL mount lenses, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm, is set at Yen 2,205,000. That is somewhat like US$27,000. And PMW-F3L, without lenses, is priced at Yen 1,522,500, which is US$18,700.

Definitely, much more expensive thank I expected... What do you think?

November 8, 2010 at 1:57AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Thanks very much raitank -- I will update the post with this info.

November 8, 2010 at 7:54AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

Good overview of the cam here, including it's RED-like workflow with S-Log and LUTs:

November 10, 2010 at 10:58AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

Sounds cool but...since I'm a diy INDIE moviemaker...why not get 3 pan af 100 for the price of 27,000.00?
Can always rent 35 mm lenses.
Just get more accomplished, more bang for my buck. Not so much downtime fpr actors.


November 11, 2010 at 2:19PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Having just spent 3 weeks in Japan, and watching plenty of TV there, I can vouch that all the drama programs on NHK (Japanese equivalent of BBC) HD channels are recorded at 60i! Makes for a _very_ crisp broadcast image, but lacks that "filmic magic" in my opinion.

Would be interesting to know which cameras they shoot on (Sony?)

November 15, 2010 at 10:39AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


What I don't get is what sets this camera appart from for example a FS700 (which in my eyes has more promising features), except from the 'PL' lens mount. It's even more expensive...

September 7, 2012 at 9:46AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


long live the fs100

August 19, 2015 at 6:00AM, Edited August 19, 6:00AM

emilio murillo