In a battle of hybrids, DxOMark pits Sony’s mirrorless NEX-F3 and its 16-megapixel APS-C sensor against Panasonic’s mirrorless Lumix DMC-GF5 and its 12-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor. The duo, which view for the same consumer base, are extremely close in price range – just one US dollar separates the two. However, that’s where many of their similarities end.
There is a wide gulf in sensor quality between the dueling competitors. For starters, the NEX-F3 registered 22.7 bits of color compared to the 20.5 bits of the Lumix DMC-GF5. This two-bit difference means the NEX-F3 can reproduce four times as many colors as the Lumix DMC-GF5. The two also have a significant difference in tonal range – nearly 2/3-stop separates the two.
The two also had striking differences in dynamic range and low light ISO. The more than 2 Evs advantage of the NEX-F3 translates to a whopping two-stop difference between it and the Lumix DMC-GF5. The NEX-F3 also is much more masterful in low light, registering a full-stop brighter than the Lumix DMC-GF5 – the latter you see image quality drop off at ISO 573 and higher; and the NEX-F3 this is noted at ISO 1114 and higher.
The NEX-F3 handed the Lumix DMC-GF5 a convincing blow in sensor quality. The larger sensor size is a contributing factor to the NEX-F3’s resounding sensor superiority over the Lumix DMC-GF5. But how does the NEX-F3 compare to an alternative Sony camera? The family comparison is much less dynamic and in some regards disappointing.
Changes to the Sony NEX-F3 seem largely cosmetic, as its image quality made no gains – and thankfully no losses – in image quality from its predecessor the NEX-C3. The pair had nearly identical results, with the NEX-F3 just marginally edging out the NEX-C3 in dynamic range and low light ISO performance.
However, the separation between the two was so small that is well within DxOMark’s margin of error and did not warrant an increase in the NEX-F3’s overall score.
These sensor quality similarities are partly expected, as the NEX-F3’s and NEX-C3’s sensors were largely identical. Unfortunately, this refreshed sensor, and not replaced sensor, leaves the NEX-F3 on a flat trajectory for image quality improvement. It would have been more wise for the electronics giant to have at least tinkered with the sensor’s low light performance, as it still underwhelms in dim conditions, and would likely turn off many sports and event photographers.