Just how many selfie-oriented phones can one have? Well, at least one more, if some of the brands are to be believed. How else can one explain the absolute deluge of selfie phones that are hitting the market? One of the latest to have turned up the self-anointed “Selfie Expert” from Oppo, the F3, a scaled down version of the F3 Plus (in terms of both specs and price), which was released earlier. One spec that has not been touched, however, is the selfie camera set up. The big question: will it be enough to make the F3 a crowd puller?

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The F3 Plus, mini-fied, minus some specs…and bucks!

In terms of appearance, just as in name, the F3 is a slightly scaled down version of its big brother (literally – it is a whole lot bigger), the F3 Plus. You can read more about its design in our First Cut of the F3, but suffice to say here that if you like the appearance of the iPhone, you will like the F3. It is a curvey, sleek blend of glass (2.5D Gorilla Glass 5) and metal at 7.3 mm in thickness and 153 grams in weight. The antenna bands do not have the elaborate trim that we saw on the F3 Plus, but this is a smart looking phone, no two ways about it and way more compact than the slightly oversized F3 Plus.

It is not just its size that has been trimmed, though. The F3 also takes a few cuts in the specs department as compared to the F3 Plus. While the most visible of these is the display size (5.5-inches as compared to the 6.0-inches on the Plus, albeit with the same full HD resolution), the most significant is perhaps moving from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 653 processor on the F3 Plus to a MediaTek 6750. Under the hood, the F3 also has a rear camera with a lower megapixel count (13 as compared to 16) and not surprisingly, a smaller battery as well (3200 mAh as compared to 4000 mAh)

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But on the flip side, the F3 retains the 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage seen on the F3 Plus, all the connectivity options (4G, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth) and in marketing terms, also possesses the spec that allows it to lay claim to the “selfie expert” moniker – those dual front-facing cameras, a 16.0-megapixel and 8.0-megapixel combination. It also possesses something the F3 Plus did not – a dedicated memory card slot, instead of a hybrid SIM one!

All this for Rs 19,990, which is significantly below the Rs 30,900 price tag on the F3 Plus. The price (which is significantly lower than what many expected) makes the F3’s toned down spec sheet seem a lot more acceptable. Comparisons are of course likely to be made with other worthies in the category, most notably the Selfiestan Sultan, the Gionee A1, and the Xiaomi Mi Max (another biggie, literally). We will not say that the F3 cleans up the opposition in the spec department, but it pretty much holds its own.

A steady performer

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The F3 runs on Android Marshmallow with Oppo’s Color 3.0 UI on top of it. We have seen a fair share of Android overlays and we must confess to having a soft corner for Oppo’s version. Yes, it does not have an app drawer which might offend some, but it is clean and relatively uncluttered, and unlike some of its competitors, Oppo does not attempt to shove too many apps down your throat (although there is an Oppo app store and theme store on board). It is elegant and understated and does not scream for attention and most important of all, works very smoothly indeed. Which plays a crucial role in making the F3 a smooth performer, we suspect. Yes, it does tend to heat up slightly when you start playing Asphalt or Hitman on it (and even drops the odd frame), but if your main tasks are keeping tabs on messages, chats and social networks, and the odd spot of casual gaming, the F3 will not disappoint you. The display is reasonably bright and handles colors well, making it a good option for both gaming and videos.

We would have liked louder sound over the loudspeaker and well, the day-long battery life of the device gets dwarfed by the almost two days the F3 Plus churned out, but we do not see these as deal breakers. No, we cannot see the geek brigade flocking to the F3 – not with that processor and benchmark scores – but for most mainstream users, this is a very decent performer indeed.

Scoring on selfies

The 13.0-megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture is not the star of the show, but in best Oppo tradition, it turns in a very good performance in good light conditions, although claims about its low-light prowess have been exaggerated. There are quite a few shooting modes: live filters, double exposure, an expert mode which allows you to meddle with settings, a gif mode and an ultra HD mode that takes a number of snaps and then combines all of them into a single 50.0-megapixel snap. It is a decent feature set and the results can be quite good if one puts in some effort and operates in well-lit areas.

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You guessed it: we were saving the selfie cameras for the last. Yes, they work well and deliver good results in terms of color and detail, although the colors do tend to be slightly flattering, even if beauty mode is turned down. There is a separate mode for single and group selfies (which provides slightly wider perspective) and we can see selfie addicts loving the options Oppo has given to them – there are live filters, a gif mode, and double exposure and you can also shoot panorama selfies. Like Vivo, Oppo has also thrown in a selfie bokeh mode, but we suspect it has more to do with software than the dual cameras – the bokeh effect comes out reasonably well but is not as efficient as in the Vivo V5 Plus, as we often ended up with part of the subject being bokeh-ed out as well. We also wish that Oppo had made the bokeh mode more obvious – it is available only when you get into beauty mode for the single selfie. The beauty mode itself varies from being understated to aggressive depending on the level you choose – you can choose between looking a bit better than you normally do or ending up with alabaster skin that is the envy of those in Bollywood.

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The selfie expert, for selfie experts

In our opinion, the F3 is easily the best selfie camera we have seen at this price point – it comfortably outscores that of the Gionee A1, which produced good detail but had fewer options. If you love photography, this phone is definitely a contender in its price segment. If you love selfies, then it is perhaps the best one in the sub-Rs 20,000 price zone. Look beyond selfies, however, and the F3 runs into some serious competition. The Gionee A1 we think scores on a better display and much better battery life even though there’s not much between the two in terms of appearance. And then there is the online brigade which features the likes of the Honor 6X, the Moto G5 Plus, the Redmi Note 4, the Mi Max and now, the Asus ZenFone 3, all of which score heavily on what many will perceive to be the F3’s Achilles Heel – the processor (we would once again like to stress here that our experience with it was pretty smooth in most cases).

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But then as its high-profile ad campaign keeps stressing, the Oppo F3 is targeted at those who put themselves first. In the photographic sense at least. And for less than Rs 20,000, you would be hard-pressed to find a better weapon to shoot yourself… in the phone camera sense, of course.

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