3D cameras and camcorders: The first wave (photos)
Here's the current crop of off-the-shelf solutions for taking and making your own 3D photos and movies.
The SDT750 is basically a reworked version of Panasonic's TM700 camcorder with an attachable 3D conversion lens. Once locked on, the lens provides two optical paths that eventually pass through the single existing lens. The lens stops down from f1.5 to f3.2 at its widest when it's attached. The system records stereoscopic side-by-side images at 960x1,080-pixel resolution; though the camcorder supports 1080/60p recording, 3D maxes out at 60i.
Its focal length is fixed at 65mm (35mm equivalent) and its aperture is fixed at f12. Like the camcorder lens it has two optical systems in the lens mount that create stereo images from the left and right lenses, which are then processed into a 3D image in the camera.
The lens works with the the GH2 and GF2 models and sells for $249.95.
Fujifilm was one of the first manufacturers to have a consumer-focused camera for capturing 3D digital photos and video with the FinePix Real 3D W1. The Real 3D W3 is the follow-up to that model, the biggest feature upgrade being the capability to capture 3D video at an HD-quality resolution of 720p in 3D-AVI format done with the ease of using a point-and-shoot camera. Plus, the built-in Mini-HDMI output lets you connect directly to your HDTV for playback. And it's small enough to fit in your pocket and weighs only 8.5 ounces.
The camera uses twin 10-megapixel CCD sensors paired with dual Fujinon 3x f3.7-4.2 35-105mm lenses spaced about 3 inches apart that approximates human-eye spacing for a natural 3D effect. A manual Parallax Control lets you fine-tune the effect, too, as well as eliminate image ghosting. Fujifilm also used a 3.5-inch autostereoscopic LCD with 1,150K-dot resolution that has a lenticular system using rows of convex lenses, which produces "a realistic 3D image with less cross-talk and flicker" for seeing and sharing photos and video in 3D without glasses.
Instead of using an add-on lens or two lenses and sensors, Sony just took advantage of its high-speed processor and sensor to create 3D images. The TX9 as well as the Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 feature a 3D Sweep Panorama mode. Press the shutter release and as you sweep the camera up, down, or sideways it shoots separate photos for the left and right eyes. It then creates a single 3D image that's viewable on a 3D-enabled HDTV.
The cameras also have a Sweep Multi Angle mode, which works similarly by taking 15 photos at different angles as you sweep across a scene. The camera then coverts those into one photo. By tilting the camera back and forth during playback, the camera's built-in gyro sensor displays the image in a 3D-like view on the camera's LCD. It's akin to viewing a lenticular photo. Of course the big problem is that they're only viewable on the camera.
The NEX-5 and NEX-3 interchangeable lens cameras and the NEX-VG10 can all shoot the same 3D panorama images that the TX9 and WX5 can. I fully expect Sony to have a 3D video solution for consumers at CES 2011.
DXG softly announced the 5D7V at CES 2010 with little information about it beyond it having two lenses for capturing 3D VGA-quality video and a 3.2-inch LCD that could be used for viewing the 3D video without glasses.
When the camcorder finally went on sale in August, there wasn't much more to say. For $599.99 you get the camcorder and a 7-inch LCD (inset) for viewing your 3D videos or photos (the 5D7V captures 5-megapixel 3D JPEGS, too), again, without the need for glasses. You can buy it directly from DXG or Hammacher Schlemmer.
Before DXG had a chance to get its 3D VGA camcorder to market, Aiptek announced the i2 3D-HD mini-camcorder for presale. Instead of the pistol-grip design of the DXG, Aiptek went with a candy-bar-style body--albeit a wide one--but it, too, uses two lenses to capture stereo video at up to an HD resolution of 720p. Its $200 price tag is easier to swallow as well, though it doesn't come with the 7-inch LCD for viewing. (Aiptek does sell one that can be purchased separately, however.) The i2 3D-HD can be purchased directly from Aiptek or from Amazon.
Also, Viewsonic is selling a nearly identical camcorder under its name, so it's hard to say who the actual manufacturer of either of the devices are. It's most likely Aiptek.
The $120 3D Lens in a Cap allows you to turn an SLR or digital SLR into a 3D camera. It has a matched pair of lenses with a focus range from 1 meter to infinity. They have a fixed focal length of 38mm and an f11 aperture. The Loreo Cap results in side-by-side photos that require a parallel print viewer in order to see them in 3D, which can be found for less than $10. (The Fujifilm W3 is capable of creating this type of image, too.)
Got a bunch of plain ol' 2D content that's just begging to be viewed in 3D? Roxio's release of Creator 2011 can convert both photos and video into 3D for viewing with anaglyph glasses or shutter glasses with a 3D TV or 3D-enabled computer.
The software can be used for editing 3D files, too, and supports common 3D formats including side-by-side, over-under, anaglyph, and dual stream. When you're done editing you can author 3D Blu-ray discs or DVDs or upload them to YouTube.
There are other conversion and editing options available, but this is the easiest to use out of the box.