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Sony Cyber-shots go 3D

Three new models enter the company's 2010 digital camera lineup with two of them having the ability to capture 3D images.

Sony's 3D panorama photos must be enjoyed in a sterile environment to get the full effect. Sony

Regardless of your feelings about 3D, there's really no stopping the onslaught of products now. Hence we have Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 and DSC-WX5 that offer the ability to shoot 3D panorama photos.

The TX9 replaces the TX7, which is barely 6 months old. It has the same body, touch-screen LCD, and lens as that camera, but its backside-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor gets a resolution bump from 10 to 12 megapixels. The WX5 replaces 2009's WX1 and again is built essentially the same as its predecessor, but with the higher-resolution sensor. However, along with the increased megapixels come important shooting feature differences.

First, there's that 3D stuff. In addition to the Intelligent Sweep Panorama found on Sony's earlier Exmor R-based models, these have a 3D Sweep Panorama. Press the shutter release, sweep the camera vertically or horizontally, and the camera captures left and right images and then stitches them together. You then connect the camera by HDMI to your 3D-ready HDTV, pop on your glasses, and enjoy. The results are good, especially considering how easy it is to create them and that they're single-lens cameras as opposed to dual-lens cameras like Fujifilm's Real 3D W1.

The 3D fun doesn't stop there, though. Both cameras have a Sweep Multi Angle option that captures a series of shots at different angles and then combines them into one shot. Tilting the camera left and right plays through the photos, creating a lenticular lens effect. The result is very similar to what you can do with any camera and Start 3D, but these can only be viewed on the camera. And going by what was said at the demo Sony gave us, it seems like it's mostly just a gimmick to sell 3D cameras at retail stores to people who don't own 3D HDTVs.

As for non-3D shooting options, Sony's Exmor R cameras have high-speed shooting abilities and the company uses them in special multishot modes to reduce image noise and improve dynamic range. The thing is, past models required you to switch to the modes and, well, not everyone knows when to use which mode. Enter Sony's Superior Auto or, as I've started calling it, Double Secret Auto, which knows when to use the multishot technology. It works much like Fujifilm's EXR Auto on its Super CCD EXR cameras, helping you take advantage of the camera's abilities without actually doing anything more than pressing the shutter release.

Lastly, the cameras have Background Defocus and Soft Skin options. The former takes two shots and combines them, keeping the subject in focus while blurring the background to simulate a shallow depth of field. The latter just digitally smooths imperfections on detected faces. Oh, and both cameras capture video in AVCHD at a resolution of 1,920x1,080 at 60i.

The TX9 and WX5 will be available in September selling for about $400 and $300, respectively.

Sony also announced the Cyber-shot DSC-T99. It replaces the TX1, but it drops the Exmor R sensor replaced by a 14-megapixel CCD. Like Panasonic's FP3 and Nikon's S4000, the T99 is Sony's more affordable touch-screen camera. At $250, however, it's more expensive than both of those models. It, too, will be out in September.