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The best 3D cameras for 3D photos

You don't need to be James Cameron to make your own 3D memories. We've rounded up our favourite new cameras that give your snaps that extra dimension.

Everything's 3D these days. It started in the cinema and quickly spread to TVs, but you don't have to be in Hollywood to make your own 3D memories. We've rounded up some of our favourite new cameras for 2011 that take your snaps to an extra dimension.

3D pictures work by recreating what we see with our two eyes. Because our squishy sight-globes are set slightly apart, they each see a slightly different view of the world. Our wonderful human brain combines those to create a sense of depth: the third dimension. 3D cameras capture 3D snaps by taking two pictures from slightly different angles and combining them, either with two lenses or by asking you to capture two slightly different pictures.

For 3D pictures that really pop out of the screen, you'll need a subject that's in the foreground, probably a metre or so from the camera, preferably with different items or subjects dotted around the frame at different distances from the camera.

The 3D camera

Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3
The W3 (pictured above) is the king of 3D stills cameras, as it's still the only model to sport two lenses and a 3D screen that doesn't require special glasses. 3D is at the core of the W3's design, unlike the single-lens models that offer it as a bonus feature. The two lenses mean it's the only camera that can take a 3D snap in one go, rather than having to snap two pictures.

Crucially, the W3 is the only camera with a 3D screen, so you can see how your picture has turned out when you're still right there on the spot. The instant gratification of seeing your snaps with a sense of depth not only makes 3D more fun, it also helps you experiment to see what works best.

The downside of the W3 is that it's pretty chunky for a compact, and at £350 it isn't cheap -- and neither is Fujifilm's 3D photo frame or its mind-bending 3D prints. Read on for a selection of alternatives that offer 3D in smaller, cheaper, or more feature-packed cameras.

The 3D dSLR

Sony Alpha SLT- A55
Sony loves 3D: it makes 3D films for the cinema, then sells 3D Blu-ray discs for you to watch on its 3D TVs. It also offers 3D snapping and shooting in many of its cameras, including the A55. The A55 offers SLR power and features, most notably the ability to change lenses. That means you can get even more control over your pictures, both 2D and 3D.

With the £600 A55 you can capture 3D panoramas in one movement: simply point your camera at the grand landscape in front of you and sweep the camera sideways to capture the scene. 3D panoramic views take some practice, however: if your sweeping motion isn't smooth enough it messes up the 3D effect.

The 3D premium compact

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20
Panasonic also makes 3D TVs, and has a hand in the production of 3D movies. So it's no surprise that the latest entry to the TZ series -- which are among our favourite compact cameras on the market -- now have an extra dimension to them. Apart from its 3D snapping, the 14-megapixel TZ20 is a brilliant camera in its own right, with a giant 16x zoom, 3-inch touchscreen, GPS and high-definition video. It's also £350. 

The 3D waterproof camera

Olympus TG-810
Olympus has packed almost all of this year's new cameras with 3D features, including the VR330 and the rough 'n' tough TG-810. The Olympus Tough range invented the market for waterproof, freezeproof, drop-proof cameras, and the £270 TG-810 is ideal for anyone who wants to bring their holiday snaps home with added 3D. When you go snorkelling, you can fire up the 3D, and when you get home those fish will seem to swim right out of your TV. If that doesn't convince you that 3D is cool, nothing will.

The chic 3D compact

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX77
If you want 3D snaps but don't want a brick in your handbag or an unsightly bulge in your strides, many of Panasonic's new models offer tri-dee fun. The £250 FX77 is a sleek touchscreen compact that should do the trick. It boasts a 3.5-inch screen, 5x optical zoom and 24mm wide angle lens. 3D is captured by panning the camera as it captures and combines up to 20 snaps.

3D: Are you won over?

The Fujifilm W3 is the only camera on the market that can show you pictures in 3D. Instead, the other cameras take pictures and save them in the standard MPO format, which can be played back on 3D TVs or photo frames, and requires special glasses for the 3D effect. Not everybody is convinced by 3D, but seeing your own friends, family and memories step out of the screen could win you over.

Are you tempted? Add an extra dimension to the comments or our Facebook wall.