July 30, 2010

Panasonic SDT750 3D camcorder

A lot of people are expected to buy 3D TV sets this year, but what will they be watching on them? If Panasonic has its way, it could be their own 3D masterpieces.

Its new HDC-SDT750 is claimed to be the world's first 3D consumer camcorder (Fujifilm has a 3D stills camera that can shoot video, but it is much lower resolution). It comes with a 3D conversion attachment, which enables it to record right-eye and left-eye images simultaneously through its two lenses. The 960x1080 pixel images are recorded using the side-by-side method.

The 3D lens prevents the use of the camera's 12x optical zoom, and it apparently only works effectively in 3D for subjects that are between one and three metres away – mainly due to the short interaxial distance between the two lenses. However, having to get in close is not a bad thing - 3D does tend to look better when you get close to the subject. There was one tech blog that claimed that because the lenses weren't the same distance apart as human eyes, they couldn't give you true 3D, but that isn't the case. Those who produce 3D for a living use many different interaxial distances (from a few millimetres to a few metres), depending on how close they are going to be to the subject and what 3D effect they want to create.

Given that the illusion of 3D is essentially created by differences in the horizontal space, halving that space (as the SDT750 does) is not necessarily a good thing - although the initial reaction to the results at the launch press conference was positive. The images are then stretched to be watched in HD. As it records to a single sensor block, there is no risk of shots getting out of synch, failing to line up, or of the two images having different exposure, colour or other settings. The 3D images also benefit from the camera's optical image stabiliser, which will be important to stop hand-held 3D shots from being upsetting to watch. All of which means that ordinary users should be able to shoot acceptable 3D without having to worry about doing lots of post processing.  

It also does HD...

The 3MOS camcorder is basically an SD700, probably the most advanced of Panasonic's consumer models. When the 3D conversion lens is taken off, it can record full 1920x1080 (50/60p) HD in AVCHD (at 28Mbps), to an SD card, and has an F1.5-F2.8 35-420mm Leica Dicomar lens. The 3D lens pushes the aperture up to F3.2, changes the focal length to 58mm (35mm equivalent), and shifts the minimum illumination from 1.6 lux to 28 lux (for the US 60p version).

Other features include: Time Lapse Recording (one, ten or 30 seconds, one or two minutes), which works in 3D; and 5.1-channel audio recording using five highly-directional microphones.

The camera has manual controls for focus, zoom, iris, shutter speed and white balance settings – although only white balance is available when the 3D conversion lens is attached.

It should be available by October for less than $1,400, and will work with any 3D TV, plugging in via HDMI.

Panasonic has already launched a professional integrated 3D camcorder, the AG-3DA1, that will also be available next month, although it records AVCHD at the lower rate of 24Mbps. Sony and Ikonoskop have also developed similar camcorders.

Interchangeable 3D lens

At the same Tokyo press conference, Panasonic also announced what it claims is the first interchangeable 3D lens – for its Lumix Micro Four Thirds still cameras (they also record video), such as the GH1.

The compact 3D lens houses twin lenses within the diameter of the lens mount, and should work in a similar way to the lens attachment on the HDC-SDT750.

It should be available before the end of the year, although no price was revealed.

Related posts: Hands on with the new AG-3DA1, Panasonic 3D camcorder gets AVCHD, Panasonic unveils HD 3D camcorder and Panasonic does 1080 50p on a budget

By David Fox

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