Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sony Reveals new 3D Camcorder, the HDR-TD10

Sony's new 3D Camcorder debuts at CES!

Being touted as the first full HD 3D camcorder, Sony's promising HDR-TD10 3D Camcorder was announced at CES. There have been a few 3D HD camcorders trickling out since last year, but unlike Panasonic's HDC-SDT750, which shoots 1 1080i stream with the left right eye squeezed next to each other, this one appears to offer two separate video streams. And unlike Panasonic's consumer model as well as the Panasonic AG-3DA1 camera, Sony's foray has a 3D viewfinder built in! 

Of course, the press release, all the early mentions as well as Sony's website neglect to mention the most important 3D information: the interaxial distance, and if the lenses are parallel or converged.

Interaxial refers to the distance between the two lenses. Variation of the interaxial distance produces different depth effects (ex: bigger than 65mm = hyperstereo = exaggerated depth) but wide interaxials have limitations on how close the foreground subject can be from the camera. Variations by just a few millimeters will dramatically effect the depth in a scene, a fact that even the likes of Consumer Reports seems completely unaware of at the moment. and one that is important to consider when reviewing any 3D camera. Sony's camcorder appears to be fixed around 35mm, which will produce minimal 3D effect in wide shots, but will be great for shooting close-ups. 

Another major factor missing from the early press is the position of the lenses in relation to each other. Are they parallel or do they converge at some point? This also affects the amount of depth, and converged lenses produce keystone distortion and other issues which currently have to be corrected in post. No word on that yet. Another key question left unanswered is regarding the ability to adjust HIT (horizontal image translation, aka shifting one eye left/right to make it easer to view aka the parallax control on the Fuji W3). Is it adjustable in-camera or only in editing? A lot of the advanced features are only available in 2D mode, including 60p/24p, leaving the 3D with only 60i. The HDR-TD10's 3D capability also only allows for shooting in full auto mode.

Despite these unknown aspects, the TD10 looks like it could very well be the camera that will end up producing a lot of indie and student 3D shorts, not just the home movies they're marketing this for. It has advantages over both Panasonic cameras on the market, and what it lacks in manual 3D controls, it makes up for with hassle-free synchronization, ease-of-use, dual 1080i, compact size, and ability to shoot close subjects. As anyone who's tried shooting with a two-camera side-by-side rig can tell you, shooting close-ups in 3D is a colossal headache, because even when you can synchronize the two cameras, you can't physically get them close enough together without a beamsplitter. Sony's new camera solves that problem by using two small lenses built in right next to each other. This is the kind of camera I've been waiting for since I first started shooting 3D.

We'll save further praise/criticism until we see some footage coming from this camera or we get our hands on it, but this is definitely a camera we're looking forward to. If you're feeling adventurous, the price tag to pre-order this one is $1499. Available in April.

Thanks to Dimitris Athos for additional reporting.

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