Choosing and Using a 3-D Camera

by Julian Ryall
Choosing and Using a 3-D Camera It’s never been easier to create a multi-dimensional masterpiece

The ability to accurately capture images in three dimensions was for a long time the elusive dream of shutterbugs. But never one to shy away from a challenge, Japan’s audio-visual giants have recently come up with a range of 3D-capable cameras, many of which were on display at the Photokina 2010 exhibition of the latest imaging technology in Cologne in September.

Panasonic used the industry’s premiere event to unveil the Lumix DMC-GH2 as the latest addition to its 3-D range, combining a downsized body with the latest functions — including the G 12.5mm / F12 3D lens, the world’s first interchangeable 3D lens.

LumixThe device features two optical systems installed within the lens mount, which create stereo images from the left and right lenses. And despite its top-notch performance, the complete lens remains extremely compact, as it has done away with the need for a panorama system.

Sony Corp. has focused its efforts in this sector on producing the world’s smallest 3D cameras, designed to be easily slipped into a pocket and used by the casual camera fan. In July, the company announced the latest addition to its Cyber-shot range, the DSC-TX9 and DSC-WX5, both of which utilize a single lens that takes advantage of the 3D Sweep Panorama technology to capture stereoscopic images.

Using the “press and sweep” function, a user can capture detailed panoramic photos that are then automatically processed and combined together into a 3D image. That photo can then be viewed on Sony’s range of 3D-compatible televisions.

The TX-9 is fitted with a 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen and a 4x wide-angle Carl Zeiss lens, while the WX5 has a 2.8-inch LCD touchscreen and a 5x Sony G lens.

Yet the biggest names in consumer electronics were still a long way behind the first electronics company to determine that three dimensions were the way of the future.

Back in the summer of 2009, Fujifilm was the first to unveil a compact digital camera that could shoot both still images and movies in 3D and without the user having to wear special glasses. An updated version of that breakthrough camera was released in August, with the FinePix Real 3D W3 able to now shoot high-definition moving images at higher resolution.

The super-slim camera weighs just 8.5 ounces — complete with battery and memory card—and is equipped with a 3.5-inch LCD screen and an auto 3D mode. The updated W3 is now able to record 720p HD movies.

And it is not just the traditional powerhouses in the camera sector that have released 3D products for the general public. Takara Tomy — more renowned as a toy firm — has released the 3D Shot Cam targeted at kids who want to put the technology to the test.

Equipped with a 0.3 megapixel image sensor, the innovation was unveiled at the 70th Tokyo International Gift Show in September and has dual lenses that capture an image from slightly different angles. Pictures have to be printed out in the form of tiny strips that can be then laid out side by side and fuse into one stereoscopic image when the strip is inserted into the special viewer, which is also provided.

To get the best out of a 3D-capable camera, users must adopt techniques that are slightly different to the conventional product. Try these useful tips:
- Depth — include foliage or people to enhance the image
- Composition — make sure the horizon is not in the middle
- Space — don’t fill gaps or clutter unnecessarily
- Width — use wide angle shots to exploit the technology