The Modern 3D era began in 2004 with the animated feature The Polar Express, according to Buzz Hays, who produced many successful 3D movies including Beowulf and Monster House, amongst others.
In the seven years since then, 3D imaging technology has migrated from the massive Hollywood rigs and post production processes to consumer tech, notably the Sony Handycam HDR-TD10 and, quite surprisingly, the entry-level Sony Cyber-shot and Bloggie line.
In the case of the Bloggie 3D, Sony has condensed 3D technology into a $250 pocket HD camcorder, a device class known for stupid simple operation and quite recently, compromised picture quality.
On the same Los Angeles trip where DigitalCameraReview received a crash course on 3D shooting techniques and hands-on time with the high-end Handycam TD10, we took the Bloggie 3D and Cyber-shot WX10 for a spin around Santa Monica pier and the Los Angeles Flower and Fashion districts.
The Bloggie 3D is undoubtedly the more impressive of the two as it can record full 3D video, just like the TD10, though limited in that it lacks the stabilization, picture and lens convergence controls of the full camcorder. It sports dual lenses for stereoscopic 3D, and it is much more portable than the bulky TD10 as it is no bigger than the Bloggie Touch DCR reviewed late last year, making it great for shooting 3D in very tight spaces.
Like the TD10, the Bloggie 3D also displays glasses-free 3D in the relatively large monitor, though the technical limitations result in a very pixilated picture with a much smaller sweet spot for experiencing the effect. Still, it shows off glasses-free 3D footage, which impressed DCR given that pocket camcorders are known more for compromise and “good enough” performance than imaging and display innovation.
The 3D footage we shot did not match the TD10 in 3D effect or video quality, but the end result was close enough to make us wonder why the TD10 will cost 6X more than the Bloggie 3D when both hit the market in the coming weeks ($1500 for the TD10 to the Bloggie 3D’s $250 launch price). In addition, the Bloggie 3D can shoot regular 2D footage, which rivals the output of the Bloggie Touch and any other pocket camcorder on the market.
Of course, users will need a 3D HDTV or monitor, active shutter glasses, and an HDMI cord, all of which are not included (now that would be a deal of the century) to view the 3D footage. That adds an additional four figures to the final cost of experiencing their new 3D clips.
The Cyber-shot WX10 is also 3D capable, with three 3D modes: 3D stills, 3D Sweep Panorama, and the somewhat gimmicky 3D Sweep Multi Angle.
3D images and 3D panoramas also require a 3D HDTV, glasses, and an HDMI cable (also not included, no kidding), and unlike the Bloggie 3D, the WX10 does not have a 3D-capable display. 3D Sweep Multi Angle simulates 3D by capturing fifteen images at different angles, which create 3D effect in the display when the user rocks the camera back and forth.
We found that not having the ability to instantly review the 3D panoramas in particular compromises the feature, making it impossible to learn the ins and outs of effective 3D panoramas until well after shooting, when the user views the images on a 3D HDTV or monitor.
The one thing we learned quickly when reviewing footage was that the landscape shots that typically scream for panos made for poor 3D because they lack the image depth, textures and layers that construct three-dimensional images.
For example, our coastline panoramas taken from Santa Monica pier were flat in 3D with a “barely there” effect, but the rows of boxes, buckets and flowers in a LA flower district warehouse were excellent when viewed in three dimensions.
3D Learning Curve
There is a learning curve when it comes to shooting 3D, and Sony has a lot of work to do in educating consumers on proper techniques and uses. The beauty of the Bloggie and $280 Cyber-shot WX10 is that 3D is just another shooting feature on an entry-level device, and both are fully functional as a regular pocket camcorder and point-and-shoot, respectively.
Right now, DCR considers them both to be 3D training wheels of sorts, with features that could well become standard in the coming generations of imaging products.