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What are 3D cameras and camcorders?

With 3D TVs becoming all the rage right now, it’s an exciting time for entertainment technology. But rather than simply watching other people’s content on your new set in the living room, why not tune into stuff you’ve made yourself.

3D cameras and camcorders are the latest snapping and movie-making gadgets to hit the stores, with many major manufacturers starting to produce them.

But if you’re unsure what they do, or how they work, here’s a simple guide to the technology and a few of the products on the way.

How do 3D cameras and camcorders work?

In order to capture a three-dimensional image, a 3D camera or camcorder must mimic the human eyes. To do this, all 3D cameras include two lenses, angled slightly differently to one another, so that a ‘left’ and ‘right’ image can be captured at the same time.

The pictures generated by these two images can then be viewed on an appropriate 3D TV or monitor using special glasses.

What models are available?

Panasonic launched the world’s first 3D camcorder in September 2010.

It can be used as a standard film-maker or shoot in 3D, but doing so does limit many of the general features.

The gadget can then be connected to a compatible TV or footage saved to a Blu-ray disc to watch back.

With 3D still cameras, the choice is a bit more plentiful but still limited compared to normal snappers.

Fujifilm developed the first and Sony is also working on models, but it won’t be long until many of the big names have their own, driving down the prices to make them available and affordable to the mainstream.

What are the advantages of a 3D camera?

The best thing is being able to expand the creativity of your photography and video shooting.

Creating a lifelike film in three dimensions is far more exciting than standard 2D. Once you try it, you’ll never want to go back to boring flat home movies that feature family members who don’t appear to be coming out of your TV.

Added to this, some dual-lens cameras can also capture two images at once. This is useful for taking the same photo with two different settings.

What are the limitations?

3D cameras and camcorders are significantly more expensive than other standard models, partly because the technology is quite new to the consumer market.

This always keeps prices high when demand is low but they also require extra components and processing.

As well as a limited choice of cameras at present, the features on them are also reduced. For example, the optical zoom range on 3D cameras is typically less than on 2D, but this also happened when HD cameras and camcorders first came out.

Focusing is also limited, but sharp shooting will improve as new models appear.

And of course, you will also need a 3D TV and associated hardware if you want to view everything you’ve shot.

Should I be excited?

Yes, definitely. But it could be a while before you’ll be able to get your hands on an affordable 3D camera or camcorder to suit the tightest budget.

The technology is really still in early-adopter stage right now, with most of the interest in 3D TV at the moment, with content delivered to it, rather than made yourself.

But as more products come out, increased choice brings better features and reduced prices.There were some interesting new models announced at CES this year, so soon enough we’ll all be turned into amateur James Camerons creating our own home movie versions of Avatar.

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