3D Pro Camcorders

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People see in 3D because they have two eyes, each relaying a slightly different perspective to the brain, which then combines the two images to create a sense of depth. Traditional cameras and camcorders can never capture 3D because they have only one lens. Today, things have changed. The latest crop of 3D camcorders can record depth information because they have two lenses, which capture a separate data stream for each eye. The method used by 3D displays to present the separate data stream to each eye can vary, but the brain uses the differences between each image to decode depth in the same way it does in the real world. Innovative technology always makes a great gift idea, so let’s take a look at some of the best 3D camcorders on the market today.

Sony

Sony PMW-TD300

Whether you want to shoot best in class 3D high-definition (HD) video or just 2D HD video, Sony’s new shoulder-mount PMW-TD300 XDCAM EX 3D camcorder won’t let you down. The PMW-TD300 is, in effect, two high-end camcorders housed in a single body. The camcorder uses dual 7x optical zoom lenses and dual 3-chip ½-inch Exmor Full HD CMOS sensors to capture dual synchronized streams of HD video. The dual 1920 x 1080 video streams are recorded as separate MPEG-2 files to separate SxS memory cards dedicated to either the left or the right eye.

With the ability to shoot two streams of HD video, the PMW-TD300 can easily capture a single stream of 2D HD video whenever required. A multi-control dial on the camera allows manual control over convergence, focus and zoom. The camcorder can record with a bit rate of either 35Mb/s (HQ mode) or 25Mb/s (SP mode). A genlock input and a timecode input and output make it simple to use the PMW-TD300 in multi-camera shoots.

The PMW-TD300 features a total of four SxS card slots, two SxS slots for each video stream. The left and right images are normally recorded in synchronization on separate SxS cards. With four 64GB cards installed, the PMW-TD300 can record up to 9 hours of 3D HD video in the SP mode (25 Mb/s). With only one SxS card installed you can record 2D video through just the left lens. With two cards installed you can shoot redundant 2D video through both lenses, but with slightly different images recorded through each lens. The SxS cards are sold separately.

PMW-TD300 users will follow the proven XDCAM EX workflow, compatible with all popular nonlinear editing software. Anyone familiar with the workflow required for dual-camera 3D rigs can jump right in and produce 3D content with the PMW-TD300. The camera’s 3.5-inch color LCD can play back 3D video without the need for special glasses, so you can tell if you’ve captured the shots you want without needing any other equipment. Plus, dual HD-SDI outputs allow you to examine synchronized 3D output on professional displays and an integrated HDMI output allows for side-by-side playback on consumer 3D HDTV screens.

Sony HXR-NX3D1

The Sony HXR-NX3D1 NXCAM 3D camcorder uses dual ¼" HD native Exmor R CMOS sensors, as well as a pair of Sony G HD lenses to capture high-definition AVCHD video in 2D or 3D. The lenses offer 10x optical zoom in 3D mode and 12x optical zoom in 2D mode. The camcorder can record 1920 x 1080 pixel 3D video at 60i, 50i and 24p. In 2D, it can record 1920 x 1080 pixel video at 60p, 60i, 50p, 50i, 25p and 24p.

Though the distance between the two lenses is fixed, you can increase or decrease the intensity of the 3D effect by turning a dial that shifts the area of pixels on each CMOS sensor used to generate the 3D effect. Plus, no matter what you’re recording, Sony's Optical Steady Shot image stabilization constantly corrects for up/down, left/right and rotational camera shake.

While capturing 3D video, the HXR-NX3D1 records MVC, or Multi-View Coding files that combine the left and the right channel video into a single file. Editing software packages such as Sony’s Vegas Pro support the MVC files, allowing you to edit your 3D video and output your 3D content in 3D Blu-ray or other 3D formats—with side-by-side, top/bottom or line-alternate encoding.

The HXR-NX3D1 features a 3.5" lenticular color LCD, which supports 3D viewing without 3D glasses. The display also lets you view the left or right image only, or a mix of both images, which highlights the differences between the left and right lenses. The camcorder’s HDMI output can be set to a Frame Packing signal that alternates the left and right images for display on a 3D HDTV or to a side-by-side signal that’s compatible with a professional 3D monitor.

The HXR-NX3D1 is equipped with a built-in stereo microphone, as well as a detachable handle that adds two balanced XLR inputs with phantom power and a top-mounted shotgun microphone. You can detach the handle with shotgun mic and use only the built-in mic when you want the camcorder to be as streamlined as possible. When you want or require a more high-quality audio signal, you can attach the handle and use the shotgun mic. Of course, you can always utilize the XLR jacks to plug in your favorite external mics.

With 96GB of internal memory, enough to record about 7.5 hours of 3D video, you won’t have to purchase additional storage media. However, if you prefer to record to removable media, the HXR-NX3D1 is compatible with MemoryStick and SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.

Sony HDR-TD10

If you’re looking for a compact, affordable camcorder that can capture professional quality high-definition 3D video, the Sony HDR-TD10 is the ideal choice. The HDR-TD10 is built around dual ¼" 4.2MP Exmor R CMOS image sensors and a pair of 10x optical zoom lenses. The camcorder can capture 1920 x 1080 3D HD video at 60p or 24p, and it can capture 7.1MP still images with or without the aid of a built-in flash. Of course, the camcorder can also capture high-definition 2D video.

The HDR-TD10 features a 5.1-channel surround sound microphone, allowing you to capture multi-dimensional audio to go with your 3D video. If you prefer, a stereo mini jack microphone input lets you use external microphones as well.

The HDR-TD10 has 64GB of internal memory, which is enough to store up to 5 hours of 3D high-definition video or 25 hours of 2D high-definition video. If you need additional capacity, or just prefer to record to removable media, the camcorder also features a 2-in-1 memory card reader that supports both MemoryStick PRO Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.

When it’s time to review what you’ve captured, you can use the camcorder’s integrated 3.5" touch panel LCD. The onboard LCD can play back 3D footage and you don’t even need to wear 3D glasses. Other convenient features include Optical SteadyShot image stabilization in 2D or 3D, which settles down jittery video caused by shaky hands. There’s an Intelligent Auto mode that automatically selects the proper settings depending on your shooting conditions. The Tracking Focus function keeps your 2D footage sharp by maintaining focus on whatever object you touch on the LCD. Plus, more advanced users can manually set the iris, shutter, exposure and white balance if desired.

  Sony PMW-TD300 Sony HXR-NX3D1 Sony HDR-TD10
Zoom Factor per Lens 2D / 3D 7x optical 2D / 7x optical 3D 10x optical 3D / 12x optical 2D 10x optical 3D / 12x optical 2D
Image Sensor 3-chip 1/2" CMOS (x2) 1/4" CMOS (x2) 1/4" CMOS (x2)
Recording Format MPEG-2 Long GOP AVCHD, MP4 MVC AVCHD, MPEG2
Maximum Bit Rate 35 Mb/s 28 Mb/s 28 Mb/s
Recording Media ExpressCard/34 slot (SxS x4) 96GB internal, SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick PRO Duo 64GB internal, SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick PRO Duo
Display 3.5" color LCD, 1,230,000 pixels 3.5" 1,229,760-dot 3D LCD 3.5" 1,229,760-dot 3D LCD
Microphone Input(s) 5-pin XLR (x1), 3-pin XLR (x2) 3-pin XLR (x2), 3.5mm stereo mini 3.5mm stereo mini
Video Outputs HD-SDI, HDMI, Composite A/V, Component, HDMI Composite, HDMI
Dimensions (inches) 4.9 x 10.6 x 21.2 3.4 x 3.1 x 5.8 3.41 x 2.91 x 5.85
Weight 12.1 pounds 1.5 pounds 1.4 pounds

JVC

JVC GS-TD1

JVC’s GS-TD1 Full HD 3D Camcorder contains everything necessary to capture eye-popping 3D video in high definition. The camera uses dual 1/4.1" 3.32MP back-illuminated CMOS sensors and twin f/1.2 JVC 3D HD GT lenses to capture the two streams of data necessary to construct a 3D image. Convenience features such as Advanced Image Stabilization for 2D/3D recording, Auto Record, Intelligent Auto and Smile Meter ensure that even those with no prior shooting experience can begin capturing quality 2D and 3D video the instant they pull this camera out of the box.

The GS-TD1 captures 3D video at an impressive 34Mb/s bit rate. Plus, for those times when you don’t want to capture 3D video, the GS-TD1 is fully capable of capturing crystal clear 24Mb/s 2D HD video. The GS-TD1 can also capture still images in both 2D and 3D. 3D time-lapse recording is also possible.

The GS-TD1 features 64GB of internal flash memory and can also record onto a single SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card. It affords 5x optical zoom for 3D, 10x optical zoom for 2D and 200x digital zoom for 2D. Plus, JVC's Biphonic technology can capture 3D audio to accompany your 3D video, which will truly enhance your 3D experience if your home theater is equipped with a surround sound audio system.

Once you’ve captured some 3D content, you can enjoy it immediately on the camcorder’s 3.5"LCD touch panel without having to wear 3D glasses. You can also deliver the video through the HDMI output to any compatible 3D HDTV. There’s even an AV output, which affords 2D playback on TVs without an HDMI input. Plus, a USB 2.0 output supports quick transfer of your video clips and still images to a computer for editing or sharing on the Internet. If you want to fast-track your content to DVD, just connect the camcorder to JVC’s optional CU-VD3 Everio Share Station; the camcorder converts the content to DVD format and the Share Station will burn a disc that’s compatible with most DVD players—no computer required.

JVC GY-HMZ1U

JVC’s GY-HMZ1U ProHD 3D camcorder can capture 3D video, 3D still images and 3D time-lapsed recordings, as well as 2D video and stills. It features twin JVC 3D HD GT lenses, dual 3.3MP 1/4.1" image back-illuminated sensors and a 3.5" wide 920,000 dot touch panel LCD that can play back 3D video and stills without requiring you to wear 3D glasses. The dual f/1.2-f/2.28 lenses afford 5x optical zoom in 3D mode and 10x optical zoom in 2D mode. It also features a 200x digital zoom in both 2D and 3D. There’s even a button on the back of the camera, which lights up in blue to indicate that the camera is in 3D mode, and goes dim to indicate 2D mode.

With the GY-HMZ1U camcorder, 3D images can be recorded as either AVCHD or MVC files. Each of the image sensors can capture a 1920 x 1080 Full HD signal and the two signals can be encoded as an MVC file that contains both left- and right-eye information. The camcorder can also record in 3D AVCHD format, which contains side-by-side images at 960 x 1080 resolution. 3D video can be recorded at 60i to capture smooth action shots, or 24p for a more film-like effect. The camera can also record 2D AVCHD video.

In addition to 3D video, the GY-HMZ1U can record 3D audio as well, since it features integrated 3D stereo microphones. It can record biphonic 3D sound in dual-channel AAC format or dual-channel Dolby Digital format in 2D video modes. If you want to record even better-quality sound, the camera features twin XLR inputs for use with shotgun mics or wireless audio receivers. The camera comes with a detachable handle that houses a shotgun mic holder, but you’ll have to purchase the microphones separately.

Everything you record can be stored on the camcorder’s 64GB internal memory or onto an SDHC/SDXC/SD memory card if you prefer. For outputs, the camera is equipped with a mini HDMI for connecting to an HDTV set and USB 2.0 for transferring content to a computer. You can always view your recorded 3D/2D material right on the camcorder’s 3.5-inch touch panel display. Plus, the mini HDMI output delivers your 3D footage to a 3D HDTV as well. Don’t forget, the camera even lets you switch between sequential or side-by-side 3D outputs, depending on the display you’re using.

  JVC GS-TD1 JVC GY-HMZ1U
Zoom Factor per Lens 2D / 3D 5x optical 3D / 10x optical 2D (200x digital 2D & 3D) 5x optical 3D / 10x optical 2D (200x digital 2D & 3D)
Image Sensor 1/4.1" CMOS (x2) 1/4.1" CMOS (x2)
Recording Format AVCHD, MP4 MVC AVCHD, MP4 MVC
Maximum Bit Rate 34 Mb/s 34 Mb/s
Recording Media 64GB internal, SD/SDHC/SDXC 64GB internal, SD/SDHC/SDXC
Display 3.5" 920,000-dot 3D LCD 3.5" 920,000-dot 3D LCD
Microphone Input(s) 3.5mm stereo mini 3-pin XLR (x2), 3.5mm stereo mini
Video Outputs HDMI, A/V HDMI
Dimensions (inches) 4.02 x 2.52 x 7.32 6.0 x 5.3 x 9.2
Weight 1.49 pounds 2.2 pounds

Panasonic

Panasonic HDC-Z10000

Panasonic’s HDC-Z10000 uses twin 32mm wide-angle lenses and dual 3-chip ¼.1" 3.05MP MOS sensors to record high-definition 3D AVCHD video. Plus, for added convenience, you can play back the 3D footage right on the camcorder’s 3.48-inch wide LCD without using 3D glasses. The camcorder can capture 2.1MP 2D and 3D still images as well. It can even capture stills while recording in 2D or 3D mode. For those who prefer the point-and-shoot method of capturing video, the HDC-Z1000 facilitates simple and convenient recording methods. However, the more controlling videographers can operate the three independent rings for manual zoom, focus and iris control.

The dual HDC-Z10000 wide-angle lenses feature 10x optical zoom for shooting 3D and 12x optical zoom for shooting 2D. The twin lenses direct the left- and right-eye images to a pair of MOS sensors that record separate images for each eye. During playback, the camcorder’s 1,152,000-dot, 3.5" LCD uses parallax barrier technology to direct the slightly different images to each eye to create the 3D effect without 3D glasses. The camcorder also features a 0.45”, 1,227,000 dot electronic viewfinder as well. Both the LCD and viewfinder feature 16:9 aspect ratios.

The HDC-Z10000 benefits from a HYBRID O.I.S. system as well, which helps to correct hand shake when shooting 2D. A POWER O.I.S. system suppresses hand shake when shooting in 3D. The camcorder has built-in microphones that can record Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround sound or 2-channel stereo audio. It also features two XLR audio inputs with 48-volt phantom power for connecting external microphones.

There are dual SD memory card slots that ensure you’ll never miss a shot. With two SD memory cards inserted, the camcorder automatically switches to the second card when the first card fills up. You can also have the camcorder record to both cards simultaneously to produce a real-time backup copy, so that a faulty SD card won’t ruin your day. The camcorder features an HDMI output for sharing your footage on a 3D or 2D HDTV in 1080p, 1080i, 576p or 480p resolution. The HDMI output also supports Dolby Digital and Linear PCM audio. For outputting video and stills onto your computer, the HDC-Z10000 features a USB port as well.

Panasonic AG-3DA1

If professional features are what you’re after in a 3D camcorder, then the Panasonic AG-3DA1 is worth considering. Like many other 3D camcorders, the AG-3DA1 uses twin motorized 5.6x zoom lenses and dual, 3-chip ¼.1" MOS solid-state image sensors to capture 720p, 1080i or 1080p AVCHD video at 24 Mb/s. Professionals can choose from numerous frame rates including 24p, 25p, 30p, 50i, 50p, 60i and 60p, although 60p can be selected only for 720p video.

The AG-3DA1 features a convergence control that lets you adjust the depth of your 3D recordings or the degree to which things jump out at you. Basically, you can adjust the 3D effect from mild to wild. Like many high-end camcorders, the AG-3DA1 is equipped with both an LCD monitor and an electronic viewfinder. The 3.2-inch color monitor has a 16:9 aspect ratio, 1920 x 480 resolution and is ideal for instant playback and framing shots. The 0.45" electronic viewfinder has an equivalent resolution, 1,226,000 dots and is useful when shooting in bright daylight. The camcorder also features a focus ring at the base of the lens, which affords straightforward manual focusing. There’s a focus assist function on the LCD as well, which helps tweak the focus just right. There’s an autofocus function as well, just like most other modern camcorders.

The AG-3DA1 affords plenty of professional features for the more advanced videographer. These features include waveform and vectorscope displays, six gamma modes, a built-in SMPTE timecode generator, user buttons that can be assigned to your function of choice and much more. There are redundant controls for RECORD START/STOP and three-speed zoom located on the top handle, which offer easy access even when shooting at low angles. For storage, the camcorder records everything onto an SD or SDHC memory card; it’s not compatible with SDXC cards. Plus, both the left- and right-channel video signals are recorded onto dual SD or SDHC memory cards simultaneously.

Although the AG-3DA1 does have a built-in stereo microphone, it’s also equipped with two XLR inputs for use with professional external microphones. You even have a choice of video outputs including HD SDI and HDMI, though they can’t be used simultaneously. The HDMI output features two-channel Linear PCM audio output as well.

  Panasonic HDC-Z10000 Panasonic AG-3DA1
Zoom Factor per Lens 2D / 3D 10x optical 3D / 12x optical 2D 5.6x motorized 3D / 5.6x motorized 2D
Image Sensor 1/4.1" MOS (x2) 1/4.1" 3MOS (x2)
Recording Format AVCHD AVCHD
Maximum Bit Rate 28 Mb/s 21 Mb/s
Recording Media SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC
Display 3.5" 1,152,000-dot 3D LCD 3.2" 921,000-dot LCD
Microphone Input(s) 3-pin XLR (x2) 3-pin XLR (x2)
Video Outputs A/V, HDMI HD-SDI, HDMI
Dimensions (inches) 5.7 x 7.7 x 13.8 6.25 x 7.4 x 18.7
Weight 3.5 pounds 5.3 pounds

If you have any questions about professional 3D camcorders, please post them in the Comments section below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Tech specs are great as far as they go.  What is the inter-ocular spacing of these cameras?  What is the effect of the different inter-ocular spacing?  I currently shoot HD with a Base-Extender on the FujiFilm Real 3D handheld.  I find the 3D effect greatly enhanced with the wider inter-ocular spacing.  How would these cameras compare to the wider spacing of my current setup?  The lenses seem to be extremely close together.

Hello -

 Good observation, Barrie. The intraocular spacing does contribute to the overall 3-D effect. Too great a distance (increased parallax) and the image is difficult or uncomfortable to view.  Too close, and the illusion of depth (less parallax) is diminished.  Other determining factors include the sensor size, optimal viewing distance, lens design, and method of de-interlacing and viewing method and corresponding devices or free viewing as well. The Base Extender device you are using employs mirrors to enhance the parallax effect and the subsequent illusion of depth.

Of course, you may also want to consider the quality of the lenses and sensors of the cameras reviewed above which were all designed to provide a satisfying 3D effect.

Barrie does indeed have a good point about the intER-ocular (not intra-ocular) spacing. But he didn't get an answer, so I'll ask again on his behalf:
What are the inter-ocular spacings on these cameras?

The similar spelling and sound of these terms can cause confusion. Indeed, the casual interchangeable use of the terms doesn’t help. So intra-ocular refers to the eyeball itself while inter-ocular is the distance between the eyes which of course of great interest to us here. However, when it comes to the spacing of the lenses on the camera’s the more precise term is inter-axial.
For reasons known only to the manufacturer’s of Panasonic and JVC, I was not able to find out what the inter-axial distances were for their camera’s we have listed. I was able to find out that the Sony PMW-TD300’s distance is a fixed 45mm.

To answer your lens spacing questions, Cyclopital3D has designed Stereo Base Extenders, Filters/Close-up Adapters & Wide-angle lenses for the cameras noted above, which are sold by B & H Photo-Video. From working with each of the cameras, we determined the lens spacing of each camera:

JVC: GS-TD1 & GY-HMZ1U ProHD, lens spacing is 32mm

Sony: HDR-TD10 & HXRNX3D1U, lens spacing is 30mm
Sony: DEV-3 & DEV-5, lens spacing is 31mm
Sony: PMW-TD300, lens spacing is 45mm

Panasonic 3DA1, lens spacing is 58mm
Panasonic HDC-Z10000, lens spacing is 41mm

The Stereo Base Extenders we design effectively quadruple the lens spacing of the cameras.

So, does the Panasonic HDC-Z10000 let you control convergence?

Does it record full 1920x1080P for Left and Right eye on the two different cards like the 3DA1?

 Thanks!

Hello -

 Yes, convergence can be set to adjust automatically, or you can turn a manual dial to make the lenses' sights diverge or move toward parallel.

True 3D Convergence Control
The convergence angle between the two lenses is variable inside the optical unit. This moves the convergence point (the reference plane of the 3D image) in a fore-and-aft direction to control the leaping and depth effects of recorded objects, allowing the camcorder to acquire natural-looking 3D images. The convergence point can be set to adjust automatically, or it can be manually adjusted with the convergence dial while viewing the LCD image, which can display the numerical setting of the convergence
 
On the HDC-Z10000, three-dimensional video is recorded as AVCHD 3D, which uses MVC (multiview video coding) compression.  The HDC-Z10000 records to a single card only -  not to two separate cards as on the AG-3DA1

The HDC-Z10000 can record to two cards but it's the same file - much like the pro level dSLRs you have it basically act like RAID 1 with the dual card slots.

Hi,
There's a lot confusion with the framerates on this camcorders. Consumer models can not record 25p. JVC, Sony HDR/HXR and Panasonics's Z10000 feature the same 1080 50i framerate. In fact only the more expensive Sony HXR does 24p. As far as I know that's the only difference between HDR and HXR in terms of performance (besides that, there's of course the bigger HDD and the pro-level mic).

The 3DA1 and the Z10000 can both record 1080-24p. The Z10000 can record 1080-25p as well as 1080-50i but this is for the 50Hz non-US models only, it will be 1080-30p/60i in the US.

The 3DA1 can however be switched between 50Hz and 60Hz so can record 1080-24p/25p/30p/50i/60i as well as 720-50/60p.