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Whatever your feelings on the matter, now that HDTVs have reached critical mass the audiovisual industry is searching for the 'next big thing', and that 'thing' appears to be 3D. Scarcely a single kids' movie is now released without a 3D version coming out first, and you already have a choice of widescreen TVs available to replace the 40in HD model you bought last year, such as Samsung's UE55C8000. Now, already, it's becoming possible to create your own 3D content, with Panasonic announcing a 3D camcorder. But our first experience of the concept comes from a more surprising source - Taiwanese Aiptek. The 3D i2 not only provides an extra dimension for your video, but incredibly does so for under £200.
The Aiptek 3D i2 is essentially a pocket Internet camcorder, although it's a little bigger than most in this genre. So it's very limited on features. Inside is a 5-megapixel CMOS sensor with a healthy 1/3.2in diagonal. This provides still images up to 2,592 x 1,944 pixels, but video is only available at 720p and 30 frames/sec. Feeding the sensor are two lenses situated either corner at the top of the device. When shooting in 3D both are used, but only one is called upon for 2D.
The lenses are fixed, so there's no optical zoom. Aiptek provides a 4x digital zoom operated by pushing the joystick on the rear in the vertical direction, which will reduce image quality when used. That is pretty much the only feature, too. The other four buttons are for switching between 2D and 3D modes, deleting clips, toggling record and taking still images. Pushing the joystick right calls up the very limited menu of options. This merely consists of a few settings, the most exciting of which is setting the frequency to avoid light flickering. There are no manual controls to speak of, no scene modes and really nothing that will require attention after initial setup.
So the i2 is very much a point and shoot camcorder. As soon as you have it out of the box, you'll be looking for things to show off its 3D capabilities, such as objects moving towards the camera or which extend outwards away from it. The lenses are fixed focus up to 1m away, so once objects approach closer than this they tend to go out of focus, and there's no macro mode available to compensate.
The i2 doesn't come with any recording memory built in, so you will need to add a SDHC card to the slot. Since its video requires around 7Mbits/sec in 3D mode and under 3Mbits/sec in 2D mode, an 8GB card will be enough for 2.5 hours of 3D and over six hours of 2D footage, so you won't need to purchase particularly large capacity media.