The problem with the increasing emphasis on 3D shooting in the latest camcorders is that there are two ends to this equation, as there was with HD. You don’t just need a camcorder that can shoot in the new format, but a TV capable of playing it back as well, or a computer with the necessary power, screen resolution and (in the case of 3D) some additional eyewear. So we’re in a transitional phase between 2D and 3D, and with with the Everio GZ-HM960BEK, JVC hopes to provide a camcorder to guide you between the two.
The most surprising thing about the GZ-HM960BEK is that it actually doesn’t shoot 3D at all. This is a pure 2D high definition camcorder, at least in terms of the video format recorded. Instead, JVC has integrated 2D/3D conversion technology and a display, which can play back 3D that you can watch without any special glasses. This sounds like a rather silly idea – the kind of thing a wannabe manufacturer would do to jump on the 3D bandwagon without having to face the difficult task of shooting credible 3D footage.
But this isn’t the case with JVC. The company has been well-known for a few years now for producing one of the most effective real-time 2D/3D conversion systems on the market. This was originally intended for rich home cinema enthusiasts to enjoy their existing Blu-ray collection with an added dimension, but was so good that movie distributors started using it to convert commercial titles to 3D so they could be redistributed in this format. In other words, the GZ-HM960BEK comes from a good pedigree, and due to the way humans actually perceive depth (it’s not just because we have two eyes), can potentially do a passable job of rendering 2D video as 3D.
The built-in LCD uses parallax barrier technology to provide its glasses-free 3D experience. This is an optical effect that sends a different picture depending on the angle from which it is viewed. A similar, but more extreme version is used by Land Rover to provide a display that shows sat-nav information to the driver whilst the passenger watches a movie. You can turn off JVC’s conversion system with a big, blue-glowing button on the top of the camera. The LCD then reverts to a regular 2D TFT. It’s also possible to output 3D over the HDMI connection to a supporting TV, using the usual formats including side-by-side transmission.
Other than this, the GZ-HM960BEK is a regular, high-end HD camcorder. It’s built around a massive 1/2.3in CMOS sensor with a whopping 10.62Mpixels. If the size and resolution weren’t enough, this is also a back-illuminated CMOS. So the sensor array wiring is behind the individual pixels instead of in front (the traditional arrangement), allowing more light through. This means colour and brightness should be maintained even when conditions are quite dark.
The extra pixels are also called into play to improve the power of the zoom. Unassisted, the optical zoom provides a relatively modest 10x magnification. But by cropping into the CMOS sensor this is boosted to 15x in Dynamic mode, without a loss in detail, although the smaller surface area used does have some negative implications for low light performance. Image stabilisation also appears to be taking some advantage of the sensor's resolution, as enabling the enhanced version of this reduces the Dynamic zoom to 13x.