Like every other area of technology, video is developing at an increasing pace. Digital camcorders arrived around 15 years ago, high definition only five years ago, and now video is acquiring a third dimension as well. Our first taste of consumer 3D videography came from an unexpected direction in the shape of the Aiptek 3D i2. But now we have a higher-end, more mainstream option from Panasonic: the HDC-SDT750.
The clever bit with the SDT750 is a bolt-on attachment for the lens. This contains a pair of lenses oriented in parallel, which pick up two slightly different points of view, one for each eye. The camcorder senses when this has been screwed on for the first time, and prompts you to follow a calibration wizard. The lens cap contains an adjustment pattern on a translucent plastic panel. Three dials under a flap on the top are used for precise positioning, to optimise the 3D image. Unfortunately, it’s recommended that you re-calibrate each time you remove and re-attach the lens, which is somewhat irritating.
The dual images are recorded side-by-side into a single frame of AVCHD. This is one of the standard formats for 3D, and the main one currently supported by 3D-capable HDTVs. However, you lose half the horizontal resolution, as the video is still recorded at 1,920 x 1080 pixels, so you're effectively getting 960 x 1,080. The splitting of the frame will also have implications for low light performance.
Using the SDT750 requires a different approach to videomaking than regular 2D shooting. Adding the 3D lens disables quite a few features. Most significantly, you can’t operate the zoom, but there’s also no manual focusing available, and no control over shutter or aperture. You can engage the extra level of image stabilisation available with the Hybrid OIS system. But it’s not even possible to enable scene modes or the 1080/50p recording format.