Lots of people remain sceptical about 3D, including many of us here at TrustedReviews. But 3D movies are now arriving in torrents (probably almost literally...), and if you're in any way serious about your video-making, you have probably thought more than twice about trying the format out.
Unfortunately, you would likely have felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Although JVC's Everio GS-TD1 has made a good stab at an enthusiast's 3D camcorder - costing around £1,500 - Panasonic's use of an attachment has limited the flexibility of its 3D-capable consumer models, such as the HDC-TM900.
Up until now, if you wanted something more serious, you would need to shell out over £7,000. Well, not anymore. Panasonic's £3,000 HDC-Z10000 is still firmly in the professional price range, but it packs in a surprising amount of features for the money.
Clearly, the most important of these is the Z10000's ability to shoot 3D, and here it diverges healthily from the approach taken by Panasonic's consumer camcorders. Instead of using a dual lens setup feeding into a single one, and then the single CMOS array, the Z10000 has two entirely separate lens and CMOS paths. Each sports Panasonic's 3MOS system, so has a trio of 1/4.1in CMOS sensors, with 3.05Mpixels apiece, for a grand total of six sensors. This means that it can shoot two Full HD frames simultaneously, where previous Panasonic consumer camcorders squished two frames horizontally into one, reducing the resolution and very noticeably impairing low light performance. Professional 3D camcorder rigs, and JVC's Everio GS-TD1, don't do this.
So the Z10000 can shoot 3D in as high a quality as it can 2D. But another piece of technology has fallen into place as the Z10000 has arrived: AVCHD 2.0. This update to the AVCHD standard allows yet higher bitrates, up to 28Mbits/sec, as well as higher progressive frame rates, up to 60p, but most notably it adds support for 3D. This can be at 720/50p, 720/60p, 1080/60i, 1080/50i, or 1080/24p. Our Z10000 test sample, being a European model, only offered the 1080/24p and 50i options here, but interestingly it also offers a 1080/25p 3D setting, which is encoded as 1080/50i - essentially a progressive signal hidden inside an interlaced one. Video is recorded to SD memory cards, as there is no storage built in. However, there are two SDXC-compatible slots available, and relay recording is supported. So even at the top data rate, over ten hours of continuous recording is possible, with two 64GB SDXC cards.