Panasonic goes 3D with new Camcorder and G-Series lens

A detachable dual lens for 3D video capture, and a new lens for Micro Four-Thirds cameras will add 3D-shooting capabilities.

Panasonic unveiled a slew of new Lumix cameras just last week, but the company wasn't quite done with its winter camera and camcorder announcements.

Today, Panasonic announced its first 3D high-definition camcorder for consumers (a pro-level 3D camcorder was showcased earlier this year) and teased a prototype Micro Four-Thirds system lens that will add 3D imaging capabilities to its Lumix G interchangeable-lens cameras.

Panasonic's new offerings also include the company's first pocket camcorder and an ultracompact HD camcorder, both of which shoot in plain old 2D.

Panasonic HDC-SDT750: A 3D Camcorder for Consumers

Although the 3-CMOS Panasonic HDC-SDT750 HD camcorder uses a dual-lens setup to capture 3D video footage, you're not locked in to the third dimension. The 3D conversion lens included with the camera is detachable, and the dual-lens 3D attachment mounts onto the HDC-SDT750's F1.5, 12x optical zoom Leica lens.

With the 3D conversion lens attached, the HDC-SDT750 shoots 960-by-1080 video with each of the two lenses, recording separate footage for the left-eye and right-eye channels. Viewed on a compatible 3D HDTV with compatible active shutter 3D glasses, videos and 14-megapixel stills shot with the camcorder will show a three-dimensional effect.

The camcorder uses the "side-by-side 3D" method of composing and playing back 3D video, which ultimately results in the horizontal resolution for each 3D frame being cut in half when viewed on a 1920-by-1080 HDTV: the 960-pixel-wide footage from the left- and right-lens channels are stretched to fill a 1920-pixel horizontal resolution, then sequenced to correspond with shutter activity in the 3D glasses.

According to Panasonic, there are a couple of notable changes to the camera's performance with the 3D lens attached: the camcorder's maximum aperture setting dips to F3.5 with the lens attached, and use of the camcorder's control ring is limited to white-balance adjustments when shooting in 3D.

Without the 3D lens, the camcorder shoots 1920-by-1080 full HD video at 60 progressive frames per second at its highest-quality video setting, which uses the MPEG-4/H.264 AVC codec. The camcorder also records 1920-by-1080 HD video at 60 interlaced fields per second in AVCHD format at a bit rate of 17mbps; all the footage is saved to a user-supplied SDHC or SDXC card.

Other notable features include a revamped Hybrid OIS image-stabilization system, manual controls, Intelligent Auto mode, motion-tracking autofocus, a 3-inch-diagonal flip-out touchscreen LCD, and 5.1-channel surround sound recording.

Priced at US$1400, the Panasonic HDC-SDT750 is slated for October release.

New 3D Lens for Micro Four-Thirds Cameras

Much less is known about the new 3D lens for Panasonic's Lumix G-Series cameras; at the time of writing, Panasonic hadn't even released an image of the new lens. The 3D Micro Four-Thirds lens is expected to be available by the end of the year.

The lens is still in prototype stage, and Panasonic was unable to comment on many specifics. It's still unknown whether the 3D Micro Four-Thirds lens will be compatible with all Panasonic G-series cameras, whether it will be compatible with Olympus's Micro Four-Thirds cameras, whether the new lens will support video capture as well as still images, and whether a firmware update will be necessary for the new lens to work properly with existing Lumix G cameras.

We'll post updated information about the 3D lens as soon as we know more.

Panasonic HM-TA1: Panasonic's First Pocket Camcorder

The HM-TA1 is Panasonic's first foray into the ever-expanding field of high-definition pocket camcorders, offering specs that are on par with the highly-rated Kodak Zi8.

It shoots 1080p MPEG-4 video at 30 frames per second and 8-megapixel still images; both are stored to a user-provided SD, SDHC, or SDXC card.

Other key features include a front-mounted LED lamp for shooting in dark environments, electronic image stabilization, a 4x digital zoom, a 2-inch-diagonal LCD screen, and a flip-out USB connector for offloading clips and recharging its battery.The HM-TA1 can also be used as a Webcam and microphone when connected to a computer via an included USB cable, and Panasonic says the camcorder is Skype- and video-chat-ready as soon as it's connected to a computer.

Available in dark gray, red, and purple, the HM-TA1 will start selling in August for US$170.

Panasonic HDC-SDX1: Small But Skilled

The new Panasonic HDC-SDX1 is slightly larger than a pocket camcorder, but not by much. Despite its diminutive size, it offers a full stock of features to go along with its 16.8x optical zoom, F1.8 lens.

The single-CMOS HDC-SDX1 shoots 1920-by-1080 high-definition video at 60 interlaced fields per second in AVCHD format at 17mbps (as well as 720p MPEG-4 video at 30fps and 2.8-megapixel still images).

It offers the same high-powered Hybrid OIS stabilization system as the HDC-SDT750, as well as Intelligent Auto mode, motion-tracking autofocus, several scene modes, and a 2.7-inch-diagonal touchscreen LCD. Like the new pocket camcorder, it also can be used as a Skype-friendly Web cam when connected to a computer, and it offers easy video uploads to YouTube and Facebook.

Weighing in at less than half a pound, the HDC-SDX1 is due in September for US$500.

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Tim Moynihan

PC World (US online)
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