Sony Unveils 3D Camcorders, Big and Small

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At the same time it announced five point-and-shoot cameras that feature an array of 3D-shooting modes, Sony today announced two new dual-lens 3D-capable camcorders that will be in stores this April.

Other than the 3D video features, the two new Handycam models couldn't be more different: the Sony Handycam HDR-TD10 is a bulky beast by today's tiny camcorder standards, although it's not much bigger than a MiniDV-tape-based consumer camcorder. The Sony MHS-FS3 Bloggie 3D pocket camcorder is about the size of a smartphone, and it has dual lenses mounted on the front.

The Handycam TD10 and Bloggie 3D were among 16 new camcorders announced by Sony today at CES. While those camcorders are the only ones in the mix to offer 3D shooting modes, a few of the company's other announcements also offer unique traits. For example, three of the just-announced models feature built-in pico projectors and stereo speakers for watching footage on the fly, and all but one of the new full-size camcorders feature integrated USB connectors for offloading clips and charging the battery.

Sony Handycam HDR-TD10: Two Lenses, Two Sensors, and Glasses-Free 3D

Sony claims that the new Handycam TD10 is the first consumer camcorder to offer two lenses, two imaging sensors, and two processors to deliver full HD 3D footage in both the right and left visual channels. The only similar consumer camcorder at this point-Panasonic's HDC-SDT750K-offers a dual-lens setup but a single sensor, and it uses "side-by-side" 3D playback methods, which drastically reduces the resolution of each visual channel.

Sony claims its new camcorder offers superior 3D video quality, as it shoots left-channel and right-channel 1920-by-1080 HD video that's displayed in full 1080p resolution during playback. Instead of using "side-by-side" 3D technology, the new camera uses "frame-packing" 3D, which displays full-resolution video captured from each lens.

Adding to the camcorder's appeal is the fact that you can also view the 3D effect while playing back video on the camcorder's 3.5-inch LCD screen without needing to wear glasses. The TD10's screen uses parallax-barrier technology to simulate image depth when viewed with the naked eye--a method that's rumored to also be the secret sauce in Nintendo's glasses-free 3DS console. For viewing footage on a TV, however, you'll need a compatible Sony 3DTV and active-shutter glasses.

The camcorder definitely feels beefy in the hand, but it's kind of a nice departure from the ever-shrinking consumer camcorders of today. As long as you've got big-enough hands, its added weight and square, husky build feels like the tape-based video cameras of yore (yore meaning the late-1990s).

For 2D traditionalists, the Handycam TD10 also shoots full 1080p high-definition video out of a single lens in 2D mode, as well as 7-megapixel 2D still images. Switching from 3D to 2D mode simply involves flipping a switch on the camcorder.

In Video: Sony Handycam TD10

The TD10 features a 10x optical zoom lens with optical stabilization, 64GB of internal memory in addition to an SD/MemoryStick combo slot, Auto-mode shooting when capturing 3D video, and manual controls when shooting 2D footage.

At $1500, Sony's 3D-shooting camcorder will cost about $100 more than Panasonic's 3D consumer camcorder. The Handycam TD10 is due in April.

Sony Bloggie 3D: Dual-Lens 3D Camcorder For Your Pocket

The 3D Sony Bloggie is one of three new Bloggie camcorders announced by Sony today, but it's the only one that shoots in 3D. Like the Handycam TD10, it also has a parallax-barrier screen that allows you to see a 3D effect when playing back video and stills on its 2.4-inch LCD screen.

In Video: Sony 3d Bloggie

The camcorder's two lenses are arranged vertically when you hold the Bloggie 3D upright, and 3D shooting requires tilting the camcorder to landscape orientation while recording. The Bloggie 3D also boasts two CMOS sensors behind its lenses; it shoots 1920-by-1080 HD video through each channel, but because its video playback uses the side-by-side 3D display method, 3D clips lose a bit of resolution.

The new Bloggie offers 8GB of on-board storage, which Sony says translates to four hours of HD video recording in 2D mode. Other specs include an autofocus mode, a macro mode, a 4x digital zoom, 5-megapixel still capture, and a flip-out USB connector for offloading media and recharging the battery.

Priced at $250, the Bloggie 3D is also due out in April.

More Interesting Handycams: Built-In Projectors, Flip-Out USB Connectors, and Front-Facing LCDs

Among the other 14 camcorders announced by Sony today, there were some head-turning features in the mix. We've seen some of these innovative twists before in point-and-shoot cameras and pocket camcorders, but never in the realm of full-sized camcorders.

The Sony Handycam HDR-PJ50V, PJ30V, and PJ10 all include built-in projectors with a 10 lumens brightness rating and stereo speakers, a feature set that Sony is calling the "Mobile Theater." It's an idea we first saw in Nikon's projector-packed Coolpix PJ series of compact cams.

In Video: Sony's Projector/Camcorders

One of the new Bloggie pocket camcorders-the Bloggie Duo--features a secondary, front-facing LCD screen to help with video blogs and other self-shot videos. We first saw a front-facing secondary LCD in Samsung's DualView line of point-and-shoot cameras.

And finally, all of Sony's new camcorders (except for the 3D-shooting Handycam TD10) have built-in USB connectors that eliminate the need for hunting down a cable to offload videos and charge the camcorder battery. Each camcorder has a USB cable that tucks into the side-mounted hand strap, so it's hidden from view when you're shooting video. This, of course, is an idea borrowed from the ever-popular Flip Video and other pocket camcorders.

Check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2011.

This story, "Sony Unveils 3D Camcorders, Big and Small" was originally published by PCWorld.

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