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A couple of issues back, we delved deeply into 3D, and the oft-raised topic of the lack of available 3D material to watch. While the 3D Blu-ray movie scene is gradually improving, the quickest way to convince any 3D sceptic is to give them a 3D stills or movie camera and let them make some homespun 3D.

It’s exceedingly addictive. While you can only watch Avatar through silly glasses so many times before glazing over, the ability to make your own 3D is something else. With a 3D camera and a 3D TV, we can pretty much guarantee you’ll be rushing home every weekend and jamming on those glasses to watch the playback of your latest and greatest footage, showcasing the joys of that marvellous new Z axis.

For the tests in that issue (May/June 2011) we had played with Fujifilm’s stunning stills camera, the W3 (which does video too, but is a stills camera first and foremost), and with JVC’s Everio GZ-HM970, which has only a
single lens but does a remarkably effective job of 2D-to-3D conversion in camera. Shortly after that review we were loaned JVC’s real 3D camcorder, the GS-TD1. Better?

Equipment

Much better. We’ve enjoyed playing with the GS-TD1 enormously. In this age of pocketable camcorders it feels a little bulky, those twin lenses widening the front and a largely empty battery compartment pushing out the main body to a similar width. But the whole thing is still small enough to jam in a jacket pocket, and so long as you push your hand firmly through the strap (good practise), all the controls are sensibly positioned. The video start-stop is under your right thumb, the big blue 3D button nearby (it’s clearly illuminated when you’re in 3D mode).

The zoom control for both lenses — which of course have to be synchronised when zooming in 3D — is on top, next to a ‘snapshot’ stills button, though you can’t take snapshots when in video mode; you have to switch everything to stills mode first, which is a little tedious. The touchscreen display also puts the main functions at your fingertips, so it took no preparation at all for us to head to the dog park and start some test shooting.

Performance

The 3D effect on the JVC’s own viewfinder is mild — in fact less obvious than on the company’s 2D-to-3D model. But when played back later on our 50-inch Panasonic VT20, the quality of this real 3D was exceptional — sharp and bright, tolerant even in twilight and interior lighting, the JVC scoring here with its F1.2 ‘super bright lens’. Though it’s clear that the brighter your 3D arena, the more effectively the 3D can work.

You also have to adjust to the rules of 3D filming, remembering especially that the key subject area is between one and five metres in distance; if everything is beyond that distance, the 3D effect is relatively flat. Using the zoom can improve the effect, shifting the 3D ‘focal area’ to some five to 20 metres; this is because the JVC auto-adjusts parallax in the same way it does focus. Parallax is essentially the 3D separation; too little and the 3D effect is lessened, too much and it may do your head in. On the whole we left this process to the camera, and didn’t suffer any sudden brain-jarring readjustments; the only time we switched to manual was to try some real close-up macro 3D.