3D cameras are cool, but often they’re a pain to use. That “pain” translates to their being left aside while regular 2D digital cameras get center stage. So you’d think that any camera that can shoot 3D video in high-def AND 3D pics would get precedent over its 2D cousin? Wrong. And that’s not good for promoting 3D use.
So say hello to my new best friend digital camera, the Sony bloggie 3D. This little guy shoots high-definition video and stills with 12.8 megapixels of resolution: 2D for sure, but stereoscopic 3D as well. And Sony got it right because this digital camera takes 3D to where it needs to go:into the hand of the consumer to use.
Those with big hands will find the bloggie a bit smallish, but not annoyingly so. It comes in a plush-like box that mirrors the edges of the camera and makes it an easy grip. The bloggie has internal memory only (8GB), and recharges through a USB port (you do get an accessory USB cable). Press a notch on the bottom to eject the USB tab or do the reverse when done. But in order for the it to be recognized by the computer, make sure it’s turned on first.
With that said, I got a message on my Mac that there was a firmware update. While I downloaded that, I clicked on the icon of the bloggie that held the manual and software (Mac users have to do a download instead for the software). The software lets you transfer video and stills with ease or upload them to social networking sites: those who don’t want to bother can transfer the content directly from camera instead.
With the bloggie charged and disconnected, you press a top mounted power tab to turn it on and this takes about 4 seconds. The button to the right of the tab is the shutter for still photography — remember to press it all the way down to shoot because halfway just activates the auto exposure features like focus and white levels. On the back of the bloggie is a 2.4-inch color LCD screen, a direction pad and three tabs: one turns on or off the 2D or 3D effect; one brings up the general purpose menu; one brings up the playback menu for seeing what’s been captured.
The bloggie’s front has 2 lenses and is designed to shoot video horizontally — a message warning you to turn the camera away from the vertical pops up onscreen even if you’re only planning to shoot a still when 3D is enabled . The LCD is used as the viewfinder and images can be shot by pressing the shutter button, while video just needs a press at the center of the direction pad (not having to set the camera to “still” or “video” is great). The built-in white LED on the front provides more than enough illumination for stills and even video — providing you don’t expect it to reach past a couple of feet (works real well for filling in shadow areas of faces outside). Also you should expect it to drain the battery faster as a result of repeated use.
The camera is compact but big enough not to slip as you use it — I found that I could shoot fairly competently with one hand, although for video two are best to avoid shaking. Such things as auto stabilization and other special functions aren’t found here. I started by shooting in 2D and the experience was pretty comparable to that of a quality “point and shoot” camera. One that had a quick enough response time when used to shoot photos, as I found out while following my Cavalier King Charles Auggie around until he was disgusted with me and went back to sleep on the couch.
Switching to 3D just required pressing the 2D/3D tab until “3”D appeared on the LCD screen — I also went into the menu and set the video to 1080p, as opposed to the setting more suitable if video is to be watched on a 3D-capable PC. Then you just shoot video or stills as was done in 2D earlier.
There’s a 4X digital zoom, but it doesn’t work when shooting 3D (frankly I don’t recommend using it with video in 2D either since it degrades the image).
Now since you can see the 3D on the LCD screen without having to put on liquid crystal glasses, don’t be surprised if the display looks a bit “off” to your eyes. The screen will seem to “shinny” a bit when 3D is playing, but it can be gotten used to (those with glasses, like me, will find the effect a bit more pronounced). And just as when shooting 2D video, holding the camera steady is a necessity. Fortunately the candy bar-shape is augmented by a soft material on the sides as well as the edges — which aids when gripping the camera and minimizes vibrations.
Probably the biggest change in shooting 3D is realizing that you have to have the camera aimed in such a way that depth is present — shooting a car on the curve that’s 10 feet away won’t show any real 3D contrasted against the road behind it. So plan on moving closer to those images you wish to capture, while also keeping in mind that you can create depth between objects by the way you position the camera relative to them. In other words — practice by shooting, checking out what you did on the LCD screen afterwards, rinse and repeat.
Once the shooting is done, you pop out the USB connector, attach it to a computer and transfer over the images . Software for viewing 3D on the PC is included, but obviously the computer must be compatible.
There’s also an HDMI output that can be used to directly connect to a HDTV. If you watch a slideshow or video in 2D, it’ll look fine on any HDTV out there. But should you play 3D video or a 3D still photo, the HDTV must be 3D-capable or you’re going to be seeing double.
Bottom line: Shooting in 3D isn’t a “gimmick,” but it’s still out of the ordinary today. To really enjoy the 3D -effect, you need a camera that doesn’t hamper your creativity. But even more important, you need a camera that is as easy to use as a 2D one is. The Sony bloggie 3D is just such a camera.
- Camera view on LCD screen rotates for “lefties”
- Quick switching between 2D and 3D
- Uncluttered viewing screen
- Small tabbed controls on back hard to locate
- Viewing of 3D on LCD screen has narrow “sweet spot”
- Shutter button a bit close to the power tab
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.