What Does a 3D Digital Camera do?

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Updated July 26, 2022

Have you ever wondered what does a 3D digital camera do? In most cases, great 3D cameras create 3D movies, virtual tours, and even Virtual Reality (VR) environments. If you are interested in becoming a stereographer, a virtual reality artist, or a 3D photographer, you need to learn more about the 3D camera system and how it functions. You might also be interested in the best digital camera before settling for a particular option. Let’s start by learning the fundamentals of 3D photography and videography.


  • A 3D camera produces immersive images and videos.
  • To produce virtual reality environments, you need to use 3D cameras.
  • 3D cameras operate like human eyes.

How a 3D Camera Works

A 3D camera, such as Sony’s Bloggie 3D, is an imaging device that uses the perception of depth in images to replicate a 3D environment as viewed through the human eye. Some 3D cameras use one lens that shifts in position, while others use two or three lenses to record different points of view. Combining the different perspectives creates the depth perception we see in 3D digital photos and videos. Camera lenses are complex, so you may want to find out what do the numbers on digital camera lenses mean to understand more about them. Moreover, not understanding lenses can cause grainy pictures and affect other aspects of digital camera photo quality.

Insider Tip

When shooting 3D footage, ensure that you keep your camera as horizontal as possible; otherwise, you won’t get a good result.

When it comes to 3D photography, a 3D camera uses stereoscopy technology to produce a virtual picture that appears natural enough to touch. Human eyes create perspective by looking at an object through the right and left eyes, something that’s known as binocular disparity. Then, the brain integrates the two perspectives to create a 3D image thanks to our visual center interpretation and focusing ability. This biological process is the foundation of how 3D cameras operate. Amazing how that works! And yet, our minds can’t do timelapse as a digital camera can.

More About the Functionality of a 3D Camera

Similar to understanding the gimbal in a digital camera, understanding how 3D cameras function means we need to understand more about stereoscopy. As mentioned earlier, stereoscopy is the process of recording two pictures, and then overlapping the pair of images, offsetting them by several inches (also known as divergence) to create an illusion of depth in that frozen moment, which you can then view in 3D.  

To create depth in 3D images, you need to factor in three key elements: the background, foreground, and the zero parallax. The object closest to the viewer is identified as the foreground, while the farthest image is the background. Zero parallax is the default zone or the screen. When the camera is rendering the scene in post-production, the object that appears closer to the audience is more divergent, and the background objects are less divergent.

When a camera shoots stereoscopic images, it will use specialty lenses to convert the images into 3D. The alternative is to mount two cameras next to each other to simulate a single image, the same way we view an object with the right and left eye. An important point to remember is that the cameras have to be misaligned in framing. So, once the camera captures the images, overlapping and manipulating them in the post-production process will create a 3D picture or video.

Currently, there are several advanced 3D digital cameras on the market. At the top of the list, however, is the IMAX 3D camera. 

How IMAX Is Expanding the 3D Cinema

The largest commercially available camera is IMAX’s high-resolution 3D camera. It has custom 4K horizontal sensors that can capture a lot more information in both dark and light conditions. The 4K horizontal resolution allows each frame to be 4,000 pixels wide. You can learn what is sensor size for a digital camera to know the impact of the sensor size in cameras.

Michael Bay, the director of Transformers Extinction, used a 3D camera weighing 38 pounds to give viewers a special experience. The IMAX cameras use custom fixed-focal-length lenses and a technology that controls convergence, or how the dual lenses in a 3D camera pivot inwards to see nearer objects.

In addition, the 3D depth sensor cameras use dual digital engines to record videos in RAW format and then save the footage to dual SSD storage devices. The IMAX 3D cameras use sensors with about 8.4MP, and you can shoot at full 4K resolution at a rate of 100fps.


What exactly is the difference between 2D and 3D digital photos?

2D images are flat, whereas 3D images have an extra depth dimension that allows for rotation and viewing from different perspectives.

What is the biggest drawback of 3D cameras?

They are quite expensive. If you buy a low-end stereo camera, the resulting images won’t be very high quality. The best results are achieved with the expensive models.

What is unique about IMAX cameras?

They can shoot high-resolution, high-contrast 3D images better than other digital cameras, for example, 2K horizontal resolution. Additionally, movies shot with these cameras are viewed on special IMAX screens.

STAT: In 2018, the 3D camera market was valued at $1.92 billion. The expectation is that the market value grows at a CAGR of 35.8% by 2025. (source)

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