By >Daimaou - G.G-B
[Review] Panasonic HDC-TM750/SDT750, the First Consumer 3D Camera.
Thanks to Avatar, the world finally had its first 3D experience, and whether you love Avatar or not, and whether you can stand 3D glasses or not, you have to admit that this new 3D wave is pretty exciting. Strong from its experience working with James Cameron by providing 3D Capable Cameras, Panasonic is now bringing the 3D magic to the rest of us with its consumer-oriented camera, the HDC-TM750 – also known as HDC-SDT750 overseas.
And today it is finally time for us to give you our thoughts on this very first consumer 3D camera.
Based on pretty much the same design introduced by Panasonic for the first time in July 2007 with its SD5, the TM750/SDT750 does not strike us at first really radically different from other models. To make things even worse, the TM750/SDT750 comes with the same 3CCD Technology introduce by Panasonic on its very first full HD consumer camcorder the SD1 launched in April 2007…
But as usual, looks are deceiving; our new TM750/SDT750 features Panasonic’s latest state-of-the-art improvements including a new 3MOS sensor offering a total of 9.15Mpix with 7.59 effective pixels just dedicated to movies, offering not only better video quality but also drastically improving Noise Reduction as well as offering better, more vivid colors. Add to this list a new HYBRID O.I.S image stabilizer working on 4 different axes, SDXC support, 96MB of internal memory, an impressive 12x optical Zoom expandable to 18x in iA Mode, 1080/60p, a manual focus ring and you have here Panasonic’s ultimate pocket camcorder.
If this is not enough for you yet, we should remind you that we are talking here about an ultra-compact Camcorder that just weighs 440g for 66x69x138mm without its 3D lens converter and 635g for 78x69x235mm with its 3D Lens Converter.
Panasonic first Camcorder 3D Lens Converter
Bundled with its 3D Lens converter in North America and most probably Europe, the TM750/SDT750 Camcorder is however sold in Japan without it, and you will have to by the 3D Lens converter unit alone. Rather bulky and not so elegant, the VW-CLT1-H, the name of our 3D Lens converter unit, is far from being just a “plastic toy” and weighs just 195g alone for 78x59x97mm.
Installing the 3D Lens converter is pretty straight forward by just screwing it on top of your actual camcorder lens, quite similar to installing any kind of Wide lens converter on any other camcorder or even on some Point & Shoot or Bridge cameras.
The difference here however is that unlike any Wide lens converter, the VW-CLT1-H or 3D Lens converter comes with not one lens but two, in order to give you the 3D or Stereoscopic effect that we all enjoy in any 3D Movies.
Having two lenses mounted on one converter means that you may also have to manually tweak or reconfigure your 3D Converter each times you are using it or at least each time you are installing it on your camera.
Thanks to three different dials placed on top of the lens converted and fitted with its lens cap, you will have to manually calibrate your 3D Lens before being able to shoot any 3D videos. Failure to do so will result in unimpressive 3D video without much “3D” worth to see. The overall process is quite simple but need to be setup carefully to maximize the 3D result.
As said earlier this process may not be required each time you want to record 3D video, however, if you often have to remove the 3D lens Converter from your camera, we would strongly recommend you to go through this process every time just in case.
So what about 3D Videos then?
Once your 3D lens converter fitted on your camera, it’s time to give it a try and find out if this whole setting will change our life forever or not.
First of all there are a few things that you must be aware of. Although the TM750/SDT750 Camcorder is capable of recording video in 1080/60p with a 1920×1080 resolution, all your 3D video will not be recorded in this resolution but rather in 960×1080 using Panasonic Side By Side technology, where each lens will record half of the 1920 resolution to get the 3D or Stereoscopic effect we need, thus resulting in a none real “Full HD” video experience.
The second “limitation” of installing the 3D Lens converter on your camera will be the loss of any zooming function normally available when shooting 2D Videos.
Once familiar with these limitations, it is time to give it a try, and start “shooting” around things that you would normally do.
Once your first shot is saved on your SD card or within your camera internal memory, the only way available for you to watch your video in 3D will be to plug your camera directly to a 3D Capable TV, a 3D Blu-Ray player/Burner or via your PC if you own both a 3D Display and a software capable of handling 3D Video.
In our case, Panasonic sent us alongside the camera a nice 50” 3D TV that we hook-up via HDMI to our TM750/SDT750 Camcorder.
Fitted with your 3D glasses it was time to check our first 3D videos and braced for… disappointment.
In all fairness to Panasonic and their TM750/SDT750 camcorder, every shot we took did give us the 3D effect promised – no problems with that – and if you set your 3D Lens converter correctly, you will be surprised to see that the overall setup is working flawlessly.
The real problem however comes from the not-so-“real” Full HD Resolution and the 960x1080p resolution (1.125 ratio) output on each video, that are later “Stretched” in 16:9 (1.7 ratio) on your TV giving you a rather inelegant result. The second problem with this 3D lens converter is the huge decrease in video quality and very noisy pictures. If we can “handle” noisy video (forget shooting stuff at night or in low light), the obvious quality loss and lack of sharpness make the experience quite underwhelming.
Another element to take under consideration when taking 3D video is that everything is NOT worth shooting in 3D. Shooting video of your kids at home may not be the best setting, or anything at home for that matter.
The ideal setting would by during a shiny summer day, outside with your kids playing around and making sure that a fair distance separates them from the background. But here as well, experience, time and patience are what you will need to get the best out of your 3D camera.
3D Video editing
Now that you are getting used to shooting in 3D, and you know what your camera’s limitation are, it is time for you to work on some basic video editing, and here as well, things are not as simple as they seem.
The easiest way would be for you to do it on your Camcorder or 3D Blu-Ray DVR, but this may not be the prettiest solution ever or the most practical one, but at least it will work immediately and will give you the basic “Transition” you need to join clips as well as cutting them into smaller ones.
The best solution would require you to edit your video on your computer, but first you will have to find the correct NLE for the job, or at least the correct plugin for your NLE.
If you are a Final Cut Pro user, Cineform has a nice plugin for you with Neo3D. PC Avid has a 3D Stereo tool for you.
2D Video ?
Sold primarily as a 2D video in Japan also capable of shooting in 3D, the TM750/SDT750 Camcorder from Panasonic is a really impressive piece of hardware, and while we did not really bother testing the 2D capability of this camera – as this was not actually the purpose of this article anyway – we however were really impressed by the camera’s full HD Video quality output, and we used this camera for several occasions on Akihabara News including our video coverage of the 2010 JAMMA Arcade Expo 2010, and we have been really satisfied with it each and every single time we had to shoot 2D video with it.
A really powerful and capable 2D video camera with many nice little features, the TM750/SDT750 Camcorders however does not deliver the “Magic” we would expect once its 3D lens converter is on. Video limited to a 960×1080 resolution in 3D, overall lack of quality and sharpness, the TM750/SDT750 Camcorder however deliver what it promise with real a real 3D stereoscopic effect on every videos.
Being the first of its kind, and Panasonic’s first attempt in consumer 3D camcorders, we can just expect that things will get better soon enough, but the real limit here will be your shooting skill and capacity to get the best out of your environment to get the perfect 3D stereoscopic experience.