3D Digital Camera Buying Guide

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3D Digital Camera Buying Guide

3D cameras are an increasingly popular choice amongst photographers who want to take advantage of cutting edge technology and to explore further opportunities for creativity and experimentation.

About 3D Digital Cameras

3D technology has existed for over a hundred years, but its use in portable cameras aimed at consumers is very new. It has traditionally been used in medical and scientific imaging and is increasingly being seen in movies and video games. 3D imaging, also known as stereoscopy, creates depth illusion in an image. The primary way of doing this is to create two images and superimpose them in offset positions. These two images are sent to the left and right eyes via 3D viewing glasses. Another way is to use polarisation, viewing the images with glasses that have different polarisers for each eye. Older 3D cameras were mounted on a tripod and had sliding bars allowing them to capture two slightly offset images. Two cameras were sometimes used to obtain images. Modern 3D cameras take several images at once or in quick succession and then combine these to build up a 3D image which can then be viewed on a 3D television.

Choosing a 3D Digital Camera

There are several cameras available that can shoot in 3D, featuring varying levels of complexity, quality, and versatility. Specialist 3D cameras can shoot two images at once through two different lenses, but most 3D cameras are typical cameras which take multiple images in quick succession and use these to build up a 3D image, offering 3D images as a special feature rather than the main draw. Most 3D cameras cannot view 3D images, but specialised models can both shoot and view in 3D. 3D images can also be viewed with glasses on a 3D television via an HDMI cable. There are 3D DSLRs, 3D compact digital cameras, and even 3D waterproof cameras. Always remember to check out the general specification of the camera as well as its 3D credentials.

Specialist 3D Cameras

Specialist 3D cameras continue the concept of using two cameras to obtain two images, but the two cameras are held within one compact body. Simultaneous images are taken through the two lenses and processed within the cameras, and they are then available instantly for viewing. 3D viewing is possible without glasses because of the specialised LCD screens. This useful feature enables any adjustments to be made where necessary and gives the flexibility to be able to experiment with different settings, seeing the results straight away instead of having to wait until a later stage. Cameras can also shoot 3D movies. Disadvantages of specialised 3D cameras include their price and relatively large size.


3D DSLRs offer all the benefits of a DSLR, including superb flexibility with interchangeable lenses and manual controls, high-quality components, and fast continuous shooting, with 3D capabilities. Images are taken in quick succession and then built into a 3D image through the camera’s internal image processing. Check out the general specification and other special features of a 3D camera when purchasing. This includes ISO settings, resolution and features such as the viewfinder. Electronic viewfinders typically supply a wealth of information to the user, including features such as histogram and digital spirit level, which can make a key difference to how user friendly the camera is.

3D Compact Digital Cameras

3D capabilities are also available in a growing range of compact digital cameras. These tend to offer 3D as a bonus feature rather than being designed specifically for 3D imaging. As with 3D DSLRs, this means that the 3D image is built up from images taken in succession rather than by images taken simultaneously through different lenses. It does mean that a large number of images can be used to create the final image.
There are two basic ways to combine images to build up a 3D image using one lens. The first is by panning, which creates wide panoramic shots. The second is by an unmoving camera taking two images in quick succession at different focus settings. Compact digital cameras are becoming more advanced with regards to general features such as resolution, optical zoom, focal length, high-definition (HD) movie recording, and special features such as GPS and Wi-Fi. The optical zoom is a key indicator of the camera’s magnifying capabilities and should not be confused with digital zoom, which enlarges rather than magnifies images. The focal range offered by many compacts is now excellent, with many offering wide angle shots to around 24 mm as well as telephoto shots.

3D Waterproof Digital Cameras

3D waterproof digital cameras combine the capacity of shooting underwater with the capacity to shoot in 3D, giving an exceptional opportunity to produce exciting 3D images of fish and other marine life. These images can then be watched later on a 3D television via HDMI. 3D waterproof digital cameras are ideal for taking on holiday and for use when swimming or snorkelling. They are usually robust, shock proof, and freeze proof in addition to being waterproof so are also suitable for use in demanding weather conditions such as snow, sleet, and high humidity as well as underwater.

Tips for Taking 3D Pictures

3D images work most effectively when they have a primary subject or subjects in the near foreground and other subjects scattered around the scene different distances away. The nearer the main subjects are, to an extent, the more they will appear to jump out of the screen at the viewer. About one metre away from the camera is usually a good distance. When panning across a scene, always hold the camera as steadily as possible, moving at a steady speed. A tripod can help to keep the camera steady for this type of shot. Check out product reviews to see if the camera is particularly recommended for panoramic shots.

General Considerations

When purchasing a 3D digital camera, consider whether 3D capability is the most important feature or just a bonus feature. If the former, it may be worth investing in a specialised 3D camera. These cameras have options for viewing 3D images instantly, without the need for glasses, and for printing out 3D images. If 3D is a bonus feature, be sure to check out the camera’s general specification as well as its 3D capabilities. It is likely that non-3D images will be taken more often than 3D images in many cases, so aspects such as resolution, ISO range, optical zoom, viewfinders, automatic and manual setting capabilities, video recording, special effects and modes, and image editing options should be considered as carefully as with any non-3D camera.


3D technology is being increasingly incorporated into consumer cameras, and many cameras now have the capability to shoot 3D images. Two or more images are taken, either at once or in quick succession, and a 3D image is built up from them. The various types of 3D camera include DSLRs, compact digital cameras and waterproof or other specialised cameras. 3D DSLRs combine 3D capabilities with the benefits of a DSLR, such as interchangeable lenses, while 3D compacts are ideal for general use and taking on holiday. When purchasing a 3D camera, consider whether 3D capability is a key or bonus feature. Always check out the camera’s general specification, including resolution, optical zoom and any other important features as well as its 3D capabilities. Producing 3D shots adds another dimension to photography and is an exciting way to experiment and be creative with a new camera.

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