With 3D movies becoming nearly the norm in theaters and the technology finally coming into its own, plenty of amateur enthusiasts want to get in on the action, adding extra depth to their still shots and even videos. With the aid of a 3D television or image viewer, you can see all your own visual creations come to life. Some don't even require special glasses to see the effect.
3D digital cameras that are marketed to consumers work in two different ways. The first uses two lenses in a similar way to big-budget movies. The lenses capture two images of the same scene at the same time, one through each lens. When these two pictures with different perspectives combine, the picture or video creates the illusion of depth.
Other cameras that have the capability to shoot in 3D use the same technique, but do so with only one lens. The solitary lens takes multiple shots and the camera combines them internally. One concern with this secondary option is that the image may change even milliseconds apart and cause the 3D picture to blur. You can check out our articles on 3D cameras to help you make up your mind as to the best type and model for you.
3D Cameras for Everyday Use
If you're a novice photographer who just enjoys taking pictures on vacation or on family outings, you don't need to get caught up in the best technology. There are many cameras that can shoot in 3D, yet remain affordable and compact. You should look for a small camera that fits comfortably in your pants pocket but also has a large, vibrant LCD screen for previewing your shots. An intuitive auto mode chooses the settings for you, so you don't have to waste time making sure you have the right lighting or ISO setting.
It's also important that the 3D camera easily switches from 2D pictures to 3D pictures. 3D tends to take up a lot more space on your memory card, and some images you may just prefer in regular 2D. Since 3D images are only visible on 3D-capable devices, there isn't much point in sharing these pictures on social media sites or sending them to relatives who don't have the right technology.
The Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D camera series is a great choice for a quick, cheap digital 3D camera. It uses two lenses, reducing the blur on your 3D images. The camera automatically stiches the images together to create depth. The 3.5-inch LCD is one of the largest of those on 3D-depth cameras, and its preview screen is one of the only screens available that allows you to preview your image in 3D without needing to plug the camera into a computer or 3D television. Despite the large LCD screen, it's also compact. It weighs only 8.5 ounces, so you can put it in your pocket with room to spare.
The Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D camera has a pair of Fujinon 3x optical zoom lenses with a telephoto aperture of F4.2 to F9 and a wide aperture of F3.7 to F8. This range enables it to catch great close-up portraits as well as landscapes. Its dual lenses sync to capture 3D prints and video clips. Two independent 10MP sensors are on the other end of the lenses to capture your shots.
3D Cameras for Professional Photographers
If you're interested in taking stunning, professional shots, you may want to consider a 3D camera with more complex features and controls. The ability to change the settings manually is incredibly important. Many 3D cameras have the shape and feel of specialized SLR cameras with comparable components. You should consider the zoom, ISO settings and shutter speed. The higher the resolution, the clearer your pictures will be, and the easier they'll be to edit and color-correct.
One factor worth looking into is whether the 3D digital camera offers quick, in-camera editing. The ability to change contrast, color, brightness and red eye through the preview saves you time working in the studio later. A touchscreen can also help make editing fast and painless.
The Nikon Coolpix P series 3D camera has all the attributes you need for beautiful, professional shots. The camera has a stunning 42x zoom lens, easily the farthest zoom distance in this lineup. The resolution is a clear 18.1 megapixels, and the camera has built-in stabilization that reduces blur in faraway shots. The camera shoots video in 1080p and light sensitivity up to 6400 ISO.
With a 42x optical zoom, the Nikon Coolpix P Series 3D camera easily takes the cake for farthest zoom. That's what you're paying for when you buy this camera. This is an excellent feature, especially coupled with the 18.1MP resolution and built-in stabilization, but high zoom feels a little wonky when you're creating 3D photographs. After all, that mountain in the distance looks flat, for all intents and purposes, even to those of us with two eyes. In other words, extreme close-ups and 3D shots do not mix well.
3D Cameras for Amateur Moviemakers
If your main objective with a digital 3D camera is shooting 3D movies, you'll want a dual-lens camera with high-quality output. Dual-lens cameras shoot two pictures simultaneously, giving you the clearest feeling of depth, especially when you're shooting subjects that are constantly moving in video format. You'll need a camera with high internal memory and the ability to add an SD or micro-SD card of your own. 3D movies take up a ton of memory, and you'll find your cards filling up fast.
Quality is also important, especially if you plan on uploading your 3D movies to video-sharing sites that allow for 3D viewing. You'll want a camera that shoots in HD and has video quality up to 1080p. Anything lower than this will appear grainy on large 3D TVs or 3D monitors. As 3D becomes more popular for novice filmmakers, creating the clearest video will help attract more people to your online channels.
The Panasonic Lumix 3D series digital 3D camera is made for filmmakers. It can capture 3D movies and 2D stills, and it shoots in HD. The camera comes with 70MB of internal storage. That's not a lot for film, but you have the option of adding up to a 128GB SD card, more than enough for several hours of footage. The camera shoots in 1080p as well, helping remove the pixelation you might find in lesser-quality videos on big-screen TVs or larger computer monitors.
The Panasonic Lumix LX Series is a compact digital camera for the photo enthusiast who wants maximum control over shots while carrying around minimal bulk. While its 3D camera capabilities are secondary rather than one of its main selling points, it takes decent 3D shots when you follow the instructions exactly.
3D Cameras for Outdoor Photographers
If you're more of an explorer and want to capture outdoor landscapes in all their three-dimensional glory, a digital 3D camera is a great tool for your slideshows. You should consider a 3D camera that offers a high F-stop range. This gives you more control over the amount of light the lens lets in, helping you get a clear shot in the middle of the day or the middle of the night. A quality zoom is important, especially when you're shooting animals in nature. If you have to get too close, you'll likely scare the wildlife away. Shutter speed and ISO are also important. For fast-moving subjects like birds or people running, a higher shutter speed means less chance the image will come out blurry. A higher ISO means more sensitivity to light and finer grains in the image, so you'll want a high ISO for shooting in the dark.
In case you're an outdoor enthusiast but don't know a lot about F-stops, ISO and shutter speed, many 3D cameras have preset settings that work best for your specific environment to remove the settings guesswork. Options include special settings for night shots, beach, snow, high-action sports and landscapes. The dial switches directly to the environment of your choice, and the 3D camera automatically changes the settings to capture your surroundings as vibrantly as possible.
The Sony Cyber-Shot WX series is a quality choice for excursions. This digital 3D camera has a max aperture of F3.5 for wide shots and a max aperture of F6.5 for telephoto pictures. This creates a wide range of options for low-light and overly bright outdoor situations. The 20x optical zoom gets you close to the action from far away. The camera comes with a number of preset settings for the amateur shutterbug. The settings are clearly arranged in the menu and allow you to scroll through night, beach, snow, natural light, portraits, sport and scenery. One of the best things about this 3D digital camera is that it syncs with your smartphone as well. This allows you to share your shots instantly online, but also gives you the option to control the camera through your phone as well. Instead of setting a timer and running into place for those group shots, you can relax and click a button on your phone when everyone Is posed.
The Sony Cyber-Shot WX Series is a pocket-size 3D digital camera that has an impressive 20x optical zoom and an 18MP Exmor R CMOS sensor. It can capture about 500 shots on a full battery charge. It shoots videos at full 1080p HD and can capture a still shot right in the middle of taking a movie. Because the camera is so compact, it has no viewfinder, only a 3-inch LCD screen. It's available in black, red or white.
A lot of different cameras offer 3D capabilities, from pocket point-and-shoots to more sophisticated superzoom units that use built-in software effects to stitch together two photos into a 3D image. Make sure you know why you're buying the camera. If you have another camera you'll be using for 2D shots, consider cameras made specifically for shooting in 3D. If you like the option of 3D but plan to use the camera for still 2D shots as well, look for cameras that offer more all-around features, with dedicated 3D cameras being more of a secondary choice.
Lastly, don't forget that purchasing a 3D digital camera is an investment beyond just the camera. 2D cameras work everywhere. As long as you have a computer and internet connection, you're ready to share your memories. 3D cameras are different. You'll need a 3D TV or a 3D-capable computer, which are both more expensive than standard models. In most cases, you'll also need 3D glasses – more than a few pairs if you plan to share your pictures with the entire family. If you're willing to make the investment, a quality digital 3D camera will add depth to your memories and create a richer experience when shooting home movies.