It's 3D Jim, but not as I'd like it....
I have been a pocket hybrid fan for many years, the perfect tool for the photographer and would-be film maker for the times he doesn't want a camera hanging round his neck. Being able to shoot stills which will stand A4 printing, and video that will look ok on a large screen TV with something that will slip in your jeans pocket has been something like the search for the Holy Grail for me.
I started when you could only get passable video on mini dv - I bought a JVC GR-DVX507 which made decent SD video but took incredibly poor stills and was just small enough to get in my jacket pocket. One thing I did appreciate was the 10x optical zoom and one handed operation a pistol-grip style camera made possible.
I watched with interest the development of flash memory cameras and as soon as it was launched I splashed out on a Sanyo Xacti HD1. My reason for going to HD was I assumed the video would be poorer quality than a mini dv but by the time I shrank it to SD it would be comparable - and I think it was. The 5MP stills were mediocre but good enough that I exhibited and sold A4 prints from it. And it was half the size of the JVC, just I didn't always want to wear a jacket ....
So a couple of years later I discovered the Canon Powershot TX1. I'd had one of those gorgeous stainless steel box Ixuses some years before, and here was one that was a pistol grip camcorder! The 720HD video was perhaps only marginally better than the Sanyo's but the camera was tough, fitted in my jeans pocket, had a 10x optical zoom (like the Sanyo), optical stabilisation and great 8MP stills. Oh, and a funky lens barrel that motored out when you turned it on!
So I stuck with my TX1 even after I burnt a patch on the sensor from shooting into the sun too long, and even though the lens at it's widest angle is not wide enough for lots of holiday snap situations, I hoped there's be a TX2 but it never came.
But then 3D came along and in a mad desire to embrace it I dropped all my 'essential' requirements - as long as it shot in 3D it didn't have to be pistol grip, it didn't have to have 10x optical zoom - but it did still have to have good video and good stills and fit in my jeans pocket.
I tried a Fuji Pinepix Real 3d W3 earlier this year and my belief that 3D was the way to go was confirmed. It has a gorgeous 3D screen which I had so much fun with (till my eyes stopped working), but incredibly considering it was so much newer than my TX1 the still and video quality, even in 2D was much worse than my Canon, so it went back. I did discover that I could just about film one handed though, so was less worried about insisting on a pistol grip style replacement, and its 3x optical zoom was almost enough.
Since returning the Fuji I've been waiting for the price of the only other option, the Panasonic DMC-3D1 to come down from its horrendous starting point, and this week managed to get an affordable one. I'd decided that if the stills and videos are even only as good as my Canon, I'd keep it.
Well, what can I say. I'm disappointed to say that the 12MP stills are worse than my old 8MP Canon's, however the 1080 video is just about on a par with my 720 Canon videos after upscaling to 1080. But it is significantly slimmer than the TX1, lighter, and has no dark patch where the sun used to be in videos it shoots!
So I've decided to keep the DMC-3D1 despite the following disappointments, just so I can have 3d stills and 3d videos to look back on in years to come:
• Stills even at 100 iso 12MB Fine (best) quality are poor compared with current standards - I expect this is down to the lenses as the file size doesn't indicate over compression of the jpgs.
• While there are decent control options (Scene types, ISO control etc) in 2D shooting - YOU CAN ONLY SHOOT 3D IN FULL AUTO (big surprise and disappointment)
• No zoom available during 3D filming
• The camera does not allow you to shoot 3D closer than 90cm - I have some brilliant shots I took with the Fuji at half this distance and less, fantastic popping out 3D still life images. This is such a waste!
• Why no autostereoscopic screen ????????????????????
• You can not view an image in playback without ugly icons overlaying them - so even though its a nice big screen its just unusable for showing your images to people.
• You have to have the lens cover down all the time the camera is on - even when just reviewing images, even though there is a separate on/off button???
• The menus are tortuous and slow - you can set up two shortcuts but 4 or 6 would be better.
So yes, although this is an important stop gap, I don't suppose it will find a place in my heart like the TX1. What I would give for a TX2.......