Panasonic has announced it is developing a digital 3D interchangeable lens for the Micro Four Thirds system, to be launched by the end of the year. The lens will include two optical paths, projecting left and right image pairs onto the camera sensor. These twin images can later be combined to provide a single 3D image using the company's 3D image processing system and displayed using one of its Viera televisions. The company says it will be the first such lens for a digital system.

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Editorial comment:

Panasonic's HDC-SDT750 camcorder, launched this morning, uses an accessory lens that projects two images onto its sensor, using half the sensor to capture the right-hand perspective of the image and the other half to capture the left-hand perspective.

This video footage with side-by-side images can be played back as a 3D video with the advantage that both perspectives are captured at the same time. We would expect the announced lens to work in a similar manner.

The system is likely to work in a similar manner to the one introduced with the company's HDC-SDT750 camcorder, launched earlier this morning. This attachment lens also projects pairs of images onto the sensor of a modified version of one of the company's existing camcorders. Unlike this system, the development press release for the Micro Four Thirds lens focuses on still images - it is not yet clear whether existing Micro Four Thirds cameras could (or could be modified to) shoot video with the lens.

Press Release:

Panasonic to Launch World’s First* Interchangeable 3D Lens for LUMIX G Micro System**

Panasonic is pleased to announce the development of the world's first* twin digital interchangeable lens. The revolutionary new accessory will make high quality 3D shooting possible with an interchangeable lens system camera for the very first time. As 3D content becomes increasingly popular across a variety of platforms, Panasonic plans to release this new lens for sale before the end of the year to deliver the joy and excitement of 3D shooting to interchangeable lens system camera users.

Having already taken the lead in 3D technology, Panasonic has had great success with the launch of their 3D-capable VIERA televisions and 3D Blu-rayTM Disc Players. The 3D market is predicted to steadily grow over the coming years, as explained by industry analysts, Screen Digest: “As consumers slowly replace the main TV set in their house, and as the price of 3D TVs continue to fall, Screen Digest expects that 3D TVs will be in around a quarter of households in major developed markets by the end of 2014***. “

The introduction of the 3D lens aims to respond to demands of consumers who want to enjoy 3D shooting for themselves whilst also expanding Panasonic’s range of 3D products. The lens will allow users to capture images in 3D which can then be viewed back using 3D-capable VIERA televisions in the comfort of their own home. 

“As consumers slowly replace the main TV set in their house, and as the price of 3D TVs continue to fall, Screen Digest expects that 3D TVs will be in around a quarter of households in major developed markets by the end of 2014. “

Until now, 3D shooting with an interchangeable lens system camera has only been possible by using panorama systems or a combination of two lenses and two CCDs, but these systems have drawbacks including the need for a dedicated 3D camera and the difficulties of capturing moving objects. Panasonic's new 3D lens for the LUMIX G Micro System features two optical systems installed within the diameter of the lens mount, creating stereo images from the left and right lenses, to be processed with a 3D image processing system. Thanks to Panasonic's advancements in optical technology, image processing system, and lens barrel design, the 3D lens still manages to retain an extremely compact size.

This new compact 3D-capable interchangeable lens allows easier handling and instant 3D shooting, producing 3D images without distortion or time lag between left and right images, even for moving objects.

Through expanding its range of 3D products, Panasonic will continue to lead the industry by bringing a true-to-life 3D experience to its customers.

* For a digital interchangeable lens of July 28, 2010
**Compatible models to be announced
*** Screen Digest, ‘Bringing 3D Home: the opportunities for 3D broadcast’, 2010