JVC have just topped off their popular Everio camcorder range with a strange-looking beast. The twin lenses may be rather reminiscent of Wall-E, but they are the secret behind its effortlessly brilliant 3D capture.
The TD1 uses twin lenses and sensors, which means you get the advantage of all the standard features of a camcorder, unlike the 3D beamsplitter conversion kit for the current Panasonic cameras. There is no degradation in the picture quality or lighting level when shooting in 3D and you can still use the zoom and even take 3D stills. Better yet, because it can, the TD1 offers the option to record two independent streams as well as the popular side-by-side format - this means you can get true 1920x1080 HD in 3D, though you might be stuck for something to play it back on.
Flip out the LCD and assuming you are in 3D mode (if not, there is a giant illuminated button on the rear of the camera for you to press) you will be treated to a live preview of the 3D effect. This looks amazing, even taking into account the limited viewing angle and the slightly odd impression of looking through a sieve. It’s more than enough to let you know whether the 3D effect is working as intended.
The panel is also touch enabled to change settings or flip through the playback mode, although one consequence of this is the screen is glossy and not great for playback in all conditions – the lack of an electronic viewfinder makes this a harsher blow.
Use your intelligence
The intelligent auto mode is perfect for straightforward shooting, but challenging conditions may have you descending to the murky depths of manual mode. There is a slight issue here, because it is practically impossible to get to the adjustments you may want to make without much prodding of the screen, or via the relatively hard to use buttons on the rear. A thumbwheel control does make some settings a little easier, but its still a case of stopping shooting for a few minutes to work it all out. The added complexity of the 3D settings means that it may take a while to master. The good news is that the auto mode is so good, you’ll rarely need to twiddle.
Great in any dimension
Overall picture quality is superb in 2D or 3D. The super fast f1.2 lenses gobble up any passing photons to give great results even in low lighting levels and will happily focus on anything from a few inches away to infinity. A 10x optical zoom comes in handy for sports, and although this does flatten out the 3D effect somewhat, it is still noticeably there.
On a big screen you can see that as well as doing a great job on depth, the captured video is clear and colourful right to the edges, with little trace of artefacts even when paused if you shoot in the highest quality mode.
Although the image stabiliser does a creditably job, you may still want to budget for a tripod to make the most of this device. At over half a kg, it isn’t the sort of device you can tote around all day without noticing it, and though well-balanced, tired arms lead to shaky shots.
As a camcorder, it may lack some of the finer things you would expect on a top of the range device (EVF, flash, automatic lens cover) but as a 3D camcorder, it is currently without equal. Things may change with the imminent arrival of the Sony HDR-TD10 though.