The best 3D camcorder you can buy without a mortgage?
If you’re going to do 3D video properly you don’t want the left and right views to share the same lenses or sensors. No, far better to give each view its own lens and hi-def sensor, as the Sony HDR-TD10 does. That theory is backed up by the footage the TD10 records – the best we've seen so far, although it’s not leagues ahead of its arch rival, the JVC TD1.
Cramming two lenses and two sizeable Exmor chips into the body gives the TD10 a hefty waistline that makes it look like a tape-based camcorder from a decade ago, and that broad base means that it doesn’t sit as comfortably in the hand as we’d like.
While it may not be easy to hold, it is easy to use. Unlike the step-by-step calibration required by other 3D camcorders, the TD10 asks you to pan around your environment and then calibrates itself when it sees enough depth in the scene. Apart from a thumbwheel and the basic zoom and shoot controls, everything else is controlled from the 3D touchsreen.
Thankfully this continues Sony’s market-bucking trend by being very responsive. This is no iPhone-style interface but you won’t spend all day stabbing it with your fingernail. It’s also sharp and bright enough to be used outdoors, and successfully produces strong 3D images. The viewing angle for the 3D effect is fine for setting up shots and reviewing footage, although you’ll get ghosting if you view it from the side.
Strength in depth
The TD10’s footage is where it really blows you away. In both 2D and 3D, shots are noticeably sharper than any of its rivals, and it picks up plenty of detail under both natural and artificial light. The auto-mode errs on the dimmer side of things, but not enough to be condemned as underexposure. A side-by-side comparison with the TD1 reveals that where the Sony’s images are sharper, the JVC’s are brighter, but an easy thumbwheel adjustment evens that out.
The sweet-spot for 3D footage varies according to your zoom setting, but is noticeably deep. The 3D effect is more nuanced than extravagant, creating a genuinely multi-layered look rather than a single, striking foreground/ background contrast. Use it in a busy environment such as a coffee bar and you’ll be impressed by the number of different planes that build up convincing depth in your shots.
The 5.1 surround sound is so good it makes other camcorders sound like they’ve had their microphones stuffed with cotton wool. By a very narrow margin, the TD10 trumps its 3D rivals. It’s cheaper and sharper than the TD1, has a more extensive zoom and a more responsive touchscreen, all wrapped up in a smaller footprint.