Hands-On: Panasonic 3D Ready Camcorder
Late this summer Smart-Review got to try out Panasonic’s TM90K 3D camcorder along with the optional VW-CLT1 3D conversion lens. Panasonic has 5 models of HD camcorders in 2011 that can be mated with this 3D Lens. These 3D camcorders have built-in software to work with the lens. In this article we will show you how a 3D conversion lens is fitted and adjusted to work with a Panasonic camcorder. What is nice about a 3D conversion lens is that it only needs to be attached when you need 3D. Adding an additional lens can make the camcorder bulkier. When the lens is off, you have your normal HD camcorder.The VW-CLT1 conversion lens includes a lens bag, step-up ring adapter (connects the camera to the lens), and a lens cap that doubles as an alignment target when adjusting the 3D lens once it is mated to the camcorder.
Attaching the lens to the camcorder: To attach the 3D lens to the Panasonic TM90 camcorder, you first have to attach the step-up ring adapter to the camcorder. Then, once secure, you attach the 3D conversion lens to the other side of the step-up ring adapter. Make sure that the lens and camcorder are locked firmly to the adapter. If it is not, you may not get good 3D results.
Adjusting the lens settings: Once the lens and camcorder are mated, you can now turn on the camcorder. The camcorder will sense that the lens is attached and go into 3D adjustment mode. The lens must be perfectly adjusted or you risk getting double images in your 3D videos. Panasonic tries to make this simple by having you go step by step using their help screens on the camcorder. The lens cap is translucent (allowing light to pass through) and has targets on it for alignment. There are three adjustment steps. The adjustments are done by lifting a pop-up panel on the lens which has three dials (see image on left).
3D Settings Screens: The TM90 and other Panasonic 3D camcorders will guide you through the settings with screens such as the one on the right. These settings will assure that the lens is perfectly aligned for 3D so you don’t see ghosts and double images as seen on some 3D TVs. It takes a couple of minutes to make the adjustments, but once the settings are completed you are good as long as you don’t bump the lens (which could put the lens out of alignment). After adjustment, you are ready to take 3D movies.
Watching your 3D Movies on a 3D TV: To watch video in 3D, you will need a 3D TV. You can connect the 3D camcorder to your 3D TV with a mini HDMI cord. Another way to view the movies are to copy them from your computer (after you download the videos to your computer with the included software from Panasonic) and put them on a USB thumb drive and plug them into your TV (If your TV supports USB and the movie format of these files). Or as we did, you can use a Sony Playstation 3 which supports 3D (with the latest firmware upgrade). When viewing these videos, you must set your TV to 3D mode and to the “Side by Side” method of 3D. The 3D conversion lens splits the view into two pictures (simulating your left and right eye). The 3D TV will take both images and combine them into one image, which the 3D glasses will then turn into a 3D image.
Related Article: 3D TV Buying Guide
Smart-Review Commentary: We believe that the Panasonic TM90k, TM900k are some of the best HD camcorders in 2011. The 3D conversion lens and 3D functions are a bonus. Our tests with the 3D lens produced videos with a good 3D effect for items within 20 feet of the lens. The one letdown was that the resolution of the video was much lower than full HD. This is a result of the lens splitting the resolution of the HD sensor in the camcorder in two. As such the video looked to us somewhere between VHS and DVD resolution. So, if you want to have fun with 3D, this lens is one of the cheapest ways to get 3D. Just be aware of the limitations. If you are serious about 3D, you may want to look at a dedicated full HD 3D camcorder. (These are bulky and cost a lot of money). The TM90k that we tested was an impressive camcorder for the money. The HD 1080p 60 frames per second (2D) video was smooth and extremely clear. We liked that it had an external microphone jack and accessory shoe for better sound. The 21x zoom lens was great.
** Also reviewed on this site is the Panasonic TM900k. This model has many upgraded features to the TM90k including manual functions, larger lens, 3 imagers versus 1 imager, better low light capability, and higher resolution LCD screen.
Replacement for the TM90K for 2013: Panasonic HC-V720K 3D Camcorder
Panasonic V700K Upgrade Option 2012: Panasonic HC-X900MK 3D Camcorder
Related Article: Best Rated HD Camcorders