By Kelli B. Grant
Gadget-makers trying to get more consumers interested in 3D have added a new dimension to their push: photos and home videos that you create. But whether they make for better memories is debatable.
Sprint offers a camera for 3D videos and photos on its new HTC Evo 3D smartphone, and LG is planning to include similar features in its Thrill 4G, to be offered through AT&T later this year. Sony has the high-end 3D high-definition Handycam camcorder and the cheaper video device called the Bloggie. Even Nintendo’s 3DS game system can take 3D photos. And those are just a few of dozens of devices making their way to the market.
Manufacturers and retailers are hoping these devices will do what steep price drops and 3D World Cup game broadcasts couldn’t: get you to buy a 3D TV. “Companies in the electronics business are realizing that personal 3D content is an important part of getting people used to and interested in the technology,” says Stephen Baker, the vice president of industry analysis for NPD Group.
But consumers intrigued by the idea of a 3D slideshow from their latest vacation have some quality issues to contend with. “As much as the industry would like to move 3-D forward, it’s still more of a gimmick than useful feature,” says Michael Gartenberg, a research director with Gartner Research. To create one 3D image, the camera or camcorder compiles two lower-quality 2D images. That means the quality of prints for the family photo album or the 2D cut of a video sent to the grandparents won’t be as sharp or clear as if you’d taken them with a standard device. All the gadgets offering 3D also take 2D photos and video, so the easy if annoying solution is to take every shot twice, once in each mode.
On the price side, buyers could be paying more and getting fewer features. The Sony 8GB 3D Bloggie, for example, sells for $248 at Best Buy; $80 more than the 2D version of the same size. Both shoot HD-quality, but the less-expensive 2D version has more than twice the megapixels and a bigger screen that’s also a touch-screen. (Sony did not respond to requests for comment.)
Then there’s the matter of viewing those images. If you don’t own a computer or television set with 3D capability, you’re limited to a look on the camera, phone or camcorder, which isn’t easy on such small screens. “You have to look at it dead on,” says Gartenberg. It can also be nausea- or headache-inducing, as the The Wall Street Journal notes in its review of Sprint’s Evo 3D.
One thing early adopters don’t need to worry about is whether shifting technology to display 3D content will render the 3D video of baby’s first steps unwatchable. The ongoing industry debate is more a problem if you’re shelling out thousands on a high-end 3D TV set, Baker says. The TV might not be able to play the latest 3D content in a few years, but homemade movies and photos created today should be just fine.