3D Vision Blog

A normal user's look into the world of 3D Stereo Technologies

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About the 3D Sweep Panorama Mode in Some Sony Digital Cameras

October 20th, 2010 · 7 Comments · Shooting in 3D

By now you probably know that Sony still does not have a consumer digital camera that can take 3D pictures, for example like the Fujifilm’s Real 3D W1/W3 cameras, but instead has opted out for a somewhat creative approach until they are ready to release such full fledged 3D-capable product. Sony’s engineers have further advanced the Sweep Panorama mode available in some of their digital cameras in order for the user to be able to easily take 3D photos and have ingeniously called the new mode 3D Sweep Panorama. At the moment there are number of Sony products that do have support for that mode and these include both digital cameras from the CyberShot and Alpha series and to be more specific here is a list: Sony CyberShot WX5 and TX9, Sony Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5, Sony Alpha 33 and Alpha 55, Sony Alpha 560 and Alpha 580. If you have any of these digital cameras you will be able to take advantage of the 3D Sweep Panorama to take 3D panoramic photos as the name of the function suggests, but let me take a bit more detailed look in what exactly you get and can do with that special mode…

First let me start with the fact that the name 3D Sweep Panorama is a bit misleading and actually creates some confusion among most of the users, making them believe that this mode can only be used to take stereoscopic 3D panorama photos. However you can also use the 3D Sweep Panorama mode in order to take non-panoramic 3D photos that don’t span across wide viewing angles, but are more like a normal 3D photo you can take with a 3D digital camera. However if you ask some general people that have heard about this mode, even some Sony guys that are not very familiar with this specific function and surprisingly enough even some people that do have a 3D Sweep Panorama capable camera you may get mixed results and most likely quite a lot of them will be unaware of the fact that the cameras can also take 3D pictures that are not in the form of a panorama. The reason for that is first the fact that the name is a bit misleading, the fact that all the press materials about the availability of the function are only talking about panoramic 3D capabilities and the not so intuitive implementation you have in order to change the mode. In order to be able to shoot stereo 3D photos you will have to switch to the 3D Sweep Panorama mode and from the Image Size menu select 16:9 mode instead of Normal or Wide panorama…

Of course if you read the manual carefully you should be aware of that function, but who reads the full manual of any product nowadays. The other option is to play for a while with a 3D Sweep Panorama-capable digital camera and try different things in order for you to discover the presence of that mode by yourself. Last weekend I had the chance to play with some of the Sony digital cameras that do support the 3D Sweep Panorama mode and I myself have discovered the availability of the 16:9 mode for shooting 3D photos instead of wide 3D panoramas. And then I’ve also checked the electronic manuals to confirm it and I can say that I’m pretty knowledgeable in the area of 3D technology, not to mention that I do try to follow all 3D-related product and service announcements. And I was aware of the mode, what it does and how it is working, but apparently not well enough to know about the 16:9 3D photo mode and I’m pretty sure that a lot of the general public is also not aware about that too.

But anyway, the positive result form tinkering for a while with the 3D Sweep Panorama mode on the Sony cameras you will see here on the blog pretty soon… I’m talking about replicating the same results with a camera that does not support that mode from Sony or form another manufacturer. Being able to make 3D photos and 3D panoramas with a plain 2D digital camera is not a hard task, provided that you follow some simple rules and do some quick and easy processing with the 2D photos you take. I’ll get back with more details about that in another post of course and now let me return to the 3D Sweep Panorama mode.

As you should know taking a 3D photo requires you to shoot the same scene twice with a bit of a horizontal offset between each photo, so if you have a camera with two separate sensors you can automate the process and do it with at the same time. However you you need to replicate that with a 2D camera that has just one sensor you can just move the camera a bit on the left/right after you take the first photo and then take the second one. But thanks to the consecutive shooting modes available in almost all modern digital cameras you are able to shoot photos with a speed of a few frames per second, and if you add a horizontal movement of the camera to left/right while you hold the button to shoot multiple photos on the camera you can pretty much automate that process. Add a bit of processing after that of the photos that were taken and you pretty much get the basic functionality of the 3D Sweep Panorama mode, of course Sony has packaged that into a nice and simple to use mode for pretty much anyone that can use a digital camera.

And while with a little practice you can learn to get pretty good results with the 3D Sweep Panorama mode, you should be aware that it is not a true replacement for a 3D camera as it does have its own limitations and specifics. For example it is not applicable for use with moving objects as you take multiple photos for a few seconds and then they are being combined into a single 3D photo and if something has changed its position between two different frames it will not look very good when stitched and watched in stereo 3D mode. Another specific is that you usually get flatter looking 3D photos and you generally can’t shoot objects that are too close or too far from you, although you can still achieve some very nice looking results and by adding a bit of 3D theory and with some practice it is not a feature to have for making 3D photos. And with a Sony Alpha you can get much less noise on a 3D photo if you compare to Fuji’s W1 and probably W3 results… ;)

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Testing Fujifilm Real 3D W1 Camera in Different Light Conditions

October 9th, 2010 · 7 Comments · Shooting in 3D

By now you should all know that shooting in 3D requires more light for good results, the light is needed to bring up more details and darkness is a total enemy of the 3D, because when it is dark you loose detail and get noise instead. So one thing I was not happy about the Fujifilm Real 3D W1 camera I have and use for a few months was the fact that it produces quite a lot of noise (maybe I’m too spoiled from using DSLR), especially when there is not enough light – for example when shooting in 3D indoors. And I’ve been meaning to do some more testing in order to see how the level of the ambient light affects the quality of the 3D photos you can take with the camera. So I finally did a controller test with different light intensity, shooting some photos in 3D with the W1 3D camera and under different settings from the camera menu – both in automatic and manual modes and with and without the use of the built-in flash. The photos were taken indoors with the traditional office lightning using fluorescent lamps as well as additional photographic lights that were used to bring up the level of the light for the purposes of the test…

All the test photos were of two 1.5V batteries (bigger and smaller) next to each other on a seamless white background which is not the best idea for getting good and easily distinguishable 3D effect, but the focus were the batteries in the center and the level of detail we get with each shot under different conditions. It is important to note that all the photos were taken at 10 megapixel resolution, which is the maximum for the sensor used in the W1 camera with the highest level of quality in order for the image compression to bring as little as possible additional quality loss. The use of higher resolution for the original image gives you some advantage, because you can resize and crop them after that to 1920×1080 resolution which is pretty much the highest widely available resolution for 3D displays. And this way you will be able to lessen the negative impact of noise over the photos, but it might not always help that much. But lets start with the photos shot in different conditions. Have in mind that the photos below are cropped to show just the center part of the original images where the two batteries are, but there is just cropping and no resizing/resampling done on them.

Fujifilm W1 on Auto, without flash

1. With light intensity of 100 lux – 1/85 sec, F4, ISO 800
2. With light intensity of 1000 lux – 1/110 sec, F4, ISO 200
3. With light intensity of 1800 lux – 1/85 sec, F4, ISO 100
4. With light intensity of 2600 lux – 1/125 sec, F4, ISO 100
5. With light intensity of 3300 lux – 1/160 sec, F4, ISO 100

Fujifilm W1 on Auto, with forced flash

6. With light intensity of 3300 lux – 1/300 sec, F4, ISO 200
7. With light intensity of 2600 lux – 1/220 sec, F4, ISO 200
8. With light intensity of 1800 lux – 1/150 sec, F4, ISO 200
9. With light intensity of 1000 lux – 1/90 sec, F4, ISO 200
10. With light intensity of 100 lux – 1/60 sec, F4, ISO 400

Fujifilm W1 on Manual, F4, no flash, 100 lux

11. Set at ISO 100 – 1/13 sec
12. Set at ISO 200 – 1/25 sec
13. Set at ISO 400 – 1/52 sec
14. Set at ISO 800 – 1/100 sec
15. Set at ISO 1600 – 1/150 sec

Fujifilm W1 on Manual, F4, no flash, 3300 lux

16. Set at ISO 100 – 1/150 sec
17. Set at ISO 200 – 1/320 sec
18. Set at ISO 400 – 1/500 sec
19. Set at ISO 800 – 1/500 sec*
20. Set at ISO 1600 – 1/500 sec*

* The camera did not go to over 1/500 sec exposure, so the photos were overexposed

Fujifilm W1 on Manual, F4, with forced flash, 100 lux

21. Set at ISO 100 – 1/60 sec
32. Set at ISO 200 – 1/60 sec
43. Set at ISO 400 – 1/60 sec
54. Set at ISO 800 – 1/90 sec
25. Set at ISO 1600 – 1/200 sec

And just as a reference 3300 lux light intensity is roughly equivalent to a bright day with some light clouds covering the sun, with no direct sunlight. And from all the testing I can conclude that the best visual results seem to be achieved with ISO 100, F4 and 1/60-1/90 sec exposure provided that you have enough light for these conditions. Unfortunately having higher ambient light intensity does not mean that the level of noise even at the lowest ISO 100 setting gets reduced, you can say that the level of noise remains pretty much constant as a minimum even at best possible conditions… it is just that the camera is not capable of better results. I do hope that the new Fuji W3 camera will provide better results and will have less noise in the 3D photos it produces as well as the video, although I do not have much higher expectations. The only more attractive feature that the W3 provides is the 720p 3D video mode as compared to the 640×480 resolution currently available on the W1, but that is currently not that big of a reason for me to upgrade.

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