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I've been using a Sony HD camera, a DSC-HX5V which is a pretty good video /still camera, but there has been some camera noise on the videos. As I need to take some pretty important once-in-a-lifetime video I decided to buy one of these 3D camcorders. Even if I cannot watch the video in 3D just yet, I can rest assured it will be stored away safely for future editing.
I needed a camera that would take good indoor video, and preferably stills, in fairly low-light indoor conditions. I prefer not to use flash. The ability to record High Definition video was important for playing back on the laptop or the television. I mulled over the relevance of 3D for some time but then decided to give it a go. After all, I'd miss the chance to record the grandchild growing up in a 3D world if I didn't move soon.
The Sony HDR-TD10E seemed to be the only camera available that would do the job. Others were available but the quality was much lower or interchangeable lenses were required. I was not bothered about 3D still photos, just video. I had already invested £40 odd on High Definition video editing software from Sony: Movie Studio HD Platinum Production Suite, which was quite happy editing video from my earlier camera and promised to be able to do the same for 3D. My computer needed to be updated too. This was getting to be some expensive kid, especially as I'd had to buy an expensive sportscar just to go see him. Maybe he was just the excuse I needed for a late life crisis purchasing spree...
The PC was a Sony Viao F22 laptop, an I7 unit that promised a good media performance on video processing.
Now it is not that I work for Sony or anything like that, it is just that I find their products just keep on going, are well made and perform to the sort of standard I expect as an enthusiastic amateur.
The HDR-TD10E is quite a large camcorder. Bigger than usual, but obviously not as large as the pro units. It is about twice as big as a normal camcorder, but then again it is two camcorders side by side. Two lenses are sunken in the front end, behind an automatically opening and closing shutter. The two lenses fascinate the grandchild, being like shiny blue eyes. They are nearly as far apart as human eyes. I was concerned the camera would be too big and heavy but it has not proved to be a problem. It is too big to go in your pocket but discrete to carry around in the palm of your hand. Your hand goes through the adjustable strap, fingers over the camera and fingertips fall naturally onto the zoom control and still photo shutter button. Thumb falls naturally onto the Video start stop button to the right rear corner of the camera. Where you are likely to touch the camera body it is finished in a rubbery leather-textured material that feels quite OK to touch. I have quite small hands and I have no trouble handling the camera. There is a tendency to accidentally activate the zoom control, but I'll learn not to do it.
The camera switches on as you open the screen door, on the left side of the camera. There is no other way to switch it on. Once the door is open a power button is exposed, which can be used to switch it off with the screen door open, or to switch back on if the camera is off or has gone into standby. Also exposed is a button to switch between camera and playback modes and a 2D/3D button that controls the display. Which brings me on to 3D.
This camera is very much 3 camera in one. The MODE and 2D/3D buttons on the rear of the camera switch between these 3 cameras.
Firstly there is a camera for taking 2D still HD photos. There are plenty of settings and options to play with, but not so many as on a compact camera such as on a Sony DSC compact camera such as the HX5V. The mode press-button on the rear of the camera switches between movie and still photography. The camera does not take panoramas. The camera has a powerful flash that is available, if wanted, in 2D still mode.
The second camera is a 2D HD video camera. Click on the mode button to select video, and slide the 2D/3D button to 2D. There are plenty of video options to explore in this mode. The camera does not have a light, but does have a hot-shoe for such a device.
The third camera is a 3D HD video which you get to be sliding the 2D/3D switch to 3D. There is far less optional functionality available in 3D than there is when recording in 2D, but as I tend to everything in Auto anyway that is not a problem.
The fourth camera option you might have expected, of 3D still photography, is not available. Personally I'd have had a 3 way switch on the back to cover the three camera modes, rather than two 2-way switches with a redundant fourth position.
The screen is capable of displaying 3D video images, without the need for special glasses, and it really does work. Apparently there are two screens, one on top of the other, and the images are angled to each eye, one screen to each eye. It takes a moment to get used to and you need to be about a foot away and to align carefully with the screen, but it does work very well. How Sony get those little 3D people behind the screen, in bright colourful HD detail I do not know! But there they are! With the screen door open you expose a 2D/3D display button so you can film in 3D while the screen displays in 2D. As 3D can cause eye-strain problems this is a very good idea if filming for an extended period.
The screen is 3 inches across and two inches deep, much the same shape as an HD telly. It is a touch screen, bright, but difficult to use on a sunny day. The screen rotates so you can also look down from above the camera to video under the table without being seen, or from the front so you can see yourself being filmed, or from underneath, presumably so you can video over window-cills without showing yourself. Seriously though, it is handy if you don't want to keep the camera up at eye level for long periods while you are filming.
The camera has an SD card slot, available when the screen door is open. I found a 4 gigabyte Class 4 SD card worked perfectly well, holding 15 minutes of 3D HD video. The camera itself has a 64 gigabyte internal memory, which I managed to half fill on a weeks holiday and has a capacity of about 4 hours of 3D video. That is pretty good but you need plenty of backup storage to deal with it. I've purchased a terabyte hard drive (£50) and a box of bluray 25gigabyte disks for backups.
I do think if you are getting into this type of video recording and editing you do need to think well beyond the camera and on to processing power, storage, backup, editing software and display. For me it has meant replacing everything.
The camera has a bunch of microphones along the lower front edge and can record in stereo or 5.1 surround sound. I've found that the audio has great presence and I always record in 5.1 surround.
The still camera is 7.1 megapixels, but is really only 5 megapixels if you take shots in wide format, which I always do. The zoom is rated as 17X, but that is only in 2D or still mode, dropping to 10X in 3D. That's not a problem though, as 3D photography is not really meant for long range telephoto type photography anyway. The 3D effect is best for nearby movement or for objects at varying distances from the camera. Taking a 3D shot of a group of friends, all standing still at a fixed distance from a flat background, will result in a video of a rather strange group of flat cardboard cut-out people!
The battery supplied with the camera perches on the back of the camera, just like other video cameras I have owned. It's rather odd if you are coming to a camcorder from a still camera with the batteries inside. The battery does not last anywhere near long enough to fill up the camera. I allow for half an hour of video before a recharge and then put it straight on to recharge. Recharge times are slow, so if you think you'll need extra batteries then check out the price before you buy this camera. The camera comes in at a whopping £1000 anyway. Don't spend that much if you really don't intend to take video in 3D as I'll bet there are better 2D HD cameras around for a lot less. You may well end up spending twice that much again on all the other kit you'll need, software, laptop, 3D television, 3D monitor and storage. But if 3D is that important to you at this moment, then it is a good buy.
The camera comes with a number of connectors. To the rear and to the left of the battery, are two opening covers containing a microphone and headphone socket, an HDMI socket and an AV connector socket. Cables are supplied for the latter two.
To the rear right hand side of the camera is a sliding hatch with a USB connector and the DC in power supply socket. Again cables and a power supply are provided. The connectors all look to be proprietary Sony designs, but I'm not qualified to say for sure. On the top of the camera is a hot shoe with what seems like a rather flimsy hatch cover, but I doubt I'll ever use it. There is a knob on the front of the camera which is programmable and to which you can assign one of a variety of camera functions. Just above the lens is the flash. There is a socket for a tripod underneath, as you'd expect.
The touch screen display has loads of functions. Some are for simple functionality like the touch-screen duplication of the functionality of the zoom lever on the top of the camera and an on-screen touch to record red button. For more complex functions there are half a dozen screen icons to switch between shooting/recording mode, camera functions, image settings, playback, editing and copying off-camera and general setup. Below that level there are a multitude of functions. At first it can be difficult to remember where you are in all this functionality, but it comes good after a few hours of use. If all that is too much you can still set the switch to 3D and point it and press start and get excellent results.
When filming I tend to steady the camera by lightly supporting the underneath edge of the camera screen door. This is quite adequate to obtain rock steady video as the image stabilisation software is very good. IT is a relatively heavy camera so supporting it in one hand alone can test the stabilisation software somewhat. Having said that I found it locked on to the horizon flawlessly while I filmed from a heavily pitching boat, holding on to the boat with one hand and the camera with the other.
Finally, the image quality. Well, I can only compare to other cameras I have owned, in particular the 2010 DSC-HX5V from Sony. The HX5V and the TD100E seem to use similar Sony technology. I find they are both very capable in low light low contrast situations. For example, photographing friends in a cafe without the disturbing effects of flash. Or photographing a grandchild without the washing-out effect of flash fired at close proximity. Both take excellent photos outdoors, but neither is keen on high contrast situations with dark and bright areas of light. The light areas are just a little over-exposed.
Where the camcorder scores noticeably is in the quality of audio, with no mechanical camera noises being picked up by the microphones, and in the quality of the HD video. In 3D video mode the detail in the HDR-TD10E video is noticeably better. At a fairground, at night, I could count the number of individual lightbulbs on the wheels, whereas with the HX5 I could only count areas of colour containing a dozen or so bulbs in each. Prior to that experience I had been very satisifed with the HD video quality on my little digital camera. And now I was getting this increase in performance in 3D.
For editing the amount of video this camera can record you will need suitable software. As the video format is Sony proprietary I use the Sony Vegas product I mentioned above. 3D video is edited as easily as 2D video and is easily uploaded to Youtube.
The camera does not come with a camera bag, so you'll need to buy one of those. There is a cheap paper starter manual and a CD rom containing a full manual with plenty to read for gadget lovers like me. The CD-rom also contains the Sony Picture Motion Browser (PMB) which I quite like to use. Stills, 2D video and 3D video are all handled perfectly allowing you to store and retrieve from your mass of media. The HDR-TD10E has basic video editing built in to the camera and you can undertake similar tasks with PMB. However this is not an adequate approach if you really want to get into editing of your video, which I'm sure will be the case if you are in the market for a camera like this. So have a look at Sony Vegas, Magix or one of the other similar editing programs on the market.