Single-lens 3D cameras: The major players in one-lens, casual 3D shooting are Olympus, Panasonic and Sony. All those companies now offer several single-lens point-and-shoot cameras that capture.MPO images in 3D. In general, the 3D effects aren't as stunning as you'll see with a traditional twin-lens setup, but the cameras provide convenient entry points into 3D.
Announced at CES, the Olympus SP-610UZ megazoom camera and the Olympus TG-610 and TG-310 rugged cameras have on-screen guides that help you create a simulated dual-lens image by following in-camera controls. You snap a first shot, and the camera guides you via accelerometer-driven on-screen controls to frame the second shot of the 3D image. The wide-angle 22X optical zoom lens of the SP-610UZ and the underwater-shooting capabilities of the TG-610 and TG-310 should offer some very creative uses for the cameras' 3D modes: topography-friendly mountain vistas and Jaws 3D-style oncoming fish, for example. (Update 2/10/2011: Olympus has added another 3D-capable single-lens camera to its 2011 lineup: the 18X-optical-zoom Olympus SZ-10.)
Last year, Sony was the first company to offer single-lens, 3D-capable cameras (the Alpha NEX-5, Cyber-shot WX5, and Cyber-shot TX5), and it will add five new 3D-capable Cyber-shot cameras in 2011. The Cyber-shot HX7V, TX10, TX100V, WX9, and WX10 all offer a new 3D Still Image mode, which creates a 3D image after you simply take a picture as you normally would. The new cameras also have the same 3D Sweep Panorama mode as last year's models, which lets you pan the camera from side to side and create an ultra-wide-angle .MPO image. The cameras' Sweep Multi Angle mode lets you view a 3D effect during in-camera playback by tilting the camera from side to side. The Cyber-shot TX10 is also waterproof, so you can shoot underwater 3D photos with it. (Update 2/10/2011: Sony has added two more 3D-capable single-lens cameras to its 2011 lineup: the 16X-optical-zoom Cyber-shot HX9V and the 30X-optical-zoom HX100V.)
Panasonic just announced three new Lumix cameras that pack a similar 3D-shooting mode. The 16X-optical-zoom Lumix ZS10, the ultraslim touchscreen-operated Lumix FX78, and the rugged Lumix TS3 have a side-to-side panning 3D mode similar to the one found in Sony's cameras. Of the three, the TS3 is also ruggedized and lets you take underwater 3D shots.
Conversion lenses for 2D cameras and camcorders: Panasonic's entries for 3D still and video capture use detachable twin-lens 3D converters, making them good options for anyone who wants to dabble in 3D.
The Lumix GH-FT012 (12.5mm, f/12) lens works with Panasonic's interchangeable-lens Micro Four-Thirds Lumix DMC-GH2, GF2, and G2 cameras. With the lens attached, each camera snaps two side-by-side 3-megapixel images, and then combines them in the camera to create a single .MPO-format image. The lens, sold separately from the cameras, costs $250.
Meanwhile, Panasonic has six new camcorders that support the VW-CLT1 3D Conversion Lens introduced with last year's groundbreaking HDC-SDT750 camcorder. The HDC-HS900, HDC-SD90, HDC-SD800, HDC-SD900, HDC-TM90, and HDC-TM900 are compact high-definition camcorders that shoot 960-by-1080 video with each lens when the separately sold 3D lens is attached. It uses "side by side" technology to display the video in 3D during playback, which stretches the 960-line-wide horizontal resolution of each visual channel across the full 1920-line resolution of a 1080p HDTV screen. This entails a downgrade in resolution when you play back video in 3D.
Theoretically, twin-lens setups can shoot both 3D stills and 3D video, but Panasonic's cameras and camcorders do one or the other (but not both) with their 3D conversion lenses: The G-series cameras take 3D still images with the conversion lens attached, and the camcorders shoot 3D video with their conversion lens attached.