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Panasonic VW-CLT1 3D Conversion Lens review

Panasonic VW-CLT1 3D Conversion Lens


Adds another dimension to Panasonic’s latest range of camcorders, but it's restrictive and expensive

Review Date: 9 Feb 2011

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £234 (£281 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £189
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

4 stars out of 6

After years of failed experiments, 3D is finally becoming a mainstream hit, with 3D movies in the cinema here to stay and even 3D TV beginning to take off. Panasonic now hopes to extend its reach to serious home moviemakers: attach the new VW-CLT1 adapter to any one of its latest range of HD camcorders, and it converts what was a bog-standard 2D HD camcorder instantly into 3D.

The adapter won’t win any awards for practicality, sexy although the 3D capability sounds. It’s a very bulky unit, adding a huge 90mm to the depth of the camera it’s attached to and weighing in at 195g. Owners of the smaller, 41.5mm lens Panasonic models need to use an additional screw-on adapter, extending the depth by a further 10mm. With this beast attached, your camera won’t feel anything like as balanced in the hand as it normally does.

Panasonic VW-CLT1 3D Conversion Lens

It feels a bit like a kludge, and it’s fiddly to attach too, but at least there’s proper integration with the camera’s firmware. Once you’ve bolted the VW-CLT1 in place and turned everything on, it recognises the lens is attached and runs you through a quick setup routine to align its two tiny lenses. A minute or two of twiddling three small dials under the flap on top of the unit and you’re ready to roll.

Shooting in 3D is as straightforward as it is in 2D, but the results are very different. Instead of focusing a single image on the camera’s image sensors, the VW-CLT1 simultaneously records twin images side by side on the camera’s sensor.

Since a wide black border surrounds the images, the resolution isn’t what you’d expect, with an actual resolution for each recorded image of around 830 x 980. To produce the final 3D film, the two images are stretched and combined to give a resolution of 1,660 x 980, again with a wide black border surround the frame.

Playing back that footage on a PC is then a simple matter of downloading one of the many stereoscopic players on offer and playing the file through that, or simply hooking up the camera via HDMI to a compatible 3D TV. If you want to edit in 3D, you need a 3D-enabled editor, such as CyberLink PowerDirector 9 Ultra 64-bit, or the editor provided as part of Roxio’s most recent media suite – Roxio Creator 2011.

That’s the theory, anyway. The big question is how does it work in practice? The answer is, surprisingly well. We played back footage on the Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E reviewed last month, which sports integrated Nvidia 3D Vision hardware, and found the footage conveyed a surprising amount of depth. Subjects in the foreground positively leap from the screen, just like they do in the movies. So you can see it in action, we've embedded a YouTube 3D clip below, shot with the adapter attached to the flagship Panasonic HDC-TM900.

There are limitations, however, and the first of these concerns quality. Since the lenses are so small in diameter, the amount of light hitting the sensor is massively reduced, and this is manifested in the form of noise – lots of it, and because the camera automatically slows the shutter speed, fast-moving objects are subject to smearing in low light.

The next issue is with chromatic aberration: bright lights such as headlights are surrounded by a purple halo. Quality is noticeably and significantly inferior to the camera without the lens attached.

Finally, connecting the 3D lens also disables many of the camcorder’s features. You still get image stabilisation and autofocus, but zoom is disabled, as are features such as face-recognition, subject tracking and focus. The manual controls for focus, shutter and iris control are frozen too. There’s no doubt that the lens is effective, but with such restrictions, and at a hefty £281 inc VAT, only real 3D enthusiasts need apply.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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User comments

Man kann nur zustimmen

Ein sehr schonendes Urteil.
Das Ergebnis der 3D Aufnahmen steht in keinem Verhältnis zum Preis und entschädigt nicht für den enormen Qualitätsverlust der eigentlichen Aufnahmemöglichkeiten mit dem Camcorder. Großer Farbverlust.Somit blasse,fast einfarbige Wiedergabe.
Keine HD-Aufnahmen
Keine Zoom-Möglichkeit.
Die Vorsatzlinse als gelegentliche Spielerei dürfte nicht mehr als 50€ kosten.

By Winterberg11 on 26 Mar 2011

very good 3D performance but mediocre resolution

right, I could not find any sensible review of this product so perhaps my review may help anyone planning to but this lens. I always wanted to buy an affordable 3D les but my panasonic hdc-SD700 doesn't support 3D so couldn't buy it. JVC 3D model was way expensive so couldn't afford it. I bought another camcorder SD90 which supports 3D recording and then ordered this 3D lens. quick delivery.
Now actual performance of the lens.
Good point:
3D affect is exceptionally good. I always wondered whether 2 lenses placed so close could mean less than desired 3D affect but I can confirm that that's not the case. 3D affect of this lens is as good as any of the hollywood movie. When I tried to waive my hand in front of lens and saw the results, it was stunning. as if I could touch it while watching on my samsung 51 inch 1080p plasma ( PS51D6900) . Video popped out completely of the screen. even objects 150m or so beind the scene were shown clearly and distinctly away so all in all I am very very pleased with the performnce in this respect. so in a nutshell if someone is in any apprehension about 3D performnace, forget it , buy it. 3D feature wont dissappoint you.
Calibration is dead simple. it takes less than a minute to calibrate and you do NOT need to it every time you shoot. Lens does seem bulky but it is a very light lens.

I think because those 2 lenses are very tiny, we need well lit room to shoot. outside shooting will look very good but indoor under lights will lack the punch.

Bad Point
This is where things went sour.even though Panasonic clearly says that each channel will record in 960 X 1080, I was still expecting the quality to be somewhere between SD and HD. That is just not the case. Even reputed websites such as camcorderinfo didn't, perhaps deliberately, mention that resolution is very low. you will see thick grey rectangle around the video while shooting and playback. this rectangle will cover approx 25% of your screen. image lacks details. because I was watching it on 51 inch plasma, I throughout got an impression that I am being forced to watch SD ( Standard Definition ) content, covering only 70% of my screen. Panasonic should have made this very prominent. so if someone is fussed about resolution then you are going to hate this piece. due to image being shot in native 3D , object will appear solid so it may still look better than SD but it is just not acceptable to me.
Now , I have noticed that still not many people are too much bothered about resolution and video may appear better on a smaller sized screen but bear in mind before you order it that resolution will suffer badly. so if you do not keep your expectations high then, perhaps, you may like it .. overall.

By chandanprakash on 31 Jul 2011

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