Sony eyes consumer 3-D cameras as way to drive new format

Recognizing that a shortage of content could doom its 3-D push from the start, Sony is likely to launch cameras that give consumers the ability to shoot in the format.

The cameras will form part of a drive by Sony to make 3-D the next big thing in entertainment. On Wednesday, Sony committed to launching at least one Bravia TV and one Vaio laptop computer with 3-D capabilities in 2010 and also said it would offer a Blu-ray Disc player, as long as Blu-ray Disc Association settles on a 3-D format.

But such products will be useless unless there is 3-D content to watch.

Sony can provide some itself through its Sony Pictures movie division and group TV stations, but simply providing professional content ignores the significant role that consumer-generated content now plays in the entertainment world through sites such as YouTube.

Should consumers get the chance to make 3-D video clips the market could expand much faster, said Fujio Nishida, president of Sony Europe, speaking on Thursday on the sidelines of IFA. So Sony will offer cameras and camcorders for the format, he said.

However, much development work remains to be done before consumer 3-D cameras and camcorders can become commonplace. While Sony has decided on some time in 2010 for its initial 3-D product launch, it has yet to decide on when the cameras will go on sale.

Several other companies have already shown prototype 3-D cameras. The most prominent of these is perhaps Japan’s FujiFilm, which showed its first prototype last year and is planning to launch a commercial model later this year. The camera has two lenses and two image sensors that take almost-identical images, which it blends together to produce a 3-D image.

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