3D documentary filmmaking: To buy or not to buy? Why Panasonic AG-3DA1 sensors don’t make the cut

3D camera test update – I’ve had a chance to check out the footage from our recent Panasonic AG-3DA1 test shoot.

The verdict: a renter, not a keeper

Bottom line … it’s a great idea – but a couple incarnations short of buying.

On the plus side, the body is super lightweight at 2.4kg. Compared to rigs like this:

File 162

Parallax Film Productions uses 3D camera rig to shoot Dover Castle in Kent, England.

… it’s no small difference.

But now that I’ve seen it in post, it’s painfully clear the sensor size is a dealbreaker. This camera is a great choice to rent if you’re doing lower-end picture work – but that’s as far as I’d go.

What would make it a keeper:

Panasonic needs to increase their 1/4.1” 3MOS image sensor to a 1/3” minimum before I’d buy. The 3DA1 just doesn’t make the cut for the caliber of shows we produce.

I’m going to wait and see what changes and hopefully upgrades to the sensors go into the next version – I suggest you do the same.

Right now this camera comes close to a solid B-cam. But until Panasonic increases the sensor size we won’t be adding this pony to our stable.

Ian Herring, President


3D camera review: how the Panasonic AG-3DA1 stands up to 3D documentary filmmaking

Normally my team and I use rig-based camera systems to shoot our 3D documentary material.

So far these custom-designed units have gotten the job done.

But to stay in this crazy 3D game you’ve got to try it all … last week it was time to play with a new toy.

We took the shiny Panasonic AG-3DA1 for a test drive.

Here’s some footage of the indoor shoot:




Here’s some footage of the outdoor shoot:




What you need to know:

-There are distance limitations as with any side by side camera rig. For instance when we were shooting in a room approx. 3m x 3m the closest we could get is about 1.2 meters to the subject. When we zoomed in we had to move to about 2.5 to 3 meters – we were out the door before we got a clean and well converged shot of the subject.

-To get anaglyphic 3D press the “mix” button.

-Both the viewfinder and LCD screen use anaglyphic as convergence guide.

-The LCD screen is soft when in “mix” mode – so focus needs to be continually checked.

What you’ll like:

-It’s lightweight.

-It shoots decent EXT.

What you won’t:

-The small sensor means that the image shows noise in low light.

The call:

Jury’s out for now. I’ve sent the footage into post, and will make the call on if it’s worth it to add to our 3D arsenal when I see the goods.

More to come …

Ian Herring, President