Six Months With the Sony HDR TD-10 Update #4
In the last few months I've tested Cyclopital's 15mm wide angle adapter, the various SteadyShot modes, with and without a tripod, and figured out how to download music onto the camera for "Highlight" playback. Also did some further parallax adjustment testing and revised the results. I've removed some earlier subjective reviews on the camera overall and stuck with how to get the most out of it.
This post is designed to help new users get the most out of this camera. Some tips probably apply to other cameras in the Sony range. This info is only about using the 3D video mode however. If some of my terminology is off, please let me know as I don't come from a technical photography background.
My own particular specialty is 3D outdoor scenic shots and shots with a lot of motion where the need to travel light is key. Scenics are sometimes difficult to shoot with any meaningful 3D, but it can be done. I find it is critical to evaluate the scene from a 3D perspective first and try to find an optimum vantage point before shooting. I like the TD-10's relatively wide field of view and the close-to-natural stereo base for this, as well as the large zoom range vs. the JVC. I also like the 64gb of onboard memory plus the memory card slots and the HDMI-out port, which allows me to keep a large portion of my 3D footage stored on the camera for playback directly to TV. I also like the underwater potential of the camera, although I've yet to try one of the housings that are available for it. The remote control should allow for the camera to be controlled even when fully enclosed by a housing.
Some tips on Depth/Parallax and Cyclopital's Wide-Angle Adapter
The camera itself can give you excessive amounts of negative parallax (objects coming out of the screen/frame) depending on zoom level and the setting of the parallax adjustment. I personally don't like this effect, as it hurts to watch for any length of time and seems unnatural, but some do. Rotating the dial CCW (-) "pushes" objects into the frame and CW (+) to brings them out. I've found that at the widest zoom setting the range of adjustment is about 15" to 40", at full (-) and (+) comp respectively, for the where objects start going negative. At full zoom, the range is between 15ft and 35ft. I've found to minimize negative parallax, set the compensation to full (-) (look for a "stop" icon on the screen if you can't tell), try to get as close to the subject as possible, and watch the zoom level when you are closer than 15ft. Further compensation can be done in post production.
I also have Cyclopital's wider of two wide-angle angle adapters it offers, the 15mm. In addition the the wider field of view, you can also get physically closer than the limits above before depth goes negative. You might get better macro results without the adapter, though. It does limit max zoom at the far end and gives an almost fisheye effect when used at full wide zoom, with serious vignetting from the housing visible and chromatic and sharpness problems in all but the center of the image. Where you want to use it is at a zoom level past where the vignetting and aberrations are no longer noticeable but which still gives you a nice wide field of view, to the limit of the zoom on the far end. There will be some overall softening vs the built-in lenses but that's to be expected. The AF seems to work well through the adapter within this range. The housing is made on a 3D printer of a somewhat brittle ceramic material- mine didn't survive a drop from a table-top recently. The product is not cheap, but it works.
I use the camera with a sturdy tripod and quality pan-head to the max extent possible to get the most professional looking output (if that is important to your project). There are two optical stabilization modes and they both work great. In extensive testing, I detected no significant difference in overall sharpness with the SteadyShot on "Active" mode vs. "Off", both handheld and with a tripod, where I read some systems might compensate for shake that isn't there. The shake reduction on Active is excellent, and I would recommend leaving it on all the time. Full Active mode only works with the lens at the wide end. There is about 5-7% reduction in field of view when in "Active" and maybe a very slight difference in resolution, but almost not worth mentioning. There will be image blur as the speed increases as there's no shutter speed adjustment in 3D. As a side note-I use one of the better consumer level lightweight tripods and pan heads and get smoother pans by just grabbing and turning the camera and pan-head directly rather than using the supplied arm.
In 3D mode (that's all I'm going to discuss here) there are only 3 manual adjustments you can make- focus, exposure (and depth). This is a huge limitation IMO, but we just have to deal with it. That said, I would become very familiar with the on screen menus to access various camera features. Perhaps more importantly, I'd learn how to use the the manual dial and pushbutton on the front of the camera before I went out on that first day. The ability to quickly select the right mode can save you hours of mis-shot video (trust me, I've already done it). Know the difference between the long and short pushes on the button. Short pushes in general cancel your manual settings and go back to auto mode and vice-versa. You may or may not want that to happen at that moment. Long pushes preserve your manual (or auto) setting (in general) and allow you to select another mode to adjust.
I find it generally overexposes in auto exposure mode in bright conditions. To make matters worse, the LCD screen is almost useless in sunny conditions, especially to evaluate exposure adjustments. You need to practice working with it. In general, if you can see the image brightly on the LCD, it is probably overexposed. (This may be somewhat compensated later by the darker playback when looking through polarized/shutter glasses on a big-screen 3D-capable TV-I've yet to evaluate that effect). To compensate for exposure, I shoot with the dial always set up for manual exposure, or start out in auto, then tap the button and back it down 1-step when in a hurry. Because the screen gets washed out in sunlight, I use clouds or light rocks, concrete, or light painted areas which are easier to see on the screen, and lower the exposure value until I begin to see texture in these areas. Also, I always try to bracket a scene with multiple exposure values, time permitting.
Next, there's a flaw in my camera (and perhaps others) in the manual focus mode. When partially or fully zoomed in on distant objects, and infinity
is selected manually, there is a significant
loss of resolution across the image. Oddly enough, in auto focus and the same zoom level the image retains its sharpness. This effect was a large part of my initial disappointment in video quality, but I didn't know it at the time. In general I start with the camera always in AF mode.If the scene permits, I'll switch to manual focus because the AF seems to focus on the nearest object in the frame, like a small branch on the edge and not the subject in the middle. Manual focus is also useful, say in a scenic where you are tracking a distant eagle. You want the camera on infinity, but when he momentarily flies behind some nearby trees, you don't want the camera switching to focus on the trees.
To fix the manual infinity focus problem, I found that starting with infinity and then backing the dial toward the 100m setting brings the distant objects into correct focus. 100m is actually infinity. Remember, the 100m setting and many of the shorter focus points are only available with the lenses nearly fully zoomed in
. If you set 100m and zoom out
to a wider angle, the camera may default back to the infinity setting with the possible loss of resolution described above. The manual focus mode can also be inadvertently
shifted from your last setting too easily, in my opinion, even without touching the dial. I would practice using the manual button/dial to avoid this. Turning the camera on and off may also reset the focus to the infinity setting. It does seem to remember the last manual exposure settings, however, always check your settings every time you power up the camera.
Others have discovered a softness in the right vs left image. I have done my own test and not found this problem.
The zoom toggle switch is another issue. It does have useful slow and fast modes, but it's difficult to keep the switch (it's spring-loaded) in the desired range, especially when using the slow zoom, which can take 10 sec. Also, the finger pressure required introduces camera shake both on touch and release, even on a tripod. The remote control can help (it has zoom buttons) but it too has limitations, the biggest being that it is infrared and only seems to work when pointing it at the front end of the camera. This doesn't help when you are shooting and panning from behind the camera! I've recently tried using the touch screen for camera control when using a tripod, and it does seem to reduce the camera shake vs the physical buttons. The zoom speed available through the touchscreen is somewhere between the fast and slow modes of the toggle switch. To get the slowest zoom, you'll have to use the toggle.
On another note, the 5.1 Dolby surround sound mode is excellent and I would set it and forget it (unless you have limitations working with it down the line). There is a wind noise reduction mode which works in windy conditions, but don't leave it on as it degrades the audio quality in normal conditions. I recently cut a piece of felt to just cover the microphone grills on the front and used rubber cement to hold it in place, but haven't tried it in windy conditions.
Downloading Music onto the TD10 with Music Transfer
This was NOT a user-friendly process. But, if you like the "Highlight" playback mode, you can add your own music to the production. There was supposed to be a separate program bundled with PMB that comes with the camera called "Music Transfer". If you haven't updated PMB with Sony's newer Play Memories Home program, it should still be there. If you have updated PMB, you will have to download a new copy (l found a Mac OS X version under Sony Asia). Frustratingly, even without any documentation online or elsewhere, you may have already found the cameras Music folder and tried dragging and dropping song files into it. Doesn't work.
Here's how it works: Open a copy of Music Transfer. Connect the camera to your computer via USB and power on. From the touchscreen, X out of the "Connect via USB" dialogue, and instead go to Settings-Download Music and touch that. (it might work in straight USB Connect mode too). The camera will go into the download music USB mode and Music Transfer will show the cameras Music dialogue window, with options for Music 1-4. Click on one option. It will open a Browse option for your computer. Now the key: you can only select a folder with music in it, NOT an individual song, so arrange the songs you want into a folder first. The songs will show up in the Music Transfer window and now you can select which song you want to load first. The program "converts" and loads it into the camera. Repeat for the other 3 positions if desired. Disconnect the camera and From the Highlight mode on the camera, select Settings, one of which is to select the desired song.
All this aside, I believe it is possible to shoot impressive (If not in terms of absolute resolution, but for 3D) footage with this camera if one is careful. In my next update ill post a link to a music video shot entirely with the TD-10 that looks like it came from Hollywood.
Update #2: Can't find the video link any more. It was a French production/ edgy hard rock band. I'll keep looking.
Update#3: Found it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QWX2YG2onewEdited by 3dPCH - 5/5/13 at 6:40pm