Toshiba Z100 3D Camera - Impressions, Photos - High-Def Digest Forums
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Old 08-11-2013, 02:50 PM
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Default Toshiba Z100 3D Camera - Impressions, Photos



The Toshiba Z100 - Impressions as a 3D camera

The z100 is one of the cheapest true stereoscopic cameras on the American market. For about $200, you can purchase a new camcorder and a 32gb memory card for it. It has 128mb built in, which will take just a few seconds of actual HD video but is there to allow you to test it out, make sure it works, and use as a still camera until you can get a flash memory card. It supports up to a 128gb card.

The Z100 is a camcorder-style system. In today's market, most camcorders take still photos, and most digital cameras take video. They are just physically designed differently. Camcorders are held in one hand and have a strap or grip, while digital cameras are designed to hold with two hands. Despite that, many people take photographs with digital cameras one-handed and vice versa.

The view screen is touchscreen, and it is also glasses-free 3D, when in 3D mode. You can't expect a whole lot for this price point. Where this camera shines (right out of the box) is in bright sunny locations, and those bright sunny locations will glare into the already hard to see screen. In 3D, you're playing a fool's guessing game, unless or until you find a sweet spot.

The screen uses parallax barrier technology, the same tech used in the Nintendo 3DS. If you go off angle too much, you may see in 2D OR the wrong eye OR a ghosting of the two images. This camera requires the operator to look straight into the view screen.

For the cheap price, there have to be some drawbacks, right? Digitally, it has just about every feature under the sun, including back-lighting, a small camera light, effects like black and white and sepia. It can be used as a webcam. In 2D mode, it has face recognition, smile recognition, motion detection. Some of the drawbacks are: no optical zoom, no parallax or convergence adjustments, and full sbs resolution supported only in still photo mode, not video mode. The touch screen also doesn't tilt or spin around - it's got two positions: closed = off, open = on. This makes it very difficult when trying to get tight 3D shots, where you have to angle the camera, get on your back or knees, put your hands (or tripod) way up in the air and point down, or even on ladders to try to get the best shot.

Also, this thing does not like to do close up shots. According to Toshiba, objects need to be at least 39" away to get a clear picture, but the focal range extends to 'infinity' - It makes sense, because my best shots were from objects over 39" away. At this focal length, it will probably be really hard to get a nice pop-out-of-screen effect, without a lot of digital manipulation. That doesn't mean it can't happen. You just have to stage shots and hope for the best.

There should have been a sun visor over the lenses, and it would have been nice to have a way to mount a visor over the screen too, to deal with the sun glare issue. As it's designed, I see why they could not permanently attach a visor over the view screen, but something you can put on when using the camera and take off when you aren't would have been nice. Any amount of glare at all makes it very hard to get the stereo effect you may be looking for.

Obviously, you're not going to have an interchangeable lens on a sub-$200 3D camera, but it would be nice to have the ability to add filters to the system, for polarized lenses or even macro (closeup) photography. A lot of the more expensive so-called 3D cameras on the market (which, in some cases have interchangeable lenses) have only a single lens, and they either takes snapshots at different angles OR require you to take one shot and then do another panoramic sweep for a second shot. I think with a little know-how, a custom lens adapter mount could be made. To be able to do macro photography on this would be totally awesome. I would love to see bees, mosquitoes, butterflies, dragonflies, small grasshoppers, small frogs, small flowers and tendrils in clear, detailed 3D.

What does 'infinity' mean in this case? According to reports, after appx 40', the human eye doesn't perceive depth any more, and neither does a camera, supposedly. In a long distance shot, the further away the object, the less image separation occurs. Once you get to a point where there is no image separation, that object and beyond goes flat (2D). Objects closer have more left/right separation.

I'm just going to note here that I think I can perceive depth further than forty feet. Looking through a field and trees about 800' distance to the last one before seeing clear skies, at first it appears like I could see the depth all the way. For this example, I could judge the distance between myself and the last tree relatively accurately, but I focused in on single trees and tried to see if I could perceive the natural roundness of the tree, the natural roundness of the leaves, any limbs or whatever sticking out, and that's when I realized that although I could tell the general distance, although I could visually see trees behind other trees for great distances, at a certain point, the individual trees look flat. I'll have to take a more scientific approach to figure out the exact distance in the future.

The z100 is plug n play. You buy it, open it up, pull a plastic slit off of the battery, charge it for several hours, turn it on, and use it. The manual is on the included cd-rom disc. It also includes a program called Media Impression HD by Arcsoft. When you install it, it also installs another program called 'Toshiba Camelio Uploader' - Every time you plug the camcorder into the PC, this program will load up, and it makes it easy to post your videos or photos various social networking sites, like youtube, facebook, etc.

Arcsoft Mediaimpression HD is OK for software trimming 2D or 3D video, putting sepia and black and white filters on photos and video, possibly doing some color corrections, etc, even patching videos together, but you can't properly make titles, credits, etc in 3D, because it's a 2D-only software. For beginner-intermediate 3D work, it's totally useless. There is no way to adjust convergence of video or photos in this program. . Why they did not add a program to the Z100 with stereoscopic editing capabilities is beyond me. Also, the only supported audio format is WMA, and there is no way to mix/control the volume between music and what's on the video. You have to accept some limitations on the hardware itself, in the price range, but to include software that doesn't work with 90% of what you're using the camera deserves some points to be taken away from it.

The stereo sensors are 5mp each, and you can set the camera for 3mb, 5mb, or 16mp interpolated. 16mp would be basically artificially blowing the 5mp image up to a higher resolution. The megapixel rating on cameras are generally considered a marketing ploy. The accepted standard of what makes good photos are build quality of the camera itself, good lighting, and a steady hand/good shot/good photographer/luck - I was reading somewhere that people have used 6mp cameras to take huge billboard photos successfully. It would be nice to have a 10 or 15mp rating, for no other reason than to crop and blow up photos, to maximize the picture's potential in post production without losing quality though. Trust me. Unless you're a professional, you're going to get things in your photos occasionally that you want to crop out.

In 3D mode, the Z100 has a digital zoom of 4x, while it's 10x in 2D mode. Digital zoom is useless. It makes images darker and more blurry, something you definitely don't want in 3D.

I found that taking pictures in a normally lit living room, the pics just didn't look very good. They were somewhat dark, a bit blurry, and have a yellow hue. I took pics over and over again, and it never did get it right. Why a yellow hue? This is the hue of normal household bulbs. I've adjusted the various light settings manually as well, some results better than others. Unfortunately for inside shots, you really need some good, bright white or blue-hue lights, something probably in the 10k color temperature range. One can get away with a regular digital camera, because they have a really bright white or blue flash that replaces that yellow hue. The Z100 has a really small, dim light, but it doesn't have a flash, which is a shame. Below is an example of a photo taken inside:

Inside shot, dog on chair
Outside shot of same dog, no post processing - for comparison

The first above pic was actually color-adjusted, and although it looks 10x better than it did before post processing, it still is dark, still has a bit of a brownish or yellowish hue to it. The second pic was taken outside, with no color adjusting or any type of post-processing.

If you're taken still photos inside, with normal ambient light, the shutter speed is slower than outside where there is bright light. I think this is also due to the automatic light sensing and adjusting. Don't even attempt to photograph a moving object (person, animal) inside unless you have proper lighting. I found that this issue isn't nearly as likely to occur outside with good light, as the picture is taken instantaneous.

Now let's talk about some other issues. The camera has frozen or rebooted twice a day since I've gotten it. It has hard-froze three times, meaning that the battery had to be pulled out of it and put back to get it to turn off. It appears to have sync issues with my 3DTV, where the image disappears and takes awhile to come back. The mini-hdmi to hdmi cable is so short, you have to stand or sit right in front of the tv to control it. Toshiba should have included a remote control for the unit. With the way it is, the HDMI output is useless.

The video trim feature on the camera itself doesn't work, at least not in 3D video. I tried, read the manual, tried again, read the manual again, and tried some more, and although it copied the video, it never did trim anything off of it. Nothing in the manual states that it doesn't trim in 3D. Adjusting the sliders in the start and end position and then saving locks the changes in. The Z100 makes a copy, which is suppose to be trimmed, to preserve the original.

When changing from 3D still photo mode to video mode, it seems to revert back to 2D mode and vice versa. There is a noticeable delay between what happens in front of the lens and what you actually see on the screen. I was curious if this was a delay in the viewscreen or the camera itself. So, I connected its mini hdmi port to my 3D adapter for the 3DTV, and everything that happened also had a delay as well.

Speaking of connecting the Z100 to a 3DTV, in an attempt to get real out of screen pop out like the "potato cod" scene from Under the Sea, I sat the camcorder in front of me and slowly moved my fist, fingers, and other objects in and out and around the lenses, all with my dlp-link glasses on, to try to see if there was a special distance, special angle, etc, a sweet spot, where these things would just fly out of the screen. At no point in time did I ever experience this type of phenomenon. I just don't think it's possible with this camera.

How one would go about creating a pop out scene like that cod flying out of the screen, who really knows, but I watched an sbs broadcast format of 'Under the Sea' and didn't see the pop out in it. I knew there was pop out in it after demoing a 3DTV at an electronics store. So, I doubted my 3DTV until buying the blu-ray 3D copy of it and re-experiencing it on my 3DTV. The difference between the broadcast 3D format and blu-ray versions, I can only assume it's due to the resolution, compression, quality difference between the two.

Examples in RED/CYAN Anaglyph 3D:
Travel Trailer
Pickeral Weed
Grape Vine
Addition/Home Theater
Addition workzone
Satellite Farm
Satellite 3D conversion, for comparison
European Fan Palm
Sky/Tree shot
Passion Flower Vine wrapped around Pine Tree
Shampoo Ginger Bloom

Now for some 'bad' pics, to show you what the z100 does in closeup shots:

Unripe Persimmon
Rose of Sharon
Cactus
Turk's Turban Hibiscus

Now, not all closeup shots are beyond saving, but these photos are shown as the camera took the pictures, not digitally manipulated. They've just been straight converted to anaglyph. If you have good light in the photo, and if you have good clarity on the left and right image file, you have a good chance of being able to put the photo in an editor like stereo maker and push the left and right images closer together, to stop the ghosting and make an image that looks good, with good depth.

There is one example of a photo that couldn't be pulled together, because the foreground mantis in the next pic had a hugely different amount of separation from the background trees. If I edited the pic to make the mantis look OK, the trees would have a huge amount of ghosting, and your eyes would not be able to adjust:

Mantis

One thing I want to point out is that although this camera wasn't made with closeups in mind, you can sometimes pull off closeups (and we're not talking about being able to shoot moisquitos or bees here, just getting closer, to get better pop out) if you film the object against a flat surface, like against white wall, sheet, green screen. Why does this work? The Z100 has its parallax fixed. At a certain distance, the lenses converge at the Zero Parallax Plane. What happens is that there is too much left and right separation between objects in the foreground and background. By filming against a flat surface, which is two dimensional and has no depth, you're able to overcome a lot of the limitations of the camera. You can then adjust the convergence post-production and get something useful.

Occasionally, you can crop out a large portion of the picture, where the left/right image separation between the foreground and background is too great.

Some examples of cropping, to reduce ghosting:
butterfly on pickerel weed
Butterfly

So, can you get 3D pop out, where elements of an image appears to come out of the screen? Everyone's perception of 3D is different. Some people are very sensitive and can see pop-out easily, while most people see very little true pop out. A few people never see pop out, and some can't perceive 3D at all. With that being said, I've been doing a lot of experimenting with the z100, to try to make a pop out effect. Although I haven't been able to experience an image popping out like the potato cod scene in Under the Sea, I've been able to get corridor and floating effects occasionally. With that being said, some other people have experienced the same images on the same glasses and television set I use and see some of my pop-out material extend way out of my TV set.

Some of the pop-out shots I've attempted:

Banana tree/bloom
Chainsaw
level
tape measure
Drill
Reciprocating saw

Zero Parallax Plane-adjusted pop out photos:
2x4 coming at ya
Pole comin' at ya
Atari 2600 Joystick
Post-hold Diggers

I'll explain a little more about the Zero Parallax Plane (ZPP): Closer to the lens, before you get to the ZPP, the lenses see objects like this: /\ After the ZPP point, they see the background/objecs like this: \/. It forms an X. At the ZPP point, you are creating a mid-layer, where there is little to no discernible depth. Depending on the shot, size of the object, etc, part of the object or person in the ZPP may also be split between the foreground and background layer, being partially in the window, partially in the mid-ground, and partially raised out, but that's another discussion for another time.

When you're looking at objects in the foreground or raised or out of screen objects, if you close your right eye, you'll see the foreground images moving to the right. If you close your left eye, you'll see foreground images moving to the left. At the ZPP, you'll probably see very little or nothing different between the left and right image. In the background, however, you'll see the opposite of what you saw in the foreground, meaning your left eye will see background objects to the left, and your right eye will see background objects to the right.

In order to set up a perfect shot, you want to focus in on a ZPP point in the photo. It basically means that this is where you want to focus from. Everything further away from that point will give depth, while objects in front of that point will be raised. The above pics (zero parallax plane-adjusted pop out photos) were setup, trying to get a good ZPP while shooting, but then also adjusted after with Stereophoto Maker.

On the photo of the Atari 2600 joystick, I added text to show where the ZPP was and where it's raised or lowered or pops out.

On the two photos below, which are taken from the same shot, focus on the tree frog. The first picture, I've adjusted the ZPP so that the frog is placed before the ZPP zone (closer to the lens) - On the second photo, I've adjusted it so that the frog is after the ZPP zone. So, it should appear lowered, into the window more. In anaglyph, I prefer the second photo.
Raised
Lowered

Double 3D:
Pole popping out of landscape into darkness
Pole popping out of landscape into translucent background
Tape Measure

The Double 3D effect.. This is something you've probably seen in 2D pop out ads and various pictures on the net, where a horse or person appears to come out of a picture frame or something. It was also used in films like Oz the Great and Powerful. where they framed the first act in the film small and used black bars on the top, bottom, and sides to have a greater effect for debris and stuff to fly out of the landscape, off of the screen.

In the above pictures, the first two, I was just messing around with and didn't create both top and bottom bars, just sort of used erasing tools, and the top 'bar' isn't level from side to side, creating sort of a terrain effect. The one with the translucent top bar probably looks better than the black one, because black shows all of the imperfections in scrubbing the pole. The ZPP on the pole shots is where it leans on the edge of the door. The tape measure, I changed tactics, read a few tutorials, used a grid over the image, and was a little more meticulous about it. It's far from perfect but a lot better than the previous attempt. Its ZPP is on the tape measure casing. If you follow the cyan and red images, you can see separation all the way up to that point.

All photos were converted to RED/CYAN anaglyph with stereophoto maker for easy viewing with cheap paper glasses. It doesn't give you the full effect as stereoscopic viewing but definitely gives you an idea how the photo was intended to be shot and seen. Not all photos are convergence-adjusted. As stated previously, this camera takes still photos at full-sbs resolution, video at half-sbs. Although it works as both a 2D and 3D system, let's face it: you're buying it for 3D, and if you're like me, you're mainly going to use it for still photography.

The Z100's direct competition is the Fujifilm Finepix Real W3 3D camera. While the W3 has 10mp lenses, many people seem to prefer the Z100 because it has an external microphone connection on it, something they say isn't common in cheaper 3D camcorders.

Conclusion: I wouldn't call it absolutely reliable or dependable. The included media editing software is a joke. I may gripe about many things that I wished this camera had or did, but for the price range, it is a very fun camera that's easy to use.

Last edited by malakai; 08-16-2013 at 07:54 PM.
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Old 08-15-2013, 05:48 PM
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The Tripod Factor:

Now that I've gotten a tripod, it will give everyone an idea of the detail, clarity (or lack thereof) the Z100 is capable of producing, with little to no blur from camera shakes, etc. With a maximum tripod height of about 56.5", I may not be able to get the best angles, best shots, because I like to take shots from a lot higher, sometimes from ladders or other platforms. Maybe I'll eventually get a 9' tripod. I can't guarantee the lighting is perfect, I'm not using artificial lighting or shading or diffusers or filters, but this is a consumer camera with a consumer price, not a pro camera. By the time you get done looking at these pics, you should be able to make up your mind about the Z100 as a still photo 3D camera. Practically all of the photos have their resolution automatically cut from the photo server, but don't be alarmed: the Z100 takes full-sbs 1080p photos.

None of the photos below have been taken with a zoom, although some may have been cropped and most have been slightly convergence-adjusted.

Butterfly anaglyph - sbs
Mexican Petunia anaglyph - sbs
Dragonfly on twig anaglyph - sbs
Dragonfly anaglyph - sbs
Another dragonfly anaglyph - sbs
Another dragonfly #2 anaglyph - sbs
Another dragonfly #3 anaglyph - sbs
Water #1 anaglyph - sbs
Water #2 anaglyph - sbs
Water #3 anaglyph - sbs
Fern anaglyph - sbs
Elderberries anaglyph - sbs
Beautyberry Bush anaglyph - sbs
Anoles anaglyph
Pole comin' at ya #1 anaglyph - sbs
Pole #2 anaglyph - sbs
Pole #3 anaglyph - sbs
Morning Glory Vine growing up dead tree anaglyph - sbs
Post Hole Diggers #1 anaglyph - sbs
post hole diggers #2 anaglyph - sbs
2x4 comin at ya #1 anaglyph - sbs
2x4 #2 anaglyph - sbs
2x4 #3 anaglyph - sbs
2x4 #4 anaglyph - sbs
2x4 #5 anaglyph - sbs

As you can see, there are hits and misses here. The butterfly tripod shot by far has been one of my best butterfly shots. The anoles, elderberries, and the 'dragonfly on twig' shots were not good at all. I've taken multiple pictures of the elderberries previously and even earlier today with a tripod, and they don't seem to ever turn out great.

For dragonflies, too much sun, and the dragonfly almost disappears because the brightness makes them more translucent. Too much shade, and you don't get enough detail, and when you adjust contrast or brightness, it just doesn't look as good as it should. The 'dragonfly on a twig' pic was taken with pretty good light, and I was close enough to it to get a good shot. The only problem is that the camera blended the colors between the dragonfly, twig, and pine needle covered ground, and they all seem to be the same color, a pretty drab grey. In reality, the twig was a brownish color, the pine needles were somewhere between a copper and brown color, and the dragonfly itself was a mixture of something like blue and black. The picture you're seeing was color processed like crazy, just to be able to make out the dragonfly and give it a little bit of color.

The anoles picture, I also took multiple shots at. This was the best one, which isn't saying much. It was taken with shade in front, shade in back, some shade above, and probably just a little sunlight coming through. So, it's mostly a shade shot. The colors of the anoles aren't accurate at all. No zooming was done. The Z100 is suppose to automatically sense light and adjust to it. Hell, it even has a night mode. This is pretty good proof (and I've taken many pictures since having it that suffer from this) that it doesn't do that correctly.

At this point, I've snapped over 500 pictures with this camera. While you haven't seen the worst (after all, everyone who isn't a photographer takes multiple pics and chooses the best ones out of the group to show) of them, you've seen the best and everything in-between bad and good.

Last edited by malakai; 08-16-2013 at 03:50 PM.
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Old 08-10-2014, 05:10 PM
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I've had this camera about a year now and have taken around 1,100 3D photographs with it. Since I do a lot of gardening, wildlife, and macro photography, mostly in 2D, and since I've recently upgraded to a DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses, the Z100 camera just doesn't get much use. Indoors, in controlled lighting, and having everything in the shot without zooming, it would shine, mostly. By mostly, a major issue I have (which I've said before) is that when you're taking pics of something in the same general color range as the objects around it, you don't get a sharp picture of what you're filming. Dragonflies, anoles, and various other things I've tried to photograph mostly don't come out as good. The colors blend together too much, I suppose. I don't have that problem with my DSLR camera. Examples of what the DSLR can do: 1, 2, 3. There's no way the z100 can replicate this, but we're talking about a camera that cost $200 vs lenses alone that cost $200 (55-200mm) lens and $100 (18-55mm, used in shot #3).

Are there ways to overcome some of the issues with this camera? For the flash issue, you can get a tripod mount that mounts both a camera and a flash (or two) on it, since the camera itself has nowhere to mount a flash. You'll have to get what they call a 'continuous on' flash. Some flashes have both continuous on and flash modes. A 'flash' that does only continuous-on modes really isn't a flash, if you want to get technical, but rather a camera light, mostly used for video and macro photography. You can not use flash modes, since the camera doesn't have a flash-mount or remote TTL or anything like that. Between that, NEVER using zoom, and ALWAYS using a tripod to take your pictures, you're going to be able to get the most out of this camera. There are no threaded areas on the Z100. So, if you want to use uv filters or lens hoods, you'll have to mod it yourself. Something could probably be done by getting a spare lens cap and a dremel.

Fixed (prime, hyper-focal distance/infinity focus-locked, no optical zoom) lenses have their uses in photography. If you buy a camera or camcorder with a non-interchangeable lens that only has digital zoom, you're probably going to be able to get some good quality close photographs/portraits and such, where there isn't too much blur between the object or person you're focusing on and the landscape behind it, but for specialty photography, where you may need 200-500mm for long distances or maybe 14mm for a hugely wide sunset or terrestrial/astrophotography (meaning you want to catch the moon over a wide mountain area or something) shot, you want to be able to change lenses for specific purposes. Even at 55mm, you may not be able to catch that whole cloud formation that looks so cool in the sky. You could try panoramic stitching, which means you take several pictures, in order to create a wider shot, but when you add it together, you have seams which have to be fixed and v-shaped areas (due to slight differences in the angles between photo #1, 2, 3, etc) which are cut out of the photo trying to patch them together. You'll likely have to not only cut areas out of the top and bottom but also use the clone or fill tool, to 'fill' those cut areas back in. Of course, there will be distortion around the edges of a 14mm lens, but the right lenses will minimize the 'fisheye' effect.

Anyway, before I get too far off subject, Toshiba has since discontinued this Z100 model, instead of just discounting it, and it's a shame that they didn't bring out a slightly more advanced model, with a flash on it and the ability to add filters to it. One of the biggest things it had going for it was that it took two full 1080p pictures in still image mode, vs half SBS photos like you'd get with a DSLR and dual lens. The Fujifilm W3 was probably Toshiba's biggest competition, and even though it only does 720 resolution, it has a few things over the z100: 3x optical zoom vs 4x digital zoom. Also, there are also all kinds of third-party adapters, filters, macro lenses, underwater housings, just a lot more support for the W3.

The W3 is still in the marketplace, and for less than $300, it's probably your best option. If I were going with an all-in-one camcorder solution, I'd probably have to go with the Sony HDR-TD10, with 10x optical zoom, at $1,500, to be able to get a significantly higher image and video quality. Obviously if you're doing video or still image photography and never have to zoom in or crop the image/video, then you can get by with much less.

A few more z100 3D shots (anaglyph only):
Banana tree, view from roof
Yellow Rat snake
American Bullfrog
Water Snake
Pine Cones
Fungi in 3D
White Turmeric
Oxalis
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