I’m Scott Peterson the Digital Camera Analyst here at gap intelligence and I love cameras.  I love learning about cameras, talking about cameras, playing with cameras, and most importantly, I love experimenting with all of the various features when I take pictures…and then telling you about ‘em.

While camera manufacturers one-up each other with increasing megapixels, stronger lenses, and bigger LCD screens, the true differentiators come from the addition of unique modes and attention grabbing capabilities given to their different cameras.  These exciting technologies are what I am going to focus on here in the first edition of….

Scott’s One Cool Thing.

For this installment of Scott’s One Cool Thing, I will talk about Sony’s exciting 3D shooting mode called Sweep Multi Angle. The innovative technology is available on Sony’s X-designated Cyber-shot line (HX, TX, WX-series cameras) and brings 3D shooting capabilities to consumers disguised in a tiny package.  While Sweep Multi Angle first made its appearance on members of Sony’s 2010 Cyber-shot line, the company has expanded its availability this year into seven different models with price tags starting as low as $219, countering the popular perception that 3D has to be expensive.

What is Sweep Multi Angle?

Sony’s Sweep Multi Angle mode lets you take 3D photos and then share them directly on the camera using gyroscopic playback technology.  Basically, by rocking the camera from left to right the captured image is animated on the camera’s LCD screen, allowing viewers to experience the depth of the 3D scene, without the need for a 3D TV or even 3D glasses!

This mode is definitely one of the coolest features endowed to a compact digital camera, and unlike any other mode I’ve witnessed, has the ability to elevate the camera’s owner to rock star status at any social gathering.  The instantly viewable 3D effect packs a humongous “Wow” factor as minds are blown and jaws left wide open upon viewing the compelling 3D image.

How to Use Sweep Multi Angle:

To access the Sweep Multi Angle shooting mode, simply rotate the camera’s mode dial to 3D position.

In this position, on-screen icons appear illustrating a sweeping motion while directing you to “press shutter and move camera smoothly in direction of arrow.”  After you press the shutter button and begin to pan from left to right a progress bar and larger arrow appear guiding you through the rest of the capture process.

Once finished, simply press the camera’s playback button, select the image, and prepare to amaze your friends!

How Sweep Multi Angle Works:

During Sweep Multi Angle capture, the camera records multiple images from 15 different angles as you sweep the camera across the scene.  The camera’s processor then combines these multiple images into a single file.  Instead of a series of separate images, one seamless composited photo is viewed as the camera is rocked.

During this process, the level-sensitive gyroscope is activated and the camera scrolls through the many photo segments, giving an effect as if you were actually shifting your viewpoint or walking within the scene.

Limitations…But Still Cool:

Although a groundbreaking capture and viewing experience, like all photographic capture modes, Sweep Multi Angle has its limitations, mainly lowlight and movement.  You can maximize success in this mode by making sure that your subject remains perfectly still, making this an ideal mode for capturing landscapes or your most patient of friends.

As seen in the above photo, when movement is present it provides us with a better visual of how the mode actually layers the multiple images to create the 3D effect.  From this image we can not only see how the camera layers its individual slices but we also witness an interesting mistake created by the person in the background moving through the scene during the capture process.

While the 3D effect solicits reactions such as “Holy Cow;”, “Whoa…” and “Mind Boggling”, without fail, the next question from excited onlookers is “How can I share that or print it out?”  Sony addresses this concern by actually saving two versions of each shot.  The first is the gyroscopic-activated effect that is only viewable on the camera itself, while a second file is created for true 3D viewing (ie: viewable on a 3D TV with glasses).  Additionally, this second file can be printed as a normal still image, and shared through all popular social networking sites, putting to rest your friends’ common concerns.

While it’s no secret that 3D is blossoming as a hot trend in consumer electronics, Sony is giving normal camera buyers the ability to participate in the craze by tucking Sweep Multi Angle away into its compact Cyber-shot line.  The reality is that all of the latest Cyber-shot models are very capable cameras, but it’s their instantly-viewable 3D footage that I suggest you give a try and that is why Sweep Multi Angle is…..

Scott’s One Cool Thing.