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Gotta wear shades: As 3-D entertainment conjures up images of goofy glasses from the 1950s, Panasonic hopes to remedy the style with its 3-D TV sets. It is touting its upcoming Viera VT2 series as the world’s first full high-definition sets with 3-D ability. The series is expected to consist of a set of four plasma models. The first two in the series, the 50-inch TH-P50VT2 and the 54-inch TH-P54VT2, should hit the market April 23. The key innovation for the VT2 sets is the “frame sequential” technology. In this system, the viewer wears special glasses (of course) that alternately display images to the left eye only and then to the right eye only. The images switch back and forth every 1/120th of a second, twice as fast as the speed of a 2-D display. The alternating images create the 3-D effect. Historically, 3-D technology has also suffered from an afterglow that results in blurry pictures and tires the eyes. The VT2 aims to combat those effects by reducing the typical afterglow by more than 60 percent.

Beyond the 3-D effect, Panasonic claims the VT2 models use 13 percent less energy than their equivalent 2-D models. Other features include a TV programming guide, the ability to watch two channels at once, a 1080p resolution and a contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1 with both digital and analog tuners included, as well as a 20-watt 2.1-channel speaker system. Each set has four HDMI ports, a VGA output, a D4 (component) output, an Ethernet port and a SD card slot.

However, each set only comes with just one pair of the special glasses. Granted these can’t be cheap in themselves, but at ¥428,000 for the 50-inch model, and ¥528,000 for the larger set, Panasonic could have at least stretched the budget to let you watch 3-D TV with a friend. panasonic.jp/viera/3dworld/

Canon’s moving images: Intended to compete with the likes of the aging Nikon D90, Canon has come out with a new lower-end DSLR, the EOS Kiss X4. With the X4, Canon has concentrated on offering greater video abilities rather than a better vehicle for taking still photos. It includes support for 1080p video at 30 frames per second, as well as 24p and the PAL-suited 25p and 720p at 60/50 frames per second. The jack for an external microphone helps to augment its video credentials, as do the manual controls and on-demand autofocus when shooting video. The moves are smart considering the D90’s limited ability as a camcorder. A more problematic move is upping the camera’s sensor to 18 megapixels. The number might impress casual shoppers, but it is hard to see how Canon can avoid degrading picture quality with greater noise, especially in low light. Of greater appeal to photographers is the new high-resolution display, which uses a slightly wider 3:2 aspect ratio compared to the 4:3 of its predecessor. The problem of a smallish viewfinder and typical Canon bugbear of cramped ergonomics are problems that remain unaddressed.

The X4 looks more like an example of smart marketing than clever improvements, mainly in its video abilities. But it can cover your still photo needs and do enough on the video end to spare you the expense of something extra. It will cost ¥89,800, ¥99,800 (when packaged as a kit with an 18-55 mm lens) or ¥129,800 (with a 55-250 mm lens). The X4 is set to make its debut Feb. 26. cweb.canon.jp/newsrelease/

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