Stand-Alone Cameras Have a New Weapon to Hold Off a Smartphone Onslaught: 3D

Last Updated Jul 7, 2010 9:21 AM EDT

While point-and-shoots are definitely in trouble, the Nokia N8, Apple (APPL) iPhone 4 and other powerful smartphones are creeping up on the high-end cameras, too. The hi-res results, decent flashes and all-in-one setup are making smartphones more appealing to the casual, if not intermediate photog. Companies like Sony (SNE) are combating the smartphone feature creep with a new weapon: 3D.

Vlad Savov of Engadget:

Think Sony ain't serious about 3D? Think again. The Japanese giant has just outed a promised firmware update for its ultra-slinky NEX series of shooters that will allow users to shoot 3D panoramas. Panorama stitching was already one of the touted features on these cameras, but with a little extra software magic they'll now be able to collect "depth information" as well.

Sony's proactive approach to 3D photography in itself isn't a surprise. Sony is pushing its 3D Bravia TVs, the PlayStation 3 received a 3D software update earlier this year and the motion control Sony Move is virtually begging to be used in a 3D environment.

In its aggressive 3D agenda, however, Sony is promoting one of the few features that its cellphone rivals can't copy until at least 2011. Sharp (SRP) just unveiled some killer 3D phone technology, but it has yet to implement it in a cell -- even the nutty Google (GOOG) Android five phones a month cycle couldn't get a (decent) 3D-enabled phone out by year's end. And the phone that matters to consumers the most at the moment, the iPhone 4, just passed its traditional one-year cell update, meaning that Steve Jobs and Co. couldn't put 3D hardware into the iPhone until summer 2011 or, at best, throw 3D into the next generation of iPods likely coming this holiday.

Sony also is pushing what will become a new trend: Building 3D into hardware before it's necessary. There are many 3D cameras, including the Fuji FinePix 3D, but the Sony NEX series, which runs from $500 - $600, can add depth to its pictures via a software update.

Sony and other camera companies would do well to implement 3D options into their hardware as soon as possible. It could give a strong advantage to the high-end camera market and even the point-and-shoot genre -- and give those makers an invaluable one year lead against increasingly all-encompassing smartphones.

Photo courtesy of shermeee.