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CES: Samsung camera lens goes from 2-D to 3-D at the flip of a switch

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CES: Samsung camera lens goes from 2-D to 3-D at the flip of a switch

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Cameras that can record in 3D are usually pretty complicated, sporting two lenses instead of one, to mimic human binocular vision. Samsung says it has a more elegant solution: a single lens that can go from 2D to 3D mode with the flip of a switch.

Samsung Electronics Co. is showing off the new lens at the International CES show in Las Vegas, where gadget makers showcase their latest smartphones, tablet computers and other consumer-electronic devices.

ABOUT THE PRODUCT: The lens is an optional accessory for Samsung's new NX300 camera, the latest in the company's NX line of compact cameras with interchangeable lenses. Think of the line as a scaled-down equivalent of the digital single-lens reflex camera, or DSLR, which are more versatile and more expensive than point-and-shoot cameras.

The camera will record video, including 3D video, on its 20-megapixel sensor. Any 3D TV can play back the 3D movies.

HOW THE LENS WORKS: A switch on the lens flips an extra shutter into the path of the light through the lens. The shutter has two sides, allowing the single lens to act as if it were two, offset from each other by a short distance.

When you snap a shot in 3D, the camera looks quickly through one side of the front lens and records an image. It then switches quickly to the other side to record another exposure of the same subject from a slightly different angle.

LIMITATIONS: The lens is no bigger than a regular one, which limits the 3D effect. Normally, the two lenses that form a 3D camera's "eyes" are a few inches apart. In this case, the "eyes" are less than an inch apart, so it doesn't create a strong 3D effect with subjects that are farther away than about 6 feet.

It's not a zoom lens. The focal length is fixed at 45 millimeters, making it a short telephoto lens suitable for portraits. The maximum aperture in 2D mode is 1.8, which means the lens can create strong background blur and make the subject stand out from the background. The blur effect is weaker in 3D mode, but the 3D effect in itself makes the subject jump out.

AVAILABILITY: The NX300 camera will go on sale in March for $750 and will include a standard zoom lens. The 3D lens will be sold separately for $500 and will be available at the same time.

Organizations: Samsung, International CES, THE PRODUCT

Geographic location: LAS VEGAS

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