The prosumer and mass market audiences don’t tend to run in parallel — especially when it comes to cameras. But when it comes to 3D, they seem to agree on one thing: Price is king.

3D capture technology is certainly intriguing to both groups, but few view it as essential — and the cost of entry has, thus far, been rather prohibitive. As the field continues to evolve, though, that might be changing.

Prices are falling in the 3D capture world — and finally have reached a level where indie and student filmmakers are able to experiment with the technology. Panasonic recently introduced the HDC-Z10000 3D camcorder, which retails for less than $3,500. And it’s hoping the camera sparks a wave of interest among filmmakers.

“What’s interesting about this category of camera is it’s a way for content providers to get involved and get access to 3D with very little investment,” says Joe Facchini, vice president of Media and production services for Panasonic Solutions. “They can experiment. They can do proof of concept. And they don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do that.”

Sony, too, is targeting a wider audience with the Handycam HDR-TD10, which hit stores early in 2011. At under $1,500, the device is more consumer-focused than prosumer, but still allows people to experiment with 3D technology. And JVC has the GS-TD1, in the same general price range as Sony. (All three cameras feature glasses-free playback on the cameras themselves.)

Technological advances, such as lightfield capture (see story, below) are adding wrinkles to the field, but aren’t likely to lure in new users. Ultimately, professionals who are deciding which 3D capture device to purchase are less focused on new technology and more concerned about the fundamentals.

“The people buying high-end equipment are concerned with image quality,” says Jordan Selburn, principal analyst for consumer platforms at IHS iSuppli. “They’re less concerned about bells and whistles.”

That leaves the manufacturers and critics to argue over whose quality is superior, but they’re all realizing that the key to expanding 3D’s place in the content market is to make the equipment affordable.

“What we’re banking on is a lower cost,” Facchini says. “I think the fact that we have an entry-level system will drive more people who were thinking about it into buying one.”

CES Daily Spotlight: The Future of 3D
Falling prices may unlock 3D | 3D TV’s evolution has barely begun | Fans finally warm to stereo vidgaming | Streaming emerges as 3D option | Lightfield capture heralds new camera era