The same question can be asked regarding video.
Photoshop can do video and 3D but not as well as a dedicated program. The benefit, on basic tasks, is not having to open that other dedicated video or 3D program.
Just as you can load a 3D object in Photoshop, you can also load a 2D background image in a 3D app. Compositing can happen in eother program. It depends on where you feel most comfortable.
It would possibly be worth your while Googling Photoshop CS6 3D and working through a few of the video tutoials. A few days ago they were thin on the ground, but there seem to be more every day. There is a scattering of the better ones in this flickr group thread. http://www.flickr.com/groups/photoshopsupport/discuss/72157629738024324/
I'm not sure the question is being asked specifically enough, to be honest.
I've little experience with 3D myself, but I can see a definite efficiency advantage to just editing extruded text, for example, then re-rendering in Photoshop.
With what little experimentation I've done, having the ability to make changes, for example to lighting angles, then seeing the result right away against the background photo allows one to iterate more quickly, and that seems likely to mean you'll be through with something that looks quite realistic more quickly.
But I don't know whether you're working with 3D objects added to existing photos, or full scene rendering soup to nuts in 3D.
thanks Noel - I'm pretty much a Novice to the area, trying to get a handle on whether it's worth while getting Photoshop Extended (versus not getting extended). Interested in doing some game backgrounds via use of superimposing images & vector graphics. So might be a background image that's close to what I need, but then what to add some signposts to the background, so would be nice for these to look 3D and with a shadow say. So I was ponding over whether one would (if deciding to model the signpost as a 3D objects c.f. just an existing image) be better off doing this in (a) separate program like blender then importing, or (b) having Photoshop Extended and doing it here. I'll never be doing anything too complicated in the 3D tool I don't think.
The "iterate more quickly" makes sense in terms of seeing it in context with the background scene (so this is the type of benefit I was interested in asking about).
I've struggled with this kind of question a while to decide if worth extra $$$ to get CS6 extended vs. std.
After trial use it is very clear to me...CS6 extended not worth more cost to me. Why? because the 3D tools offer nothing compared to all the other 3D programs I already have and use. Workflow actually easier as I already know my 3D tools and they can be active as same time as Ps so moving files between apps is easy.
OTOH, I can see that if someone only dabbled in 3D and did not have other 3D programs (even some that are free), then 3D in Ps would be valuable. And there are other "extended" capabilities for scientific work.
So in the end it is a personal decision based on what kind of work you do and what tools are needed and work well for you.
thanks Doug - if I was using blender for 3D (or another tool for that matter) do you see any benefits in Photoshop Extended to do the following? Well this is a concept so I'm not sure if Photoshop Extended can do it, but my thinking is:
* develop separate 3D objects in Blender (say a Table and a Chair)
* import both into Photoshop as separate 3D objects (assuming you can)
* arrange the 2 objects as you want in the context of the background image and themselves
* perhaps then join the two 3D objects together to get Photoshop Extended shadowing between them if required
Does this sound like a benefit?
Assuming each model can be imported into Ps Extended (there's interchange anomalies that can bite you), then what you're asking about arranging and merging to a single scene is possible. Where this might be an advantage done in Photoshop is if the rendering capabilities of your 3D authoring app are limited (no Ray Trace or IBL lighting) compared to those found in Photoshop. It might be a disadvantage if your 3D authoring has rendering capabilities that you would lose bringing it into Ps (caustics, subsurface scattering).
Compositng into a flat background can work either way, depending on the complexity you're trying to achieve. If you're proficient and comfortable with a 3D authoring application, then that's probably where you want to do your 3D authoring work. If you need to generate complex models, require UV editing, or have rendering needs for highly realistic glass or transparent/translucent materials than you'll need a 3D authoring application.
One thing you could consider is to download the trial version, which provides all the features of Photoshop CS6 Extended, and actually try it out for a month. Try actually doing the kinds of work you're anticipating doing. You'll get familiar with the tool's capabilities, and you can not only judge the ease of use for your application but also the results quality.
@steve - thanks - any comments (in the context of your response) if the 3D tool was blender?
(at this stage I'm going through Photoshop extended tutorials - haven't jumped into blender in detail yet- so really just looking for advice that gives me some direction re where to spend my time learning if that makes sense - I'm starting to get the impression that if for what I'm doing I'll only really be doing 3D on basic stuff such as Text and basic objects then Photoshop Extended might be ok and save me having to worry about blender at all...)
If you only plan to do basic stuff then Ps may be a good solution but it is expensive compared to free Blender.
But Ps is easier to use and Blender has a steep learning curve.
There are other easier free/low cost simple 3D programs that may be sufficient compared to the premium price of Ps but none are well integrated with Ps; but using layers in Ps with rendered 3D scenes in 2D is easy.
Importing 3D objects from other 3D programs to Ps has occasional issues but only needed for complex work when Ps can't create internally. But if you have Ps-extd, then need for other 3D is only when more complex 3D is used.