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After Effects always renders 3D layers with the default camera or with the Active camera in the composition. The active camera is the one that is at the top of the stack if you have more than one camera. You cannot render a side or top view, but you can put a camera anywhere in 3D space and get pretty much the same thing.
It always renders the "front view", which is an imaginary camera, called "Active Camera".This view is always perpendicular and its view angle is auto adjusted as such, that it covers the entire comp window at the time you turned your layer into a 3D layer, so viasually the result remains identical. If you need to render alternate views, you need to manually set up proper 3D cameras.
from "Create a camera layer and change camera settings":
"The active camera is the topmost camera in the Timeline panel at the current time for which the Video switch (eyeball) is selected. The active camera view is the point of view used for creating final output and nesting compositions. If you have not created a custom camera, then the active camera is the same as the default composition view."
Cheers guys for the thorough replies. Problem solved.