The Fujifilm W3 is the second-generation 3D digital compact camera makes the world of digital 3D photography even more real
The W3 features dual lenses, placed at roughly an eye width apart, each with its own 10MP CCD sensor to capture the information separately. The lenses have a 3x optical zoom to an equivalent of 35-105mm at f/3.7-4.2 aperture, which gives you a reasonable range similar to a standard compact. The results are combined with the new Real Photo Processor 3DHD and saved as an MPO format file. A still image is also saved in JPEG format for regular 2D viewing at 3648 x 2736 pixels. Video is captured in 720p HD, using AVI format with a choice of either 3D-AVI or standard AVI, though no dual option here.
On the rear the camera features a new 3.5in 1150k dot lenticular LCD screen for true 3D viewing without the need for any special glasses. On the mode dial shooting modes include Manual, Aperture priority and Program modes, along side the advanced 3D, advanced 2D, Auto and Scene modes. ISO is selectable between 100 and 1600 or Auto modes limited to 400, 800 or 1600. The built-in flash offers red-eye reduction and slow sync options, and has a range of up to 3.6m (at ISO 800). In autofocus the camera adjusts the focal point of the two lenses so the 3D works to the greatest effect. For fine-tuning there is also a parallax adjustment rocker on the top of the camera.
The W3 looks in most parts like a standard digital compact camera, though slightly on the larger side. The front panel slides down to reveal the two lenses, flash and stereo microphones and also turns the camera on. The panel is heavy enough that it would be difficult to accidentally slide open inside your bag or pocket but still just about possible to open with one hand. The 3.5in screen takes up most of the room on the rear panel, leaving just enough space for a mode dial, d-pad controller, and four small function buttons to its right, which control most of the features. On the top of the camera, the shutter button is surrounded by a rocker switch to control the lens zoom, while a second rocker sits to the left to manually adjust the parallax alignment of the two lenses to adjust your 3D focus point. The W3 is slightly slimmer than the previous W1 model making it easier to handle, however it still feels quite large in the hand. Due to the dual lenses on the front, you may also need to adjust your holding position to avoid blocking one or both of the lenses with a finger which can ruin your final shots. With the effective grip then so far back on the camera it can become quite tricky to hold and doesn’t feel especially secure in the hand.
Performance and value
Compared to the first 3D model the W3 is a huge step forward. The auto parallax adjustment, that ensures the optimum 3D focus, works effortlessly with a half press of the shutter and in fairly rapid time, leaving the manual adjustment to only be required for creative effects. The rear LCD screen has also been vastly improved from the older version, making it much easier to see the 3D effect. Where previously it took a certain amount of careful angling, now the images pop out at you almost instantly, though the screen does suffer notably from reflections under brighter lighting.
The advanced 3D functions allow you to exaggerate the 3D effect by widening the distance between the lenses. This works by taking the two shots separately, either with a timer interval or two manual shots and is effective for macro shots or for long-distance scenes, such as from a car or plane window.
The advanced 2D modes really makes the most out of the dual lenses in a slightly different way, allowing you to use the two lenses almost independently. A range of effects is available from using a wide and a long zoom shot, or a processed black & white from one and standard shot from the second lens.
A range of scene modes are selectable for the usual array of photo types, plus there is a choice of manual creative shooting modes, including fully manual, aperture priority and program mode, though the aperture range is limited to just f/3.7-8, or f/4.2-9 and the long end of the zoom.
The addition of 3D HD video is also a huge bonus for the W3. It produces 720p 3D video and can be viewed directly on 3D TVs by plugging the camera via an HDMI 1.4 port. This makes the W3 currently the cheapest way to capture true 3D video, though the controls are a little basic and the processing does limit the final clarity of the results, irrelevant of the resolution.
One slight downside of the W3 is the close focus range, with a normal minimum of just 60cm and just 38mm in Macro, which seems quite limited but this is restricted by the dual lens set-up. It also, despite being thinner than the previous model, is still significantly larger and weightier than most standard digital compacts. Though it will still fit in a more generous pocket, you might think twice about carrying it around on an evening out unless you have a bag.
At £449 (RRP) the W3 is still not a cheap purchase in terms of regular digital compacts, but the price is already £50 less than the W1 on its launch and, for a 3D product, is one of the most affordable devices on the market. Browse online and prices vary from £379 all the way up to the full asking price depending on where you shop.
For such a new technology you expect to pay at least a slight premium and the W3 is now at a price that makes 3D photography within reach of the general consumer, rather than just the hardened gadget fan. Panasonic’s GH2 and G2 have a 3D-capable lens, though this full set up is much pricier and only produces 3MP images.
Image quality and Verdict
Images in 2D appear to be as sharp and punchy as you’d expect from any decent 2D digital compact camera. However, on close inspection, there does seem to be signs of noise reduction even on the ISO 100 shots, while at ISO 800 the effect becomes more pronounced. Once into 3D the images look stunning, both on the rear screen and even on a large 3D television, giving a crisp clear image with impressive depth that you could almost reach in and touch. Video is also impressive to be able to capture, and the effect transforms even simple 3D clips into absorbing film that you could almost step right into.
Sceptics are still waiting in the wings to see if there is any future in the 3D market but with so much already invested in it – across cinema and home entertainment – it will certainly be with us for the significant future. Since the launch of the original W1 camera, there have been 3D-capable models from Panasonic and Sony (Sweep Panorama) and there are bound to be yet more contenders popping up in the new year.
If you want to dip your toe into the world of 3D and produce your own content for your 3D TV, then this camera is the perfect way to do it. The W3 is a fun piece of kit that, though not perfect, delivers great 3D results in a relatively compact and affordable way.