3D imaging continues to gain momentum and Fujifilm’s updated Real 3D stereoscopic digital compact makes the idea even more appealing. Report by Paul Burrows.

The W3 is marginally smaller than its predecessor, but has been extensively restyled and now has a more conventional matte anodised finish. It’s switched on by pushing down the full-width lens cover.

A key revision is the W3’s new 8.9 cm widescreen monitor which switches to an optical approach to creating a 3D image rather than the W1’s digital processing solution. Resolution steps up to 1.15 megapixels and the results are stunning in 3D.

Main mode dial has two positions for accessing the W3’s scene modes (SP1 and SP2), plus settings for the ‘Advanced 2D’ and ‘Advanced 3D’ shooting modes.

It’s been exactly a year since we tested the FinePix W1 and a lot has happened in 3D imaging since then. It’s still more favoured by the consumer electronics companies – who have the advantage of also offering 3D TVs – than the ‘traditional’ camera companies, but what’s now abundantly clear is that 3D is going to be bigger than it has ever been before.

We’re still not convinced that it’s going to sweep all before it, but it’s already reaching the stage where the third dimension no longer comes at a significantly higher price so consumers are acquiring the capability even if they don’t have plans to use it immediately. Both Panasonic and Sony have added 3D capture modes to their latest digital compacts which take rapid-fire multiple frames and then process them to create 3D images which can be viewed on 3D displays or TV via 3D glasses.

This is, of course, different from Fujifilm’s approach which is based on stereoscopic optics and lenticular screen displays which don’t require special glasses for viewing in 3D. Fujifilm also makes 3D printers which use the lenticular (or microlens) screen technique and a number of these are now installed in Australia so it’s no longer necessary for print orders to be sent off to Japan. Lenticular screen prints can also be viewed without the need for special glasses. JVC has since adopted a similar stereoscopic arrangement of dual lenses and sensors for its GS-TD1 Full HD video camcorder so, one way or another, 3D imaging is becoming more widely available. It’s certainly much more than just another flash in the pan.

A number of criticisms were levelled at the W1 and Fujifilm has addressed many of them in the W3, making it a far superior product to its predecessor. Unlike many digital camera model upgrades, the biggest changes to the W3 are mostly external so there’s a new, sleeker and more rounded bodyshell, an all-new control arrangement and a bigger monitor screen with a significantly higher resolution. The W1’s highgloss ‘piano’ black finish has been replaced by a more conventional matte anodised coating, but the camera is still switched on by opening the contoured lens cover which, since it has two sets of optics to protect, extends across the full width of the camera.

Comparing the dimensions, the W3 is only really not as tall as the W1 (the width and depth are pretty much the same), but this makes all the difference to the perception of bulk as does the more curvaceous styling. However, it’s nearly 70 grams lighter and, in-keeping with 3D products in general, a lot cheaper... by a hefty $300, in fact, which means it’s in the ballpark as far as just having it to ‘play around’ with what it can do.

Old Is New

The W3’s new monitor screen is 8.9 cm in size with a resolution of 1.15 megapixels so it’s pretty nice for 2D shooting and quite an eyeful when its autostereoscopic design is delivering a 3D effect.

This employs an array of microscopic convex lenses in the screen’s faceplate to create a binocular parallax effect while also reducing cross-talk (a.k.a. a double image) and also on-screen flickering. There’s also a ‘High Luminosity’ mode which displays images 1.5x brighter and with a 1.8x increase in colour depth over the W1’s screen.