The menus have been redesigned and restyled to compliment the W3’s new control layout and navigation is now very much easier.
Mode settings are displayed in the monitor screen with brief explanations of their operation.
The ‘Advanced 3D’ shooting modes allow for the stereo pair exposures to be separated by time or camera position (within reason, of course).
The more traditional lenticular-type screen is different from the ‘Light Direction Control’ processing used in the W1 to achieve the same thing digitally rather than optically. However, it’s still quite distance sensitive (i.e. from the eye), but the viewing angle is noticeably less critical and the lift in overall quality is huge. Why go back to the old-fashioned way? It’s possible LDC couldn’t give the desired increase in resolution.
The W1’s control keys have been entirely replaced by a more conventional arrangement comprising a mode dial and a four-way rocker control plus a handful of buttons. The W1’s control design was a nice idea, but very clunky in practice so the W3 has adopted a ‘keep it simple’ approach and it’s much easier to fly as a result. The menu design has also been returned to a more conventional layout and navigational routes, although Fujifilm has stuck with the idea of making them mostly dedicated to the selected shooting mode to avoid unnecessary clutter. This works well as there are never more than two pages at a time to scroll through. The four-way controller performs all the navigational duties with an ‘OK’ button in its centre serving as the enter key. Easy-peasy.
There are dedicated buttons for switching between 2D and 3D capture and engaging the video mode which now allows for HD recording at 1280x720 pixels and 24 fps with, not surprisingly, stereo sound. HD clips can be recorded in 3D too which is another big attraction of the W3 and, yes, Fujifilm has given it a 3Dcompliant HDMI connection so it can be plugged straight into a 3D TV.
Under the skin, the FinePix W3 is pretty much unchanged from its predecessor which means image capture is via a pair of 35-105mm equivalent zoom lenses each with a 10 megapixels (effective) CCD sensor. The baseline length has been reduced slightly from 77 mm to 75 mm, but it’s still quite a lot wider than the typical distance between the human eyes (which is set at 64 mm) in order to give a more convincing 3D effect over a longer distance range.
In the 3D Auto mode, parallax is adjusted automatically, mostly using the subject distance information from the autofocusing system. Here Fujifilm recommends the minimum subject distance be 1.3 metres at 35mm and 4.1 metres at 105mm. In the other shooting modes there’s a choice of auto or manual parallax adjustment, the latter also available as an override to the former. The manual control takes quite a while to master as the range of adjustment is quite extensive, and it’s a bit of a balancing act in terms of achieving a good 3D effect versus merely creating blur or even a double image. Additionally, it’s important to have the monitor screen at the right viewing distance so the adjustments can be properly gauged. Bear in mind that what’s
being created is an illusion of depth via the stereoscopic views, and this is best enhanced when there’s a clear separation between objects in terms of their distances from the camera... but without being either too close or too far away. It takes practice to recognise a scene that will deliver the most convincing 3D effects.
The new component of the digital stage is an important one. The Real Photo 3D HD processor has significantly increased power to deliver HD video and it’s also at the heart of the W3’s 3D capabilities. While a specially-developed stainless steel frame ensures each lens’s optical axis is precisely separated, it’s the processor which makes sure the twin shutters are synchronised (as are the lens focal lengths) and the two images combined with exactly the right amount of parallax correction. These files are saved in the MPO or Multi Picture format which employs JPEG compression so the images can be viewed in 2D (but not printed in 2D). As before, the W3 has an MPO+JPEG capture mode which saves a standard JPEG file along with the Multi Picture file.