Review: Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D W3 Compact Camera

These days, quite a few compact cameras take 3D photos, but the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 ($500 as of 3/14/2011) is the most full-featured of the pack. It's the only big-name 3D still camera with two lenses and sensors, meaning that it can shoot 3D video as well as still photos; and while other 3D-capable cameras on the market from Sony, Panasonic, and Olympus treat 3D shooting as an additional scene mode, the 3D capabilities in this Finepix camera are front-and-center. This is a 3D camera first, but it also has a range of 2D shooting modes.

It's also a hard camera to rate, since it's as groundbreaking as it is frustrating. It's the best 3D camera we've tested to date, but it's also in a class of its own and has its share of quirks. For all the points it scores in the innovation and wow-factor departments (a glasses-free display, manual controls over both the aperture and parallax controls, and compose-your-own 3D modes that give you independent control over each lens), it's also not for everyone: The display has both sweet spots and headache-inducing spots, the manual controls are hit-or-miss, and getting the hang of composing your own 3D shots takes a bit of time.

The result is the most-advanced 3D point-and-shoot camera available right now, but one that isn't exactly for the faint of heart. If you're adventurous enough to experiment extensively with the camera's controls, and if you have the appropriate set-up for viewing 3D images and videos on a 3D-capable TV, it may be worth the investment. Even more so than with most cameras, it's a good idea to get some hands-on time with it before you buy to see if its unique way of doing things sits well with you.

3D Shooting Performance

The Finepix Real 3D W3 captures 3D stills and video through its pair of 3X-optical zoom lenses (35mm to 105mm), which are spaced as far apart as a pair of eyeballs. Behind the glass are two 1/2.3-inch 10-megapixel CCD sensors. It captures 3D still images in MPO format, and 720p 3D video as an AVI file at 24 frames per second. If the display device doesn't support 3D, the video clips will appear in 2D.

The W3 has a glasses-free 3D display that lets you preview effects as you're shooting them and playing them back, which is mission-critical on a camera that's built for 3D imaging. That said, the lenticular 3.5-inch LCD screen has its sweet spots, and looking at it for an extended period of time can be challenging: I got a few headaches, but your brain's mileage may vary.

You're also not locked into the camera-defined 3D effects, thanks to the camera's parallax adjustment controls. A toggle control on the top left of the camera lets you either offset the stereo images more than the camera's automated settings do (generally leading to images with more into-the-camera depth) or close up the gap between the stereo images (generally leading to images with more popping-out-of-the-screen depth). While the parallax adjustments work well when you're playing back images in the camera, they don't work when you're playing back images on a 3D TV; they're screen controls rather than footage controls.

In addition to a fully automated 3D mode, the camera gives you manual control over the shutter and aperture settings for each lens, and there's an aperture-priority mode, as well. While those modes are nice to have in the mix, they're not as extensive as the ones you'll find on advanced point-and-shoots and DSLRs. For one thing, you get only three F-stops per focal length in the aperture settings (F3.7, F5.0, and F8.0 at the wide-angle end; F4.2, F5.6, and F9.0 at the telephoto end), and you won't see a dramatic difference in the depth of field due to the camera's small sensor size.

The camera also has an "Advanced 3D" mode that lets you take individual snapshots from as far apart as you want, and the camera stitches together the results to display them in 3D. This is where the parallax controls come in most handy, as you can adjust the playback effects of your self-composed 3D scene during playback.

The manual 3D option is best employed during wide-angle landscape shots, as it lends more far-reaching 3D depth to your images. It also seems to make the layering between the subject's distances more subtle; objects at different distances flow back into the screen more realistically, and there's less of a "flat cardboard cutout" effect between different depths in the scene.

We don't yet have standardized testing for 3D images and video, but we did some informal playback tests of the Finepix Real 3D W3's images and video on three 3D TV sets: Panasonic's Viera TC-P42GT25 and Samsung's UN40C7000, which both use active-shutter glasses, and Vizio's XVT3D650SV, which uses polarized passive 3D glasses. All the videos and images were displayed on the sets by connecting the Real 3D W3 via its HDMI connection.

The 3D effect definitely works, but the visual aesthetics vary from set to set. In still-image mode, you'll want to shoot images at least a couple of feet away from your foreground subject, as anything closer than that can turn into a flickering, blurry ghost when you're viewing the results.

Test images displayed on Panasonic's set were the most impressive: not only did each image show realistic, subtly layered depth, but the backgrounds of each shot appeared to stretch deep into the TV, and foreground objects appeared to pop out of the screen. The same images viewed on Samsung's set lacked the depth of these foreground-to-background effects, and in some cases looked a bit blurry, even with the glasses on. The Vizio displayed images with an effect not unlike a shoebox diorama--in general, images looked like they were extending deep into the screen--but also did an admirable job of making us think we had to dodge the 3D video fists of our colleague, Patrick Miller.

Generally, the Finepix Real 3D W3's 3D output looked better on the big screen than any other 3D-capable compact camera's images and video that we've seen to date. The aesthetic traits of the 3D images and video depended on the display device, so the TV you're watching them on is an important factor. FujiFilm also sells a dedicated, 8-inch glasses-free display device, the FinePix Real 3D V1, for around $500; we weren't able to test the viewer with the camera.

2D Image Quality and Video Quality

As mentioned before, this is primarily a 3D camera, but the Finepix Real 3D W3 did turn in good results when used as a standard 2D camera. In PCWorld Labs' subjective tests for image and video quality, the camera was rated as Good in the categories of exposure quality, color accuracy, and lack of distortion. Sharpness, however, was a key weak spot, and the Finepix Real 3D W3 logged a rating of Poor in that category.

Click the thumbnails at left to view the sample images from our subjective image-quality tests. In 2D mode, the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 captures 10-megapixel JPG images from one of its lenses.

We also found 2D video captured with the Real 3D W3 to be more than serviceable, as the camera earned a score of Good for overall video quality in bright-light situations; and audio pickup through its front-mounted stereo microphones was rated as Very Good.

In 2D mode, the camera shoots 720p video at 24fps, saved in AVI format. Here are the sample clips we used in our subjective tests for video and audio quality.

As you might expect, that extra lens and sensor and the 3.5-inch LCD screen take a significant toll on battery life. The Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 has a CIPA battery life rating of 150 shots per charge of its lithium ion battery in 3D Auto mode, which landed it in the Poor range for battery longevity.

Shooting Modes

Besides the aforementioned Auto 3D and Advanced 3D shooting modes, the Finepix Real 3D W3 has a few more unique modes in the mix that employ the novelty of having a dual-lens camera. Among the camera's Advanced 2D modes are a Telephoto/Wide setting (one lens shoots a shot at full telephoto, while the other shoots in wide-angle simultaneously); a Dual Color setting (the image from one lens is shot with auto exposure settings, while the other boosts the vibrancy of colors); and a Dual ISO setting (each lens captures an image at a different ISO equivalency).

Along more traditional lines, the camera has 13 scene modes similar to the ones found on most digital cameras: portrait, sunset, sports, snow, beach, and the like. You can use the scene modes for both 2D and 3D shooting, and there are two scene-mode positions on the mode dial so that you can have a pair of different presets available immediately.

Burst modes are also available for both 2D and 3D capture: In 3D mode, continuous capture maxes out at a frame per second at a 3-megapixel resolution, while in 2D mode, the camera can capture 3 frames per second at a 3-megapixel resolution.

Hardware and Controls

The Finepix Real 3D W3 is certainly well-built, and the lenses (and stereo mics) are protected when not in use thanks to a slide-down cover; when you slide the cover down, it turns the camera on.

Watch the video below for a quick tour of the Real 3D W3's hardware and controls.

Buying Advice

If you’re dead-set on capturing 3D video and images immediately, the Finepix Real 3D W3 is your most-versatile pocketable option at the moment. Its range of 3D shooting modes and realistic 3D effects are its main drawing points, but you should make sure your 3D setup makes the most out of its images and video. At $500, it’s a significant investment. It’s not for everyone, but it is an innovative entry for consumers into the world of capturing 3D video and images.

This story, "Review: Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • If you’re dead set on capturing 3D video and images immediately, the Finepix Real 3D W3 is the most-versatile pocketable option at the moment. It deserves a lot of credit for its innovative features, but it's mainly for the brave early-adopter crowd.

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