REVIEW: Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 camera

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Name: FinePix Real 3D W3 (Fujifilm)

Type: 3D capable compact camera

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: Around £350

If you’ve just bought yourself a 3D TV, you may be starting to wonder why you bothered. Though content is beginning to trickle in, there still isn’t very much 3D television programming to watch out there, and there’s only so many times you can watch the Monsters vs Aliens 3D Blu-ray before Seth Rogan’s voice-over work starts to send you mad. Enterprising early-adopters might want to try their hand at making their own 3D content, and if so, using the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 camera is a great way of shooting in three dimensions without breaking the bank.

The W3 is a substantial revamp over Fujifilm’s previous W1 compact camera model, and a substantial improvement to boot. Smaller and lighter than that attempt, it has dual lenses and sensors for shooting both 3D stills and video, shooting at 10MP/720p resolutions respectively. There’s a 3x optical zoom onboard with a focal range equivalent of 35-105mm on a 35mm camera, and a gorgeous 3.5-inch, widescreen-ratio LCD screen on the back too, pin-sharp thanks to its 1.15 million dot resolution.

It is still however a little too heavy for its124x66x28 mm size, while the addition of two lenses pose some unique difficulties when shooting with the camera. The W3 powers up by sliding down a protective faceplate, with a small raised strip of silver offering the only point of purchase on the smooth shell. The placement of the lenses, significantly set apart so as to achieve the 3D effect, combined with this smooth faceplate make it all too easy to accidentally obscure one or both the lenses when shooting. A little red on-screen warning will notify you of a potentially ruined shot, but it’s very annoying when trying to catch a passing moment.

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Get to grips with a comfortable way to hold the camera however and you’ll soon find yourself impressed with its 3D capabilities. A half press of the shutter will generate a near-instant preview of your shot, displayed on the 3.5 inch screen. This screen makes use of lenticular technology, meaning you wont need to don special glasses to appreciate the 3D effects, and offers a superb glimpse of how each shot is going to look when finalised. It can be a little reflective in direct sunlight, but viewing angles are good enough for a relatively wide sweet-spot when looking at the 3D pictures.

The 3D images themselves are impressive, providing you can frame an interesting picture. Again, there are concessions to be made to with this relatively new technology. Shots taken closer than the recommended 1.5 metre distance tend to look a little shoddy, while extreme close-ups aren’t worth bothering with. For best effects you’ll have to carefully frame foreground and background subjects too, while portrait 3D shots aren’t currently possible. Still, these aren’t problems unique to the W3, and it’s still a blast to play about with the 3D modes which can look really great with a bitof practice. Images are saved as MPO format, while sensibly all shots can also have a single-lens 2D JPEG version stored simultaneously, meaning you don’t necessarily have to miss a classic moment just because you didn’t nail the 3D framing.

The W3 also shoots 3D video, saved in stereo 3D-AVI format. While still giving off a strong sense of depth, they are less impressive than the still shots. Over processed and with a muted colour range, they can have a fair bit of artefacting, and are nowhere near as sharp as the HD resolution it touts would suggest. Optical zoom is also switched off when recording video. 2D HD recording is notably smoother, though colour reproduction remained a little lacklustre.

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If you don’t fancy staring at the 3.5 inch screen every time you want to relive your photographed moments, you can easily output all 3D and 2D content to a 3D TV over HDMI connection. The formats used for both 3D stills and 3D video are more or less universal, and so all major 3D TV brands should display them without a hitch. Fujifilm also pack in software for viewing the snaps on a PC screen, though you still wont get the 3D effect from a standard monitor, either offering the blurred overlaid shots, or two separate shots side by side. Fujifilm do offer a printing service though, with prices starting at £3.99 for a 6×4 inch picture. They’re good fun, and look a bit like the hologram cards you used to be able to get as a kid.

A dedicated 2D/3D switch lets you quickly jump between both shooting modes, and again the W3 performs admirably as a traditional 2D shooter. While the 10MP resolution and max ISO light sensitivity range of 1,600 aren’t anything to particularly write home about, shots are crisp with excellent colour range, as well as face-detection and auto scene selection modes to aid the amateur photographer.

When you remove the 3D capabilities the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 camera is a pretty pricey piece of kit at around £350, considering its mid-range specs. It is however a sturdy and consistently capable 2D shooter, offering vibrant shots if you can work around its few quirks. If you’re lucky enough to have a 3D TV too the camera does really come into its own though, and that £350 price tag starts to look like a relatively cheap way to enjoy your own user generated 3D content.

4/5

Gerald Lynch