Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W1 Review

October 1, 2009 | Mark Goldstein |


It's not very often that we review a camera that offers a completely new approach to photography, but that's certainly the case with the Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W1. As its name would suggest, the Fujifilm W1 is the world's first camera that allows you to view 3D images, and it does so without the need to wear any special 3D glasses. The Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W1 uses two lenses and two 10 megapixel sensors to achieve a stereoscopic 3D effect, simultaneously taking and layering together two 2D images into a single 3D composite, with both 3D still images and video with stereo sound on offer.

Fujifilm's new FinePix Real 3D System also includes an 8-inch 3D picture viewer, called the FinePix Real 3D V1, and a 3D printing service (direct from Fujifilm). It's important to note that you can only view the images in 3D in one of these three ways - on the camera's 3D/2D LCD screen, the viewer or as a lenticular print - otherwise they appear as regular 2D images. The Fujifilm W1 can also be used as a regular 2D camera at any time, with the Dual Capture shooting mode letting you simultaneously take two shots at different settings.

Priced at around £430 / $600 for the W1 camera and £360 / $500 for the V1 viewer, taking part in Fujifilm's 3D future is certainly not cheap, so carry on reading to find out if it's worth it...

Ease of Use

With two lenses and two sensors, the Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W1 is rather inevitably a large camera, measuring 123.6 (W) x 68 (H) x 25.6 (D) mm and weighing 260g, so its best stored safely away inside a small camera bag. Despite its bulky proportions, the Fujifilm W1 is quite pleasing on the eye, with a glossy piano black and silver colour scheme (which unfortunately quickly shows up fingerprints), bright blue illuminated controls, sliding lens cover and a large 2.8 inch LCD screen. Thankfully, despite the smooth all-plastic body, the camera is not too slippy when gripping it, feeling well-balanced in your hands. The overall build quality is up to Fujifilm's usual high standards.

You turn the Fujifilm W1 on by sliding down the lens cover, revealing the camera's twin 3x optical zoom lenses, built-in flash unit and stereo microphones. The 35-105mm effective focal range is unremarkable on a modern 2D compact camera, but is something of a significant achievement in 3D photography where it's difficult enough to produce a 3D image from a fixed focal length lens. The zoom lever and shutter button are located on top of the camera, along with an infra-red port that allows you to send or receive images (but not movies) to another Fujifilm camera or device with high-speed IR capability. Transmission distance is 5-20cm within a 20 degree angle. Note that the camera compresses the image so that it doesn't take too long to transmit. Located in the bottom of the camera is the battery and memory card compartment and an almost central plastic tripod socket.

As mentioned in the introduction, there are currently only 3 ways to view the Fujifilm W1's 3D images, and as Fujifilm only supplied us with the camera, we can only comment on the effectiveness of the W1's LCD screen. Suffice to say that everyone I showed it to was instantly wowed by the 3D effect, which is clearly visible even on what is a small display. It's important to note that the 3D effect is not true 3D, where you can navigate all the way around an object, but is in fact a stereoscopic image, creating the illusion of depth in a 2D image by presenting a slightly different image to each eye, hence the use of two lenses with different angles of view (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereoscopy for further information on stereoscopic images). The Fujifilm W1 records a 3D image in the MPO format, with the option to record a JPEG at the same time (obviously in 2D, and using the left-hand lens).

Taking a 3D image is largely a point and shoot affair, but there are a few options to help fine-tune your 3D pictures. The Parallax Control buttons on the rear of the camera can be used to manually adjust the 3D images, either during shooting or while viewing the images on the LCD monitor, so that you don't get two mis-aligned subjects appearing. If you don't want to tinker too much, the Auto Parallax Control option, which is on by default, gets things right most of the time. The Interval Shooting mode takes two shots using the left-hand lens from different viewpoints continuously while the photographer is moving, useful for 3D shots of landscapes, while the Individual Shutter mode combines two shots taken at the same time from each individual lens, useful for telephoto shots where a 3D image is difficult to achieve.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Front Rear

Fujifilm have also taken advantage of the W1's dual-lenses to include some interesting 2D shooting modes. There are 3 different options in the Advanced 2D Mode. The Tele/Wide two-shot function takes the second shot after taking the first shot, rather than both at the same time, and saves a single double-exposure composite image. 2-Color mode takes two shots at the same time with different colour settings, for example Chrome and Black & White, and 2-sensitivity takes two shots at the same time with different ISO sensitivities, useful for achieving different effects in panned shots or for night scenes.

The Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W1 has relatively few external controls, just 8 in total, although it does offer a much wider range of photographic options than that number would initially suggest. All the external controls are clearly labeled using industry-standard symbols and terminology, with only the 3D specific buttons requiring reference to the user guide. The W1 uses a rather unconventional control system on the rear, with the LCD screen flanked on either side by a vertical column containing 3 buttons, which are then further sub-divided via a central channel into 2, effectively giving a total of 6 buttons on each side. Dividing the main buttons in this way adds to the futuristic looks of the camera, but also makes it more tricky to operate than it really should be - I all too frequently ended up pressing the "wrong" side of the button.

On the left side of the LCD, you can set the camera mode, the scene mode, parallax correction and whether you want to record in 2D or 3D. On the right side, you can access the main menu system, playback images, set the flash, macro, self-timer and brightness options, choose the Display mode and open the F-Mode menu. Depending on which shooting mode is selected, this allows you to set the ISO speed, image size and quality, white balance, shutter speed/aperture and the colour mode. All of these are also replicated in the main menu. Due to the 2.8 inch LCD screen, the various options and icons are perfectly easy to read.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Front Front

The Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W1's Mode button allows you to quickly change the camera's shooting mode. The 7 modes are Auto, Natural Light & Flash, Manual, Aperture Priority, Program, Advanced 2D and Advanced 3D. There are three f-stops available in aperture-priority, wide-open f/3.7 and stopped-down f/9 (depending upon the zoom setting). There's also a Manual mode which lets you set both the shutter speed and the aperture, although again there's only the same three aperture settings to choose from. The aperture is set by pressing up and down on the navigation pad, and the shutter speed by pressing left and right. A simple horizontal line in the bottom-right of the LCD screen helps you to set the correct exposure. Note that there is no dedicated shutter-priority mode. In the Natural Light and Flash the camera instantly takes 2 photos, one with flash, one without, giving you the option of which one to choose later (both are saved by the camera).

The LCD screen on the rear of the camera is a 2.8 inch model which only has an adequate 230,000 dots. The LCD monitor has a glossy finish which tends to show fingerprints, and it's also slightly raised. There is no optical viewfinder on the Finepix Real 3D W1, leading to a few moments of frustration in very bright sunlight when it can be difficult to see the image on the monitor clearly.

The Face Detection function is accessed via an option in the Main menu system. This feature is a welcome one that works well in the right situations. It's really best for posed group shots where your subject(s) is standing still at a moderate distance, but it also works if the subject is moving quickly or has their head turned sideways or even upside down. Movement tracking keeps the camera 'locked on' to its subjects until they move out of the picture. Face Detection 3 detects up to 10 faces and is faster and more accurate than the previous iteration, especially with subjects that aren't looking directly at the camera, and also has the added benefit of also offering red-eye reduction if you require it.

Canon PowerShot A2100 IS Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

If you have never used a 3D digital camera before (and how many of us have?!!), or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and fairly easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Unfortunately Fujifilm have chosen to cut costs and only supply the full manual as a PDF on a CD, rather than in printed format (there's just a short printed guide to the camera's basic features). Not much use if you're taking pictures and need to find out what a particular option does. The Real 3D W1's battery-life is adequate, with the camera managing around 250 shots using the supplied NP-95 Li-ion battery.

The start-up time from turning the Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W1 on to being ready to take a photo is slow at around 4 seconds, and it takes about the same time to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest. Focusing is quick in good light and the camera achieves focus most of the time indoors or in low-light situations, although there's no focus-assist lamp. In the normal shooting mode it takes a snappy 0.5 second to store an image, with a very brief LCD blackout during which you can't take another picture. In Continuous mode the camera takes 1 frame per second at the highest image quality for up to 40 frames in either 2D or 3D, not particularly quick. There is a faster mode that allows you to take up to 40 frames at 3fps in 2D mode and 2fps in 3D, but only at the Small JPEG resolution.

Once you have captured a photo, the Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W1 has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails (up to 100 on the same screen!), zoom in and out, sort images by date, view slideshows with lots of different settings, delete, protect, trim, and rotate an image. You can also add a sound clip to an image, remove red-eye, resize for blogging, and set the print order and the transfer order. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and aperture/shutter speed. Disappointingly there is no histogram available either in shooting or playback mode.

In summary the Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W1 is the first generation of what is a rather brave step into the world of 3D photography, with the added bonus of a perfectly functional 2D camera.