Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 review

4 out of 5
£449

For

3D fun, massive 3.5-inch 16:9 LCD screen

Against

3D not for everyone, close-focus distance, expensive, current expense of 3DTV, poor video quality

Fujifilm’s W3 has two lenses for shooting true 3D images and a massive 3.5-inch lenticular screen that allows for viewing in 3D without the need for glasses. But just how good is it?

The Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 updates the previous W1 that, as some of you may remember, we thought was crying out for a “slimmer, more compact model”. Well the Fujifilm FinePix W3 delivers all that and much more - in fact it’s a giant leap forward over the previous generation camera.

First things first, and it’s important to clear this up, is that not everyone will like 3D imaging, nor is everyone capable of viewing stereoscopic 3D images (experts estimate some 4 per cent fall into the latter band). If you’re not able then this is a significant stumbling block, though the W3 is more than capable of shooting usual “flat” two-dimensional images too.

Indeed many complained that the previous W1’s lenticular screen was quite poor. Two-thirds of the office thought it was reasonable, the other third found that 3D was only capable by lining your head up with the screen in an act about as precise, complicated and rare as a solar eclipse. The W3, on the other hand, sees the massive, 16:9 wideangle-ratio, 3.5-inch LCD screen updated and its performance is significantly improved. Although you’ll want to generally view the screen front-on, when doing so the 3D effect is very prominent indeed and, a big bonus here for existing glasses-wearers, you needn’t wear yet more “3D glasses” to pull off this effect (playback on 3D TV technology is different, but we’ll come to that in a moment).

The 3D W3 also has two 3x optical zoom lenses for a 35-105mm equivalent zoom range. There are two image sensors too, one for each of the lenses that combine as a single 10-megapixel 3D image saved as both an MPO and JPEG file (you’ll always get a 2D shot from the left lens whether shooting 3D or not). However, don’t expect to get much out of macro or close-up shooting as the FinePix W3’s recommended shooting distance is from 1.3m to infinity at the widest 35mm setting and 3.7m to infinity at the longest 105mm setting. Attempt to shoot closer up than this (minimum focus image is between 38-70cms when at 35mm wide angle) and you will get an image, but the chances are it will look like a mish-mash of two different images and not work for 3D viewing as intended. So there are limitations to what can work, but this is still relatively early technology and such limitations aren’t just bound to Fuji. 

The new HD video is capable of shooting in 3D too, and rendering as a stereo-video AVI file. However, although the 3D is pretty effective, the lack of quality due to overpowering processing is significantly limiting. The results are notably soft, dull of colour, full of processing artefacts and lack any “bite” or clarity. Although the files are HD you wouldn’t think so - even when shooting in good light.

The FinePix W3’s design is more slender than the previous generation model. It certainly looks a whole lot better though it is still, fairly unavoidably, rather large in the hand. Furthermore attempting to hold the camera in a single hand can be tricky as it’s very easy for a stray finger to get in the way of either one (if not both when using two hands) of the lenses and ruin the shot. Controls are easy to chop between though, with the various 2D and 3D settings on the rear control dial easy to understand and quickly navigate. A “3D” button to the bottom right also makes a quick change between shooting in standard or 3D modes.

In use the auto-parallax-correction performed by the camera seems relatively faultless at aligning both the image planes. Should you wish to creatively tweak this then there is a parallax correction to the camera’s top left side.

At around £380 the W3 isn’t exactly cheap, but there’s a lot of technology to be found under the hood, not least that you’re paying for two sensors rather than one. And with relatively non-existent competition, apart from Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds 3D lens that’s compatible with the G2 and GH2 and produces lower-resolution 3MP images, Fujifilm really do have the run of the house here.

Image-quality-wise and first up there are the 2D images which are much like those from any decent standard compact camera. However, closer inspection at 100 per cent and the images do suffer a little softness as the result of noise reduction, even at the lowest ISO 100 setting. Top-end ISO 1600 also doesn’t leave a great deal of scope for low-light handheld shooting compared to many of the ultra-high ISO sensitivities found in other recent camera releases.

The W3’s 3D images themselves certainly look impressive for the right shots and it’s good to see a manufacturer pushing the lenticular technology as a means to playback. The 10MP size is more than ample for today’s current HD screens (1080p is around 2.2MP, though forthcoming 4K2K resolution is 8.8MP so more equal to what the W3 offers). However, to view the universally-accepted MPO file types on a different device it will need to be 3D-compatible, all of which adds extra cost to make the most of the final images until, that is, 3D-capable TVs are commonplace in everyone’s homes. If you have such a TV (we tested it with the LG 47LX9900 and the Samsung UE46C9000) all you have to do is connect it via HDMI and playback from the camera.

If you’re just looking to use the lenticular 3D aspect, however, then Fujifilm does also produce a FinePix 3D Viewer photo frame and, believe it or not, runs a 3D printing service (full info at: https://www.fujifilmreal3d.com/printguide) - though this can also prove costly; the website is of significant use for the “dos and don’ts” with which images will successfully print well.

Verdict

The Fujifilm FinePix 3D W3 is an impressive camera - far more so than its W1 predecessor. The rear LCD is wonderfully large, though framing and capturing a good 3D image is a whole different ball game to standard photography. For the non-sceptics who are already 3D-mad the W3 definitely offers the most accurate, high resolution and affordable way to make consumer-level 3D images today. It’s not without fault however: the LCD screen suffers severely from reflections, it’s very easy for fingers to stray in front of either lens, close-ups are almost impossible to shoot successfully and the bottom line is that 3D imaging won’t work, nor be, for everyone.

However, the 3D-boom is now and Fujifilm is making great headway into this area. The W3’s MPO files are universally sound and will playback on any 3D-capable HDTV. It’s all go and, as much as we like all the improvements so far, this is still a fairly specialist area that’s ever so close to the mark and should blossom in the coming year.