Amidst the companies exhibiting at IFA 2009, many shared a common ambition - 3D. Most pushed out 3D televisions, and a few projectors were shown, but Fujifilm took a slightly different slant on the emergent technology.
Instead of just displaying 3D images, Fujifilm is working on helping you create them yourself with its 3D camera. A pair of lenses combine with a filtered TFT display to allow you to take pictures that show depth.
There's one catch. You can't see the pictures in 3D when you take them off the camera. Actually, that's not 100% true - you can see them if you buy Fuji's special 3D photo frame. But the majority of budding 3D photographers will be unable to display their work without recombining the pictures using PC software.
Specs-wise, the W1 3D seems okay on paper. Two 10-megapixel CCD sensors, the ability to shoot in 2D or 3D stills mode, the ability to take 2D or 3D AVI video, and ISO going between 100 and 1600. There's very little internal memory, but there's an SDHC slot for pumping that up.
We weren't to get a good look at the quality of the images displayed, because we didn't get the chance to hook it up to a computer. However, it was adequate enough to display on the camera's LCD display, and the pictures displayed on the accompanying picture frame seemed good enough.
The build quality of the camera is adequate - it feels a little plasticky, but doesn't give the impression that it'll break under continued use. The front slider, in particular, seems solid enough. A sleek black finish definitely attracts fingerprints, as you can see in the pictures.
When shooting in 3D, we did come across the problem that the camera needs adequate depth of field to properly convey 3D. If you take pictures of something on a table, it won't jump out at you - you need to get some more distant background in shot too for the full effect.
And while we're picking holes, the menu system and UI seemed dreadful. Even allowing for the fact that it was in German (which we're not too fluent in) it seemed confusing, clunky, slow, and more like a beta product than anything finished.
From our brief play with the W1 3D on Fujifilm's IFA stand, it seems like it's a proof of concept, and a novelty, rather than a serious piece of hardware.
If you don't buy the accompanying 3D photo frame, then it's effectively a very expensive, heavy and bulky mid-range compact camera. You can't mail those 3D pictures to your relatives, nor can you display them anywhere other than on the screen of the device itself.
Although the idea behind the W1 3D is intriguing, until 3D becomes integrated into the displays in our houses and offices it seems barely worth considering. Chalk this one up as an experiment, not a real product until we can be further convinced when we get a full review unit to play with.