At a very interactive product launch, Fujifilm this week rolled out a point-and-click camera that lets people display 3D photos on either a 3D TV or a PC. If you own the right kind of laptop or desktop PC monitor, you don’t even need to wear 3D glasses to view the third dimension of your work, Fuji officials said at the event at New York City’s Museum of Natural History.
Nevertheless, the new FinePix Real 3D W3 digital camera comes with an HDMI interface for instant viewing of 3D pics on virtually any manufacturer’s 3D TV with the assistance of stereographic 3D goggles. The camera will compete with a couple of new Sony models which, like the W3, are due to ship next month.
The thinkers at Fuji believe that the time is finally right for a 3D camera, with the rise of 3D HDTVs from the likes of Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony, and the start of more affordable for 3D TV.
“We are looking to leverage that,” said Go Myazaki, division president for Fujifilm North America’s Imaging and Electronic Divisions, during a press event Tuesday evening at the Museum of Natural History.
With the new FinePix Real 3D W3 digital camera, a successor to Fuji’s earlier W1 camera, the company wants to move 3D photography beyond its initial niche market of hobbyists and gaming enthusiasts into the mass market, said David Troy, Fuji’s director of marketing for consumer digital cameras.
Both 2D and 3D
Users can also snap and display 2D photos and still shots with the W3, using a built-in button to switch between the two modes.
While manufacturers such as Sony also sell pocket-sized 3D cameras, Fuji’s differ from the rest by processing 3D in hardware instead of performing post-processing in software.
Fuji’s cameras have built-in lenses and image sensors for capturing true 3D images.
Along with a new Mini HDMI 1.4 port, the W3 also brings simplified camera operation, first-time support for HDTV, and a larger and brighter 3.5-inch LCD.
Through Fuji’s SeeHere.com Web site, users can now upload their photos for 3D printout on paper. The printouts will then sent back by mail, reporters were told.
How to take great 3D pictures
Yet while pointing and shooting Fuji’s new 3D camera is simple enough, getting good 3D pics requires knowledge of some distinctive photo principles. The reporters, editors, and photographers on hand at the event found this out even before Fuji turned them loose with loaner 3D cameras for the night.
During a demo of the camera, Fuji staff delivered a few tips. First, you should choose a subject with multiple focal points, and you should then hone in on a focal point relatively close to you as an “anchor point.” On the other hand, the anchor point should be at least six feet away from you.
Trying to keep all this in mind, the journalists then shot 3D videos of people and objects in the museum, and of scenes in the park outside the windows. When they were done with that, they plugged their cameras into multivendor 3D TVs, donned the stereographic glasses, and eyed the results of their 3D work.
The W3 will carry an list price of $499.95, much more than what you’d pay for most point-and-shoot 2D digital cameras.
Yet if you’re ready to do more than point-and-shoot, the W3 is packed with features for advanced 2D and 3D photography, said Troy. With TeleWide Simultaneous Shooting, for example, you can zoom in on a subject while simultaneously taking a wide angle shot of the same scene. Another feature, Interval 3D Shooting, is designed for capturing 3D effects in far away subjects.
By switching a built-in parallax control from auto mode into manual mode, you can increase or decrease the 3D effect by fine tuning the sense of depth and the alignment of the images.
How to Use the Camera with a PC
What if you don’t own a 3D TV, and you want to use the 3D camera with a PC instead? If you have a desktop PC, you can buy a Zalman monitor, which will let you ditch the 3D glasses for viewing photos in 3D. Also, 3D-enabled laptops are now becoming available from makers like Toshiba that will let you do the same.
If you don’t mind wearing the 3D glasses as you gaze at your PC, you can purchase NVidia’s 3D Vision, a kit that comes with the glasses plus a 3D graphics card. With the NVidia approach, you’ll also need a PC monitor with a refresh rate of at least 120 Hz, Troy noted.
Fuji’s latest 3D camera supports HDTV, but at 720p resolution, as opposed to the higher 1080p. Will Fuji step to the higher resolution?
The answer is that Fuji hasn’t decided yet. The 1080p technology would be costlier, and Fuji isn’t certain that the added resolution would be all that detectable to most users, Troy suggested. “But we’re always looking at new ways to improve our cameras,” he told me.