3D technology has often appeared in tech headlines this year, so it is perhaps inevitable that a camera with 3D capabilities will eventually be released. Our prediction can't come soon enough: the Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D W1 happens to be the first 3D equipped digital compact camera and looks to kickstart an exciting trend to come. Lucky for us, we managed to get our hands on it.
Looks-wise, the Fujifilm W1 resembles an armored tank - thick, sturdy and tough. The glossy black surface is prone to smudges, but other than that, the camera is quite the looker. While it does not have a power-on button, it does have a slider that powers on the camera and reveals its dual lens design. The rubbery, smooth-finished buttons located at the back are back-lit and laid out in a grid-like format.
While the camera scores points for its looks, it does poorly in the other departments. The UI is cumbersome and requires much patience at the user's end. While shooting on Auto is pretty straightforward, those who prefer Manual will find themselves extremely frustrated. Unlike most cameras, there are no quick press buttons for basic settings like ISO, aperture or shutter speed. Instead, users have to constantly exit and enter the menu to adjust even the most minute of changes. And you had better be sure of these changes, as you'll have to repeat the entire process if they are not what you want.
To add on, the button layout is confounding and makes little sense. There are too many features crammed into the back of the camera for users to toggle with, and worse still, multiple controls are assigned to one major and relatively small button, so it's very easy to get the wrong function.
The camera's dismal ISO performance did not help in its favor. While it did relatively well till ISO 400, it takes a sharp nosedive from ISO 800 onwards and regrettably, photos taken at ISO 1600 are barely usable for print.
Major flaws aside, the camera does allow you to view your pictures in cool 3D. A button allows you to toggle the view from 2D to 3D. What it does is to simply take two images with a viewing angle that is slightly off-tangent and combine them to provide depth to a single image. These are interesting to experiment with, and when done right, you can get photos
that effectively showcase a 3D effect.
However, do note that, as of yet, the 3D photos taken cannot be shared with friends through a normal computer. Unless you have the extra cash to spare to send them to the online Fujifilm 3D printing service or to get a digital photo frame built for the task, be prepared for the sharing to be rather exclusive.
Bottom line, the Fujifilm W1 is a fun gadget to tinkle with, albeit for a short period of time and only if you have the cash to spare (retail pricing is said to be about US$600). Other than the novelty, there's no compelling reason to get it unless you enjoy appreciating your 3D shots alone on a tiny screen. With that said, it still feels very much like a prototype, and while we were relatively disappointed with the W1, it does open a whole new meaning to photography that could be developed further in the future.
If you are on the look-out for a decent 10MP point-and-shoot camera, do look towards other affordable alternatives with better performance and usability.