The FinePix REAL 3D W3 follows on Fujifilm's first 3D compact camera, the W1. The W3 is smaller, lighter, has a larger LCD screen, a new Auto 3D mode, and stereo sound recording. The W1 and W3 use dual lenses and sensors (10MP each) to create 3D images and HD video, which can be viewed on 3D TVs and the company's digital photo frames.
The W3 isn't a slim camera when compared to other compacts (those twin lenses and sensors have to go somewhere). It's a little bigger than most, but the correspondingly larger 3.5-inch screen is beautiful to look at. Because Fujifilm has opted to go with a larger screen though, it also means that the controls have been squeezed to the side of the back panel and made small. The d-pad is barely comfortable, and the four buttons surrounding it - Play, Video, Display and 3D - are small and packed very near to one another.
The interesting thing about the W3, like the W1 before it, is how you can view images in 3D on the LCD panel itself without the need for 3D glasses. It's a real pleasure to be able to see what you just shot right on the screen in 3D - it adds a dimension of reality to a memory that just can't be done otherwise. If you can imagine it (or remember), it's rather like the effect on those 3D stickers we used to have as kids.
When you first look at the screen though, everything might look fuzzy and give you a right headache. That's because the screen has to be calibrated to correct for parallax, which is done using the parallax control on the top panel. Auto Parallax Control can be enabled but it doesn't always work. Another frustration you might encounter is that in 3D and 2D Auto modes, there's only one AF frame available: Dead-center. You'll find yourself constantly focusing and re-framing, and it's only in the manual modes that the AF frame can be set to Center or Multi.
The 3D image is recorded in MPO format, so you'll need an MPO-friendly viewer to be able to see your photos in 3D outside of the W3 (like a 3D TV). You can set the camera to record in both 3D and 2D, so you'll still have a PC-friendly JPEG version of your shot. Because of the inherent challenges of shooting with a twin lens howev, expect that the framing of the 2D picture won't be exactly the same as the one you see in 3D. In fact, we'd say the same for shooting in 3D; because what you see through the LCD may not be the exact composition you get when the final image is put together.
Those very same twin lenses give you some interesting options for shooting in 2D - it's virtually two cameras in one body. For example, the W3 lets you shoot at two different zoom ratios for the same scene, you might be shooting wide with one lens while zooming in close with the other. The other options are to shoot in two color modes or two ISO sensitivities.
The Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D W3 is an innovative camera, but it's also a niche camera. We don't imagine that everyone will want to photograph in 3D, much less know how to view MPO files properly. Only time will tell just how far the current 3D trend will go. But with both 3D content consumption and 3D TV sales on the rise, it's only a matter of time people would start documenting their lives in 3D.