Thanks to the success of movies like “Avatar” and the excitement over 3-D televisions and gaming, it has become a lot harder to laugh off the idea of wearing dorky 3-D glasses while watching TV or sitting at computer.
This week, I tested a device that lets you create your own 3-D content. I used Fuji Film’s FinePix Real 3D W3 (fujifilmusa.com/products/3D), a $500 digital camera due in stores the first week of September. This digital camera has two lenses, two 10-megapixel sensors and two shutters that work like your eyes, simultaneously capturing two images from two angles with the press of one button. After capturing an image or video in 3-D, an internal processor merges these two images into one, which can be seen on the back of the camera in a stunning display—no special glasses required.
But to see photos and videos in their beautiful 3-D format outside of the camera’s 3.5-inch display screen, you need to view them on a 3-D TV or laptop while wearing special glasses.
If you own a 3-D television that has an HDMI 1.4 input, like certain models made by Sony (SNE), Panasonic (PC), Samsung and LG, this camera can plug into those TVs to play back the images or videos you’ve captured. As is the case for all 3-D viewing on these TVs, you won’t actually see anything in 3-D unless you wear special glasses, which can run more than a $100 a pair.
You can view FinePix 3-D photos on any computer that has Nvidia Corp.’s (NVDA) 3D Vision System built-in, as long as you’re wearing Nvidia’s 3D Vision Glasses.
Other systems may also work, but Fuji Film hasn’t officially tested those, according to a representative.
And since most people don’t yet own 3-D TVs, laptops and glasses, you’ll have a hard time sharing your 3-D content with all your friends. Most of us will be frustrated that we can’t share 3-D digital content like we share other digital content—using our computers and smartphones to send it via email or social networks.
If you’re desperate to share your FinePix 3-D images, Fuji Film will print your photos out on special 5×7-inch 3-D paper through its SeeHere.com website. These prints don’t require glasses for viewing, and the handful I saw looked remarkably good. But they cost a whopping $7 a print and take up to 10 days to get via the mail, which is enough to make anyone think twice.
The FinePix Real 3D W3 camera itself is rather good looking and forgivably chunky given what it includes: the parts for two cameras built into one; a special processor for combining two images; and a serious 3-D display screen.
This model is a big improvement to its predecessor, the FinePix Real 3D, which came out last year for $100 more and was one of the first 3-D cameras available for consumers. That original camera was comparatively bulkier and heavier, and it had many more buttons rather than solid switches and a settings dial.
I really enjoyed capturing photos of friends or landscapes because these looked more dynamic in 3-D. From a helpful booklet of tips for making better 3-D photos that comes with this camera, I learned to make sure I was standing about four to five feet away from my subject and to take photos with varying degrees of depth in them, including a foreground and background. Friends who stuck out their arms while holding objects looked like they were reaching out at me when I played the photos back on the preview screen. And videos were even more impressive.
The 3-D images take up twice the memory of 2-D images because the camera is capturing two images and combining them into one, a process that involves saving the two original images. The FinePix Real 3D W3 accepts SD and SD-HC (high capacity) cards; I used one that was four gigabytes and costs less than $15.
If you’d rather shoot a regular 2-D image or video, simply touch a “2D–3D” button on the camera. Advanced 2-D modes let you use each of the camera’s sensors and lenses independent of one another, as if you were shooting with two different cameras. One can zoom in on a shot while the other shoots at a wide angle; one can capture an image in black and white while the other captures it in color, and so on.
While this camera’s 3-D images and videos look incredible, most people will be frustrated by the limited viewing options and the inability to share them with every friend. As is often the case with 3-D, it can be gorgeous and fun to play with, but still too limiting to enjoy.
Edited by Walter S. Mossberg
Write to Katherine Boehret at email@example.com