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Preview of the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W1 digital stereoscopic camera

For years I have been waiting for a purpose-built stereoscopic 3D digital camera. It looks like my wishes are about to come true with the Fuji film FinePix Real 3D W1 camera, set to go on the market in September 2009. A dedicated digital stereo 3D camera has been long overdue, but will it live up to my expectations?. Read on to find out more.

I have been interested in stereoscopic photography, also called 3D photography since childhood. The principle is simple: Instead of taking one single photo, a stereo camera takes 2 photos from eye distance apart. When viewed together, so that left and right eyes see their respective image, you get an amazing sense of depth.

As a child I loved my Viewmaster 3D viewer, and gasped at the sight of foreign landscapes and cities, flowers, birds and other foreground subjects seeming to jump out of the picture towards me.

Later I experimented with stereo film cameras from the 1950s, using home made viewers. I also tried stereo projection using improvised twin projectors with polarising filters and glasses.

When I went over to all-digital capture, i attempted various methods of digital capture, for instance with two digital cameras mounted side by side, but was always disappointed. It was difficult to synchronise the two cameras precisely. And no matter what I did, it was impossible to get the zoom settings to match, not to mention the colour and exposure.

What I needed was a dedicated purpose-built professional quality digital stereo camera.

I felt that the photographic industry was missing out on a huge opportunity. 3D is the natural extension of 2D. It ought to be a mainstream format, not just the passion of a small number of enthusiasts, and often treated as just a gimmick by some tech-head journalists.

But now things are about to change - I hope - with the arrival of the Fuji Finepix Real 3D camera.

I'm already familar with Fuji's products. I used a Fuji FinePix S3 digital SLR to make my groundbreaking Manchester Mega-Photo.

Please note, this is a preview, not a review - I have not yet managed to get my hands on one of these cameras, so here's a brief overview of its features, as taken from the Fujifilm website:

The FinePix Real3D is really two ten megapixel cameras, two lenses and two sensors sharing common electronics and housing. Set to the largest setting, each sensor delivers an image of 3,648 x 2,736 pixels.

The camera has a 3D viewing screen on the back, which enables you to view the pictures immediately. No glasses are required, as it uses the lenticular sheet method which can be seen on many movie DVD covers and stereo postcards.

Fuji have produced an accompanying 3D viewer, similar to a picture frame but also using the lenticular viewing method. Images from the camera are displayed in stereo, no special glasses or viewing devices are required.

Fuji also offer a printing service, also using lenticular sheets. You can send photos taken with the Fuji Real 3D camera for printing and you will receive 3D prints of your picture, similar in impact to 3D postcards or DVD covers. You can mount them in your photo album like conventional prints.

In addition to 3D, the camera can also capture two conventional 2D pictures simultaneously at different settings, for example one at wide angle, one at full zoom, one in colour one in monochrome.

The camera can also shoot 3D video at 640x480 pixels, also viewable on the 3D viewer.

To me it sounds like a dream come true but... and there's always a but... I have some expectations, will they be fulfilled...?

Will the images captured by the FujiFilm 3D digital camera be of a high enough technical quality to match my high expectations?
Will it suffer from barrel and pincushion distortion?
Will the two images be truly identical in colour and exposure?
Will the format allow me to work on individual pairs of photographs in Photoshop?

I sincerely hope that this format takes off and that other manufacturers follow suit with products of their own.

But unfortunately I also have some misgivings, namely that those techie journalists, who have a poor understanding of stereo 3D and its creative possibilities, will treat stereo as just another gimmick and it won't be taken seriously. If that happens, the mainstream public will have missed out on what I consider to be the visual format of the millennium.

I am going to do my utmost to try and make sure that doesn't happen. I will be proceeding with my ambitious Stereo Photo Art project and which will explore the creative possibilities for stereoscopic image creation. I hope to have the first pilot exhibition ready in 2010.

More and more Hollywood movies are available in Stereo 3D. This is helping to introduce the format to a wider public and hopefully consumer demand will follow on from this.

In the meantime, please await my full review of the FujiFilm Real 3D W1 camera, which I hope to publish shortly.

For full information and specifications on the FujiFilm REal 3D stereoscopic digital camera, go to

www.fujifilm.com/products/3d/camera/finepix_real3dw1/index.html

Well done to FujiFilm corporation for being the first major camera manufacturer to take up the challenge of producing a digital stereo camera!

Aidan O'Rourke 10 August 2009

If you would like to learn how to use this or any other stereo camera, or to explore the creative and commercial possibilities of stereoscopic 3D photography, I offer one to one tuition and small group training. Please contact

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2009-08-10

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