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A Look at the Panasonic Real 3D W3 camera

 

I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t particularly interested in 3D photography and video until I took a walk through the aisles of CES this past January.

Among the major television makers LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp and Sony all had huge displays demonstrating some very impressive 3D capabilities.

From the fanfare that they were lavishing on their new equipment, it appears that the major electronics manufacturers are counting on 3D to be a big part of their revenue in the next few years.

Here’s an audience of viewers at the Panasonic booth being wowed with a wall-sized 3D movie.

To use any of the new 3D televisions, you’ll need those cool 3D glasses to watch the new content but not the glasses which sport the cheap bi-color lenses; instead you’ll need to use battery-powered glasses that must be matched to the television manufacturer.


Here’s a set of battery powered glasses for my Panasonic 3D television.

As I understand it, a 3D television image is displayed as an alternating pair of left eye/right eye images. So the left eye image appears each 1/60th of a second and the right eye image the next 1/60th of a second.

Each lens of the glasses contains a shutter. The shutter covering the left-eye opens each 1/60th of a second and the shutter covering the right-eye opens alternating 1/60th of a second. At this rate, the brain sees the alternating images as a single one in 3D.


Several companies are already producing 3D capture devices.

Panasonic is taking steps to support 3D with this stereo lens set that fits on their Micro Four-Thirds cameras.

This has two separate lenses that produces a set of digital image that can be displayed directly on their 3D television.


I stopped at the Fuji booth to watch a demo of their 3D camera.

Well, after a short ten minute introduction, I was hooked. After the show, I ordered one to try out the 3D features for myself.

This is the Fuji Real 3D W3 camera. You can see its two lenses are spaced apart about the same distance as your eyes. When you press the shutter, it captures two simultaneous images from slightly different viewpoints – left side and right side.

In fact, each lens is a 3X optical zoom that can also record a 10-megapixel image independently of one another. But when in 3D mode, the lenses are set to work synchronously.


On the back is a oversized 3.5″ LCD. But unlike a standard LCD, the one lets you view the 3D image without the need for special glasses.

In playback, the camera combine the two separate left and right images and displays them on a high resolution, 1.1 megapixel lenticular lens system to simulate the 3D effect and minimizes flickering and crosstalk (double exposure).


This picture of me is the closest that I can come to showing you how a 3D image looks on the W3’s LCD.

If you were viewing it on the W3, you’d see that my outstretched hand is clearly in front of my face and the gentleman behind me is very distant.

When viewed live, the 3D images are very impressive.


Likewise, you can just as easily capture and playback 3D videos with the W3. Press the video button and it’s ready to record 720p HD movies when you press the shutter.

To view the video on a larger screen, you’ll have to connect the camera to the 3D television with an HDMI cable. My Panasonic 3D television has an SD-slot so I can just insert the SD-card from the camera, precluding the need for the HDMI cable. Playback on a 3D television is very cool. In 3D video mode, the W3 truly gives you the Avatar-like effect.

Although designed especially for 3D photographs and video, it’s also a very capable and unique camera for “normal” 2D photographs.

Three different modes let the W3 capture two images at different zoom factors; two images with different ISO sensitivities; or two different images with different color attributes (black and white; chrome) all with a single press of the shutter.


3D photos and video are cool. But to really take advantage of the impact of 3D, you’ll need a 3D television – something that is bound to slow the adoption of cameras such as this.

As a side note, I’ve used the Sony Alpha A55 extensively and one of the features that it offers is one called 3D Sweep Panorama. Activate this feature, press the shutter and pan the camera (in a sweeping motion) and the camera automatically captures a 3D panorama image. While you cannot see the 3D effect in-camera, you can display it on a 3D television. Sony has several other less expensive compact cameras with the 3D Sweep Panorama feature so 3D is definitely on the minds of camera manufacturers.


In the short amount of time that I’ve spent exploring 3D, I’ve found that the Fuji W3 is a relatively inexpensive yet exciting way for me to add this new dimension.

 

I purchased the Real 3D W3 in February at a cost of just slightly over $300. For more information about the W3 visit Fujifilm.

For more information about the 3D stereo lens set contact Panasonic.

For more information about the 3D Sweep Panorama feature contact Sony.

 

Please note that Stay Focused has no connection to Fujifilm.

 

Written by Arnie Lee

 


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