When reviewers call your product “the worst ____ ever made,” do you give up and move on? Or do you build a second model and try to prove them wrong? After introducing the world’s first consumer stereoscopic 3D shooter to dismal reviews, FujiFilm chose door number two, replacing the camera with a thinner, lighter, and easier-to-use version that addresses a host of complaints and costs $100 less to boot. The FujiFilm FinePix Real 3D W3 adds a larger 3.5-inch, 16:9 LCD screen, a 720p video recording mode, and HDMI 1.4 out for dropping images and videos right into your 3D-ready TV. Oh, and it actually feels like a real camera this time, our favorite feature by far. We got some hands-on time with the new cross-eyed shooter, read on for more!
Surprisingly enough, FujiFilm didn’t start from scratch with the W3, as the FinePix Real 3D system inside hasn’t changed one bit: you’ll find the same 3x zoom lenses, the same 10 megapixel CCD sensors, and the same RealPhoto processor under the hood. If you weren’t happy with the horrendous noise and limited low-light sensitivity of the W1, you won’t find better image quality here, but for most every other physical feature Fuji went back to the drawing board. Gone are the wonky controls and guesswork menus, replaced with the standard dial-and-directional-pad and UI identical to Fuji’s other models. Viewed from the rear, it’s practically indistinguishable from a standard pocket cam, and if you’ve ever used another Fuji you’ll be right at home with the W3. From the front, the camera’s a dead ringer for the original, but less glossy and chunky, though it’s still quite the lump in a pants pocket and weighs over half a pound. Making the camera smaller involved a tradeoff, too — the camera now uses a smaller (but admittedly more common) NP-50 battery pack rated at 150 shots sans flash.
Now, we weren’t able to spend nearly enough time with the W3 to make any sort of judgment call on the quality of the unit’s stereoscopic shots — as factors like relative subject depth give 3D photography something of a learning curve — but we found it easy enough to experiment with the camera’s impressive array of automatic and manual modes. That said, we weren’t always impressed with what we ended up seeing on the W3’s screen. The 3.5-inch parallax barrier LCD has over quadruple the pixels of the older camera — enough that we couldn’t make out individual dots like on the W1 — but the stereoscopic viewing zone actually felt smaller in that it took less head movement to pull us out of the zone and induce eyestrain. Viewing images on a Sony 3DTV via HDMI was easier on the eyes, but showed serious limitations to Fuji’s video output. Images were dim and constantly flickering, and 720p video was grainy to the point of resembling VHS footage. Both screens showed that ghosting was prevalent in every picture we took and some professionally shot scenes as well, though the best of these showed that the camera’s also capable of capturing convincing levels of depth with some foresight and practice; we noticed that objects deep in the background of an image often still looked three-dimensional instead of “billboarding” like in some stereoscopic content.
FujiFilm representatives told us straight-up that though the W1 met sales expectations, the $600 camera only sold several hundred units to a strictly enthusiast market. At $500 and with consumer-friendly controls, the W3 could do much better, but we have to wonder why the company sprang for a second camera without even incrementally improving the pocket shooter’s output.