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Fujifilm W3 - A "First Impressions" Review by William Meredith

After one day of owning a Fujifilm W3, here are my first impressions:

The new W3 is solidly built and has a very comfortable feel in the hands, not slick or slippery. The camera is easy to carry and the included wrist strap adds a degree of security. The lens cover/power switch has a positive snap that leaves no doubt as to whether it is off or on. A ridge on the lens cover makes it easy to keep one's fingers out of the lenses.

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The 3x (35mm - 105mm) zoom control ring surrounds the shutter release button. Like most zoom controls it is difficult to zoom slowly enough for accurate composition. Rather than trying to get a continuous zoom, it appears to be better to use an intermittent approach - quickly press the zoom control, hear the beep, let go of the control and the zoom moves one step in or out.

There is a parallax control on the top of the camera on the left side. This can be quite useful when the point of parallax is different from the point of focus/exposure. When pressed, the control causes the display to show both images simultaneously and adjustments can be made in fine increments. It can also be used in the Playback mode to adjust parallax before printing. Lenticular prints can be ordered online.

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It is difficult to keep finger grease off of the 3-inch screen in normal handling, carrying, sliding into/out of a case, etc. This screen is incredible and gives the camera a huge "Wow!!" factor. It is a very high resolution - 1 million plus pixels - lenticular screen with virtually invisible lenses. This is not your father's "Winkie!" Fortunately, the grease has no impact on the imagery.

The battery/SD card cover is a fairly complicated plastic and metal affair that will get a great deal of use. Its operation is somewhat misleading as there are four raised dots on the front edge, however, they do not provide enough grip to actually open the door. The best way is to simply put one's thumb smack in the middle of the label and slide the door open. This will happen often because the battery will require frequent changing.

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To become more familiar with the camera, I put it in its "fully-automatic everything" mode and played 3D tourist at the American Museum of Natural History. :-) Although the camera has a great deal of flexibility, I thought that the majority of users would just shoot in this mode most of the time and I wanted to see how it would perform.

Starting with a fully charged battery and a freshly formatted 4-GB SDHC card, I was able to take 156 pictures using the dual *.mpo/*.jpg mode - in other words, 78 discreet images. I shot a mix of bright exteriors on the walk over, and both available light and flash in the museum. I kept the camera turned off most of the time. Afterwards I reviewed the pictures with a friend.

This was enough to completely drain the battery which then took 2.5 hours to recharge.

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The controls on the rear of the camera are similar to many P&S digital cameras but with the addition of a 2D/3D button and a Movie button. The Shutter Release button is used for both stills and movies. The selected mode is displayed on the screen.

The Disp/Back button steps the screen display through Information on, off, and a very useful "rule of thirds" grid display. This is invaluable for keeping the lenses horizontal.

The Playback button > can be used to turn the camera on and off without having to open the front lens cover. The Menu rocker switch is used to move through the images, and the Zoom Control can then be used to magnify them.

A Mode Selection dial provides access to Fully Auto, Program, Manual, Aperture Priority, two Scene Modes (that are assigned in the Menu) and two Advanced Modes.

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The A(dvanced)3D position allows two images to be taken by the left lens, รก la Cha-Cha, for situations where the normal 75mm baseline is too much or too little. After taking the first shot, it is displayed on the screen in an onionskin mode, partly transparent, so that the second shot can be aligned with it. These two images are then combined in the normal *.mpo format to yield a stereo image. This provides some interesting new macro capabilities.

The A(dvanced)2D position allows you to take two different images simultaneously, e.g., a wide shot and a close up or different color balances, etc. These images are just two individual *.jpgs.

Since there is no image stabilization, hand-holding at slower shutter speeds could be difficult.

Sensor noise appears to be very low, especially considering that, in the fully automatic mode, the lowest ISO is 400. I haven't yet explored the other manual settings which go down to ISO 100.

One problem I found is that the flash can create double shadows - one on either side of the subject - because it is in between the lenses. When possible, moving the subject away from the background will help.

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The image quality is very good and the precise synchronization between the two image sensors adds substantially to that quality. Depth is quite apparent with no "cardboard cutout" effect. I've included a few representative stereo pairs that I shot today.

I bought the Fujifilm W3 expecting that it might be an "almost, but not quite there" attempt at what I was looking for in a 3D camera. And I made very sure I could return it when it fell short of my expectations. After one day on full auto, I'm totally impressed with its design, quality and capabilities.

The rock-solid, cableless synchronization, HD video and amazingly clear 3D screen solve many of the difficulties I've dealt with previously. The fact that it has a multitude of other modes and features adds substantially to its value for my needs. No camera is perfect for everyone, but the W3 is a solid 2nd gen contender and, for me at least, a keeper.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 8, 2010 4:42 PM.

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