With a retail price of $599, the 10 megapixel Fujifilm W1 is four times the price of a good, compact digital camera, but what you get is the world’s first, entry-level, consumer-friendly, 3D camera. Is it worth it to go 3D?
Full specs available here.
The Body And Interface
Measuring 123.6 (W) x 68 (H) x 25.6 (D) mm and weighing 260g, the Fujifilm W1 isn’t as large and as heavy as other reviewers would lead you to believe. On the front, you have the two lenses, with the flash in the middle, and two microphones to capture audio in stereo. A single, sliding cover takes up half of the front and adequately covers both lenses. The camera turns on by sliding the cover down. It’s too glossy and lacking ergonomics for your fingers, leading to a lot of instances where your fingers will smudge up the lenses when the camera is turned on. Thankfully, the lenses are covered by glass (or hard plastic?) that’s easy to clean. The rest of the controls are simple with the shutter button atop and the zoom joystick beside it.
The bright, 2.8 inch LCD screen is deceptively large because of the big, black bezel that occupies a lot of wasted space. The LCD is covered in what appears to be either a glass or very sturdy plastic that did not scratch easily, under normal, everyday handling. The 6 buttons flanking the LCD are curved in a valley shape, pivoting at the valley, allowing each button to have a left and a right function. It’s a nice little nod to the left/right nature of stereo photography, but not entirely intuitive at first glance, but after a very short learning curve without the aid of the manual, it’s easy to figure out how to control the camera deftly if you’ve had any experience with digital photography.
You’ll be amazed by the LCD once it lights up. There’s no optical viewfinder, relying instead on the live-view shown on the LCD, but Fujifilm made the wise decision to make it lenticular. When positioned dead center to your line of sight, you’ll see everything the camera sees, in 3D, unaided with your naked eye. The interface menus have a cool 3D effect and of course, all your 3D photos and videos can be played back in their full 3D glory on the LCD. If the effect is too straining, a press of the 2D button on the bottom left of the camera’s back, will switch it to normal 2D mode.
There were a few, very minor gripes. Like most compacts, the tripod thread isn’t centered either on a lens or between the lenses and the lenses being positioned to the left of the body (when facing forward like the left eye), instead of more in the center, makes it too easy to accidentally cover the left-eye lens with your fingers.
The W1 is only slightly larger than the typical compact, comfortably fitting inside a jacket inner-breast pocket or a purse. It will fit down a male jean front-pocket, albeit with noticeable heft and bulge. It’s still smaller than pro compacts such as the Canon Powershot SX, making early complaints about the W1’s size and weight, unjustified. Reviewers ignorant of stereo photography failed to recognize that any camera of this type, will never be shorter than a certain length, which is the distance between a set of human eyes – roughly 6-7 cm. Looking at its features in context, the W1 is small for a camera that’s really two cameras combined.
Photo quality was on par with average compacts. In full auto mode, pictures were a little underexposed, lacking vibrancy and a color gamut that was subjectively narrow. Sharpness was soft; photos lacked finer details and exacerbated by the lack of proper image stabilization. There’s no sensor-shift or optical image stabilization so taking photos even with the limited 3X zoom, can be tricky. Under low light situations, the camera recognizes camera-shakes are possible and gives you a little warning on the screen, but the camera does not appear to compensate by increasing the ISO to allow for a faster shutter speed – a trick many cheap compacts have, sometimes known as “digital image stabilization”. Listing no mention of image stabilization, the Fujifilm specs confirm the lack of any kind of image stabilization in the W1, which is a little unacceptable for a camera at its price point. Nimble, and more knowledgeable photographers can manually compensate by setting aperture size, shutter speed, and ISO. Noise levels were very acceptable, even at high ISOs.
White balance was the biggest issue with the W1. The W1 had difficulty recognizing proper light color except outdoors on a sunny day. Indoor shots were difficult, either lit by tungsten, flourescent, or natural light. The W1 allows you to manually set the type of lighting condition, but its own white balance for the presets are inaccurate. The white balance feed to the live-view screen was also inaccurate, taking a long time to show the proper white balance. This means even if the live view was too yellow on screen, the picture taken may be more correct, even a few seconds after you take it. On our retail model, white balance from the two lenses had a slight difference with a few occasions where it was completely different, resulting in difficult post-processing of stereo 3D photos. A RAW option would have vastly mitigated this issue.
Don’t expect to shoot Avatar on the cheap with the Fujifilm W1. Video resolution tops out at 640×480 – DVD quality in the age of high definition. Unless lit in the best of circumstances such as a bright, sunny day, resulting video exhibited significant noise and artifacts. Sharpness in the details were also missing, much like in picture-taking mode.
The two sensors also suffered from the odd occasion where exposure and white balance were not identical. Semi-manual controls were offered when taking photographs with the W1, but those options are not available when shooting video. It’s fully automatic, which is immensely disappointing given the inaccuracy of the W1’s white balance compensation mentioned earlier. You have zero control over the exposure or the white balance. The camera automatically adjusts and works well with exposure, but the W1 struggles with white balance even in a well-lit room, with color casts changing constantly. The option to lock into a white balance level, even one badly configured, would’ve been better.
On a positive note, videos do not suffer from the dreaded “wobble” common in many hybrid camera/camcorders – it’s when vertical lines of the video skews and tilts everytime you pan the camera. You can see an example of it here affecting the Nikon D90. The twin microphones upfront also capture audio in stereo while most compacts capture mono.
Too many uninformed reviews criticized Fujifilm for overpricing two cameras stuck side-by-side and calling it the W1. That’s unfair. Despite the below-average image and video quality, the innovations to achieve stereo 3D in such a compact and easy-to-use form, justifies its price. Not only are photos and videos aligned and in-sync, but the parallax works brilliantly. Without proper parallax, you would get 3D images with depth, but subjects rather flat, akin to a pop-up book. On the W1, everything feels “full” with roundness and a sense of volume.
While you could manually control parallax easily with the buttons on the back, the W1 did a very good job focusing correctly. The W1 will always determine parallax based on whatever is centered and you can control it before capture by either centering/focusing via a half-depress of the shutter button, that’s standard on all digital cameras, before framing your shot, or post-capture by adjusting parallax using the parallax buttons during picture playback. Parallax for videos cannot be adjusted after capture.
Parallax isn’t much of an issue for both image and video, when playing back on the computer. Even at its widest aperture, the W1 produced images and videos with very deep depths of field, giving you a less cinematic/pro look people are accustomed to with narrow depth, but is perfect for 3D viewing as everything is mostly in-focus, reducing eye-strain caused by your eyes trying to focus/parallax something that isn’t in focus, when viewing stereo 3D.
Any errors in stereo alignment were imperceptible. Even after a little bit of rough-handling to simulate everyday use (tossing the W1 onto a couch, running with the camera in-hand or inside pocket), the lenses remained in-alignment. Videos were perfectly in-sync as they should be.
When taking pictures, two files are created: a regular JPG and an accompany .MPO. The MPO format is really the stereo 3D photo consisting of the left and right images packaged together. Certain supporting products such as the $499 Fujifilm V1 3D picture frame and Nvidia 3D vision ecosystem also support playback of MPO files, allowing you to enjoy your photos in 3D if you’re looking for something bigger than the W1’s screen to view with. Editing of the MPO files requires a bit more computer knowledge, but is unnecessary for the average consumer. Videos are recorded in a motion jpeg AVI, that like the MPO files, are supported by other devices so playback is as simple as reading the file off the memory card. If you wish to edit the files, it’s a bit more tricky. Although many pro video editors support the format, editing 3D video requires some care because not one, but two video layers (one for the left eye and one for the right) must be worked on and synced properly. People already accustomed to editing their own home movies on the computer will have a medium learning curve. Most consumers will suffice with leaving the files alone and playing back on supported devices.
The only real complaints are the below-average image quality, non-high-def resolution of the video, and white balance/exposure of the two sensors that didn’t match – all previously mentioned.
The supplied battery just barely lasted two hours of almost continuous photography and video, nearly filling a 16 GB memory card. That’s better than average and should last most, if not all of a day sightseeing. The Fujifilm W1’s battery is small enough that carrying an extra battery will not add any inconvenience.
Our Fujifilm W1 shipped with the wrong charger. A call to Fujifilm was incredibly attentive and personal. There were no endless menus or wait times. Very friendly support staff responded immediately and it felt like you were speaking to a customer-oriented, small business instead of a large corporation. A replacement charger was immediately dispatched without hassle such as hunting for/sending in proof or purchase, receipts, or serial numbers. Absolutely fantastic.
The Fujifilm W1 is a misunderstood camera. It’s too big and heavy for a compact. Photo-quality is below average. It doesn’t even shoot video in high definition. For the price, you can buy 6 of the Panasonic FX-35’s compared in this article. But $599 retail gets you the world’s first, consumer-friendly, stereo 3D camera/camcorder in an easy-to-carry form. It lets the average person shoot and enjoy 3D right away, without much technical knowledge required, and share 3D with friends and family. When consumer, high-definition cameras launched, they were $3000, and high definition TVs still cost many thousands of dollars. The fujifilm W1 and V1 picture-frame are far more affordable. The W1 is not just a camera. It’s a 3D camera, and it’s great.
How To View Stereo 3D Pictures And Videos Without Any Equipment
The 3D effect in movies such as Avatar, is accomplished by mimicking the natural viewing of the eyes. Because we humans have two eyes, two images are needed. This is called “stereo 3D”. Our brains do the work of combining what our eyes see, but images taken with a stereo 3D camera look like two images to us because they are not made with our eyes. We therefore must trick our eyes into seeing two as one, simply by having each eye look independently at each image. There are fancy glasses and special TVs you can buy, costing thousands of dollars, to help you do this, but it’s easy to do with just your naked eye. You don’t need any fancy equipment. There are two methods:
To learn more about Stereo 3D, please check out our tutorials section, and see why 3D is the next best thing.