UPDATE: Fujifilm's 3D camera, called the FinePix Real 3D W3, is now in the market. Just click the link to read more about the Real 3D W3, along with other 3D digital camera products.
When considering which is the most cool digital camera technology, you have a few candidates. The first digital camera to include a real-time LCD screen represented a huge step forward. The first ultra-thin model was great. The first large zoom lens for a digital camera that did not extend beyond the camera body was amazing.
The next step in a cool digital camera technology, though, might involve making the image come alive and jump off the page by adding the third dimension, thanks to Fujifilm's research of a 3D camera system.
Buzz Surrounds 3D
3D has become an important buzzword in entertainment media. More and more movies are being released in 3D, and NBC even tried three-dimensional commercials during its TV broadcast of the Super Bowl.
Never have more Americans donned the silly-looking 3D glasses simultaneously.
Consequently, it's probably not a surprise to see the idea of 3D migrating to still photography. Fujifilm continues to work on its 3D digital camera system, called the FinePix Real 3D System, that consists of a 3D digital camera, a 3D LCD screen, a 3D digital photo frame, and even the ability to create 3D prints.
Certainly, the idea of 3D photography systems is nothing new. The ViewMaster system you used as a kid can create a 3D effect as you look through the ViewMaster viewer, when you use the correct reels. Creating 3D images in photography is currently possible, as long as the viewer is willing to wear the 3D glasses. Once the glasses are removed, though, the process used on the image to create the 3D effect makes the image quality suffer when the viewer isn't wearing the glasses.
Companies have tried off and on to create a digital camera that can shoot in 3D ... without the need for the funny glasses. However, such efforts typically have failed miserably. The image quality usually isn't good enough to either provide a realistic 3D effect or a sharp 2D image. You're left with a mess that tries to do both 3D and 2D, and it does them poorly.
Fujifilm's system, which required five years in the initial development phase, would solve the majority of those problems.
The 3D camera makes use of two lenses and two image sensors to capture the photo from two slightly different perspectives. The processor inside the camera must automatically determine the best shooting conditions, based on the available light, as well as control focus and exposure for both sensors and lenses. Finally, the camera's built-in synch-control ensures that the image sensors capture the images within .0001 of a second of each other, resulting in virtually identically timed shots for both sensors.
The camera's processor then merges the two images to create a 3D effect that can be viewed on the 3D LCD screen included with the digital camera. All processing occurs in real time, and the blended, 3D image remains of a high resolution.
Fujifilm's research into the Real 3D System has yielded some other ideas for uses beyond creating still images in three dimensions for the dual-lens, dual-sensor configuration.
- Dual image, zoom. One lens could shoot an image with the zoom lens fully extended, while the other lens could shoot the same image at the same time with no magnification from the zoom. You later could select the image that you prefer.
- Dual image, special effects. One lens could shoot a standard image, while the other could apply an imaging effect, such as sepia tone, on the exact same image.
- Panoramic images. If you configured each lens to capture side-by-side segments, you then could merge the photos to create a wide-angle, panoramic image that wouldn't be possible with one of the lenses alone.
- Movie and still images. One lens and sensor could shoot video, while the other lens and sensor could capture a still image of the same subject.
Whether this 3D photography system ever reaches the market is currently unclear. Research continues into the 3D system, and Fujifilm officials say the market for 3D still images in the consumer marketplace is unknown. Fujifilm has not announced a projected date at which the 3D camera could appear in the market, and no potential prices have been revealed.
It's possible to guess at a potential price range for a 3D camera, though. Any digital camera that makes use of two lenses and two image sensors is almost certainly going to be more expensive than a standard digital camera. In addition, the complex and powerful processor certainly won't be cheap. In other words, if you're thinking Fujifilm's 3D camera will be available at a bargain-basement price, think again.
With so many unknowns surrounding the 3D camera and other products, one thing is for certain. In a world of digital cameras where it seems many models look the same and have similar features, a 3D camera would be a unique model. Hopefully, the research continues to progress to the point where you'll have the opportunity to own one.