Sunday, June 17, 2012
Journey into the 3rd dimension
They say the best camera is the one you have on you. Like many photographers I see things everyday that I think may make an interesting picture but sadly my mighty Canon DSLR just isn’t pocket size, thus I do not carry it around every day for the slight chance a photo opportunity appears. Most of my shoots with the DSLR are planned but for the everyday I have been largely dependent on a cell phone camera. I have eyed a number of small compact cameras in stores and magazines but have often struggled with the reason and price of purchasing something inferior to my DSLR and not that much better than my smartphone camera. Though some of the compacts are getting quite powerful and some even shoot RAW I was looking for something truly different from my DSLR experience and it just so happens I found it.
The Fujifilm W3 is a 3D camera and beyond that its "hat trick" is that you can view the photos in 3d on the back without the need for 3D glasses. When this camera came out it was pushing $500 as an asking price but it can now be had for around $230 on Amazon. For $230 there is nothing that competes with the uniqueness of this camera that not only shoots impressive 3D photos and videos but does some very cool things in 2d as well: Since the W3 has two lenses it can take a wide shot and a zoomed in shot at the same time or a picture with and without the flash. Also good to know is the fact that all 3D images have a 2D Jpeg version (I believe it's just the left frame) available when you offload the card, so even if for whatever reason you don't want the 3D version you always still have the shot as any other camera would take it for everything you shoot.
I have long been into 3d so this camera is not only seriously fun to mess around with it also opens up a whole new dimension in creativity. Shooting in 3D takes practice but it also makes you think differently even if you have been into photography for a while; Things like the depth of objects are now a huge part of the composition equation. There is also a limitation of not being able to shoot in “portrait” mode (the camera sideways) as the 3d effect only works in a horizontal configuration (landscape), even if the image is rotated in post it doesn’t change the fact that the lenses were stacked and not left and right to create the depth. Messing around in 3d editing software can help a “portrait” type shot, it won’t be as immersive as a “landscape” one.
Of course the big issue with 3D is viewing and sharing the images, that has been it's curse since it was invented. The W3 has a special screen on the back of it that allows you to see the images in 3d without glasses, likely a tech that will make it's way into TV's and computer monitors in the future (there are already a few pricey versions out there). If you have a 3D TV the W3 will hook right to it and show your videos and pictures. So how have I dealt with this? There are a host of editing programs out there on http://www.stereoscopy.com/downloads/ but the one I picked was http://stereo.jpn.org/eng/stphmkr/ and it is a simple free program. Stereo Photo Maker allows you to save files in any 3d format and will help with alignment issues.
Aside from the Red/Blue Anaglyph mode there is another thing called "Universal View LRL" that allows people to see a 3D image in full color by a cross eyed method or with 3D prizm glasses
As far as photo editing the universal view shots can be edited like any other image in lightroom or what not. The Nik software plug in's become extra helpful with their U-point spot editing in case you need to make the same enhancements to both frames. I'm just starting out with 3D so I'm sure I'll have more on this in the coming months.
More than anything the W3 brings the fun back into exploratory photography. As many photographers discover though the years the craft becomes so technical and the equipment becomes a little to serious and unwieldy for everyday use. It's cool to try something new as things learned will certainly influence my pro work as well.
Side note: That 3D shot at the start of this story was actually made with a Canon 7D. It's easy to shoot shots like that with a slider or simply taking a shot and moving the camera over about 3 inches.