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The third dimension

Picture perfect Fuji’s FinePix REAL 3D W1 is the first digital camera to bring 3D still and video photography to your point-and-shoot world, reports K. Madhavan Pillai.

business Updated: Oct 16, 2009 22:55 IST
K. Madhavan Pillai

I remember the first time I looked through an old View-Master, when I was six. It was a series of seven sets of stereo images showing the Grand Canyon in all its three-dimensional (3D) splendour. At the time, I hardly cared for the technology and marvelled at how breathtakingly real the scene looked.

The technique for creating a stereoscopic picture was simple. It involved the shooting of two identical pictures from the same perspective, with a slight gap between the two cameras. This mimics the way a pair of human eyes produces two slightly offset images of the same scene, which the brain then combines to perceive depth.

Now, for the first time, we can do that with one camera. The new Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D W1 is an extremely innovative 3D digital camera that allows you to simply “point-and-shoot”. It combines some of the old principles of stereo photography with advanced image processing to give you an image that can be viewed in 3D using the camera’s LCD panel. You may also buy a 3D digital viewer, to view images in a larger size. And images can be printed in 3D at specialised “lenticular” printing labs that Fuji intends to soon launch in India.

From the making of simple stereograms in the 1840s to the mapping of the intricate wiring of our brains, 3D imaging has come a long way. In recent months, some of you may have seen mousepads, posters or business cards, with 3D images on them.

This method involves the use of a lenticular sheet with micro lenses arranged in parallel rows, mounted by photolab technicians on a print. This print is made of two or more interlaced images. Viewed through this sheet from a specified distance, the lenticular print gives a fantastic 3D feel. The biggest problem with this technology is that shooting and editing the image is just as cumbersome as making the print. Now shooting a 3D image is far easier.

Simply put, Fuji’s 3D camera is two digital cameras in one. Two built-in 3x optical zoom lenses and two charge-coupled devices, each with a 10-megapixel resolution, comprise the image capture system. This is complemented by the newly developed Real Photo Processor 3D, which combines two 2D images into a 3D image. It does all of this instantly, just like
a digital camera. What may be more interesting about the REAL 3D W1 is that you can shoot videos in 3D too.

There are also a few other interesting things that you can do. For instance, you can simultaneously take a close-up and a full-length portrait of your subject, by setting the two lenses to different zoom levels. Similarly, you can use different colour and ISO settings for each lens, to get different effects at the same moment.

The camera has just been released in India, for Rs 42,999, and the first customers will likely be professional wedding and event photographers. Now if we could only have those 3D lenticular printing facilities.

The writer is the editor of Better Photography magazine

3D photography down the ages

* Euclid, the ancient Greek mathematician, proved that the right and left eyes see slightly different versions of the same scene, and that merging the two images produces a perception of depth

* Three-dimensional imaging was invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1840

* In 1844, a technique for taking stereoscopic photographs was demonstrated in Germany

* Queen Victoria took a fancy to the stereoscope in 1851, after which stereo viewing became all the rage in Britain

* In 1862, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Joseph Bates launched the Holmes Stereopticon, which remained the standard stereoscopic device for more than 100 years and is still produced in limited numbers