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Digital Camera Goes 3-D

A New Era in Digital Photography

A Japanese camera maker has developed the world's first compact digital camera featuring a three-dimensional image system that allows three-dimensional still and moving images to be viewed with the naked eye. The system comprises three elements: a 3-D digital camera which captures an image exactly as your eyes see it, a 3-D digital photo frame, and 3-D prints. It is planned for release in 2009, taking digital cameras into a new era.

How It Works

The 3-D digital camera has two lenses. When we humans view an object with our two eyes, our right and left eyes view the object from somewhat different angles. This makes the right and left images slightly different, and the two images are synthesized in our brains so that we see the object three-dimensionally. Theoretically, therefore, a camera should also be able to reproduce three-dimensional images if it is equipped with two lenses, one each on the right and left.


3D Viewer Technology. ©FUJIFILM Corporation

With conventional camera technology, however, it has been impossible to reproduce the functions that the human eyes possess. One problem was that slight time lags occurred when attempts were made to open and shut the right and left shutters simultaneously, resulting in two images that were not fully synchronous.

This company uses a newly developed image processor, RP (Real Photo) Processor 3D, in the new system, with which it has succeeded in reducing this lag to less than 0.001 second. The processor also approximately synchronizes photo conditions on the right and left, including focus, brightness, and hue. Another problem with previous technologies was the difficultly of accurately crossing the center lines of the right and left lenses near the object being photographed, but this problem has been overcome with the use of the newly developed FinePix Real 3D Lens System.

The Future of 3-D Images

The second element is the 3-D digital photo frame, which employs a 8.4-inch 3-D liquid crystal monitor system. This monitor has the revolutionary ability to send the image taken by the camera's right lens to the right eye of the viewer and the left lens image to the left eye. This makes it possible to reproduce three-dimensional images. The 3-D digital camera can also take video, and the monitor is capable of playing back video clips in 3-D.


3D Photo & Movie Camera Technology. ©FUJIFILM Corporation


3D Photo & Movie Camera Technology. ©FUJIFILM Corporation

The third element of the system is 3-D prints. Left and right images are both printed on a special printing paper covered with an indented lenticular sheet. The outcomes are images that appear 3-D. In addition to single prints, the company is also looking into the possibility of offering such products as a photo book in which multiple photographs can be printed.

The new 3-D system can also shoot and reproduce two-dimensional still and moving images by using just the left or right lens. The company expects that it will eventually be possible to use the left and right lenses for different functions. This would mean that wide-angle and telescopic 2-D images could be taken at the same time, or that 2-D videos and 2-D photographs could be taken simultaneously. "The 3-D world is beginning to expand, as witnessed by the increase in movie theaters that can show 3-D images," notes a member of the system's developing team. "We hope to use our photo technology to further enrich the world of 3-D." (January 2009)