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Fujifilm pushes consumer 3-D camera

TOKYO — If you still think 3-D video is just a gimmick, think again.

The more aggressively Hollywood studios pursue their plans to bring 3-D movies to consumers, the more determined Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers have become to avoid missing the opportunity.

Fujifilm unveiled last Friday (Sept. 26) a working prototype of 3-D consumer camera at Photokina, a photography show in Cologne, Germany. Over the weekend, the Japanese company's 3-D camera generated attention in this gadget-happy nation.

Fujifilm's new compact camera, integrated with dual lenses and dual 6-megapixel CCDs, is capable of capturing 3-D still images and moving pictures. More importantly, it is also capable of playing back, on its own 2.8-inch LCD, 3-D images that can be viewed without 3-D glasses.

The Japanese company told EE Times that it plans to launch the 3-D consumer camera in 2009 in both domestic and international markets.

Beyond the 3-D camera, Fujifilm plans to roll out a digital photo frame with an 8.4-inch LCD (920,000 pixels), capable of displaying 3-D images that require no 3-D glasses. It also is pondering on the introduction of a new 3-D printing service.

Fujifilm's new 3-D camera, called “FinePix Real 3D System,” operates on the same principle as that used by other 3-D cameras. It captures 3-D images by using two lenses–one for the left and the other for the right image.

What's new, the company stressed, is the camera's ability to produce much more natural 3-D images “just as they were seen by naked eyes.”

Fujifilm claims to have internally developed three key components: a new, home-grown 3-D image processor called “Real Photo Processor 3D”; new lenses; and a new module called “Light Direction Control System” to be installed in the back of an LCD unit.

The 3-D photo processor is critical to synchronizing and blending both dual images captured by dual CCDs for still images and movies. The processor's built-in “3-D auto” feature calibrates optimal shooting conditions from both sensors.

Once the shutter is pressed, the processor synchronizes “focus, zoom range and exposure,” according to Fujifilm. The new camera also comes with a built-in synchronization control, offering 0.001-second precision for shutter control and movie synchronization, Fujifilm added.

The Japanese company also has developed identical compact lenses for the 3-D camera in order to ensure conformity between the left and right images.

Fujifilm claims that the company-developed “Light Direction Control System” plays a key role in substantially reducing screen flickering and image deterioration on 3-D images when displayed on an LCD.

The Light Direction Control module will be used in the back of an LCD, for the 3-D digital photo frame and for the monitor embedded in the 3-D camera.

Capturing 3-D images may not be the only application for a camera with dual lenses. Fujifilm said it hopes to exploit its dual-lens capability to take two pictures at the same time: one for telephoto and panoramic pictures.

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