Some time ago I’ve written about the 3Dfier Viewer, an interesting and affordable accessory turning iPhone 4 and 4S as well as iPod touch 4th gen into stereoscopic 3D capable devices. Meanwhile I have had the chance to get one of the first units of the product and do some testing, so it is time to share my thoughts on the product. The suggested retail price of the product should be under $10 USD, so it will be a very affordable solution allowing you to watch stereoscopic 3D videos in Side by Side format on your iDevice. And for such a low price the product turns out to be a quite nice and handy thing to have if you have an compatible Apple device and are a stereoscopic 3D enthusiast and you should not be overly critical about it. I have used the opportunity to also compare the experience you get with the 3Dfier viewer when watching stereoscopic 3D content on the iPhone with a dedicated autostereoscopic 3D smartphone – the LG Optimus 3D (also know as LG Thrill 4G).
The 3Dfier Viewer is essentially a cardboard box with three fresnel lenses mounted on it – two smaller ones at the front and one larger one at the rear. A very simple, but at the same time quite effective and functional design that gives you a 2 in 1 product – if you use the side with the two lenses you can watch Side by Side 3D videos in stereo 3D and if you use the side with the one larger lens you can get the feeling of watching 2D videos on bigger screen then the one of your iPhone/iPod device. The 3Dfier Viewer is designed especially to be used together with iPhone 4/4S and iPod touch 4th generation in order to give you the best experience, although you may also be able to use it successfully with other smartphones and mobile devices. The size of the device is optimized for the size of the iPhone 4, so it will fit in perfectly and offer the best comfort on one hand and on the other the Retina display of the device has very high pixel density (326 ppi), so it looks really great even when you zoom it in a bit. And the fresnel lenses that are being used do zoom the image about 3 times on both sides, so essentially you get the feeling of watching either stereo 3D or normal 2D video on a bigger screen, about three times bigger than the actual size of the iPhone’s display in 2D mode or three times the half of the display in 3D.
To make the 3Dfier Viewer work you need to to place the iPhone inside the cardboard, next to the inside wall of the other side that you will not be using. So if you want to watch Side by Side 3D videos you need to put the back of the phone on the inner wall with the single large fresnel lens. Then you need to hold the whole box about 18-20 centimeters away from your eyes in order to see the stereoscopic 3D effect – single image with the feeling of depth. You need to focus your eyes not on the front of the 3Dfier Viewer, but inside it where the display of the iPhone is supposed to be, this way you should be easily able to get the feeling fo depth in the image. Of course the screen of the iDevice needs to be displaying a YouTube 3D video for example in Side by side format for that to work and you can also watch 3D photos in Side by Side format or stream 3D video content (again in Side by Side format) from your computer with the help of a software such as Air Video. You can watch either half horizontal width or full width Side by Side videos with the 3Dfier Viewer, but most of the content available on YouTube in 3D format is with half horizontal resolution. Unfortunately watching squashed Side by Side 3D videos with the 3Dfier Viewer you will have to deal up with the wrong aspect ratio that actually is not that bothersome, and if you watch full resolution Side by Side clips you will just have more black border on the top and bottom.
If you have used any other stereo 3D solution for a bit you should not have trouble quickly getting used to work with the 3Dfier Viewer to watch stereoscopic 3D content on compatible devices. The experience you get is actually very good with bright image, good resolution and a lot of detail, not to mention that the screen you see seems quite big and natural with minor distortions. The only thing you need to get used to is to steadily hold the device with the iPhone inside and not to move much while watching stereo 3D content with it in order to achieve the best results. If you are a novice to stereo 3D you may need some time in adjusting to the 3D effect, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the best experience at first, do try again in a while and try to find what works best for you. Now, aside from the fact that there is no easy way to correct the display aspect ratio of the half horizontal width Side by Side 3D images and the fact that you will have to deal up with it (not that bothersome after a bit of use) there are a few other things that you should be aware of when using the 3Dfier Viewer. It is possible to notice some slight chromatic aberrations in the form of color fringes around some highly contrasting objects (white letters on a black background for example), this is to be expected as a side effect from the plastic fresnel lenses, but their performance is generally quite good. Here I’m going to remind you that the price of the product does not allow the use of too high quality lenses, and the level of chromatic aberrations you may notice is actually more than acceptable. Another thing worth mentioning is a side effect from the zooming of the image that the fresnel lenses produce, as a result some of the top and bottom of the image you perceive can be hidden away by the frame of the device, again not that much of an issue, but you should be aware of that.
Now, how does the experience of using the 3Dfier Viewer for watching stereoscopic 3D content compare to the use of LG Optimus 3D (LG Thrill 4G) smartphone for watching the same 3D content? Well, the results are quite interesting, because the resolution of the image and the feeling of depth seems nicer with the 3Dfier Viewer, and also the size of the 3D seems bigger. The reason for that is the difference in resolution of the screen of the two devices, the iPhone 4 uses a 2D display with 640×960 pixels (640×480 in 3D with higher ppi) where the LG uses 480×800 pixels display (480×400 in 3D mode). Furthermore you need to hold the LG at a distance of about 40 centimeters or twice that of the 3Dfier Viewer and you get no screen magnification, and due to the stretching of the 3D image on the LG to fix the aspect ratio the distance between the pixels is higher and you get the feeling of even lower resolution. On the LG smartphone when you activate the 3D mode you also get less brightness for the image seen by each eye, resulting in the image seeming darker than what you use the device in 2D mode, while using the 3Dfier Viewer you get no loss of brightness. On the other hand the LG 3D phone offers more compact size and ease of use, more stereo 3D-related features and functionality, the ability to display the correct aspect ratio of 3D images.
Moving to the other function of the 3Dfier Viewer – the use of the single large fresnel lens for getting a magnified size of the display showing 2D image. Using the magnification functionality of the device you can hold it closer to your face and eyes and thus get the feeling of watching even bigger display than triple the size of the original iPhone 4 display. Unfortunately the bigger fresnel lens is performing a bit worse than the smaller ones used for the stereo 3D functionality of the device. Here you get more chromatic abberations and the side effect that may come from them can produce false feeling of depth in normal 2D images (that depends a lot on the content being displayed), furthermore there is some slight pincushion distortion noticeable (the image on the sides gets stretched a bit more than at the center of the lens). Still the zoom functionality remains quite useable, although trying to control the iPhone touching the touchscreen through the lens can be a bit of a challenge due to the zoomed image.
So what is my consusion? The 3Dfier Viewer is a surprisingly good product that you should soon be able to pick up for about $5 USD, it is not perfect, it has some issues and drawbacks, but for that price it is really good. It is small and compact, you can easily fold it up and carry it in your backpack or bag and take it out if you need to do a quick preview of some 3D content for example and you are not willing to trade your iPhone for a 3D capable smartphone with an autostereoscopic 3D display. I personally will probably not be using it for watching full length 3D movies on an iPhone, not that you can’t do that as well (especially paired with the veyr nice Air Video app), but will instead carry one just in case I need a quick and easy access for previewing stereo 3D content… the same way that I always carry with me a paper pair of anaglyph 3D glasses. You never know when you may need one or it may come in handy.