panasonic 3D1 from Japan


As many of you know, the Panasonic Lumix 3D1 is no longer available in the English language version (except perhaps used ?), but the market is being flooded with Japanese language version of the camera at very reasonable prices. I already own two of these cameras, but decided to purchase one of the Japanese version ($170 including shipping from Japan, via Amazon) as an additional backup and to see if it is easy to operate without specific English language menus. Admittedly I am already familiar with the camera, but I found it surprisingly easy to use. One ideally should set a few things in the menus initially, and referring to either the English user guide (or an English language camera) is helpful just to figure out what the various icons are. There are only a few places where Japanese text comes up that one needs to respond to in usage, e.g. to confirm deleting a picture the top choice is for deleting a single image, and then  "yes" is on the left and "no" is on the right. When try to shoot without a memory card inside, you do get messages in Japanese warning you that you are recording to internal memory, and later telling you when the internal memory is full, but these can be ignored.
The touch screen icons are symbols or in English (e.g. MENU and DISP.) After you press MENU you get an icon of a Camera which is the recording menu and a wrench which is the setup menu.
In the setup menu, you get a string of 23 icons which are identical to the English language version, except missing the "Language" icon near the end (with English and Spanish choices on my US version). Icons in sequence are a Clock (which needs to be set), you can ignore the Home symbol for world time settings, and the Suitcase for setting travel date. Then there is the Beep symbol (with "beep level" first, then "beep tone", and "shutter volume" options; I generally prefer to have the beep and shutter tone both set to OFF, although sometime it is nice to have an audible shutter). Optional adjustments of the next few: Speaker Volume, LCD display (including brightness and contrast settings etc)  LCD Mode (incuding auto brightness adjustment etc). Then Guidelines (for setting grid or radial pattern if desired),Histogram (on or off), Rec Area (nice for showing you by shading top and bottom what the cropped down 16:9 would look like if you shoot full height 4:3 aspect ratio as I do), ECO (Economy settings: auto power off and LCD power save),Auto Review (image display time after shooting),No. Reset (reset image file number to 000 if desired), Reset (reset rec settings to default, yes on left no on right, then reset setup parameters, yes on left and no on right), I would ignore USB mode, then Output (where you may want to set  a chosen aspect ratio of 16:9 or 4:3 when playing to a TV.); I ignore Viera Link, Rotate Display, Format, Calibration, Auto 3D adjustment, and Demo.
Back to MENU and Camera icon for recording menu, the icons are flash, timer, aspect ratio,AF mode, exposure (compensation), 3D adjustment (parallax), and Clock set. There is a very useful option of putting any two of these as shortcuts on the main touchscreen display. To achieve this, press on the icon with M and a wrench, then you can drag your desired icons to the two positions on the left. I like having exposure compensation and flash setting here for easy access since I use the regularly. The only other one of these that I use occasionally would be the timer, but I just access it through the menu when needed.
If one chooses to set nothing on the new camera and just use defaults, that is also an option of course. Most important is to set record menu to 4:3 if you prefer to get the full height full resolution image rather than cropped top and bottom to 16:9. And set the clock, so that your EXIF data will be stored accurately. The rest could probably stay at the default settings if you don't like to fuss and don't mind beeps. Battery life is good even without optimizing the settings for early auto off and short image display etc. IMO setting the shortcuts for exposure compensation and flash control is worth the effort to avoid having to go through the menu. Although the flash does not have a forced on setting, the flash off vs flash auto choices are useful, and I almost always use a little (or more) underexposure on outdoor shots to avoid blowing the highlights, as with most digitals that are shooting non-RAW images. 
I haven't played with all the menu options in 2D mode, although I do use it for cha chas when I want to get the full wide angle perspective (25mm equivalent), or when I want to force it to use ISO 100, and/or longer exposures (up to 1 sec). Unfortunately, that cannot be done in 3D mode. 
I hope this information is helpful to some who are considering getting a 3D1. Although its 30mm lens separation will not allow it to replace a "normal" stereo separation camera or rig, it is a delightful camera to use for closer subjects, or even landscapes with close foreground elements. It has great image quality and a viewscreen which is only 2D but very easy to see outdoors. The mpos created can be easily viewed in stereo by popping the memory card into your Fuji W3 (or  W1, I presume). And if for some reason you don't have one of those yet, W3 prices are quite reasonable now as well, so get one of those as well. 8-)  

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