Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Now in 3-D

Seems like I'm riding a wave of gimmickry lately, enabling the inner colorcasters ("Throw off your bichrome shackles and follow me!") and many apologies to your spouses/significant others/parents for making your kitchens smell like burnt wax. I promise not to let my novelty ADD cause too many more domestic problems.

Say "cheesecheese" A few you you might remember my last ill-fated attempt at budget 3-D photography. If you've mercifully forgotten, it looked like this. The results were exactly what you would expect from two dollar-store cameras held together by packing type and cardboard scavenged from the copy room. Let's say they were less than stellar and move on.

3-D photography (technically stereo photography) has been around for decades, it's not a new trick, and you can even fake it by taking two pictures, sliding your camera horizontally a bit between shots. There were a lot of dedicated cameras built over the years, some which would even let you prepare your own View-Master slides. Pretty cool stuff, but being collectible, this sort of camera is one of those would-be-nice-to-have-but-not-at-that-price items.

Well, it looks like Fuji is trying to reinstate 3-D photography again, giving it a 21st century kick in the pants with a new dual-lens digital camera that sports an tehnobabble-laden set of diagrams illustrating exactly how this will work. It's all very fancy and impressive, and one of the points they're touting is the use of "a fine pitch lenticular sheet" over printed photos to give you the 3-D effect without glasses or a viewer or doing some kind of crossed-eye technique. You know what lenticular sheets are: remember those little rulers we'd have as kids that had pinwheels printed on them, and as you tilted the ruler, the wheel would appear to turn? (Hey, it was the 70's.) That bumpy, clear plastic surface was the lenticular lens, which showed you different views of the underlying image. There's software and products out there that will even let you do this yourself.

What Fuji fails to mention, though, is that lenticular 3-D photography is nothing new, either. Behold!

Nishika N8000 3-D 35mm camera

This monster is a Nishika N8000 camera, which takes four half-frame photos on 35mm film. (It's also freaking huge, and I'm been informed that it's "totally pimp style" whatever that might mean.) Despite all the high-tech appearance, this is just a basic, mostly-plastic fixed-focus camera. You can follow the article links on Camerapedia to find out more about its history. Nishika would offer lenticular printing of your cherished photos of... whatever you decided needed the winky-blinky 3-D treatment. Nishika's gone now, but of course there's a small group on flickr of folks who use it and scan the results, assembling them into animated images that trick your eyes and brain into figuring out the 3-D scene. This one is one of my favorites right now since it demonstrates the advantage of a multi-lens camera: taking photos of something in motion.

I loaded up my Nishika this morning for the walk with the dog and took some photos around the neighborhood. I don't want to befuddle the Walgreens clerk with a roll of seemingly identical half-frame shots, so this is going to be another Caffenol roll. I'll let you know how they turn out. With four lenses, this should be twice as much fun as that jazzy new Fuji, right? Besides, Nishika even bothered to put together this painfully earnest and horribly cheesy instructional video starring the late, great Vincent Price:
  1. Vincent Price Nishika 3D Camera: Part One
  2. Vincent Price Nishika 3D Camera: Part Two


Olivander said...

I don't remember if it was the came brand (probably), but I remember seeing those for sale at the 7-11 back in the day. I seem to recall that you had to send the film back to them to get your lenticular prints.

You could probably create a little mask (or masks) to cover up all but one lens at a time. In theory, you could take four different pictures per frame. (This assumes that the camera will allow you to take more than one picture without advancing the film.)

Your wife is never going to leave you home alone again, you know that?

Word verification: ingeni: a very smart genii.

mpclemens said...

In fact, it exposes two frames at the same time, each with a vertically-oriented half frame photo. So the roll of 36 I shot this morning theoretically would give me 9 stereo photos, or 18 stereo pairs. (In truth it was a bit less.) Each lens has its own plastic baffle(?) inside, so the images don't overlap. Here's what happens when you tinker with the guts of the camera.

Have I mentioned that this camera is BIG? Watch the video -- esp. part 2 -- and look at the size of the thing in the actor's hands. One of my half-frame cameras would be far more convenient.

Actually, I bought it so I could make some stero pairs for my old viewer. And the wife was around when this package arrived, so no fear there. I'm just playing catch-up now with stuff I already had sitting around (well, except for Babs.)

mpclemens said...

Er, I mean 9 lenticular photos, or 18 normal (flat) stereo pairs.

"Math is hard!" -- Barbie

Mike Speegle said...

I demand more caffenol pictures.

mpclemens said...

I actually did two rolls the other night while half-watching some trashy Jackson family biopic... and then screwed up the loading of the film onto the spools, so the wet film stuck to itself. I managed to salvage a few negatives from the one roll, but easily 80% was hosed. I'm still licking my wounds over that one.

The other roll came out OK, despite a big tear in the film (camera problem.) I'm working on a second roll of Instamatic-loaded film right now so I can maximize my development output. Watch for more crappy hand-held "scans" of negatives soon!

Mike Speegle said...

I can't wait! I'm living vicariously through your home-developing simply because I'm still too scared to try it m'self.

Ted said...

Oh dang, you were doing this back in 2009! Apparently all the nifty photo techniques I've been "discovering" have all been pioneered already by you 5 years ago :D