A guide for new stereo photographers

by Victorian 3D Society
  • This guide is intended to help orient new Club members to the world of stereo photography by covering many of the areas that new members often ask questions about. In such a short guide I can only introduce you quickly to the most important technical aspects of stereo. Other less technical subjects, such as where to source stereo equipment, and what other Stereo activities and organisations exist, are also presented.

    Victorian 3D Society
  • The Victorian 3D Society is a special interest group for active stereo photographers. I stress here that we actively take stereo photographs ­ I like to think that none of us is an equipment collector! We hold six General Meetings each year (on the first Monday in every "even" month), and six Committee Meetings (on the third Tuesday in every "odd" month). Anyone is most welcome to attend any of these meetings. General Meetings are held at the "Horrie Watson Pavilion" in the Deepdeene Park, off Whitehorse Road, Balwyn (Melway Map Ref 46 A7), located in Melbourne, Australia.

    Stereo Photography
  • Stereo photography is perhaps more widely recognised by the general population as "3-D" due to their exposure to such movies over the years. Many are also familiar with the "Viewmaster" reels that are popular with children. Stereo photography is even older than either of these - Charles Wheatstone was actually drawing stereo images in 1832 before photography was invented!

    The reason that people have stereoscopic vision is because we have two eyes. The eyes are on average about 65mm apart, and so they see a slightly different image of the same scene. Objects that are close are seen to block out different parts of other objects behind the close object when we alternate the view between each eye. This is called parallax. Stereo photography relies on reproducing this parallax by taking two photos of the same scene (perhaps with two cameras) spaced apart (most often by about 65mm). To see the photo stereoscopically, the left eye must view the image taken by the left camera, and the right eye must view the right image. Special mounts for mounting the images are required, together with a stereo viewer with a lens for each eye. Stereo images can also be projected, or printed, but still usually require some form of viewing aid (such as polariser, or coloured glasses). Most Club members take stereos using colour transparency film on 35mm format or more recently, with one or two digital cameras.

  • People new to stereo are naturally concerned about what equipment they need, and where to get it ­ this concern never really goes away incidentally! In my opinion, the minimum equipment requirement for any stereo photographer is as follows:
    • Stereo camera (film or digital)
    • Light meter (hand held or built-in)
    • Film Cutter (if shooting film)
    • Cardboard stereo slide mounts and tape (if shooting film)
    • Slide mounting jig (if shooting film)
    • Stereo hand viewer (if shooting film)
    • Stereo Photo Maker software (if shooting digital)
    Kodachrome 64 or Kodachrome 25 are most suited for use in stereo due to the very fine grain structure of these films. Fuji Velvia or Fuji Sensia are also excellent. Grain is far more evident in stereo than in mono.

    Stereo digital cameras
  • Currently the only digital stereo camera available is the Fuji W1. However, using StereoDataMaker software, it is possible to link pairs of Canon digital cameras together so that they can act together to capture stereo images. Also, any digital camera can be used to take stereo photos using the cha-cha or side-step method. Also,

    Stereo film cameras
  • As it has been many years now since useful stereo cameras have been made commercially, only second hand units are available. If you are starting out in stereo, I would recommend that you obtain one of the many stereo cameras that were made during the 1950's, when stereo was in its last heyday. Generally, the quickest way to find one is to write to the second hand equipment outlets listed later. Only occasionally do stereo cameras appear for sale in some Melbourne camera stores (eg: "The Camera Exchange"), usually at very high prices. Below is a list of some appropriate stereo cameras (all are "Realist Format" unless noted otherwise):
    • Stereo Realist
      This camera is the most easily obtained and easily serviced one. Includes coupled range finder, US hot shoe, zero parallax finder. Separate film advance and shutter cocking. US made and very solid. Lenses: Model ST41 (common) ­ f3.5; Model ST42 (rare) ­ f2.8
    • Kodak Stereo
      A very easy camera to use, with good lenses, zero parallax finder, no rangefinder. US made. f3.5 Kodak Anaston lenses.
    • Edixa
      Also known as "Wirgin". A German camera available in three models. More expensive models have a wider range of shutter speeds, and/or a coupled range finder, and/or light meter. All models (I,II, III) f3.5 Steinheil Cassar lenses.
    • Revere 33
      AUS made, well built, with coupled range finder, US hot shoe, f3.5 Amaton lenses, shutter B,T,1/2-1/200.
    • Wollensak
      An up-market version of the Revere 33, with f2.7 Amaton lenses, shutter B,T,1/2-1/300, US made, well built, with coupled range finder, US hot shoe.
    • Iloca I
      German camera. Seven sprocket format. Fairly rare. Pronto-S shutters, no range-finder.
    • Iloca II
      German camera. f3.5 35mm Ilitar lenses, Prontor-S shutter B,1-1/300, no rangefinder. Iloca Rapid also available but with Steinheil Cassarit lenses.
    • Belplasca
      German, has excellent Tessar f3.5 37.5mm Carl Zeiss Jena lenses, very rare and expensive! Seven sprocket format. Shutter 1-1/200, no rangefinder but very good lenses.
    • Verascope F40
      French camera, seven sprocket format, coupled range finder, fairly rare, f3.5 40mm Berthiot lenses, shutter T,B,1-1/250.
      While these cameras are now getting very old, they will teach you a lot about stereo ­ particularly in relation to the "stereo window" (see below). It is important to get such fundamental issues "under your belt" before using other techniques for taking stereo pictures. Using one of these older cameras is the recommended starting point for beginners.