3D Photography Technology
Stereo photography is not new, it was tried soon after photography was invented.
The first sortof-practical photographs , made in 1839 by Daguerre in France, astounded all who saw them. Soon, photo studios were to be found throughout the world, and by 1851, a million "Daguerreotypes" had been made in the US alone. This same year, the first stereo viewers (left) were shown at the London Great Exhibition where Queen Victoria, and many others, were entranced with the 3-D views. By 1860, stereo cameras were smaller and easier to use (right) and stereo viewers much cheaper. The wide world came into the parlor.
What is STEREO PHOTOGRAPHY?
As diagramed below, Stereo Photography (aka 3D) is really a simple way of reproducing the way we normally see. We have 2 eyes that see the world from slightly different positions, and our brains use the subtle differences between these 2 views to create a sense of depth. If 2 cameras record 2 slides that are later viewed by our 2 eyes, it is the visual equivalent of being there. The technique is simple, it's your brain that does the real work.
Why Stereo Photography?
The human mind is nourished by visual experience, and the miracle that is photography allows visual experiences to to saved, reproduced and moved. Photography extends the range of visual reality, in time and space, that a human mind can engage. If we accept that truth is desirable, then it follows that highest fidelity photography is a worthy pursuit - Stereo photography brings in the 3rd dimension and is an obvious step in the right direction. My work with stereo cameras, stereo viewers, aligners, and techniques strives to do justice to this beautiful medium.
Between 1860 and 1920, many American and British homes had a viewer like the one shown at left and a collection of views like those shown at right. The image quality was quite good as these were actual photographs made from same size glass negatives. Subject matter was diverse : landscapes, foreign sites, war and even pornography.
In the 1920's and 30's, as half-toned photos became common in magazines and newspapers, stereo photography lost some of its specialness. And the advent of moving pictures certainly lead many stereo viewers to the attic.
The mass produced View Master used discs that held 7 color views each. The image quality was fair, limited by the tiny 3rd generation slides. By the 1960's, television and 8mm movie cameras limited serious interest in stereo.
GAF bought the View Master company and applied marketing genius to the products. Plastic lenses replaced glass, photographic skill dwindled, and content transitioned from travel and nature to TV tie-ins (e.g. Batman, The Banana Splits). Some views aren't even stereo, with 2 identical photos snuck in! If this was not sufficient to discredit stereo photography, Hollywood finished the job with a string of headache-inducing gimmick movies like Jaws 3-D.
Kodachrome, an excellent color slide film, was introduced in 1935 but only widely available after World War II. It energized all aspects of photography, including stereo. The Kodak "Realist" system (camera right, viewer left) was capable of very good quality and had a small but dedicated following in the 1950's.
Into the Digital Age
In 2011-12, I reluctantly made the leap into digital stereo photography. Reluctantly, because compared to the beautiful image quality of 35mm slides, the available digital viewing methods are disappointing. But, digital has one huge advantage over slides: random access... While the Decadrum (above) holds 10 views, a computer can hold a million. The intriguing possibilities of panorama and time lapse seemed sufficient compensation for the loss in image quality, and so the Carlovision project began.
One way to view digital 3D content is the monitor mirror stereoscope at left, and another is the 3DTV.
Digital 3D camera rigs, and motorized versions, like the one at right, capture the raw content. They offer some nice perks that film can't offer, like the multi-thousand shot capacity of an SD card, white balance control, and the ability to correct zoom mismatch.
Since 1995, I've been involved with stereo photography and equipment with simple goals:
The Decadrum viewer (left) uses 6x double achromat lenses, camera original 35mm slides in glass mounts and bright even backlighting. It accepts reconfigurable cartridges of 10 views. The camera rig at right is highly versatile (for a stereo camera) with 3 focal lengths, variable camera spacing and orientation, as well as autofocus, autoadvance, flash and several exposure modes.
- Good Photography - Technically and Aesthetically
- Versatile, High Quality Cameras
- High Quality Viewing Devices
ROLLOVER to switch from right eye's view to left eye's view... notice that distance can be judged by amount of shift
At first glance, the 2 views in a stereo pair (like the antiques shown below right) seem to be identical. This causes some confusion, because "why would you want to have 2 of the same picture?" In fact, they are NOT identical. Each was photographed from a slightly different position, and it's this difference which gives a stereo pair its power to show distances of objects. The example below helps to illustrate this by letting you see the left and right images of a stereo pair individually and flip back and forth...