Rediscovering 3D cameras

Just like vintage vinyl LPs, old-school cameras that use actual photographic film are making a bit of a comeback, and that includes 3D cameras, too.

I was surprised to find the RETO3D Classic camera on the shelf at Seattle's "Shot On Film" store. Sure, there are lots of other film cameras out now, from mini format Fuji instant photo INSTAX to Kodak-branded Ektar cameras. These are all low-cost, point-and-shoot "fun" cameras with a "cheap and cheerful" approach. Instead of trying to compete with real cameras or smart phones on image quality, convenience and cost, they instead go for a very retro vibe, with old-school fixed focus, 70s film color saturation, "themed" graphics on the print borders and with odd formats (like half frame) or novelty lenses (ultra wide angle lens). But …3D?

This RETO3D camera takes on stereo photography with the same "fun" approach. Unlike the earlier Nismlo and Nishika 3D film cameras from the 80s and 90s, the RETO3D has only 3 lenses. And instead of creating lenticular 3D prints, the RETO has you develop the film, then scan it, then use a phone app to combine the three images into a single "wiggle" GIF to view.  The three images are animated in quick back-and-forth 3D-ish effect. This is a far cry from the "you are there" super d-e-e-p perception of space from ViewMaster or StereoRealist viewers, but if you just want some unique and fun 3D-effect party pics, this might be for you.

The Nishika camera famously had 3D film horror film"House of Wax" star Vincent Price as their 3D camera spokesperson. Maybe if RETO is going for retro and "fun," they could do their own campy, parody version of their camera's demo videos with a CGI John Candy in "Dr Tongue's 3D House of Stewardesses" from SCTV's Monster Chiller Horror Theater.