Get into 3D Photography!

by Philip Steinman         May 11, 2004 edit

I discovered 3D photography by seeing a 3D polarized projected 35mm slide show at the Southern California Stereo Club in the summer of 1998.  They handed out polarized glasses (not those silly red and green anaglyph glasses) and the 3D photography was just so beautiful that I joined SCSC.  It was there that I discovered that the stereo slide was the ultimate still visual medium.  The shows are open to the public and I encourage others to attend the monthly slide shows every 3rd Thursday of the month at 7:30pm at the Wilshire United Methodist Church, 711 South Plymouth Blvd., just off Wilshire near Crenshaw, west of downtown Los Angeles and south of Hollywood.  Come and watch high quality 35mm stereo slides projected, it's breathtaking!, and talk to some true stereo photography buffs.

The SCSC website is at

To start taking your own 3D pictures and enjoying them I recommend getting a classic 3D film camera!  For 3D photography you need a picture for your left eye and one for your right eye.   Notice that each eye sees slightly differently, combined they give you stereovision depth in three spatial dimensions—width, height and depth.  This added perception of the depth dimension makes stereo vision so rich and special.  To obtain a stereo image you could use a simple 35mm point & shoot by taking a left image shot, then moving the camera over horizontally almost 2 inches and taking a right image shot.  You just have to hold real still, keep the camera on the same horizontal plane, and don't shoot any moving subjects!  But with a 3D camera you get 2 lens and 2 shutters that fire together, and you can photograph movement and anything else in stereo!

  So what do I recommend?  I recommend buying into the Realist format of 3D photography.  This format uses standard 35mm film and each image is 5 perforations wide (24x23mm).  So with each stereo pair a Realist format camera gives you two 5 perf film images, as opposed to a single 8 perf film chip (24x36mm) in the traditional 35mm SLR camera.  The Realist yields up to 29 stereo pairs on a 36 exposure roll of film!  This is by far the most popular and widely supported form of 3D photography today, and has been since it took off in the 1950s.  It is the most highly recommended format to start out with.  These cameras include the Realist, Realist 45, Kodak Stereo, Revere or it’s pricier cousin the Wollensak with F2.7 lenses, Iloca Rapid, TDC Vivid, TDC Stereo Colorist, Stereo Graphic, and Kindar.  All these cameras, the Realist being the most common, are readily available on ebay in the stereo camera category 

Go out and shoot your first stereo images
with a budget of little more than $100 all you need is this..

 1) A vintage Realist format stereo camera with high quality standard F3.5 lenses.

  2) Berezin Stereo’s popular Radex 3D Viewer, item #360.  This Realist steal the light plastic viewer is only $3.20.  (Steve Berezin is a former President of SCSC and runs Berezin Stereo.)

3) A standard roll of 35mm slide film to start shooting your 1st roll of 3D!  Prices start at $3.09 a roll for Fujichrome Sensia RA 100 at Adorama, B&H Photo, and Canoga Camera.  Two popular choices are Fujichrome Provia RDP III 100F ($3.99/roll) and Fujichrome Velvia 50 ($4.29/roll). 

4) For simplicity, you can mail order your exposed film roll for processing and specify Stereo Mounting to:

a)                           Dennis Petti of the Ohio Stereo Photo Society offers his process & mounting service for only $20.  email phone 440-899-0486  2051 Columbia Rd., Westlake, OH 44145

b)                          Rocky Mountain Film Lab (303) 364-6444 for $32.50  

5) I prefer to mount my own slides.  It’s easy to cut film into L and R pairs and slip the individual film “chips” (ie L shot or R shot) into a stereo mount.  If you want to mount your own slides, then you can obtain E6 standard slide film processing at many locals labs.  In Los Angeles A&I does the most volume and they charge $8.  Inform them that you want your roll processed normal, left uncut, and sleeved.  You will then cut the roll yourself into L and R film chip pairs and place them into mounts.  A&I also offers E6 Mailers for only $6 each (minimum order of 5). 

6) If you need to buy stereo mounts, I recommend Berezin Stereo’s Slip-In Stereo Mounts, item #256, 76 mounts for $15.  You may also want to get his Light Box and a Slide Cutter (better than scissors).  Alternatively you can buy the mounts from Paul Talbot at Rocky Mountain Memories in Texas.  He has an excellent Illustrated Slide Mounting Guide on his website which will guide you through mounting your first roll.


After you shoot your first roll of film, process and mount it, share your favorite stereo images with us at an SCSC meeting.  You will find many stereo aficionados ready to help you with any questions you may have.  When you join the stereo club, SCSC members are encouraged to share their 3 favorite/best stereo images in our slide show exhibition-competitions, held five times annually.  We have a special category for beginners, so try it!  If you still haven’t bought a stereo camera, just go out and shoot a roll of 35mm slide film with your current film camera.  Have a look at JRS Design’s Stereo Short Course on shooting stereo cha-cha with one camera.  If you shoot slide film with your current 35mm camera, have the lab both process and mount your film, and bring your results to the Stereo Club of Southern California.  Any E6 processing film lab can mount 35mm slide film shot with a standard SLR camera, it’s the stereo camera user that needs special mounting.  If you're not in Southern California, the National Stereoscopic Association has a listing of 3-D Clubs Worldwide.  Find one near you.



Places to Buy 3D Equipment

1) ebay in the stereo camera category, also try the search word REALIST

2) SCSC’s Annual October Auction of stereo goods in Los Angeles always includes stereo cameras, viewers, and a whole lot more.

3) America’s largest monthly camera show: The Buena Park Camera Expo is the 3rd Sunday each month at 7530 Orangethorpe Ave., Buena Park, where you'll find 20-100+ stereo cameras.  See 

4) Samy's Cameras used/vintage camera section in LA's largest camera store on 431 S. Fairfax Ave (South of 3rd St.) 323-938-2420. 

After you have shot your first roll of stereo images, you can move on to
Understanding and Appreciating 3D Further:

1) Browse 3D websites: you can read more about 
The Realist Stereo Camera from Ray Moxom and especially, Dr. T’s, with simple steps for loading film in your realist and a picture taking routine.
Paul Talbot's Illustrated Guide to Stereo Slide Mounting at
Rocky Mountain Memories 3D Encyclopedia
Dan Shelley's 3D links serve as a springboard
DrT's review of the Red Button Realist Viewer  
DrT's Free Stereoscopic Information

2) Read 3D Books: There are some terrific books on 3D.  DrT's book for the Stereo Realist Camera $35 is a favorite.  This is a new (c. 1999) and quintessential book for the Realist Camera.  If you are the studious type, you might want to buy this book first to read about all your options with the Realist camera, and get a head start on how to pick out a good one!  Over 230 pictures in 125 pages, covering: How to Use the Realist, Different Realist Models, Realist Accessories and Techniques, How to Repair the Realist, Unique Realist Modifications Plus... Basic Photographic Concepts, Requirements for Stereo Photography Mounting, Viewing, Projection Practical Guidelines & Advanced Stereo Techniques.  See his website at  He's always selling something on ebay as drt3d-com.

3) Buy a high quality 3D viewer; one with achromatic glass lenses, for about $100.  The vintage Realist ST-61 Red Button Viewer, Kodak’s Kodaslide II, Revere, TDC Deluxe and Brumberger, or the new Lifelike viewer at


 4) Light Meter.  Classic stereo cameras are all manually operated with no built in light meter, so you must determine the proper aperture and shutter speed.  You can use your 35mm SLR camera's meter to give you a reading and then apply the settings to your manual stereo camera.  Or, without any metering, you can apply the basic Sunny 16 rule of thumb: F16 aperature with shutter speed at 1/ASA of film.  So with 100 ASA film you can use your camera as a “point and shoot” for most subjects on a sunny day by dialing in f/16, 1/100, focus set at 15ft 7ft to infinity should be in focus.   

Adjust exposure to available light:
Shutter  f-stop   Rating   Light Conditions
1/100     f22         +1       Extremely bright w/ sand or snow
1/100     f16         0          Sunny and Bright, distinct shadows
1/100     f11         -1         Weak sun, soft shadows, side light
1/100     f8           -2         Cloudy bright, no shadows
1/50       f8           -3         Heavy overcast, bright shade
1/50       f5.6        -4         Dark shade
1/25       f3.5        -7         Bright interiors; Max exp. handheld   

If you want to buy a light meter especially for your vintage stereo camera, my favorite is the new retro Voigtlander VC Meter There is also the vintage Leica MC Meter.  These small meters fit on top of your camera and work great.

5) Precision Mounting.  As you view your stereo slides, you may notice that some are comfortably viewed and a few others cause eye strain.  Precision Mounting can help you precisely place the film chips in the stereo mount for optimum viewing.  This is essential for stereo slides that are to be projected, as any errors in mounting will be much more noticeable during projection.  My favorite guide for mounting is the Alignment Gauge Set for Mounting 3-D Slides available as item #267, for $7 from Berezin Stereo.  If you are ready to precision mount your top 3 slides for stereo projection in our local exhibition/ competitions, I recommend getting RBT Mounts, as these plastic mounts have a channel tab system that makes adjusting the stereo window effect easy, among other things.  Because the RBT Mounts are more expensive at 70 cents each than the 20 cent cardboard mounts, I use them exclusively for my better images.  You can bring 3 of your favorite RBT Mounted slides to SCSC's stereo slide competition/exhibitions held every September, November, January, March, and May.  See the Competition Rules web page for details.

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