Digital Stereo Photography

Larry Bolch

Well-Known Member
I got the Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D when it first became available about six months ago. Stereo photography has been part of my personal work since the days of the Stereo Realist camera - which I also own. The Fuji looks like your average P&S, fits comfortably in the pocket, but is in fact a very sophisticated camera with a substantial learning curve, even for one who has done stereo for decades.

It saves the images to the memory card in .mto format, which the included software can separate into left and right eye JPEGs. It can also combine stereo pairs into .mto format for use with its viewer. Both the viewer and camera monitor use a form of lenticular technology for viewing without special glasses, thus I can view images shot with the Stereo Realist and film/digital images shot with cameras using the Pentax Stereo Accessory.

The best way to view is to create stereoscope cards for a Holmes Stereoscope. While mine was made in the mid-19th century, they are still in production today, along with a great variety of similar devices. The cards are assembled using a Photoshop Action that automates the process. and are printed three up on letter-size paper with a photo ink-jet printer. Detail and depth are astonishing.

For on-screen viewing and prints, I make anaglyphs. On my web-site, I use the traditional red/cyan glasses, but for prints I find the newer green/magenta provides stronger blocking and thus less cross-talk or ghosting. The camera has both automatic and manual parallax correction, but this can be done in Photoshop as well. For instinctive viewing, I converge the images on where the viewer would naturally look - say the eyes of the subject. Everything in front of the eyes will appear in front of the card and behind - behind the subject. I have also used anaglyphs for a movie/slide show in full 1080p HDTV for viewing on a friend's large screen. It was very impressive.

Fuji has also just released a player for .mto files that will work with any of the new 3D HDTV sets, of course using the included shutter glasses. It is very reasonably priced.

The camera is amazingly capable. In essence two 10MP cameras side by side in the same chassis, which is a bit of overkill, since HDTV is 2MP maximum and stereoscope cards even less. However, since it is very compact, it is an ideal take-everywhere pocket camera. It has all the convenience of a digital camera, and produces quality in available light shooting that the Stereo Realist could not produce in full sunlight with fine grain film. An 8GB card provides just short of 800 exposures. In 2D mode, one can set the zoom of each lens individually, thus take both a facial and an environmental portrait at the same time. In 3D mode, one side can be shutter delayed, for an extremely wide stereo base-line from say and aircraft. It shoots both 2D and 3D movies in VGA resolution.

The downside is that it is too compact. One really needs to screw in some sort of handle into the tripod socket in order to hold it. I have countless pictures of my fingers hovering in front of one lens or another. I really hope that Fuji will come up with a firmware upgrade that will let me shoot RAW. Photoshop CS5 allows one to use the RAW processor on JPEG files, but being only 8-bit per channel, one lacks the versatility of the 14-bit images I shoot otherwise.

In all, I am very pleased. It is the first of its kind in history, and certainly makes a good start. It may not be my last digital stereo camera, but it really does produce high quality work. Those who become my subjects find the whole thing fascinating.

If you have access to red/cyan glasses, I have a portfolio of my first six months at Enjoy!