Last Updated on 01/30/2020 by Mark Beckenbach
“Miracle” is a rather dramatic claim for the Nimslo 3D camera, but the commercial isn’t entirely wrong, given the popularity of the camera today!
Among the photography trends that have been enjoying some renewed interest in recent years is 3D photography or stereoscopic photography. As part of the film photography revival, the technique has found its way into the creative tools (and Instagram feeds) of photographers charmed by the unique results. The 3D film cameras, of course, are quirky curiosities of their own. Among them is the Nimslo 3D camera from the 1980s, which today’s featured vintage camera commercial has dubbed “a miracle in photography” and “the most important new camera in your lifetime.”
The commercial above, from the early 1980s, is as dramatic as ads can get, with over the top visuals to match its bold claims. It may be strange for a simple, fully automatic 35mm camera that doesn’t look the part of a “miracle.” But the idea of photos looking more lifelike compared to the usual flatness of 2D images is unique and exciting at the time.
The “miracle” here, however, seems to be the unexpected following for consumer 3D film cameras 40 years since they were introduced. In fact, cameras like Nimslo 3D and its brother from another mother, the Nishika N8000 (Nimslo Corp. was partly sold to Nishika), have been so popular lately that they spawned a modern-day counterpart last year in the RETO 3D. They have also spawned a horde of “fake Nimslo” and “fake Nishika” tutorials for those who want to mimic the effects of these cameras through digital editing. You’d expect that these cameras now come cheap, but they’re actually going for around $300 to $400 on eBay, like this Nimslo 3D with flash priced at $320.
Stereo photography, however, goes even further back. According to Wikipedia, the 1950s saw stereo cameras gaining popularity with the Stereo Realist camera, which came out in 1947 and was made until 1971. The four-lensed Nimslo 3D, however, holds the distinction of being the first compact, consumer-level lenticular camera, which was designed to make 3D prints that can be viewed without glasses or any special technique. Though it was short-lived and wasn’t a commercial success, it inspired many other three and four-lensed clones until the 1990s.
The Nimslo 3D, being a four-lensed camera, took four frames from slightly different angles simultaneously. Together, they form a 3D photograph. What was unique about Nimslo was that it came with its own printing system, also developed by the inventors of the camera. The camera had a red LED to expose a green dot on the negative, on the blank area above the image. This indicated to the printer where a group of four frames started. The lenticular prints would be ordered from print shops that had this dedicated printer.
Hearing about cameras like Nimslo 3D and Nishika for the first time and want to see how they work? Curious about the images they create? Here’s a quick video to give you an idea: