A quick review of the unusual 4-lens 3-D film camera Nishika N8000 all the way back from the 1980s.
Words and photography: Maksim Kalanep
Nishika N8000 is one of three film cameras in existence that use a 4-lens system to take 3-D photographs. By taking 4 photographs all at the same time from slightly different angles - Nishika N8000 produces 4 shots side by side which when combined digitally into Gifs or through lenticular printing give an illusion of extra dimension and depth to the scene. N8000 was introduced in 1989 as a clone of the original and very popular Nimslo 3D film camera. A couple of years later it was replaced with a more compact N9000 version. None of these cameras is produced nowadays. You can still buy them both new & used on eBay and other similar marketplaces.
Nishika N8000 film camera employs a system of four focus-free 30mm lenses with a fixed 1/60th sec shutter speed. Aperture can be set to f/8, f/11 & f/19. N8000 is fully mechanical and requires 2x AA batteries only for optional exposure metering which doesn't affect the aperture or shutter speed. It takes both B&W and colour 100 ISO rated film stock and produces 18 3-D photographs on a regular 36-exposure roll of film. Each 3-D photograph is made of 4 half-frame shots that occupy 2 regular 35mm film frames. N8000 has a regular see through plastic viewfinder as well as hot shoe mount for flash.
I had a chance to shoot with both N8000 & N9000 versions of the camera. More recently with N8000. Even though N8000 looks more professional - both are identical in operation and ease of use. Just point and shoot. N9000 is way more portable because of its slim size and delivers the same results.
The main thing to remember about both cameras is to always shoot them the way they are in horizontal mode and not too far away from the subject, ideally 1.5-2m away. Results are always nice and crispy when shooting in sunny conditions with the aperture stopped down to f/19. When indoors - flash is mandatory both for getting enough illumination and stopping the motion as the shutter is quite slow at 1/60th sec.
Shooting action is totally possible, but only indoors where you can use flash to do the freezing. But luck still has to be on your side - being close enough to get the 3-D effect and not to cut off the hands is hard to do through the basic viewfinder and no after shot confirmation.
While the shooting process is fun and very straight forward - post-processing is not as easy since there are no modern labs that would do lenticular prints from the exposed film. So instead the film needs to be developed & scanned and then all the 3-D photographs have to be manually put together frame by frame in Photoshop and exported as Gifs to achieve the effect. And that can be a very slow and long process if you have more than one roll.
All in all, this is a fun camera to play and experiment with. I enjoyed using it in Brussels for Byrrrh & Skate x Levi's Skateboarding DIY skatepark opening event. Not all the shots came out the way I intended them to be, but Nishika N8000 gave me an option to portray the event in a different way.
Should you get one? The answer is yes and yes, just don't pay too much for your Nishika since they do break and I couldn't fix my N9000 when it stopped working.