Nishika 3-D N8000 Camera: Review

Nishika 3-D N8000 Camera: Review

Nishika 3-D N8000s were first produced in 1989. They were quadrascopic (four lenses) cameras designed to produce four half-frame instantaneous images from a click of the shutters. Lenticular prints could be made from the negatives. Nowadays, you’re most likely to see animated 3-D GIFs or ‘Wigglegrams’ made from them on Instagram, especially if you follow the coolest people.

In the words of the manufacturers “Since the beginning of photography, man has sought to capture the elusive “third dimension” of life in pictures. Your new Nishika N8000 35mm camera represents the most revolutionary breakthrough in 3-D photography to date. You can now enjoy 3-dimensional photography without the need for special glasses or viewers. With the Nishika N8000 camera and processing system, you get snapshots with remarkably lifelike depth and realism you experience with the naked eye.”

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I have to share the amazing promotional video they made with the legendary Vincent Price (House of Wax), which is also a nice little tutorial for those new to this camera:

Sadly, finding anyone who will make lenticular prints from the negatives, or even scans of them anymore, is extremely difficult. I heard there was one company in China until quite recently, but even they seem to have stopped. The prices of these cameras, therefore, nose-dived until only a few years ago. You could find one for about £5-10 in a secondhand shop because no one really knew what to do with them without the lenticular printers. If you just bought one and feel a little salty about the last sentence, I apologise as I understand.

Now prices are over £100 on eBay, but you have to be very careful with these to find a fully functioning one, as with most second-hand cameras, especially because of their questionable build quality.

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The Nishika 3-D N8000 has:

  • a plastic body and plastic lenses
  • a fixed 1/60 shutter speed
  • a three-position manual aperture lever (next to the lenses), which selects f8, f11 or f19. These apertures are depicted as images of indoor or clouds, sunshine and clouds, or sunshine

The manufacturer recommends using 100 ASA 35mm film in their instruction book, however, I’ve also used 200 and 400 ASA, with or without a flash, and I didn’t explode.

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When first holding the camera, I was surprised by the weight of it considering it’s all plastic. I learned quite quickly, however, that this comes from a blummin’ big weight inside the body. It was purposely put there to make it feel like a heavy-duty camera…when it really isn’t.

There is a compartment for two AA batteries which I thought would be for the electronic display screen seen on the top of the camera….

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..but no.

This amazing electronic display is a printed piece of plastic to tell you the ideal distances for taking photographs. The batteries are for a small red low-light indicator in the viewfinder. Remember though, that the manufacturer recommends using 100 ASA film, which isn’t always suitable for the lighting conditions (especially in the sunny UK!). I, therefore, find that the indicator isn’t particularly useful as I tend to use other speed films.

The small button on the top is a battery charge tester. If there is sufficient charge, a little red LED on the front of the camera lights up.

The batteries are optional if you don’t rely on the low-light or charge indicators; the camera will work without them, and I actually consider this a bonus over the Nimslo.

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The four lenses have a distance of 18.5mm between each one, which is 55.5mm between the two end lenses. The manufacturer states that the cameras are pre-focused to provide optimal depth of field from as close as 170cm away.

The manufacturer also writes: “These high-index lenses are coated to reduce flare and increase contrast, and have exceptional optical quality and resolution”. Reading this you’d be tempted to think they’re the best cameras ever…in reality I own two Nishika N8000 cameras and have noticed each has one ‘lazy lens’ which is just slightly unsharp enough to be noticeable. I hope I’m just unlucky and that there are some N8000s with four very sharp lenses still available.

Sometimes you can amend one unsharp frame in Photoshop. Sometimes I just miss out a frame from an animation if it’s the end lens, only using the three remaining sharp ones. You can also make a nice stereoview by using just the 1st and fourth frames.

I find that there is quite a bit of vignetting at the corners of the photos taken with both of my Nishika cameras. I actually like this, but I can see that others may not desire this effect.

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Another thing to keep in mind when taking photos is that you should try to keep the camera level as much as possible, or the animation may look weird, depending on where its rotation is anchored. This might, however, be the look you’re going for (I sometimes pretend it is).

For each click of the shutter, four half-frame images are taken, i.e. two full frames. From a 36 roll film you’ll get 18 animations/lenticulars.

I develop black and white films myself, but I send my colour films away to be developed. From my experience, it’s worth mentioning to the processing lab which camera you’ve used so they can try and make sure it’s not cut in the wrong places. Half-frames are a different format to full-frame 35mm, but the automatic cutting equipment used won’t know the difference.

Some labs can scan half-frames, so it’s worth looking around and asking. I can recommend my lab, Kirklees Photographic for colour negative films in the UK. Their services are available by post and they are very professional, have very reasonable prices, are always helpful and just generally really lovely to deal with. They have also recently started offering to scan Nimslo-format films.

I always request that my film be returned uncut so I can snip to my heart’s content and scan it. Once I’ve scanned it, I use Photoshop to turn each frame into a layer, and align them to make a 3-D animation (tutorial can be found here).

Taking most of the photos with a cat as a subject and making them into 3-D animations is entirely optional, but it’s really what the majority of the public want.

I was lucky as one of my Nishika’s came with an original fitted camera bag, and I must say it is really useful as you can just pop off the cover and shoot away. I’d definitely recommend one if you can find a second-hand cover in good condition.

I also quickly found that I wanted to use a flash with my Nishika, however, the prices of the original flashes are almost as much as the cameras themselves, so I’d recommend looking around. You can find used electronic flashes as cheap as £5 in second-hand shops, camera markets or online, and they’re sometimes almost an identical twin light flash to the original one. Just check that they’re not going to get in the way of the lenses, the winder or the trigger. Maybe even test the flash on your camera, if possible, before you buy.

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I also have the original instruction manual which came with the cameras. If you’re missing it, I’ve found someone who very kindly lets you download one for free using this link.

If I was going for image quality and reliability from a quadrascopic camera and had a choice, I’d choose the Nishika’s protege, the Nimslo. You must be aware, however, that Nimslos are quite prone to problems with their electronics, especially the magnetic shutter release (I type from a painful experience). However, I do like the chunky feel of this plastic Nishika N8000 camera in my hands, and the lenses, at least those which are sharp, produce nice images. Even more shallow of me, I admit that I like the late 80s styling of it too, although I have no idea why.

Ignoring the vignetting, one frame constantly unsharp and quite pointless battery insertion, I’d choose this camera purely for the fun, and it is still amazing to see your images come to life. Who doesn’t want to see 3-D cat animations anyway?!

As the GIFs are moving 3-D animations, just showing one frame at a time, you can also have an awful lot of fun trying different special effect films, such as Yodica, Revolog, dubblefilm, etc. You can see some results I’ve had from them towards the end of another post I made about stereo film photography.

If you’d like some inspiration, have a look at the #NishikaN8000 hashtag on Instagram. I especially recommend this account.

I wish you luck with finding your fully functional Nishika N8000 camera and making your 3-D animated GIFs.

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