Nishika 3-D N8000 Camera: Review

Nishika 3-D N8000 Camera: Review

Nishika 3-D N8000s were first produced in 1989 and were four lens (quadrascopic) 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-dimentional 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 with their questionable build quality.

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The Nishika 3-D N8000 was produced with a plastic body and plastic lenses, a fixed 1/60 shutter speed and a three position manual aperture lever (next to the lenses) that selects f8, f11 or f19 – 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 but I learned quite quickly that this comes from a blummin’ big weight inside the body, 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 the sunny UK!) so 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’s sufficient charge a little red LED on the front of the camera lights up. In summary, the low light indicator is about as useful as the weight in the camera; so batteries are optional – 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 (55.5mm between the two end lenses), and the manufacturer states that the cameras are pre-focused to provide optimal depth of field from as close as 170cm away. Keep in mind you also need to keep the camera level as much as possible when taking the photos or the animation may look weird – depending on the look you’re going for! 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 this in Photoshop, sometimes I just miss out a frame if it’s the end lens and use the three remaining sharp ones to make an animation (you can also make a nice stereoview 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 cameras – I actually like this but I can see that others may not desire this effect.

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For each click of the shutter four half-frame images are taken, i.e. two full frames – so from a 36 roll film you’d get 18 captures. I develop black and white film myself but I send my colour films away to be developed and 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. Some labs are also able to scan the half frames so it’s definitely 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, always helpful and just generally really lovely to deal with). I get my film sent back uncut so I can snip to my heart’s content and scan it. Once scanned I use Photoshop to turn each frame into a layer and align them to make a 3-D animation as it goes back and forth between the frames (tutorial coming soonish). 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 and 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 so I’d definitely recommend one if you can find a decent secondhand cover. I also quickly found that I wanted to use a flash with mine; however the prices of the original Nishika 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 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 but if you’re missing it I’ve found someone 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, but you must be aware that Nimslos are quite prone to problems with their electronics (especially the magnetic shutter release – I type from 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 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.

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

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

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