I traveled to San Diego, California, back in June and came across a great little camera store in the University Heights area called Camera Exposure. They have a great selection of used vintage cameras. I went in looking for some negative hanging clips, and a lens cap for my Minolta SR-T202. I left with those items, plus a new camera. I had been looking to try something different and decided that I wanted to try a 3D or stereoscopic film camera. A quick email to my friend Maurice for some advice on prices, and I was sold on the TDC Stereo Vivid.
Three Dimension Company (TDC) of Chicago, IL, was a division of Bell & Howell. They produced roughly 20,000 TDC Stereo Vivid cameras from 1954 – 1960. Not as popular as Realists or Kodak stereo cameras, but well-built. The TDC Stereo Vivid features a 35mm, f/3.5 lens with shutter speeds of 1/10th – 1/100th, plus bulb. The camera is a rangefinder focus with the film advance knob on the top. A spirit level is located in front of the rangefinder window, with a recessed shutter release button on the front of the camera with a cable release port. The camera originally sold for $129.50 in the US.
The TDC Stereo Vivid has all of the camera controls on the top surface of the camera body. The Expo Sure display lets the photographer control f-stop and shutter speed. It’s also an exposure guide that assists with shooting conditions from dull cloudy to bright sunny conditions. Using the Expo Sure makes it much harder to incorrectly expose an image. Another great feature is the red dot on the camera below the clear rangefinder focus knob. It indicates the distance of focus. A red line on the focus knob itself indicates the focus distance out to infinity. Two red triangles indicate the closest and furthest points of focus for the f-stop set. Why is this important? It’s important because you’re creating a 3D image. I’ve quickly learned that composing a stereo image goes beyond a quick focus and snapshot. To create an effective 3D image, it has to have a foreground, middle ground, and background. Depth of field isn’t just about focusing on the subject in the photo, it’s about helping your viewer find that focus point while enjoying the depth.
Keeping in mind that this is my first attempt with this type of camera, I have two issues with the Stereo Vivid. The first is film loading. I think TDC knew that loading and rewinding film in this camera was going to be an issue for photographers, so much that they actually printed the instructions on the bottom metal plate of the camera. To load film, the winding knob on the right must be rotated to the left until it stops. Next, rotate the middle sprocket, located between the film gates, to the left until it stops. When threading the film from the cartridge to the take-up spool, the film must go under the sprocket mentioned in the previous step. I admit I wasted two rolls of film before figuring out what I was doing wrong. The other issue are the size of the film gates inside the camera. The film gates are the area where the film is exposed, left and right lenses. They are too wide, resulting in images overlapping each other on the negative. I’ve confirmed this with other websites, and the only solution is to perform a creative crop in post.
Below are some images from the annual Peach Days Car Show in Brigham City, Utah, along with some rural images from the small farming town of Freedom, Wyoming. All images were shot on Kentmere 400 Film, processed at RepliColor and scanned with an Epson Perfection V600 Photo. I created the images using the free software, StereoPhoto Maker. To view the images in 3D, sit back from your display, keep your head and eyes horizontally level, and slowly cross your eyes. As you cross your eyes, focus on the middle image. The more you focus, and lock the image focus with your eyes, the easier it will be for you to explore the details of the image. If you feel that this is causing too much stress on your eyes, move further away from your display. And despite what your mom said when you were a child, doing this will not cause your eyes to stay this way. Click each image to make larger.
If crossing your eyes has given you a headache, and/or you prefer to view some additional film photos from the auto show, check out Scott Smith’s images.