Friday, April 13, 2012

Stereo Realist, Harold Lloyd, and 3D Crazes

An ad from the December 1945 issue of The Camera.  I believe that the Stereo Realist was not actually available until much later since we were still in the middle of WWII and production of non-essential items was very limited. Still with the end of the war in sight many companies ran ads to prepare people for what they could look forward to when wartime restrictions were removed.

I don't know much about the Stereo Realist camera other than it was popular in the 1950's and made 3D images.  I was more fascinated by the connection of the camera to silent film star Harold Lloyd.  It seems that Lloyd got one of these cameras in 1948 and used it extensively for most of the rest of his life.  He even made ads for the Stereo Realist and is said to have made 300,000 views with this camera.  Some of these were of famous people like Marilyn Monroe and Betty Page.  

I remember enjoying some of Harold Lloyd's silent films.  Lloyd's go-getter anything is possible style was very much in tune with the 1920's making him one of the most popular stars of the late silent movie era. When the Depression started Lloyd's persona fell out of fashion and his movies no longer did well.  Still it looks like Lloyd had managed his finances well and did all right in retirement.  His use of the Stereo Realist was just one of many ways that he kept active and creative.  If you haven't seen Lloyd's work before you might want to take a look at this clip from YouTube from the film "Safety Last". This clip is a somewhat shortened version of the most famous scene from that movie. Also it uses piano music which Lloyd did not care for as a background.  Still I think it can give you some idea of what Lloyd's movies were like.

Harold Lloyd's granddaughter made a book from some of Lloyd's images of famous people called HOLLYWOOD IN BRIEF : 3-D HOLLYWOOD

My own exposure to 3D photographs consists of looking at Viewmaster slides when I was a child.  I remember thinking they were cool, however I have never had a desire to repeat the experience as an adult.  Also there was some kind of ancient contraption at the library in Tuscola IL where you inserted a photo card and saw a 3D image.  I think these were called Stereographs.  They were part of the first 3D craze that seemed to be going the strongest in the last part of the 19th century.  I would guess they were replaced by moving pictures when they became the latest visual wonder.

So it seems that as long as there has been photography there has been an interest in 3D. However that interest so far has not displaced 2D images.  Maybe someday a form of 3D imaging will come along that is as easily viewable as 2D images and people will come to prefer that.  Or maybe there is a limitation on how real people need images to be.

From the 1955 Popular Photography Directory


Stereo still camera; uses standard 35-mm cartridges; up to 29 stereo pairs per loading; f/3.5 David White anastigmat lenses; shutter speeds from 1/150 sec to I sec, T and B; built-in flash synchronization; focusing scale; coupled, split-image rangefinder; centered viewfinder eliminates parallax; double-exposure control; depth-of-field scale; exposure counter. Price, $159. Available accessories include flash filters, lens shades, eveready case, gadget bags, slide cases and files, and viewer.

Below are two PDF files showing the 1955 listings for Stereo Cameras.  There were quite a few of them.

Stereo Camera 1955 Page 1

Stereo Camera 1955 Page 2


  1. I used to have a Stereo Realist. It did not manage to make it back into my hands after my divorce. It was a solid little tank of a camera. I never ran film through it, though.

    1. I figured a Stereo Realist would be substantial. Judging from Ebay it looks like there is still a lot of interest in them.

  2. Your mention of a "sterograph" makes me wonder if that's what my folks had. 2 similar small pictures, mounted about a few inches apart on a stiff piece of cardboard, were inserted into the viewer which looks like binoculars in a way. I don't believe I ever asked how my father did it for I know of no special camera he had. Perhaps my older brother knows something. 'u'

    1. It would be interesting to know. The ones I remember from the library sound like they were similar to the ones your family had.