Stereo Realist

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Designed by Seton Rochwite and made by the David White Company, the Stereo Realist is the best selling Stereo Camera of all time. It is a comparatively full-featured 35mm stereo camera with rangefinder focusing. Like some copycats and spiritual descendants, it takes photos in the "5-perf stereo" format (also known as "Realist" format), of about 23x24 mm in portrait orientation, the length along the film being that of five perforations.

The camera is noticeably odd in design even compared to some other stereo cameras, but it is designed for accuracy and usability, with details like a fingerwheel for focusing with DoF markings, an integral lens cap that also blocks the viewfinder, indicating when it is in use, and internal linkages for the shutter and aperture.

The stereo effect is optimized for middle distances, and can be noticeably subtle beyond 100 feet. Both closeup attachments, to allow closer focus, and distance attachments, to enhance the stereo effect at long distances, were produced for this camera.

Description

The viewfinder is an unusual design in which a prism redirects the light path down from a large lens at the center of the camera to the eyepiece, near the bottom of the camera. Next to this is the rangefinder eyepiece. This low placement requires the photographer to hold the camera fairly high on his or her face. The rangefinder is a split-image type with a very long effective base. In theory this can give it greater accuracy than many short-base finders like those on Leica copies. This is however contingent on the finder being well calibrated.

The controls are dials around each of the three lenses on the front. The shutter speed is adjusted via a pronged dial around the viewfinder lens, and the ring around either taking lens will adjust both lenses' aperture, though depending on the year the dial may only be marked on one side.

The camera is not automated in ways that users of later rangefinders or SLR's may expect. The shutter is not cocked by advancing the film, and releasing the shutter does not unlock the winding knob. Instead one must cock the shutter with a lever, and press a button before starting to wind. Additionally the frame counter must be set to "1" by hand after shooting the initial blank frames.

Format

The format which the Realist popularized is widely regarded as the ideal 35mm stereo format. Each individual frame, or singlet, is one sprocket wider than half-frame format, or 5/8's of a full 135 frame. This gives a mild portrait orientation. Each pair is separated on the film by two intervening frames, one from the previous pair and one from the succeeding one (there is a blank frame after the first frame on the roll, and before the last frame). Each advancement is by the width of two frames, which is the mechanically simplest way of interleaving frames in the desired ratio.

One may easily see, by plugging in alternate values, that any other frame width (in multiples of the sprocket distance, by necessity) cannot be interleaved with the distance necessary for human-like stereoscopy. For this reason, it is probable that several inventors originated this format at different times. The Kodak Stereo, Delta Stereo and several others from the same time are not necessarily copying each other, though it is probable that at least some of them are.

History

The Stereo Realist camera attracted celebrities throughout the 50s. The most notable user of the camera was silent film star, Harold Lloyd, who used the camera to make portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page, among others. Advertisements of the time featured celebrities, many who were friends of Lloyd's and in his stereo camera club. Celebrities in these advertisements included Vincent Price (on the set of House of Wax), Edgar Bergen, John Wayne, James Cagney, Bob Hope, Joan Crawford, Doris Day, Cecil B. Demile, and Frank Capra.

The popularity of the camera continued into the 60s. In 1971, the Realist Stereo Macro was added to the line of cameras.[1] This is a rather different camera, having two small lenses mounted together on the left side of the body, in a rim-set shutter with speeds 1 - 1/125 second, plus 'B' and 'T'. There is no focusing, or even a viewfinder; the camera is focused by the use of close-up lenses.

Today, the trademark is owned by John J. Zelenka, a stereo photographer.


Stereo Realist 3.5 (1041) [2]

Manufacturer: David White Co., Milwaukee, WI, USA

Date of Production: About 1947[3]

Type of Camera: viewfinder/rangefinder camera


Film 135 cartridge

Size 175 x 65 x 59 mm (W x H x D)

Weight 820 grams (1,125 grams with everready case)

Lens Separation 69.28 mm

Image Format 25.40 x 23.42 mm (W x H)

Image Window Separation 70,92 mm

Lenses David White Anastigmat (glass, matched), 1:3.5/35 mm clip-on filters 20 mm

Diaphragms Iris diaphragms between the lenses, continuously adjustable from f/3.5 to f/22

Focusing Manual, 2½ ft. - infinity. Movement of the film plane

Shutter Double lamellar type shutter, behind the lenses. Cocked with seperate lever

Shutter Speeds 1/150, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25, 1/10, 1/5, ½, 1 sec. and "B" and "T"

Viewfinder Optical reflex viewfinder (approx. 0,5x). Parallax-free.

Rangefinder linked with distance setting, 123 mm baseline

Film Loading Manual

Film Transport Manual, with transport knob by 10 sprocket holes (= 47.5 mm), sprocket wheel on top

Film Rewinding Manual. Unlocking with rewind release knob. Rewind knob.

Frame Counter Additive, 1 to 36. Manual reset.

Flash Contact Hot Shoe

Tripod Socket ¼“ / 20 TPI

Special Features Double exposure prevention, eyelets for carrying-strap, cable realease provision.

Accessories Operating instructions, everready case, viewers, Bulb Flash, Projector, Mounting Kit

Stereo Realist 2.8 (1042)[4]

Manufacturer: David White Co., Milwaukee, WI, USA

Date of Production: 1951

Type of Camera: viewfinder/rangefinder camera


Film 135 cartridge

Size 175 x 65 x 59 mm (W x H x D)

Weight 820 grams (1,125 grams with everready case)

Lens Separation 69.28 mm

Image Format 25.40 x 23.42 mm (W x H)

Image Window Separation 70,92 mm

Lenses David White Anastigmat (glass, matched), 1:2.8/35 mm clip-on filters 20 mm

Diaphragms Iris diaphragms between the lenses, continuously adjustable from f/2.8 to f/22

Focusing Manual, 2½ ft. - infinity. Movement of the film plane

Shutter Double lamellar type shutter, behind the lenses. Cocked with seperate lever

Shutter Speeds 1/200, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25, 1/10, 1/5, ½, 1 sec. and "B" and "T"

Viewfinder Optical reflex viewfinder (approx. 0,5x). Parallax-free.

Rangefinder linked with distance setting, 123 mm baseline

Film Loading Manual

Film Transport Manual, with transport knob by 10 sprocket holes (= 47.5 mm), sprocket wheel on top

Film Rewinding Manual. Unlocking with rewind release knob. Rewind knob.

Frame Counter Additive, 1 to 36. Manual reset.

Flash Contact Hot Shoe

Tripod Socket ¼“ / 20 TPI

Special Features Double exposure prevention (overrideable), strap eyelets, cable release provision.

Accessories Operating instructions, everready case, viewers, Bulb Flash, Projector, Mounting Kit


Accessories

  • Wide-angle lenses
  • Filters with filter case
  • Flash
  • Leather Case
  • Leather ever-ready case
  • Mounting kit, includes film chip sorting box, heat seal, film cutter, and slide mounter.
  • Electronic Viewers: Red Button, Green Button, White Button, Gold Button
  • Projector
  • Silver screen, for projection
  • Slide Mounts: Metal, Paper, Plastic, Glass

Notes

  1. Realist Stereo Macro outfit, including camera serial no. 25123 and a range of close-up lenses, with rods attached to fix the subject distance, sold at the thirteenth Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 7 June 2008.
  2. Stereo Realist 3.5 information at Stereoscopy.com
  3. Advertising for the Stereo Realist had begun by the January, 1946 issue of Popular Photography magazine (Vol. 18, No. 1; page 15).
  4. Stereo Realist 2.8 information at Stereoscopy.com


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