Nimslo 3D Camera - The Original Lenticular 3D Camera

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: October 29, 2020
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Nimslo 3D Camera showing the four quadra lens 30mm front.

The Nimslo 3D camera is the original camera developed for lenticular printing from 35mm negative film. A lenticular print would combine the four pictures into a single print that would appear 3 dimensional.

The release of the Nimslo was followed by two cameras, the Nishika N8000 and Nishika N9000. There are also several toy cameras that used 3 lens designs that are also capable of taking photos for 3-dimensional lenticular prints.

I am not aware of any business that currently has a printer and is producing lenticular prints for individuals. The Nimslo and other cameras like it can still be used to create "3D" animated Gifs with the pictures they take.

Price & Where to Buy

Nimslo camera prices have been steadily going up for years. Just like for everything film photography related, demand is high. Check around to find the best current prices.

On eBay use the "Sold Items" filter to see what the market price of the Nimslo 3D is based on what cameras have actually been selling for. The best deals sell the fastest, so current market prices might not reflect what you can get with some patience.

Check current prices at eBay or Amazon.

Battery - 3x LR43 (386/301, AG12)

Nimslo 3D battery 3x AG12 Camera Batteries

The Nimslo 3D camera was designed to use silver oxide batteries, but alkaline button cells such as 3x LR43 batteries can be used. These are also known as 386/301, and AG12 batteries.

Batteries are needed in order for the Nimslo's shutter to fire.

A red or green LED should be visible in the viewfinder when the shutter button is half depressed. If a light does not appear, the batteries need to be replaced.

LR43 batteries are hard to find in stores. If you can find them, they'll be expensive.

Buying from eBay will allow you to get more batteries for less money. You'll want at least 6 so you have a spare set to keep with you.

Take precautions when storing the camera as any pressure on the shutter button will cause the battery to drain. Just shoving the Nimslo in a bag may result in a position that will cause the batteries to drain.

Nimslo History

Nimslo 3D Lenticular Camera

Dr. Jerry Curtis Nims and Allen Kwok Wah Lo invented the Nims/Lo camera. Released in 1982 by the Nimslo Corp, the original price was $259.00.

They were also credited with creating the lenticular printing process that was used to create a lenticular three dimensional image.

There are 2 different models, the first, made in the U.K. and the second made in Japan. According to The Nimslo Guy on YouTube, less than 10,000 UK models were produced.

In addition to selling the cameras, Reel 3-D Enterprises' also handled making the lenticular prints. Unfortunately, demand was no high enough to keep the company financially healthy. In 1986, the production of the Nimslo camera stopped.

Nissei Corp. ended up taking over the printing business. Shortly after that, the design rights to the camera were sold. Those would be used to create the Nishika N8000 and Nishika N9000.

Shutter Speeds & Aperture

The Nimslo 3D can only be used with automatic exposure. Though there are some tricks you can try below to have more control over settings opening up the option to use different film.

Shutter speeds are automatically set from 1/30 to 1/500 of a second with an aperture from f/5.6 to f/22. When a flash is used in the hot shoe of the Nimslo, the lens aperture will always be set to f/5.6.

The shutter and aperture are locked together as they operate in tandem. This means the camera has 5 different settings it can take a picture with:

  • f/5.6 - 1/30 sec.
  • f/8 - 1/60 sec.
  • f/11 - 1/125 sec.
  • f/16 - 1/250 sec.
  • f/22 - 1/500 sec.

The shutter release button has threading so that a remote release cable or timer can be used to trigger the camera.

The Nimslo Opti-Lite electronic flash has a pin configuration that allows it to communicate with the camera and show a green LED in the viewfinder.

Using any other center pin fire flash with the Nimslo will still work, but the green LED light will not show up. Instead, a red light will appear in the Nimslo viewfinder.

The four lenses are made with glass elements. Optical glass will produce higher quality images than those from plastic lenses found in other 3D film cameras.

Tricks to Control Settings

There are several tricks you can use in order to gain some manual control over the Nimslo. The Nishika versions can't do these.

  1. Covering the light meter will cause the camera to shoot at 1/30 of a second shutter speed and f/5.6 aperture.
  2. Shining a light into the light meter will have the camera shoot at 1/500 of a second shutter speed and f/22 aperture.
  3. Bulb mode can be achieved by reversing the polarity of the batteries in the camera.

Nimslo 3D Manual

A PDF scan of the Nimslo 3D instruction manual (20 pages)and Reel 3-D Enterprises' Guide to the Nimslo 3D Camera (64 pages) books are available.

The Reel 3D Enterprises' Guide is a book worth downloading a copy of. Included are advanced usage tips and the factory service manual.

The Nimslo Guy on YouTube has made several videos on repairing the camera. You can see the Nimslo teardown below:

At 41:15 in the video he goes over the shutter and aperture design on the Nimslo. You can see how the shutter works and why the settings are locked together.

Setting ASA, ISO

Nimslo 3D 35mm Camera top

The Nimslo 3D has two settings for ISO, 100 or 400. A way to get around the limited ISO settings is to use an ND filter over the Nimslo's metering sensor.

A one-stop ND filter would allow the use of ISO 50 and ISO 200 film.

You can also use 200 or 800 ISO and select 100 or 400 to overexpose the film by 1 stop.

Film Frame Size

For every press of the shutter button, four half frame 22mm x 18mm pictures are taken. The four images cover 2 standard 35mm frames.

Using a roll of 36 exposure film in the Nimslo will produce 18 sets of images. A 24 exposure roll of film will make 12 sets of images and a roll of 12 exposures will result in 6 sets of pictures.

Stereo cameras (two lenses) often produce each image on a standard 35mm frame. The 3 dimensional effect is then seen by using a viewer that shows one of the pictures to each eye.

Best Film to Use

Don't expect to get great results with your first couple of rolls of film you put through the Nimslo 3D. Due to the distance of the furthest lens to the viewfinder, the parallax effect takes some practice to get used to.

You may want to use cheaper film until you get the hang of using the camera. Using a flash is also a good way to ensure you get the best pictures.

Kentmere 400 and UltraFine 400 are low priced black and white film you can use.

Nimslo 3D 35mm Film

Viewfinder & Metering

A red dot will show up in the Nimslo's viewfinder if the conditions are not bright enough to take a picture.

A green dot will show up if the camera is reading that the exposure will be correct. That doesn't mean your pictures will come out perfect, because the camera is not very accurate.

Due to the very basic light metering of the Nimslo camera, backlit scenes are likely to cause exposure problems.

If you're interested in getting the best results from the Nimslo, or any 3D camera, use an incident light meter. My choice would be the Minolta Auto Meter VF.

With a flash meter, you'll get more accurate readings. From there, you can focus on modifying the light to get the results you want.

Lenses

The four lenses on the Nimslo have a 30mm focal length with a maximum aperture of f/5.6. The field of view is similar to what you would experience with either of the Nishika cameras.

Each lens is a triplet (3 elements) design and they use glass lens elements. This is nice because less expensive 3D cameras use four plastic lenses.

The four lenses do not move. Since each lens is fixed in place, the focus is fixed at 6 feet to infinity.

3D Photo Gifs

3D Film Negative Showing 4 Half Frames

Originally, lenticular prints would have been made from the film negatives. In the 1980's you would have sent your film directly to Nimslo to be developed and then used to create lenticular prints.

As far as I am aware, there are no longer any businesses that are able to produce lenticular 3D prints from 35mm film negatives.

As an alternative to prints, the film can be scanned and the series of pictures turned into animated 3D gifs.

Creating 3D gifs can be done by using an image editor, such as GIMP, to align and animate the picture frames.

Accessories

Nimslo Opti-Lite Dual Flash

Nimslo Opti Lite Flash for 3 dimensional and stereo cameras

The Nimslo Opti-Lite is a dual flash with pins that are used to communicate with the camera. The communication means a green ready LED will be shown in the viewfinder when the Opti-Lite flash is charged.

For indoor shooting, the top flash can be rotated to act as a bounce light for fill. The bottom flash facing forward will act as a key light to illuminate the subject. The two sources of light are helpful for getting pictures that will have the 3-dimensional look.

Flashes don't age well. The electronics in them don't work as well as they did when new. Advancements in electronics also mean that new flashes have noticeably faster recycle. Your photography experience will be better with a newer flash.

Nimslo 3 Dimensional Flash Settings

Like the camera, the flash is plastic. Be careful because giving the camera and flash to your 5-year-old niece can result in the flash shoe mount breaking.

Nimslo Opti-Lite flashes are perpetually going up in value.

  • Early 2019 - $50
  • Late 2019 - $100
  • October 2020 - Zero market availability

I wish I knew where prices were going, but I don't. Your best bet is to check the current prices on eBay to see if you can find a deal.

Camera Case

Nimslo 3D Camera Case

If the neck strap wasn't enough for you, the Nimslo 3D camera was sold with a vinyl two part case. They are getting old enough to where the vinyl can start to peel from the backing fabric.

Poor storage conditions will make the degradation of the vinyl worse.

A case in poor condition likely means the camera was not stored in a temperature-controlled environment. Passing it up could help you to avoid future problems.

Nimslo 3D Alternatives

Nishika N8000 & N9000

These are the two cameras that have the most in common with the Nimslo.

The Nishika N8000 is unnecessarily large with a fixed shutter speed. It is billed as being a Quadra Lens camera, and is likely the most well known 4 lens camera.

The Nishika N9000 is smaller than the N8000, and similar in size to the Nimslo.

Minitech Quadralens

The Minitech is difficult to find. It is a clone of the Nishika N9000.

It is the only other camera I have seen with 4 lenses. The build quality is what you'd expect from a toy camera.

The only ones I've ever seen for sale on eBay have been for $250+.

ImageTech 3D Camera

There are at least 4 different camera models. One of which is the ImageTech 3D Wizard. Some of the cameras have different brandings, such as the Kalimar 3D stereo camera. All the models have 3 lenses and a toy camera build quality. You can generally find one for around $70 or less on eBay.

Holga 135PC-3D

The Holga is a stereoscopic camera, meaning it only has 2 "lenses". Unless you want the Lomography look, the image quality will be low. It also won't make animated gifs as good as the Nimslo or a Nishika.

One comment on “Nimslo 3D Camera - The Original Lenticular 3D Camera”

  1. I purchased the Nimslo 3d camera back in the 1980's. Is the company still in business? and if so, where do I buy the film for it? I wanted to use it again. It gave really cool pictures in 3D. Thank You.

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