seeing double – again

Realist Camera from 1955 LIFE ad

Toronto. Stereo seems to wax and wan in popularity. Around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, stereo was very popular – the television and movies of the day. It disappeared and shot to popularity once again in the 1950s with books, movies, kids toys (like the View-Master), cameras, projectors and slides.

The stereo of the 1950s made use of special cameras like the Realist and dual lens projectors to simplify creation and projection of colour stereo slides. In house, we had both Stan White and Bob Wilson as enthusiastic experts. In fact Stan held special stereo evenings for our  September meeting over a number of years.

In 1955, the special stereo cameras were promoted in advertisements like the one above from the April 18th, 1955 edition of LIFE magazine (page 65). Not to be left out, major camera makers offered elegant accessories to convert their cameras temporarily to stereo instruments using prisms, mirrors, and tiny dual lens assemblies.

As in times past, the fad slowly died out. People were reluctant to wear special glasses needed to see the stereo effect – or to limit shooting to “normal” focal length lenses. In this century we have seen lenticular technology used to allow stereo viewing without special glasses. Special four lens cameras were necessary to create the lenticular prints and special handling of the resulting prints. Even televisions were offered with stereo capability – and rather pricy viewing glasses. Both faded into history quickly.

The ad that brought out this story was suggested by my friend and fellow PHSC member,  George Dunbar.

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