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Nimslo film chamber

The Nimslo is a stereo camera with a brightfield viewfinder that produces 3D pictures which can be viewed without glasses. This is done using Lenticular printing. It uses common 35 mm film in 135 film format cartridges. It was produced in the 1980s by Nimstec Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


Nimslo film strip, scanned as a positive to show it as is, note how the red L.E.D. reverses to a green dot on the negative strip
Nimslo film strip, scanned as a negative
Nimslo Optilite flash
Nimslo with Optilite flash

The Nimslo had fixed focus and automatic exposure. It featured a leathered metal body and glass lenses. Using its four lenses, four images from slightly different viewing angles were taken simultaneously. With the individual images half the size of the usual 35mm image frames, each 3D photograph taken used the space of 2 full 35mm exposures on the film. So a roll labeled as "36 exposures" would last for 18 3D pictures with four images each.

The Nimslo was the first consumer level three-dimensional lenticular camera of the 1980s. There were previous lenticular cameras aimed at amateurs, such as the 6 lens Lentic, introduced in 1953, which used 120 roll film,[1] but the Nimslo was probably the first to use 35mm film, and certainly the first that could fit in a pocket.

The camera used a red LED to put a green dot on the negative. This was how the printer knew where a group of four negatives started. This dot appeared in the otherwise blank area above the image so it didn't appear in the printed frame. This feature appears to be unique to the Nimslo. Other lenticular cameras don't have it and other lenticular printers don't use it.

The Nimslo was originally built in a Timex factory in Dundee, Scotland. Later cameras were built by Sunpak in Japan.

Nimslo and its lenticular printer were invented by Jerry Curtis Nims and Allen Kwok Wah Lo, both from Georgia, USA.

Lenticular prints would be ordered from special print shops using dedicated printers. The pictures produced by the Nimslo camera create a three-dimensional image that can be seen with the naked eye. This 3D image is made possible by the lenticular printing process that was customized by the Nimslo inventors, though professional lenticular prints had been around for a while.

US patents[edit]

The technology was protected by US patents.

  • 3,960,563 - Methods and apparatus for taking and composing stereoscopic pictures
  • 4,037,950 - Camera for taking stereoscopic pictures
  • 4,063,265 - Apparatus for taking stereoscopic pictures

Nimstec, Timex and Fred Olsen[edit]

The shares of the Nimstec were bought by Eagleville Company in October 1980, again controlled by the Ptarmigan Trust that at the same time gained control over Timex Corporation. The whole operation was controlled by billionaire Fredrik Olsen "Fred Olsen", in charge of the Fred. Olsen & Co. shipping company. Fred Olsen is a technological and industrial visionary and believed strongly in the Nimslo product. He wanted the Timex factory in Dundee in Scotland to produce the cameras, as they had already produced cameras for Polaroid. He established a guarantee of 25 million USD for the acquisition of the Nimslo shares.[2]

Mark 1S and Mark 1A Printers[edit]

The original Nimslo photographic printer (the Mark 1S) was controlled by a KIM-1 processor. The operator had to view the actual images to align the images. The time to create a picture was measured in minutes. The second photographic printer was the Mark 1A. This printer was controlled by a Data General MicroNova processor, using the MP/OS operating system. This machine used a video system and was able to create a picture in about 15 seconds.

Nimslo prints are created by printing the four images through the lenticular print material, each at a different angle, to a photosensitive emulsion on the back of the lenticular material. The print material is then processed in a normal photofinishing machine, as the back of the print material is permeable to the photofinishing chemicals.

Market response[edit]

Although the idea of a consumer level camera that could make lenticular 3D prints similar to those that had appeared for many years on book covers and other novelty items certainly had appeal, it did not receive a large market share of camera purchases, partially due to the high costs of processing and longer wait times than traditional cameras.

After market[edit]

Cardboard mount used for slides taken with the Nimslo
aluminum 4P, half frame mask, also known as realist closeup mask
stereo pair taken with a Nimslo, note the red dot which would be green on negative film. This would normally be cropped out but was left in for illustration.

Despite the fact that Nimslo cameras are no longer produced, one can still obtain a Nimslo through various internet auction sites. Original cameras cost around $200 at their first release but can now be found for less than $50. The Nimslo maintains a small but loyal following among photography buffs.

As of May 2012, there are no known labs that can make lenticular prints from film.

In a somewhat "retro" development, many stereo photography buffs used the Nimslo to take stereo slides which were mounted in "4P" (half frame) slide mounts. This was done by using either slip in cardboard mounts, some specially labeled with the Nimslo name or aluminum masks such as the Realist "closeup" mask. These masks were sometimes put in metal frames and placed between glass, much like Realist format slides. The resulting stereo slides could then be viewed using conventional Realist format viewers or even projected with stereo projectors.

The dot that was green on negatives was red on slide film and so stereo hobbyists could tell which chip was the left frame after cutting the film by looking for the red dot. Because many slide mounts were designed for an image frame taller than the Nimslo frame this red dot was sometimes visible in the picture.

The glass lenses and automatic exposure control of the Nimslo made it well suited for this purpose, unlike similar cameras such as the Nishika that typically sported plastic lenses and limited adjustability, relying on the latitude of the print film to give good results under varied lighting conditions.

Others used the Nimslo to produce half frame prints that could be used to make stereo cards which could be viewed in conventional stereoscopes.

Since only the two outer images of the four images formed by each snap were mounted, using an unmodified Nimslo to produce stereo pairs results in a lot of film wastage and making prints is even more costly since half of them will be thrown away. The problem of paying for twice as many prints could be solved by covering the two center lenses, but that doesn't solve the problem of film wastage. This spurred some enterprising individuals to come up with modifications.

Technical enterprises came out with the Teco-Nimslo which exposed two images at a time and modified the film advance so that there was no film wastage. This produced 24 half frame pairs on a 24 exposure roll. The result was an ideal camera for those satisfied with half frame format slides.

David Burder came up with more radical modifications. One, the original Burdlo, featured a modified lens board with two lenses but essentially the same film advance to take full frame stereo pictures. The stereo base was greatly reduced to only 36mm, but this was adequate for closeup work.[3] Other cameras also going by the name Burdlo included multiple Nimslos joined together to make 12 lens and 24 lens lenticular cameras. None of these were as popular as the Teco-Nimslo but pictures of them are easy enough to find on the web[4] and have occasionally been the subject of blog entries.[5]

Others have modified the Nimslo to make a wide format camera, or have found other non 3D uses, with or without modification.[6]

The future[edit]

The Nimslo camera is no longer manufactured. Despite this, many such cameras are still in use and can be found in mint condition or as NOS but lenticular prints can no longer be made. Though the last companies doing lenticular printing have ceased such activities and the concept may fade, it may well be that a new chapter in the story will be written.

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the release of consumer level lenticular printers. This would allow users to make their own lenticular prints. This would obviously bring new life to the market for used and NOS cameras, but it seems unlikely that a company which made a lenticular printer wouldn't also market a camera to go with it.

At first this may use the existing film technology, but eventually they would likely release a digital version, since the printing would almost certainly be from digital files. The release of a trilens or quadralens (or other multilens) digital camera may be just around the corner. Of course, like the Nimslo, such a camera could also be used to make stereo pairs.


  1. ^ Make Your own Stereo Pictures Julius B. Kaiser The Macmillan Company 1955 pp. 12–13 Lentic corporation handled the processing as well
  2. ^ Norwegian High Court in case HR-2001-00662, Oslo, Norway, 2002-06-10
  3. ^ Reel 3-D Enterprises' Guide to the Nimslo 3D Camera by David Starkman and Susan Pinsky pages 24–25
  4. ^ Google search
  5. ^ Robcat View
  6. ^ NIMSLO- more to it than meets the eye! by Andrew Davidhazy

External links[edit]