The Worst Camera I've Ever Loved: The Nishika N8000

One of the beautiful things about film is the variety of cameras out there. You could shoot a different one every day and seemingly never get to the end of them. With that variety, though, comes a lot of quirkiness. A new generation of photographers has embraced one of the quirkiest cameras of all: The Nishika N8000. Although no technical marvel, its resurgence in the photography community is because of one unexpected trick, creating 3D animated GIFs. 

The N8000 is point and shoot at its simplest. Once you insert your roll of 35mm film, you select one of three settings: sunny, partly cloudy, or shade. By selecting one of those settings, you're setting the aperture of the camera to f/19, f/11, or f/8, respectively. You then line up the viewfinder frame and snap away. Pretty simple, right?

After that, though, it gets interesting. You see, the N8000 has not one, not two, not three, but four lenses side by side. Each of those lenses takes a photo on the strip of film, each one the space of half a frame. Because each frame is slightly offset, you're taking a photo of one subject from four different vantage points. When you put those images together in an animation, you can get a neat little 3D effect! Think lo-fi bullet-time.

The lenses in all their crappy glory!

The camera was released in 1989, hence the blocky, horrible styling. It was touted as a technical marvel, able to produce 3D images via a special process. Horror film icon Vincent Price even did celebrity endorsement duty on the N8000. So hey, I'm sold right there! If it's good enough for Dr. Phibes himself, it's good enough for me. For a laugh, check out the video below of the tutorial for the N8000, hosted by Price.

Of course, the process that yielded the 3D result back in the day is long since defunct, but you can get your own animations by putting together the scans of the individual frames into simple animations. Use cheap film, a cheap scanner, and process your own film for the most cost effective result. Eduardo Pavez Goye does a wonderful tutorial on the film where he goes in-depth on how to create a fun GIF from the film. He goes slower than in my own review of the camera and if you're newer to Photoshop, it's definitely worth the time to check out. In the second half of my video I go through the process as well, but also add a bit on exporting as a short video so that you can use the animations on Instagram and Facebook.

Four shots of pre-animation glory!

A quick Google search of "Nishika N8000" will yield tons of examples of the GIFs, so check them out when you get a moment! The camera can be readily acquired on eBay for $40-$60.

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7 Comments

Interesting camera. When I saw the camera, I remembered the Nimslo 3D camera.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Yeah, i think this was a clone of the Nimslo that had a bigger following

Spy Black's picture

Yeah, I remember the Nimslo. According to Wikipedia, the patents were acquired by Nishika and they continued with the production and created the camera you see here. Nimslo had a processing plant in Atlanta to print out the lenticular images.

There were also disposable 3D cameras that had only three lenses. I bought one back then at Adorama in NYC and took some shots of my then 5-year-old niece in a park, through monkey bars and such where you can make good use of the 3D effect. I had to send the roll to Atlanta for processing, so I guess the disposable (which I think went by a different brand name) was a way to drum up business for the processing center.

Sadly, you apparently can't get lenticular printing anymore, not without spending exorbitant amounts of money. I recently ran across those 3D negs I took back then and tried to get lenticular prints made from them. No way in hell. I suppose I could make GIFs out of them, but it's totally cool to have 3D prints in your hand of stuff that you shot.

You can make pretty good lenticular prints from these cameras as well. All you need to do is e-mail your scanned sequence to someone like ZaxisPrints.com

Spy Black's picture

Z-Axis and most similar places are gear towards quantity and business projects. For instance, the smallest you can only order are 4 4x6 prints of the SAME image. I had a roll of roughly 12-15 4x6 3D images from the camera I shot from (obviously I would have to digitize the film roll, not a big deal of course). The smallest I can order one of each from them is an 8x10 at $25 a pop. It's OK for a one-off but if you wanted to reprint an entire film roll or series of digital images in 3D it's fairly expensive.

True. It's not cheap. But great for the shots that really turn out good or mean something to you. Something like the dog example above would make a wonderful lenticular print. I have a nimslo and though I don't use it very often, when I do I usually end up with one or two gems worth printing. These GIFs are a great way to view what you've captured and decide if they are worth printing.

Alex Holub's picture

I still have my Nimslo 3-D camera and a bunch of photos I took with it. Unfortunately, since the slices that are made are so thin the photos are fading. I guess processing for new photos is out of the question except for multiples of each photo.