|Camerascope stereo viewer with London Zoo stereo cards|
Following last week's post on the Thornton-Pickard Stereo Puck, I pulled out from the back of a drawer an old folding stereo viewer I'd picked up somewhere many years ago on the vague notion that contact prints from the Stereo Puck negatives might fit. When I was growing up, the View-Master was a not-uncommon novelty encountered at friends' houses, although we never had one at home; ubiquitous and manufactured for decades, the View-Master perhaps became the mental archetype for a portable stereo viewer in the second half of the twentieth century. It was one such system among many, and its success no doubt depended in part on the technology of the colour transparency on film which emerged towards the end of the 1930s. There had been a number of colour photographic systems before Kodachrome, such as the Autochrome and Dufaycolor, but these would not have been able to resolve fine enough detail on the miniature scale that the View-Master took advantage of in producing a format that used a revolving disc, known as a reel, containing seven stereo pairs that can be seen in sequence before the reel returns to the first image and can be changed.
|Camerascope stereo viewer folded|
The Camerascope has little of the View-Master's technical sophistication: it feels as though it belongs to an earlier era. Online references date it to 1927, not separated by too great a period of time from the View-Master–only a decade or so–but it represents the application of very different technology The View-Master's use of plastic and Kodachrome appears to usher in a colourful mid-century modernity. In contrast, the Camerscope viewer is made from pressed and stamped metal with a craquelure paint effect on front and back, and the cards which came with my viewer, black and white, are photographic prints, almost certainly made from duplicate negatives by contact (rather than photo-lithography for example). The Camerascope does at least possess some flexibility in the format of stereo cards which fit the viewer. The London Zoo stereo cards which came with it are 2¾ x 4¼ inches (approximately 10.7x7cm). These fit in a slot across the whole width of the back of the viewer. It also takes single-image cards, one card for each side of the stereo pair in two different sizes, 1⅜ or 2 inch wide (approximately 3.7cm or 5cm wide) that fit in slots either in front or behind the two rectangular openings in the back, the smaller width cards fitting behind these apertures, the larger in front. (It's also possible that a fourth size may fit the viewer, double-image cards that use the two outside slots of the larger single-image cards for each edge).
|Camerascope stereo viewer showing slots for different card formats|
Black & White SeriesPeeps in to Many Lands, A Series, 1927, 36 pairs, smallPeeps in to Many Lands, A Series, 1927, 36 pairs, mediumPeeps in to Many Lands, A Series, 1927, 36 cards, largePeeps in to Many Lands, 2nd Series, 1928, 36 pairs, smallPeeps in to Many Lands, 2nd Series, 1928, 36 pairs, mediumPeeps in to Many Lands, 3rd Series, 1929, 24 pairs, smallPeeps in to Many Lands, 3rd Series, 1929, 24 pairs, mediumPeeps in to Prehistoric Times, 4th Series, 1930, 24 pairs, smallPeeps in to Prehistoric Times, 4th Series, 1930, 24 pairs, mediumColour SeriesGlorious Britain, 1930, 25 pairs, mediumColoured Sterescopic [sic], 1931, 25 pairs, medium
The article also mentions that the "small cards were always issued as separate "left" and "right" images, as were most of the medium sized black and white cards, while the coloured series are more often found as joined pairs of views. In the case of the large series they contained both images on one single card." As "most" medium sized black and white cards were separate left and right pairs, it suggests some were not, and both colour series are medium, this suggests the fourth size I described above, 'medium' double-image cards. Not having any of the cigarette cards myself, this is speculation based on the descriptions; the London Zoo stereo cards which came with my viewer are not part of the cigarette card series issued by Cavanders: these cards have a very small logo, almost too small to be read by the naked eye, 'Sunbeam Tours'. The Army Club cigarette cards have instructions for viewing on one card from the pair and the offer that "A 5s Camerascope will be supplied post free for 1/– in Great Britain (other countries at different prices"; presumably Sunbeam Tours sold the Camerascope and its cards at tourist attractions such as London Zoo (the entry on Early Photography for the Camerascope has exactly the same set of London Zoo cards that my viewer came with).
To make cards from the Stereo Puck negatives, I took the cheap and quick method of using Silverprint's 'Solar Paper', essentially a form of pre-prepared cyanotype paper, and contacted some of the best negatives; after the paper was dry I mounted these on card, finding that the width was a little wider that the small single-image card slots, thus losing a little of the image each side, but the height fitted perfectly, with the exception that as the images from the Stereo Puck are not very well aligned vertically, I had to shift the right-hand card a few millimetres up in its slot. I also discovered that the stereo pairs needed to be swapped around: the right hand image from the contact print needed to be in the left hand slot on vice-versa. This initially surprised me: I had thought that in a straight contact from the negative of the stereo pair, these would be the correct way around for viewing (when making the anaglyphs on last week's post, I had instinctively used the right-hand image in the red channel, so did not consciously think about which side was which). Needing to swap the left and right contact prints must be a result of how the images are actually reversed when projected by the lenses inside the camera: for correct orientation, negatives are viewed through the base of the film. One of the images illustrating the page on the Stereo Puck on Camera-Wiki shows both the viewer that was sold with the camera–a folding metal viewer not entirely dissimilar to the Camerascope–as well as stereo cards for it, which are quite clearly two separate contact prints mounted on card, with left and right images in the correct positions for viewing. Unmentioned in my post about the Stereo Puck is the small design detail that a metal tab inside the camera in the middle of the frame shows up in the top right and left corners of the negatives: possibly this is there to indicate which image is for which side when printed and separated: as the sides of the pair are swapped around, the right-hand image has this visible in the top right corner, and the left in the left corner, making it clear which side is which when mounting, or, as with the separate cards I've made, which card fits in which side of the stereo viewer.
|Scan of negatives from the Stereo Puck, showing the tab between frames,|
visible at top centre
For all this effort in making the contact prints to view them in the Camerascope viewer, the experience was underwhelming: given the lighting conditions when I shot the negatives, the fact these are fairly low in contrast does not make for good contact prints in the method I used and the surface quality of the paper itself disrupted the image when magnified (it would have been far better to have used photographic paper, both for the detail and the ability to control contrast; there is also the issue of the narrow lens separation in the Stereo Puck too). However, the best negatives did yield acceptable results, when seen in good light, allowing for all the compromises of the Stereo Puck camera, the conditions in which I shot the recent couple of rolls of film with it, and the method of making the prints.
|Camerascope viewer with stereo card made from Silverprint Solar Paper|