My Homemade Nikon c’est schisse Camera System

What, you’ve never heard of the Nikon c’est schisse camera system?

Let me explain.

I love three-dimensional photography, and over time I’ve purchased various single-use cameras to help me create this effect – the Trio3D and the Nimslo and the Kodak Realist, for example.  But these cameras are not as strong as I want.  They’re from an era where cameras like this were considered either niche specialization or glorified toys, and even today, no matter how much I try to make these something special, the images produced are not as strong as I want.

So I decided to create my own mockup camera system for three-dimensional film photography.

First, I needed two “down and dirty” film cameras.  Cameras that were easy to operate and did exactly what I asked of them.  This made the owner of two Nikon EM film cameras – the little unloved film dynamos from the 1970’s.  I made sure that both cameras possessed the standard Nikon E-series 50mm f/1.8 pancake lens, and that they came with fully functional battery-operated Nikon MD-E film winders.

Well, at first I thought everything would be fine.  Both cameras arrived safely.  Both units needed batteries – six AAA batteries for the film winder, and a pair of 1.5V 76 button batteries for the camera chassis.  It was only after I installed the batteries and tested the cameras that I discovered –

Camera 1 wouldn’t hold a battery charge, but it did advance the film on each shot.

Camera 2 held a battery charge nicely, but the film winder groaned with the enthusiasm of a kid being told to clean his bedroom.

I quickly attached the motor drive from Camera 2 to Camera 1, and I’ve got a fully functioning photo-weapon.  Camera 2, however … well, I can at least save the 50mm f/1.8 lens.  You can never have enough 50mm f/1.8 camera lenses.

Eventually, I acquired another Nikon EM – along with a functioning MD-E winder from a different auction – and my two cameras are ready to go.

Then, I mounted both cameras onto a special tripod jig.  This jig can hold two separate cameras – and, depending on how far apart I space the pictures, I can create standard stereo photos, or totally dramatic hyper-stereo images.

Blog readers … may I present to you the three-dimensional Nikon EM shooter.  Or as I call it – the Nikon c’est schisse.  Come on, say it five times fast.  You’ll smile afterwards.  Which is what is supposed to happen if a photograph tells you to c’est schisse.

Now there’s some tricks to operating this Nikon c’est schisse setup.  Whenever I take a picture, I must make sure that both cameras have the same focus and the same exact f-stop.  I also must use the exact same film in both cameras, and both films must be fresh – I can’t take chances with expired film.

I also must confirm that both camera shutters are synchronized.  Until I order two manual shutter release buttons, I’m just going to have to activate these shutters simultaneously.  And by using an automatic winding device on each camera, I can photograph at the lightning speed of two frames per second – or 36 pictures at 18 seconds.  This would be awesome for photographing moving cars or horses at a race track.  Or maybe a locomotive as it crosses a bridge.  Or ducks as they splash in the lake.  Trust me, I have plenty of ideas.

So I need to test this in an action setting.

Do I know any place right now that’s got some sort of sport available?

I don’t know … some place where there might be animals running in a circle at regular intervals?

Some place where I could set up and photograph the animals in a specific pattern or procedure?

Some place like … oh … I don’t know …

Oh yeah.  The harness track.

There’s a few good horses there … let’s see what I can achieve with this bad boy.

I took the cameras to the track last Sunday and photographed a few races.  Yesterday morning, I dropped off the two rolls of film at McGreevy Pro Lab – my pro lab of choice.

I should get the film back later this week.

And once the film is examined and scanned …

Maybe there’s some success.

We shall see.

Cross those fingers.