The RETO 3D is what I would call a toy camera. It’s a relatively inexpensive lightweight plastic camera that is designed for a single purpose. (Although I would say that at around $99, it’s at the top end of the definition of relatively inexpensive!)
This camera, along with its app (so far only available for iOS phones), is designed to create 3D animated loop videos.
It’s a modern version of the Nimslo 3D camera (find on eBay) or the Nishika N8000 (find on eBay), and it is less expensive than either of these cameras right now. They can sell for $150+ for one in good condition unless you get lucky and find one at a thrift store.
These 3D cameras have become really popular in recent years thanks to use in music videos and social media.
The RETO 3D camera was crowd sourced in 2018. It shoots 35mm film, and, for each shot, the camera takes three half-frame shots simultaneously from three slightly different angles.
When combined in the app or Photoshop, these three images will create an animated 3D “wiggle” video.
3D Images and Film Photography
This isn’t a completely new idea. Back in the 1980s, the Nimslo 3D and the Nishika N8000 were popular cameras to create 3D effect still lenticular prints.
You had to send your film into Nishika to be processed and printed on special paper in order to get this special 3D effect.
This is no longer available, but now we can use digital technology to create 3D animated images.
Comparing the RETO 3D to Vintage 3D Film Cameras
The biggest difference between these vintage cameras and the new RETO 3D is that they had four lenses instead of three.
The advantage to the extra lens is that you get just a slightly higher quality 3D animation.
The disadvantage to that extra lens is that it eats up more film. On the older 3D cameras, your frame rate is cut in half, so a 36-exposure roll of film becomes an 18-exposure roll of film.
The RETO 3D camera only uses one and a half full frames per image, so a 36-exposure roll of film gives you 24 exposures per roll.
The Nishika N8000 is a heavier camera with a few aperture settings. It also has a hot shoe for an optional dedicated flash.
The Nimslo 3D is basically the RETO 3D’s older sibling in appearance, but it is better built. It also has a dedicated flash to attach to its hot shoe.
The second biggest difference between the older 3D cameras and the RETO 3D is that the RETO 3D has a built-in flash which comes in very handy on this fixed-aperture and fixed-shutter speed camera.
Features on the RETO 3D
The RETO 3D has a fixed 30mm f/10 lens that focuses from three feet to infinity. Its shutter speed is fixed at 1/125th of a second.
It works best with ISO 100 or 200 speed film on bright sunny days or ISO 400 speed film on cloudy days or indoors.
It takes one AA battery to operate the flash, and the flash range is 3-9 feet with ISO 100-200 or 3-14 feet with ISO 400-800 film.
Finally, the biggest advantage to the RETO 3D is its app! And the good news is that you don’t have to own the camera to get access to the app.
Also, if you already have a vintage 3D camera, you can use the app to process your images as well because it can accommodate 3 or 4 images to create your animation.
Getting the Most Out of the RETO 3D
I learned quite a few things about how to get the most out of this camera with just my first roll of film.
First of all, you need good light!
If you don’t have good light, you can use the flash to help out a bit. You’ll definitely have the harsh light shadows, but I found it was kind of fun and in keeping with the vintage look and feel of the images this camera creates.
Plus, the shadow that the flash creates heightens the 3D effect.
Next, you want the subject of your image about three to six feet away from you.
I found that the “wiggle” effect created by the three images of a subject that was larger or farther away was minimal compared to something closer.
Finally, compose your images so that you have something in the foreground, the midground, and the background for the best 3D effect.
Also choose a background with something in it. The subject of your image needs something to contrast with.
The way these animations work is for the subject to stay almost completely stationary while the background (and foreground) wiggles back and forth to create depth and dimension.
If the background is just the sky, your animation is pretty blah.
Transferring the Scans to Your Phone
Once you’ve finished your roll of film, you will need to get it developed.
Communicate to your lab that you want the images scanned as half frames, otherwise you will need to duplicate and crop each full frame.
Depending on how you get your scans back from the lab, you will need to get them onto your iPhone so you can use the app to create the animations.
If your lab uses WeTransfer, you can download them directly to your phone. If you want to tweak them a bit in Lightroom, you can do that in Lightroom Mobile.
If this isn’t an option for you, you can load your images onto your phone via Dropbox. It’s a little more tedious, but it works.
To do this, you must have Dropbox installed on your phone and synced to your desktop or laptop computer.
Once you’ve edited your images in Lightroom or Photoshop, save them to a Dropbox folder. Open that Dropbox folder in the app on your phone. Press and hold the image you want to save to your phone. Choose Save to Camera Roll and wait for the image to download.