If there’s a new way of shooting pictures, I’m always game to give it a try. I’ve been playing with all the options and I discovered that both my Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Panasonic DMC-GH3 have a 3D shooting mode.  Curiosity got the best of me and I started the process of exploring.  Here’s what I’ve figured out so far.

Get a 3D Lens

When it comes to shooting 3D, there aren’t a lot of choices out there.  Sure, you can find point and shoots (like the Sony Bloggie 3D).  But getting a lens for pro and semi-pro bodies is hard. Enter the Panasonic Lumix 12.5mm f/12 3D G Lens for Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Cameras.  While it lists for $250 in the US, it can be found for much less. This lens has two optical systems side by side.  This produces a pair of side by side stereo images that can be played back on 3D televisions (or post processed).


Shooting in 3D

To shoot in 3D, your camera will need to support 3D with a preset or scene mode.  I found it easy to achieve in camera.  I was disappointed that the lens cannot be used for video.  I also tried putting the lens on a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and can confirm that the lens needs to be specifically supported by your camera to work. Both images are captured simultaneously to the memory card.  While the lens doesn’t maintain a distance that matches your eyes, it simulates the visual disparity and works well.


Opening the Files

The camera captures a MPO file. This is a Multi Picture Object (.mpo) format which consists of multiple JPEG images in one file.  You can learn more about the file format here. The format is really designed for showing the images on a 3D device like a television set.  The image can be converted however into a stereoscopic image and  viewed with red/green 3D glasses.

I found that I could open the files in many ways.

Apple Preview


Apple Preview could open the file and showed both images in the pair.  Both images could be exported, but no real editing could be done.

Adobe Photoshop

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Opening the file in Photoshop automatically created a 3D object and set it to view with anaglyph (the classic Red Green glasses).  However, using the Properties panel you could also switch the image to work with Lenticular printing or side-by-side (for pro video workflows).  This really expands the options for viewing and printing.  In order for this to work you’ll need Photoshop CS6 Extended or Photoshop CC. You can use adjustment layers to color correct or adjust exposure

To save your images back out of Photoshop, choose File > Save As.  From the format menu choose the Multi-Picture Format.

Stereo Master


Just looking to dabble? I found Stereo Master in the Mac App store for $5.  It’s a simple viewer and editor.  It also offers the ability to see an animated Parallax view that rocks between the two images. The app also makes it easy to crop 3D photos and adjust the Parallax effect to improve the appearance of 3D.

Viewing the Files

When the fils are done, there seems to be four primary paths to viewing the images.

  • Create lenticular prints (many companies exist, I’ve looked at Snapily the most).
  • View on a 3D television set. Simply save back to the MPO format and put the images on a SD card.  This can be inserted into 3D tv sets or Blu-ray players and viewed.
  • Create Anaglyph images.  A quick visit to Amazon (or perhaps your junk drawer) can create images that can be viewed on any monitor.
  • Create Viewmaster Reels.  Yes I really mean the old children’s toy.  There are companies that can do the printing for you or kits you can buy to it yourself.  Trust me… google it.

I’m going to continue to explore my options and will share what I find in a future post.


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Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Jennifer Nichole Wells and commented:
    This adds an interesting new dimension to photographic arts. I wonder where it will take us?

  2. Thanks for the very informative post. I may have to look into 3D shooting one of these days.

  3. My grandmother had a stereoscope and a few steroscope cards on her ‘parlor’ table about 70 years ago back in Coletown, Ohio. Nice 3D images … based on two images of the same scene, one for the left eye and one for the right eye.

  4. If you get a chance Richard, perhaps you could do a video tutorial on what can be done with mpo-files in photoshop :-)

  5. I use the Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W3 ( http://www.fujifilm.com/products/3d/camera/finepix_real3dw3/ ) and it makes both wonderful Photos and Videos. I paid a lot for mine when it came out but njcamera on ebay has then for 1/3 what I paid — a steal.

    My only complaint is its aperture is at best F3.7 and much worse with zooming. The bitrate is very high and the 3D Screen is very clear. I had to buy an extra battery since they are a bit small.

    It is unfortunate you did not include it in this Article. There are a few Videos on my YT Site you can see.

    • Hi Rob,

      I grabbed the first iteration of this camera when it came out, and I have had both a lot of fun,and also quite a bit of frustration with it. The fun is probably obvious; the frustration centers around two issues: 1) a pretty low dynamic range which often gets me into trouble in landscape type situations, and 2) a screen that doesn’t work well as a viewfinder in sunlight.

      To be honest, I would be delighted if Fujifilm would build on their 3D track record, and make a 3D lens for their X-mount series of cameras :-)

    • Hello rob how can I mpo images to jpeg and get prints and still be able to see 3d with glasess on those prints?

  6. Another option is to create animated gifs after you have created the depth map that corresponds to the 3d scene captured by the 2 views. Check the software page on my website (dmag7 and wigglemaker).


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.