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).

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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.

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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

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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

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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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