The David White Stereo Realist
By James Grahame
The David White Stereo Realist. It's a name better suited to an experimental jazz trio than a camera. Still, approximately 250,000 of these unusual 35mm cameras were manufactured from 1947-1971. Its 22 x 23mm image format became the standard for stereo slides and allows you to snap 19 stereo pairs on a standard 24 exposure film.
Why are there three lenses, you ask? The middle one is used for image framing and focusing, while the two outer lenses feature synchronized shutters that capture a pair of images onto the film. The big problem with having three lenses is that focusing has the potential to be a wild and imprecise panic. The Stereo Realist elegantly solved this problem by moving the film plane back and forth while leaving the lenses stationary.
The resulting 3D slides were viewed using a compact handheld Bakelite viewer that resembled a high-end ViewMaster. The process was elegant and simple.
Amazingly, this camera remained on the market for almost a quarter century with only several relatively minor revisions. These days, companies feel the need to pump out dozens of virtually identical camera models annually. Entire product ranges often share the same image processor and electronics with certain features disabled or crippled in lower-end devices. Perhaps the time has come for manufacturers to dramatically trim product lines and refocus on features and quality.
After all, they're selling precision optical devices, not ice cream.