In the 1970s photographic company Nimslo wooed investors with the promise of a camera that would take snaps that gave a 3D effect without spectacles.
It would be, said Nimslo, “the third major advance in photography”, comparable to George Eastman’s introduction of roll film and Edwin Land’s development of the Polaroid instant picture film.
Backers put up £30 million and the British Government pledged nearly £3m to help the Timex factory in Dundee tool up for production.
With much hoopla Nimslo finally showed a prototype at the Photokina exhibition in Cologne in October 1980, and started selling the system two years later. The camera had four lenses, which formed four conventional 2-dimensional images side by side on conventional 35mm film.
The film was processed in the normal manner, but at the printing stage the four slightly different images were optically sliced into vertical lines. These images were printed under a grid of tiny cylindrical strip lenses or lenticules, embossed on the surface of the paper. So the viewer’s eyes saw different views.
The effect was odd; images stood out, but they looked as if they had been stacked in several flat layers. Photographers in the US and Europe showed little interest.
Shops slashed camera prices and Nimslo’s share price fell. By 1985, the year in which Nimslo had predicted that it would have a 5% share of the world market for snapshot pictures, the system was forgotten.