Stereo Photography—An Introduction
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Almost all stereo images start with a pair of photographs taken from vantage points a few inches apart, duplicating the spacing of our eyes. The kinds of cameras used to take these photos vary widely, and new types are appearing on a regular basis. Most are dedicated twin-lens point and shoot cameras, or mobile devices such as games, smartphones and tablets with point and shoot cameras embedded in them. These cameras are so popular because they are easy to use and the results are so good. Despite the popularity of twinlens cameras, cameras with only lens can capture amazing stereo images using a variety of techniques ranging from shifting your weight from one foot to another while taking images in a stereo pair to rigs that couple together two expensive professional SLR cameras. Cameras can take the two photos in a stereo pair instantaneously or sequentially.
- Instantaneous cameras take both photos at the same time with the same settings. These cameras can be used to capture action the same as any regular 2D camera. These cameras usually have two lenses but two single lens cameras can be coupled and synchronized so they take two pictures at the same time. These cameras can also capture 3D movies which are nothing more than a series of stereo pairs. The movies are usually HD, either 720p or 1080p, and can be played back in any format on many devices, including YouTube and other Web sites, using a variety of software.
- Sequential cameras take first one photo and then the other. Because of the delay as the camera is moved between photos, these cameras can't be used to photograph moving subjects. This includes wind blown foliage, the movement of water—especially waves—and the movement of clouds, people and cars, even a flower shifting slightly in an unfelt breeze. Although sequential photos are usually taken with single-lens cameras, some twin-lens cameras have shooting modes that let you take the two images in a stereo pair separately so you can change the lens spacing between the two shots— called the baseline. This is especially useful when photographing close-ups and distant scenes.
One last word before moving on to the discussion of various camera types. Don't base you buying decision on the number of pixels being promoted. Five megapixels, and even less, can give you outstanding results, at least when the light is bright.