3D with TLC
The Russian Sputnik (“Спутник“) was produced between 1954 and 1974 by GOMZ-LOOMP-LOMO in Leningrad (today St. Petersburg). It is a twin lens reflex stereo camera made from bakelite that was the only medium format stereo camera produced for the mass market and so it is fairly easy to find. It has now become a collector’s item but it is relatively affordable for those who want to try the technique on old fashioned kit.
In contrast to conventional two-dimensional photography, the stereoscopic camera makes it possible to obtain pictures which give three-dimensional perception of objects. Each picture consists of a pair of photographic images that slightly differ from each other. When these photographic images are viewed through the stereo viewer they merge into a single three-dimensional image.
Using a medium format 120 film, the camera produces six 6x6 pairs of images. The distance between the lenses is about 63.5mm and image window separation is slightly bigger at just over 64mm. The camera uses a non standard tripod screw mount. The shutter trigger is not too prominent and you may find it a little uncomfortable. The camera is quite heavy and definitely feels very solid. The focusing is manual 1.4m to infinity.
Film rewinding is not possible here but you can take double exposures and traditional 2D photos although they are not as impressive on their own as as they are as a 3D pair.
It came with a stereo set including a slide and print viewer as well as a frame for making contact prints of 6x13 stereoscopic pictures and 6x6 conventional pictures in your own darkroom. Sputnik is known for its superior quality of negatives and quick framing thanks to the large image in the viewfinder. But there are also some design downsides... Well, that is if light leaks, lens flare and reflections are not part of your style. If not you can reduce those by introducing some modifications. Sputnik’s interior has a shiny surface causing light reflections so lining it with a velvet like material or covering with matt black laminate paint will help in the first place. Prevent at least some light leaks with black masking tape. Probably the easiest way to avoid the lens flair is to apply a lens shade. Originally some Sputnik cameras were sold with these but if you don’t have any, you may find screw caps that fit the lens and apply them by cutting out the holes...that will look very attractive(!).
If you want your Sputnik in its top form you need to look after it by applying lubricant, cleaning the lenses and dust it from time to time. It is highly recommended to take care of the advance film knob. It is quite hard to turn it and your finger will end up covered in blisters if you go for more than a couple of rolls in one go.
Sputnik is fragile (try not to drop it as it may not survive the impact) and it needs TLC (tender, love and care). But in return it delivers a great experience and taking photographs with it is very fulfilling. Not to mention that visually it is very interesting looking kit, the real thing that will turn many heads when you take it out of the case.
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Here is a selection of photographs shared by Alexey Zharinov taken in beautiful surroundings of north Siberia.