Nishika quadralens lenticular camera
the first Nimslo clone!

The Nishika N8000 was the first Nimslo clone. As it turns out, it was the first of many! By offering a consumer level 3D lenticular camera and lenticular processing, Nishika revived a concept that might have otherwise quickly faded into obscurity in the 1980s. Instead, for better or worse, the concept survived into the 21st century, even though Nishika didn't.

Nishika N8000 Camera

When the Nimslo was discontinued, Nishika corporation bought up the patents and some other assets and eventually came out with its own 3D lenticular camera and began a 3D lenticular processing service.

The prints made by Nishika were typically less expensive, were produced faster and were generally regarded as higher quality than those which had been offered by Nimslo. The camera, however, was another story.

Nishika represented the camera as being an improvement over the Nimslo, a claim made to this day by those who are trying to market it as New Old Stock (NOS). When the two are compared as in the chart shown to the right, it is hard to see how the Nishika could be considered improved!

Nimslo vs Nishika
  
Nimslo
Nishika
Body
metal
plastic
Lenses
glass 3 element
plastic 2 element
Shutter
automatic continuos
1/30 - 1/500
fixed 1/60
Aperture
automatic continuos
f/5.6 - f/22
manual f/8 f/11 f/19
Lightmeter
automatically adjusts exposure, switchable for ASA 100/400 indicates whether flash should be used, valid only for ASA 100 and aperture setting of f/8
Weight
11.5 ounces
20.5 ounces
Measurements (WxHxD)
5.4 x 2.9 x 1.7
6.7 x 4.2 x 2.4

A closer look, deceptive by design?
It was often said that the Nimslo was deceptively simple, packing a sophisticated system into a compact, lightweight package. The N8000 seems to be the exact opposite!

There is a wedge shaped extension on the top that gives the appearance of a pentaprism such as that found on an SLR but actually serves no purpose except as a platform for the hotshoe. This actually weakens the design, a hotshoe directly on top would have been more structurally sound. The hotshoe itself contains 3 electrodes in addition to ground, but only one has any connection, the other two are there simply for decoration, just sitting on top of the plastic!

To the right (from the photographer's viewpoint) of the platform is a chart of "ideal 3D distances" clearly intended to resemble an LCD readout, complete with segmented font.

Inside the body is a 120 gram (4.2 ounce) hunk of metal that does nothing except add 4.2 ounces of weight! It is quite obvious that this extra weight is meant to give the impression of a sophisticated camera.

The batteries serve only to power the battery good indicator and to power the light meter, which simply indicates whether or not flash is needed. Since the "lightmeter" is independant of the aperture setting and has no film speed adjustment, this indication is valid only at f/8 and with ASA 100 film. Except for this simple LED indicator, the camera will work just fine without the batteries, it will even fire the flash!

Note that the flash will be fire whenever the shutter is pushed, regardless of the indication given by the lightmeter. This ability to function without batteries could be seen as an advantage over the Nimslo, but Nishika never touted it as such, or even mentioned it!

The deception didn't end with the design, and continues to this day! More on that later.

Creative control?
Some users, or potential users, of the N8000 have suggested that the manual adjustment range of 2½ F stops of the N8000 allows ceative control. Note that, given the lattitude of color print film, the 1½ stop difference between f/11 and f/19 is unlikely to make a noticeable difference, which is probably why f/11 was eliminated in the much more compact and sleeker N9000. The 2 ½ f stop difference between f/8 (cloudy/indoors) and f/19 (sunny) could make a difference, but much the same thing could be accomplished on the Nimslo by loading it with ASA 100 film and moving the selector to ASA 400, or vice versa. It would appear that the people who tout the creative control given by the aperture lever haven't really thought the issue through.


Marketing
The Nimslo was marketed through traditional channels like ordinary cameras such as those made by Kodak. Nishika argued that this is why it failed. Instead, the N8000 was marketed through a network of independant dealers and distributors, which seemed more apropriate for a niche item such as a stereo camera.

This solves the problem of unsold stock sitting on the shelves of Sears or Walmart, but it clearly amounts to a multlevel marketing scheme. Not all multilevel marketing schemes are scams, some are legtimate means of selling a product which doesn't do well through traditional channels.

The packaging and promotional materials for the N8000 said it was a result of "$70 million and 15 years of research by hundreds of engineers and technicians" making it sound like it was a completely original product rather than a stripped down version of a product which had already failed. Some dealers, when asked about the Nimslo, lied to potential customers that the Nimslo prints required red and blue glasses to view. One even claimed that the Nimslo had only 3 lenses instead of 4! People who owned a Nimslo were told by some dealers that Nishika wouldn't process prints taken by the Nimslo. That wasn't true, of course, and if the LED that made the green dot was covered there would be no way to tell which camera the negatives came from.

Such misleading tactics aside, Nishika was actually doing pretty well, and for a while it looked like it might eventually beat the all time sales record set by the Realist.
Front of Nishika video Back of Nishika video
The marketing effort included a promotional/instructional video starring Vincent Price and a fictional family played by unrelated actors. In the video Vincent parrots a lot of the misleading hype used to give the impression that the Nishika was a truly innovative and original product. They used Macrovision on it, which seems odd considering that it is a promotional video for a product! Not all Nishika cameras came with the video, it was included only with the "deluxe" outfits (which were sold for up to $700! more on that later). The video was also sold seperately, and was often played to potential owners and dealers. As of October 2009, it was still available as NOS for as little as $4 including shipping.
Nishika brochure with sample print
Slick brochures were also part of the marketing effort, such as this one featuring a sample print.

Front of the Nishika box, note that the use of ordinary, not special, film is stressed
The Nishika box was embossed so that that the picture of the camera could be felt, apparently to stress the fact that it is a 3D camera. It also stressed the use of ordinary film.
back of Nishika box
The back of the Nishika box exxagerated some of its features. It mentions a "time delay adapter" that is really nothing more than a shutter release socket. It also touts the "easy-to-use variable aperture for optimal exposure" as if a range of only 2½ f stops could cope with all possible lighting conditions!
Nishika manual, printed in 5 languages
In addition to English the Nishika owner's manual was also written in Spanish, French, German and Italian. Each section contained 24 pages. The quick start fold outs in the front and back were only in English.
Nishika mailer for sending film to the lab
This camera came with two postage paid envelopes for mailing film to the Nishika lab. When the Nishika lab first started up it was the only lab that could do lenticular prints and was used by Nimslo as well as Nishika owners.

Nishika flash, still in orginal shrinkwrap

Accessories
Support for the Nishika didn't end with the lenticular printing service. A number of accesories were offered, as mentioned on the Vincent Price video. First, there was the Nishika Twin light flash. Like the camera, it was a stripped down verision in terms of features but larger and bulkier than the Nimslo product. The Nimslo camera and flash featured an extra electrode which allowed the automatic exposure control to know whether or not the flash was turned on. The Nishika has two extra electrodes, but they are just dummies with no internal connection. The flash has only a single electrode in addition to ground, and the camera has no way of knowing whether or not the flash is on. Since exposure control on the Nishika is strictly manual, this wouldn't really serve any purpose anyway.
Nishika film, probably rebranded Kodak or Fuji film
Nishika also offered their own brand of film, marked with the number of 3D pictures as well as the regular exposures, though all the promotional material stressed that the N8000 uses any ordinary ASA 100 color print film. This roll of film was never used and has an expiration date of Sep 30,1993.
Nishika custom carrying case.
Like many classic stereo cameras, the Nishika had a custom carrying case available seperately or in deluxe kits.

Nishika also offered a number of other accessories, either seperately or as part of a deluxe kit. This included a deluxe camera bag a lens cleaning kit, a "professional" strap and even a Nishika tripod. It seems unlikely that a tripod would be needed at the N8000's 1/60 fixed shutter speed, but maybe the tripod helped to keep the camera level.


All good things...
You might wonder why, considering that the Nishika lab did such a good job of making prints and that Nishika put so much effort into promoting and marketing their product, that Nishika isn't around anymore. There are actually a couple of reasons for this, the first is the same reason Nimslo isn't around anymore, the second involves something Nimslo probably never thought of.

Though sales of the N8000 were brisk at first, they eventually started to slow down. One of the problems with the N8000 was that it was larger and heavier than the Nimslo, and few pockets were large enough for it. This led to the introduction of the N9000 which was a sleeker, more compact and lighter camera that could easily fit many pockets.
Nishika N9000

The Nishika N9000 is, in many ways, what the N8000 should have been, and, indeed, what many sellers falsely claim the N8000 is, it really does sport a lens cover and film identification window!

The N9000 had a two position aperture lever which selected F8 and F16, had a built in lens cover and a film identification window. It also called for ASA 200 film outdoors and ASA 1600 film indoors, unlike the N8000 which was designed for ASA 100 only.

A company called Image Tech introduced its own lenticular camera which featured 3 lenses instead of 4, possibly to get around some of the old Nimslo patents. The new camera, aside from being more compact and lighter than the N8000, also featured built in electronic flash and motorized film advance. This company also provided lenticular processing, thus giving Nishika some serious competition.
Notice to consumer, this hints at the fraud  that was pepetrated.
If any of the prizes listed were actually what they were purported to be their value would be far in excess of the $498.50 that was paid by the original owner, yet this letter states that the recipient will receive one of them!

This is obviously a photocopy of a letter which was originally two sided. The information on the other side was not included .

3D trio
At about half the cost of the N8000, the Image Tech 3D trio featured motorized film advance, automatic exposure conrol, built in electronic flash, a built in protective lens cover, film identification window and 3 element coated glass lenses, yet was small enough to fit in most coat pockets.

Perhaps because of this pressure, Nishika resorted to marketing tactics that crossed the line from misleading to downright illegal!

In 1992, Nishika began running a prize promotion scheme in which the victims were promissed prizes in exchange for paying up to $700 for a Nishika camera. Any one of the prizes, if really what it was represented to be would be worth far more than $700, yet they were told they would receive two of them.

What they actually got, of course, was worth no where near what they were promissed, or what they paid.

It is entirely possible that Nishika had already ceased production of the N8000 as early as late 1991, and that this prize scheme was an attempt to unload a bunch of unsold cameras.

To this day there are Nishika boosters who claim that Nishika was an innocent victim in all this, but the letters shown below would suggest otherwise. The FTC didn't buy it either, and got a multimillion dollar settlement against them.

Nishika letter, click to see it in readable size
Letter from Nishika, with personal information blacked out, came included with the camera, which was apparently ordered over the phone and paid for with a credit card. This letter hints at the fraudent activity that led to a judgement against Nishika. The cheap jewelry mentioned in the letter was not included with the package I purchased on eBay, it was probably worth less than $10 anyway!

Note that this letter speaks of "hundreds of thousands" of nishika users. It is highly doubtful that there were even one hundred thousand Nishika 3D cameras sold, let alone in use at any one time!

Nishika went bankrupt, and its assets were siezed by the court.

Many of the victims bought the camera just for the premiums/prizes they were promissed and never actually used the camera. Many such cameras are still being sold on eBay in mint condition. The camera I bought and the case were in mint condition, and the flash was never removed from the original shrinkwrap, yet the boxes that the camera, case and film were in were badly scuffed, suggesting that the original purchaser had received shopworn merchandise!

Though the settlement against Nishika is usually blamed for its demise, it is likely they would have soon gone out of business even if the FTC had never investigated them. It is even possible that the prize promotion scheme may have actually postoponed the bankruptcy!

Aftermath
The number of Nishika cameras manafactured seems to greatly exceed the number that were sold while the company was still in business. To this day the camera is widely available in NOS condition even though it hasn't been made for over 20 years!

When the Nishika lab closed down, 3D Image Technologies briefly reversed its policy of not processing pictures taken with 4 lens cameras. By the time they closed shop in 1999, at least one other company was offering lenticular processing. The domain, 3dit.com, has now been taken over by an unrelated firm and it isn't really clear, judging from the website, what kind of business this actaully is.

As late as November 2011 at least one company , snap3d.com, still offered lenticular processing, but the machine used for normal print proecessing failed and now printing is done only from digital stereo pairs.

Though the Nishika could certainly be used for purposes other than taking 3D lenticular prints, the after market uses for the Nishika seem to be more limited than for the Nimslo. The N8000 is larger and heavier than the Nimslo and so it isn't as handy to carry around as a lightweight, expendable and easy to use stereo camera for situations where more expensive equipment would be out of the question.

The adjustability range of only 2½ f stops is no where near enough for slide film so the Nishika wasn't suitable as a cheap camera for taking stereo slides to be mounted in half frame mounts as was often done with the Nimslo. It is possible, however, that some people have used it to make half frame stereo prints.

The same kind of misleading tactics used to market the N8000 in the beginning are still being used today by sellers selling it as NOS. This includes touting exxagerated or even imaginary features such as a "built in protective lens cover" (really, where?). One seller states that it is "very compact and lightweight" even though it is the largest and bulkiest consumer level 35mm lenticular camera ever made!

This deception also includes flat out lies about other cameras. Many sellers state that all other lenticular cameras are point and shoot, specifically stating that the N9000 lacks adjustable apertures, when, of course, it has a two position aperture selector that covered a range 2 f stops wide, vs 2½ for the N8000. For more details of the continuing market deception, see the Nishika Hype page.

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