Sunday, April 18, 2010

3D when 3D was first cool

This has been a big year so far for 3-D movies - Avatar is the one I saw, and the effects were very good.  Filmmakers tried 3-D for a while in the mid-century, but the quality was lacking.  3-D photography was also big 50 years ago, and many of us had our first 3-D experiences with View-Master viewers and reels.

I looked at View-Master reels when I was a kid, but our family didn't have a viewer or much interest in them.  (The extent of our photography at home was a Polaroid Instamatic - cool to watch the photo develop by itself when exposed to light, but low quality. I sure wish more of our old family photos were on 35mm film or slides.)

When I started frequenting flea markets and antique malls, I caught the View-Master bug, and soon I started picking up inexpensive examples of the Viewers and reels.
These are a couple of the earliest View-Master viewers.  I like the cat-eye shape of the one on the right.  Both are bakelite, so if they get dropped they can crack or break.

The viewer on the left is a similar cat-eye shape but made of lighter plastic.  The one on the right is a lighted viewer, it came with a small light and took batteries so you could view the slides without aiming the viewer at an indoor light.

This is a variation of the plastic viewer in a lighter color. It came with the original box and has no wear, probably was never used.
The View-Master company changed hands from Sawyers to GAF sometime in the 1960s or 70s.  The bottom viewer is marked GAF and has a bicentennial red white and blue color scheme.  The other viewer above is one of the more plentiful modern versions.

Many of my reels are TV related, but I also have a lot of  old travel reels.  The travel reels will go along with us in the Shasta for viewing while we're out camping.  It's pretty easy to still find travel reels cheap.  I'll have a little more to share about View-Master stuff and 3-D viewers in my next post, so stay tuned.


  1. These are really cool! I remember playing w/ my dad's old view masters. We had a coupla 80's version growing up too. My dad had and may still have, a view master projector that allowed you to show them on a wall. I loved that thing!!

  2. I have so much junk I can't remember if I still have a projector or not! I'll have to look for that and report back.