2D Cameras

Stereo Cameras

Cabinet Stereoscopes

Handheld Stereoscopes

Stereo Projectors

Old Stereo Photos

New Stereo Photos

Stereo Misc.

Stereo Cameras Explained

Repair or Restore?

Handheld Viewers

This is a whole area of collecting unto itself. A thorough representation of hand held stereo viewers would include hundreds of variations, perhaps thousands if Holmes style stereoscopes were included. While my primary interest is the big cabinet viewers, one unavoidably runs across hand helds. I've accumulated this lot for a combination of practical purposes, and just to have examples of some of the myriad styles. The urge to buy an earlier Brewster style pedestal viewer has yet to take hold of me.

It is interesting to note the transition from wood construction to plastics, which straddled the war period. The Verascope "40" viewer was produced with both a wood body, and later one construced from Bakelite. I don't know for a fact, but would speculate the two styles were devided in production by WWII. In rough terms, the war also marked the transition from Autochromes to the new Kodachrome process. With the advent of Kodachrome, the age of large scale glass plates was effectively over.

Murray & Heath Stereoscope

Murray & Heath 8.5 x 17

Murray & Heath PiccadillyIn 1832, Charles Wheatstone commissioned Murray & Heath to build two versions of his pioneering stereoscope. With the explosion in popularity of stereo photography in the 1850s, they began producing Brewster style stereoscopes. Features of the Murray & Heath designs were ornate stands (of which I do not have one for this viewer) and a unique removable lens panel for easy cleaning of the optics.

Murray & Heath London

R&J Beck Mirror Stereoscope


R&J Beck Mirror Stereoscope

R&J Beck, Mirror Stereoscope

R&J Beck Mirror Stereoscope

Patented around 1859, The Mirror Stereoscope was intended for viewing stereo pairs mounted in books. This unusual viewer would be held, or set down over the stereo pair. A mirror mounted on the base reflected light back onto the subject. To help avoid hard shadows, the septum is a frosted glass panel. The high quality achromatic lenses were mounted on a rack and pinion controlled focusing panel. Although far less common today than the self cased Beck stereoscope, the Mirror Stereoscope could also be used as a regular hand held viewer. One would think it should be more common than the likely more expensive cased viewer.

R&J Beck Mirror Stereoscope

Omnium Stereoscope Damoy

Stereoscope Damoy Omnium

Truth be told, I know absolutely nothing about this viewer. I thought the square viewing lenses were unusual and looked cool, so now my collapsible style viewer collection stands at one.


Unlabeled 8.5 x 17

On the basis of objective size, it would be easy to assume this is a 45 x 107 viewer, but in fact it happily swallows stereo cards or 8.5 x 17 glass slides. The enormous lenses are great in that they cover the full extent of 8.5 x 17 slides. As is common for viewers of his type/era, there is no maker's name anywhere on the viewer.

Unlabeled 8.5 x 17

Imagine any product today not carrying some form of brand identity. Although covered with a nice burl veneer, this is not an especially high quality viewer. The small lenses make it hard to see all of image. As is typical for all large viewers, there is a flap with a mirror mounted inside. This is used to reflect light onto cards. Glass plates, of course, are lighted from behind.

Unlabeled Metamorphic 8.5 x 17

Here we have an unlabeled French turn of the century metamorphic viewer, which cleverly folds down into it's own storage box. It has a fabric septum, and the small round knob opens a lid with a polished tin reflector for cards or tissue views. There are two slots for inserting slides, one of which seems well out of the plain of focus. Perhaps it was meant for adding filters, or maybe it suits folks with very different vision than mine. The bottom of the box incorporates a frosted glass and the obligatory buttons for setting it down. The only problem today is with its advanced age, the viewer tends to want to fold up when you set it down this way.

Stereoscope Verascope Richard 45x107

Stereoscope, Verascope Richard - fancy 45 x 107

Not surprisingly, viewers were made with innumerable variations in both style, and quality. The cheapest hand held viewers were constructed from card stock, with simple fixed lenses. At the top of the range, one could have fully adjustable optics and fancy marquetry or hand painted housings. Today, by far the most commonly seen 45 x 107 viewers are made from solid mahogany, making this example of a marquetry housing quite unusual. Unlike the larger 6 x 13 and 8.5 x 17 viewers of the period, 45 x 107 viewers only rarely include a mirrored flap for viewing reflective materials. Having said that, I have seen a photo of this style viewer with a mirror flap.

Planox Apescope

Planox Apescope

Planox Apéscope

From the scrap heap of historically bad design history comes the Apéscope, an early effort at creating a magazine fed hand held viewer. A removable brass magazine is loaded with slides, which cycle through the viewer in much the same fashion as changing plates in a camera's plate magazine. As the magazine is pushed into the body of the viewer, the slide which was being viewed is pushed into the bottom of the magazine. When the magazine is pulled back out, the top slide in the stack is stripped off and held in the viewer. With the weight of 18-20 pieces of glass in the viewer at any given time, the tripod socket on the bottom would prove desirable. Although the magazine retention system seems robust enough, I would none-the-less be nervous about having my pictures hanging out the bottom of the device. Taking slides in and out of the magazine itself is rather clumsy. Presumably, one would want to have multiple loaded magazines ready to swap in and out.

Planox Stereo Viewer


Verascope Richard

Stereoscope, Verascope Richard 6 x 13

Adapting the eye pieces from a Taxiphote to a small handheld viewer may seem clever, but it makes for a heavy, unbalanced unit. Just as Verascope cameras seem to have the face plates rinted upside down, it seems as though the makers label is on the bottom. These devices were designed to have the label visible as it was intended to be handled. In other words, it was expected the viewer would be set down with the lenses pointed skyward.


Stereo Viewer

Stereoscope, Verascope Richard 45 x 107

Stereoscope, Verascope Richard 45 x 107

Stereoscope, Verascope Richard 45 x 107

If the 6 x 13 viewer above is a little front heavy, this smaller unit is downright wrong. The inter ocular adjustment seems hardly worthwhile on a viewer such as this. I don't know how many were made, but could imagine the numbers being small. Viewers like this could also include a mirrored flap for viewing cardboard mounted prints. Howevere, the vast majority of photos at the time were printed on glass.


Verascope Stereo Viewer

Unis-France 6x13 stereoviewer

Unis-France 6 x 13

I would call this a semi-deluxe viewer. The beveled corners and interocular adjustment are more costly features, although the wood itself is plain mahogany. The mirror flap is typical of 6 x 13 viewer models, although I've never seen any reflective viewing materials in this size. Commercially produced cards are typically in the 8.5 x 17 format.

Unis-France Stereo Viewer

Unis-France 6 x 13

Why the extended eyepieces, I don't know. They are held in place by a simple bayonet mount, so perhaps the viewer was designed to allow interchangeable focal length lenses. The overly ornate interocular distance scale is distinctive, but accomplishes little on a viewer of this sort. On the basis of mass alone, this is not a particularly fine or expensive viewer.

Gaumont Stereo Viewer

Gaumont Stereoscope corollaire 6 x 13

To date I have only ever seen photos of one other example of this particular viewer style. As may be seen in the photo below, its dimensions are different from the "common" form factor of 6 x 13 viewers. The reason for this is the viewer's higher magnification. Whereas the comparative Ica viewer has its slide slot just ahead of the frosted glass at the back, the Gaumont's shorter focal length requires the slide opening be placed closer to the center of the viewer body. Although the difference in magnification is not substantial, the apparent window is larger, and the increased size yields even greater detail. It's also the only leather covered viewer I have encountered, and has the same musty old camera smell you always get when opening an old leather covered wood camera.

Gaumont and Ica Stereo Viewers

Ica Stereoscope

Ica 6 x 13

The bulk of late nineteenth/early twentieth century stereo equipment was of French origin. Ica, later absorbed by Zeiss Ikon, was an exception. This fairly typical middle of the road viewer came along with a set of slides. It's now my "daily driver" for reviewing slides. I saw a minty boxed example on Ebay some time back, and it sold for pretty good money. In this condition it's nothing special.

Negretti & Zambra Stereo Viewer

Negretti & Zambra folding 45 x 107

It's likely this unusual folding viewer was in fact made by Richard. I have seen photos of an apparently identical example with Verascope labeling. Knowing Negretti & Zambra commonly sold private label products, it is easy to assume they bought and relabeled this unit. Although collapsible, the viewer possesses advanced features like interocular adjustment and focusing lenses. The hinged metal cover on the back folds up and over the top to act as a glare shield. To collapse the viewer for storage, first the lens board is folded down over the bed, then the bed folds up effectively encasing the lenses. While I'm sure this was seen as a very clever device, in practice it's a little awkward to use, and when folded it is not much smaller than a simple wooden box type 45 x 107 viewer.

Le Glyphoscope stereoviewer

Le Glyphoscope 45 x 107

Ever the inventive m arketer, shortly after bringing his Verascope camera and 45 x 107mm format to market, Jules Richard realized he needed a more affordable solution. Le Glyphoscope was the answer. Made from cheaper materials, it combined a camera and viewer in one unit. A removable shut ter panel allowed the device to be used as a camera, and a special plate holder with built in diffuser replaced the normal light tight negative plate holders for slide viewing. Although a clever idea, as with most compromises, it was generally better in concept than in use. To see the Glyphoscope in camera guise, have a look at my stereo camera section. It's interesting to note how little area of the lenses is actually utilized by the shutter panel.

Verascope Richard Transposing Viewer

Verascope Transposing

Autochrome color images were typically contact printed untransposed. This means the left and right hand images were reversed. The only way to view such images was either to cut the glass apart and swap the left and right hand frames, or use a transposing viewer. The odd looking drop down eye pieces contain prisms which flip the images. A lthough it worked well enough, the objective size is quite small, making it necessary to move the eyes around to see the whole view. The Autochrome emulsion was fragile, so images were typically bound in glass. This viewer has an extra wide slot to accept the thicker views. I suspect here were relatively few made.

Verascope Transposing Stereo Slide Viewer

Verascope Transposing Deluxe

Like the deluxe 45 x 107 Verascope viewers above, this is another example of taking a Taxiphote lens board and bolting it onto a hand held viewer. This one is pretty much the kitchen sink model. In addition to viewing transparencies, the reflector flap on top makes viewing prints at least technically possible. To date, I have yet to run across any 45 x 107 prints, but presumably some do exist. While transposing viewers have their uses, particularly for viewing uncut Autochrome color slides, even the Autochromes I have encountered have invariably been cut and mounted for standard viewers.

Homeos Stereo Viewer

Le Homéos Richard

The Homeos camera of 1913 was one of, if not the first, 35mm film cameras to reach production. Richard's cameras and accessories were all centered around glass plates. The advent of roll film meant special viewers and printers had to be designed to accompany the camera. While one could shoot modern film in the camera, the viewer requires transposed prints. I suppose it would be possible to use the Homeos printer with modern transparency film to make transposed copies to use in this viewer...but then again I could also convert my house from electricity to kerosene lanterns. Some things just aren't worth the effort. Maybe after I win the lottery and retire.

L' Homeos Richard Stereo Viewer

Le Homéos Richard - later style

Unfortunately, this viewer does not have a serial number. The original internal film guide carrying the stamped serial number has been replaced. The addition of interocular adjustment and updated eyepieces with side extensions to block ambient light suggests an updated design. Homeos production straddled WWI. Perhaps we are looking at the difference between pre and post war styles.

Gaumont 6 x 13

Here we have another "mystery meat" viewer. The body is molded plastic. Unlike typical prewar wooden viewers, the focusing mechanism has abandoned a rack and pinion control in favor of a simple hinged lever. The older viewers would also use a screw knob to set interocular distance. On this viewer, the lenses simply slide in and out, with nothing but friction to hold the adjustment. One improvement is a lever on the left hand side which when pushed down, partially ejects the slide. This saves having to tip the viewer to make the slide slip out, a process which was always a little bit fraught when handling fragile glass slides. I suspect this is either a very late prewar item, or possibly an "end of the era" plate viewer made soon after the war.

Verascope 40 Richard Stereo Viewer

Verascope "40" (pre-war?)

Just prior to WWII, Richard introduced the Verascope F40. This camera pointed the way to modern (meaning post war) style 7 perforation European format stereo film cameras. The "40" viewer used a modified Taxiphote lens board, combined with a simple film transport mechanism and transposing prisms. With the advent of Kodachrome film, it was no longer necessary to make contact prints. A transposing viewer could directly view the uncut film. The early ones like this example were made with a wood body. Later models are made from bakelite, or some other similar hard plastic material.

Verascope 40 stereo viewer

Verascope "40"

The second version, while it used the same lens panel and prisms from the earlier viewer, incorporated several improvements. At the top, there are mounting points for a light unit. The film roll is now housed inside the viewer, rather than trail down over the sides, and there is a mounting bracket underneath for a stand. The stand performed two worthwhile functions, it held the viewer at a convenient viewing angle, and obviated any need to set the viewer down on it's legs. Both versions were badly balanced, and even with the lenses moved back against the housing, were likely to tip forward when set down.



Although not a particularly fine viewer, the Belcaskop at least had the advantage of being designed from the outset to handle European format photos. Designed to accompany the Belplasca camera, this viewer also would have been handy for images from the Verascope f40, and early 7 perf Il oca cameras.

Realist Red Button

Realist Red Button

One contributing factor in the success of Seton Rochwite and the Realist system was his combination of a useful camera AND a well designed viewer. Self illuminated by a pair of D cells, the Red Button viewer has focus and inter ocular adjustm ents. Pressing the round red button (hence its name) illuminates the slide. With the application of a little American know how, and a Dremel tool, These 5 perf Realist format viewers can be opened out to handle full frame 8 perf RBT 24 x 33 mounts. While they are less common, 110v conversion units also exist. The Red Button is the most versatile of all the 50s era viewers.

Realist White Button

Realist White Button

Guess what they call this one? Oh, never mind. There were also some made with black buttons, which I believe came near the end. Supposedly, the white button viewer has simpler lenses, but I've never really tried to compare it side by side with other viewers.

Realist Green Button

Realist Green Button

Its the Jimmy Neutron Space Viewer. Well, not really, but it sure looks funky. When Kodak upgraded their first generation viewer, David White had to respond wi th an AC/DC model to match. Although the green button looks unique, it is a little heavy and awkward in use. The red button viewer could be converted to AC power, and was probably a better choice.

Realist Gold Button 2066

Realist Gold Button

The least common of the Realist battery viewers is the gold button model. Designed to work wi th the Realist Macro Stereo camera, the gold button featured a greater degree of magnification (7x) than its cousins. Although it can be used with standard 5 perf images, the high magnification makes it necessary to move around in relation to the eye pieces to see the entire image. Realist Macro images were smaller and make best use of the high magnification.

Kodak Kodaslide II

Kodak Kodaslide II

Back in the days before the US government decided Kodak was a threat to the American way, they were a fierce competitor. Coming from left field, the Realist caught everyone napping. Kodak quickly resp onded with a line of inexpensive stereo products and stole the market. The Kodaslide I viewer suffered from having only plain lenses, but the Kodaslide II had achromats and AC/DC power. It was ergonomically superior, and suffered only one minor flaw - the focus mechanism is friction based and ceases to function after the viewer sits in a closet for 40 years.

Revere 22

Revere 22

As may be seen, the Revere and Wollensak viewers are clearly based on the same design. The Reve re version is quite attractive in cream and brown, but the glue holding the logo onto the button tends to give up. Today, probably half the Revere 22 viewers out there are missing their logo. Image area was better than the Realist Red Button, making them usable for European format images, although there is slight cropping at the edges.

Wollensak 11 Stereo Viewer

Wollensak 11

Wollensak had been selling under the Revere name, but waited too long before introducing premium Wollensak branded products. Consequently, Wollensak cameras and viewers are far less common than Revere. While there are distinct differences between the cameras, the viewers are mechanicaly the same, just in slightly different packages.

Sterling Stereo Viewer

Sterling Stereo

Marketed under the Sterling and Busch names. this is another typical battery powered viewer. The lenses can be focused individually, which is the used car salesman's way of saying there is no movable lens board. Like the Wollensak, it has slightly wider coverage and can be used for 7 perf viewing.

De Wijs Combi Viewer

De Wijs Combi Viewer

The De Wijs is a cleverly designed and beautifully executed modern viewer, convertible between Realist and 2x2 mounts. Large 50mm lenses give this viewer the ability to comfortably encompass 8 perf slides. It also has a set of 45mm lenses which give greater magnification, although at the expense of slight corner clipping.


Contact: information@ignomini(dot)com