Introduction: Hack Your Nishika N8000

Welcome to the Third Dimension!

Well, you have probably been living in the 3rd dimension for a long time and find nothing special about it, but how do you take a photo of it?

One way is to use a camera that is designed to take multiple photos that can be put together to form a lenticular photo. You probably seen this type of photo on DVD case covers, crackerjack prizes and the like. The main benefit is that you don’t need to wear funny glasses or cross your eyes to see the 3rd dimension.

In the 1980’s, lenticular photography was the “Next Big Thing.”  Like many "Next Big Things," it cratered like Google Wave.  The NIMSLO camera was produced to take lenticular photos and quickly flamed out. The ashes were taken up by Nishika. They produced the Nishika N8000 camera - a lower quality 4-lensed camera. Due to shady multilevel marketing, the expense and the obvious crappiness of the camera, The N8000 quickly flamed out as well.

All the gory details of these business failures can be found here:

In this instructable, we will take a Nishika N8000 and add a few additional capabilities:  the ability to do multiple exposures and a bulb function. Additionally, we will take out the septums to get an artistic image bleed and install some color  filters.  You may choose any or all these mods, but only the septum removal is permanent.  If you want to try these mods but don't have a Nishika, eBay has tons of new old stock and many specimens have migrated to thrift shops as the wonders of the third dimension wore off.

I'd like to give credit to my hero, Dr. Davidhazy from RIT.  Many of the ideas for this instructable come from his thoughts on the Nimslo camera found here:

Step 1: Camera Overview -- the Great Pretender

The Nishika N8000 looks like one of those high technology wonder cameras Canon and Nikon were flooding the market with during the 1980's.  However, the closer you look the cheapness and crappiness gets harder to overlook.  Here is my rundown of the more deceptive features of the camera:

  It's big!  Too big in fact.  The camera it replaced, the Nimslo, was half the size with twice the sophistication of this monster.  The huge housing is there just to give the camera some substance.

2.  It's heavy.  Don't blame all that plastic...the real weight comes from a metal chunk in the base of the camera (not lead, but definitely metal).  It's included to give the camera a heavy high tech feel.

3.  That familiar looking pentaprism bump on the top of the camera is not a pentaprism.  It does nothing but holds the hot shoe on the camera.

4.  The hotshoe looks like a high tech wonder with various electrodes that allow the flash and camera to talk and come to logical photographic decisions.  The flash may talk, but the camera isn't listening.  The extra electrodes are just for show and attached to nothing except plastic.

5.  The high tech data display on the top of the camera is not as high tech as it looks.  It does have some useful data, but it is simply printed on plastic that is designed to look like a liquid crystal display.

6.  The exposure system on even the simplest point and shoots will vary the shutter speed and aperture of your camera to get the correct exposure on the film.  The N8000's exposure system is not really connected to the camera in any way.  It is a simple go/no go affair that will shine a red LED in your eye if it thinks there isn't enough light to make a good exposure.

7.  The familiar motor drive bump is there only to hold the 2, AA batteries for the less than useful light meter system.  Your thumb will still be getting a workout while advancing the film.

8.  The variable aperture actually does vary the aperture, but not by too much.  Whereas a modern lens can vary 7 or 8 stop values to adjust to different light values, the N8000 can only muster 2.5 stops.  

9.  The 4 plastic lens assemblies are not exactly triumphs of optical engineering.  They vignette badly even at the smallest aperture... even though each lens only has to cover 1/2 a standard 35mm frame.

OK...enough Nishika bashing.  The good features:

Rock solid tripod bushing (sunk into that metal chunk in the bottom of the camera).

2.  Commands respect.  People always are interested in a camera that has 4 lenses.

3.  Mostly plastic that is easy to modify with a dremel type rotary tool.

4.  Nice memo holder on the back works as advertised.

5.  Can take a simple flash for indoor shots.

6.  If you can afford the lenticular processing, you can still use it for its intended purpose....Entering the 3rd Dimension!

Step 2: Stuff You Will Need

Taking apart the N8000 is a pretty simple process, but it does involve quite a few parts. It is good to have a lot of trays to segregate parts. Luckily, my daughter goes through a lot of apple sauce cups. Once washed, these make nice parts trays and epoxy mixing trays. I like to put a magnet in the parts tray to corral the small screws. If you lose a screw or two, don’t worry, your camera should function well even with that loss.

  Small part trays.

2.  Magnets.

3.  Set of small cross tipped screwdrivers.

4.  Rotary tool (Dremel type).

5.  Various grinding, sanding, drilling bits to fit the rotary tool.

6.  Dental floss.

7.  Gel type filters. Gam is a great source of these.  Great quality, any color you can think of...

8.  Cyanoacrylate (super) glue.

Step 3: Digging Into the Guts

The N8000 is easy to get apart, but again, it produces a lot of parts, so keep yourself organized if you are easily confused!  The sub assemblies are nicely organized so they can only go in one way, so don't worry too much and look at the photos if you get lost.  The concept is to remove the top, bottom and front panels and dig through three layers of camera.  Once you are there, you can start modifying!

Note: The convention I use for describing sides of the camera.  E.g. left side, right side.  These are as if you were standing behind the camera looking through the viewfinder ready to take a photo. 

1.  First locate the rewind knob on top left of the camera.  It is the little crank that rewinds the film when you are done shooting.  Hold the crank tightly and unscrew the screw in the center.  Once done, lift off and set into one of your part containers.

2.  Once the crank assembly is off, it will reveal two more screws.  Take these screws out and lift off the collar assembly.  Set aside this assembly in a parts container.

3.  Move to the right side of the top plate and locate the film advance lever.  Pry the small teardrop shape piece of plastic off the top of the lever.  That will reveal a screw.  Take that screw out.  Gently lift the film advance lever and put in your (separate) parts container.

4.  Locate the rubber handgrip on the right side of the camera.  It looks like a motor drive, but it is really a battery holder.  Take a small screw driver and pry the edge of the handgrip.  The rubber like grip will come off.  The adhesive will be pretty sticky still.  Place the handgrip someplace where you don't have to touch it too often.

5.  Under the handgrip, you will see a few screws that attach the top plate to the front plate.  Take those out and put into a parts tray.

6.  Gently wiggle the top plate free of the front plate.  You won't get far as there are a bunch of wires that are still attached to the top plate.  Don't worry about these, just let the top plate hang.  The shutter release button and a spring underneath the button will easily come off now.  Place these in a parts container.

7.  Now locate the bottom plate of the camera.  If you have not taken the batteries out of the camera, now is a good time.  The bottom plate is held on with 4 screws.  Take them all out.  You will notice that one screw is longer than the rest.  Make note which hole that comes out of.  If you forget, don't worry.  If you use a short screw in that hole it won't catch and it is obvious you need to use a longer screw.

8.  Gently wiggle the bottom plate off and set aside.  You should now have a good look at the infamous metal chunk.

9.  Now remove the two screws on the right side that attaches the front plate to the rest of the camera.  Once those are unscrewed, gently lift off the front plate of the camera and set aside.

10.  The first layer into the camera is simply an oversized lens shade assembly.  It is held on by 4 gold colored screws.  Take these screws out and lift off the lens shade assembly and set aside.If you are solely interested in adding some filter gels, this is as far as you need to go.

11. The second layer is the actual lens assembly.  It is held on by 4 screws.  Take these screws out and lift the lens assembly off and set aside.  If you are solely interested in multiple exposure and bulb features, this is as far as you need to go.

12.  The third layer is the shutter assembly.  It is held on by five screws--4 on the front side and one on top where the shutter release button was.  Take all five of these out and gentle remove the shutter assembly. 

OK, that is as far as you need to go to do all the planned modifications!

Step 4: Modification #1 -- the Blender

This camera is designed to take 4 half frame photos at the same time.  On the film, you will see four nearly identical images once developed.  If you are good at cross eyed viewing, you can see the 3D effect right on the film!  The purpose of this modification is to take out the septums in the body of the camera so that the images bleed into one another giving a more surreal image.  You will have a lozenge shaped areas of overexposure where the images overlap.

Take a small cutting bit for your Dremel (TM) and carefully cut out the plastic septums as best you can.  Start with a cutter, but finish up with a sanding drum.  The sanding drum grinds away the plastic with minimal melting.

2.  Once you are satisfied with your excavation work, reattach the shutter assembly with the same 5 screws you took out. 

Step 5: Modification #2 -- Double Vision

This modification will allow you to re-cock the shutter and take multiple images on the same piece of film.  This is handy if you want to take double (or more) exposures to make ghost photos and the like.  Also this will allow you to use Dr. Davidhazy's idea, shade each lens and expose a single frame at a time.  Kind of like a big, clumsy half frame camera.  Also it will allow you to use a "bulb" shutter speed.  This is handy for very dark scenes, light painting, star trails and the like. 

Through some experimentation, I discovered that there are two methods to make this modification.  One will give you the bulb feature and another will give you both the multiple exposure and the bulb feature.  I'd recommend the latter, even if you don't need both for the added photographic flexibility. 

  For the bulb and multiple exposure features: look at the shutter assembly and locate the re-cocking mechanism.  It is a small tab of metal attached to a spring slightly to the right of center and along the bottom of the assembly.  Take a length of string (I like to use waxed dental floss) and tie one end securely to this tab.  Cut off the tail close to the knot, melt the end with a flame (dental floss is nylon) and make the knot permanent with a drop of superglue on the knot.  Thread the other end of the floss along the bottom of the camera and out the left hand side.  You want to make sure the floss does not gum up any other mechanisms in the camera.  Luckily, the Nishika has plenty of room on the inside.

1b.  For just the bulb feature:  look at the shutter assembly and locate the shutter mechanism. It is a  tab of metal slightly to the left of center and along the bottom of the assembly. Take a length of string (I like to use waxed dental floss) and tie one end securely to this tab. Cut off the tail close to the knot, melt the end with a flame (dental floss is nylon) and make the knot permanent with a drop of superglue on the knot. Thread the other end of the floss along the bottom of the camera and out the left hand side. You want to make sure the floss does not gum up any other mechanisms in the camera. Luckily, the Nishika has plenty of room on the inside.

2a.  Test your new features.  For your multiple exposure feature, pull the string to the left to cock the shutter, actuate the shutter by pressing the shutter release (on the top right of the camera).  The shutter should fire.  Pull the string again to recock the shutter. Lather rinse and repeat.  For the bulb feature, pull your string to cock the shutter.  Fire the shutter, while holding the string.  Now release the shutter button and slowly ease the tension on the string.  The shutter  mechanism will come to rest against the shutter release bar.  This will keep the shutter open for as long as you want.  To end the exposure, simply press the shutter release again.  This allows the shutter to close.  Don't worry, this sounds more complicated than it is!

2b.  If you opted for the bulb alone feature, test this by doing the following.  Cock the shutter using your fingers or a screwdriver.  Actuate the shutter and the shutter should fire normally.  Now depress the shutter release button and pull the string.  This will open the shutter and start your bulb exposure.  Let go of the shutter release button and slowly release tension on the string.  Again, the shutter mechanism will come to rest against the shutter release bar.  To end the exposure, simply depress the shutter release again.

3.  Once you are happy about the functioning of your modification, reinstall the lens assembly onto the shutter assembly.  It will only go on one way, but you do have to take a screwdriver and actuate the shutter leaves on the lens assembly to ensure the shutter and lens are fully engaged.  This is simple, but critical...the camera won't work if these two are not coupled.

4.  Once you have the lens assembly on and engaged with the shutter assembly, replace the screws.

5.  The last chore is to provide a place for the string to exit the camera.  Take the front cover and locate a good spot on the left hand side of the front plate.  I found that the chamfer on the left side is ideal.  Drill a small exit hole on the chamfer near the bottom.  That will be your exit hole for your string that actuates your special features.

Step 6: Modification #3 -- Colorize

This modification simply puts colored gel filters between the lenses and the lens shade.  What colors?  Whatever color you want.  The possibilities are endless.  You could put yellow filters on to increase contrast when using black and white film, polarizing filters to increase color saturation with color film, Color separation filters to give an Andy Whorhol like effect, diffraction grating filters for that old "Jupiterscope" LSD trip like effect, etc.  One thing to keep in mind though, if you plan to expose all lenses at the same time, you will need to keep the light values the same.  That is, each filter needs to let in the same (or near enough) amount of like to hit the film.  A gel swatch book is handy here as it lists the percent of light transmission (also in stop values).  Just pick four filters that have about the same transmission value.  In the example photos, I used red, blue and green filters (classic color separation filters), but I had to use a neutral density filter over the last lens so that part wouldn't be wildly overexposed.  Luckily, film has a lot of latitude, so close is probably good enough.

Choose four color filters that have about the same transmission values.

2.  Cut out circles of filter material that are large enough to fit in the wells of the lens shade.

3.  Use a small dot of white school glue to hold the filter material in place.

4.  Place the lens shade assembly on the lens assembly and secure with the four gold colored screws. 

The filter material will be trapped between the lens shade and the front of the lenses.  This is fine for gels, but rigid glass filters would have to go on the outside of the lens shade somehow.

Step 7: Putting It All Together

Once you have the lens shade on, you just need to follow the take apart instructions backward.

 Put the front plate on the camera.  Make sure you feed the dental floss out the hole you drilled earlier.  Be sure that the aperture switch engages the metal arm on the lens assembly.

2.  Replace the screws that secure the front plate.

3.  Fit the bottom plate on and secure with screws.  Be careful to use the long screw in the appropriate hole.

4.  Replace the top plate and secure with the appropriate screws.  

5.  Replace the rubber handgrip.

6.  Replace the film advance and teardrop shaped cover.

7.  Replace the plastic collar and rewind knob.

8.  Trim the dental floss to an appropriate length and tie a ferrous washer to the dental floss.

9.  Glue a magnet to the side of the camera to keep the dental floss slack.

Step 8: Operations

Your modified N8000 will work as designed with the exception of the color filters you put on and the image bleed from removing the septums (if you chose to do these mods).  To use the multiple exposure and bulb option, follow these instructions:

Multiple exposure.  Take you first exposure.  Pull the shutter reset string sharply to the left to re-cock the shutter.  Take your next exposure.  Lather, rinse and repeat.

2.  Bulb shutter speed.  Cock the shutter by advancing the film or using the shutter reset string.  While holding the shutter reset string, actuate the shutter by pressing the shutter release or cable release.  The shutter will open and stay open.  Release the shutter release and then release the shutter reset string.  The shutter will stay open for as long as you want.  To end the exposure, press the shutter release again.

2a.  Bulb only modification operations:  If you opted for the bulb only modification, you bulb feature works a little differently.  Cover the lenses of the camera with a dark material and actuate the shutter (taking a blank shot).  With the shutter expended, press the shutter release and pull you bulb cord to the left.  This will open the shutter and begin your exposure.  Release the shutter button first and then release tension on your bulb cord.  The shutter will stay open.  To end your exposure, press the shutter release button once again.

Step 9: Tips and Tricks

1.  Resist the urge to lubricate the internal mechanisms.  I did that with some normally acceptable dry teflon lubricant.  It gummed up nearly everything I was trying to do.  I had to clean the assemblies with naptha to get it working again.  Do yourself a favor and leave well enough alone!

2.  Due to the misadventure in item 1, the camera would somewhat jam in the shutter open when using the bulb feature.  If this happens, just tap the side of the camera sharply.  That should get things going again.  I was thinking that replacing the spring inside to something stronger, but I think this will change the shutter speed.

3.  Fool around with these features before you start using film to make sure you know the quirks of your camera.  Good advice for any camera.

4.  Reinforce your knots with a drop of superglue.  That way they won't untie themselves.

5.  Use a tripod.  Another good item for all photography.  Unless you are going for the shaky look, it's almost mandatory for bulb photos.

6.  Use your part trays!  It will save a lot of frustration and crawling around on the floor with a magnet.  Take digital photos if you like so you can review the placement of parts when you are disassembling the camera.  You might also consider banning cats from your work area!

Have fun using your newly modified camera.  I'll update with some bulb photos as soon as I make it through a roll. 

Step 10: Update: a Few More Examples

A few examples from the diffraction grating camera.  Taken at regular shutter speed, the filter gives a pretty dreamy effect.  At night with some strong point sources of light, you get the classic multicolor starburst effect.  The bulb feature allows you to take long exposures and you can see some car tail light streaks in some of the photos.  In all, I'd call the results "Lomotastic!"

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