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Taking 3D images with a 2D phone/tablet camera

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Now that I have a proper pair of anaglyph 3D glasses, I just had to try creating some 3D content myself as well. I downloaded a bunch of different 3D camera apps to my iPhone and set off on a little walk around the neighborhood.

While both Android and iOS smartphone apps can work well on their tablet counterparts, 3D camera software is best used on a phone. That’s simply because a phone is easier to handle, generally has better cameras and some of the apps have interfaces designed for the physical screen size so that blowing the app up bigger is not smart. Still, I’m pretty sure that most tablet users have smartphones as well, and tablets are definitely where you want to view these photos even if you don’t capture them there. Or, you could buy the T-Mobile G-Slate which has a 3D camera.

I used the iPhone 3GS in this case but there are plenty such apps for Android as well. I downloaded a whole bunch of them including one that promised video, but only one is really worth recommending from the bunch I got. The issue is that to get 3D, you have to take pictures from different positions in order to duplicate what the left and right eye would see. Most of these apps simply tell you to do all the calculations yourself as to where to move the camera and all, making it difficult. With those apps you might as well use a standalone camera to get better pictures, since you don’t have any sort of idiot mode anyways- which you definitely need if you’re new to this. Positioning the camera correctly for the second shot is stupidly hard as you’re going to end up tilting it, moving it too far, too little etc.

As for the video app, that one uses a different method altogether. I simply splits the frames into two sets- one for each eye- and tries to create a 3D effect from how you moved the camera. Long story short; it doesn’t work.

The app I had the most success with was Camera 3D Pro. Unlike the other ones I tried, this one actually has a system for helping you take pictures. Below is the developer’s own tutorial for taking a pic:

 

 

By holding your left hand in place while dragging the phone to the right (all while pressing the button), it gives you a measurement for how far you need to move the camera as well as a way to hold it steady. The app takes one picture when your left thumb first presses the button, then another after your right hand has dragged the phone to the right far enough that the button (which the left hand help in place) is now on the left side of the screen.

Even with this system, results are so-so. I wish I had an iPhone 4 to test with as I’m guessing it would get better results, but that’s life. Below is the three most successful photos I got from my walk, just to show you that the concept works even if the camera almost doesn’t. You need red/cyan anaglyph glasses to see the pics in 3D.

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Again, 3D is something of a gimmick and these images can’t even begin to compare to the professional ones you find online and in apps. Still, Camera 3D Pro is free with a $1.99 in-app purchase to unlock features (such as full resolution output) so add to that the $1-2 you pay for a pair of glasses and I think it’s worth it just to play around with. There are also fully free apps on several platforms, but as I said, this is the best one I found on iOS because of the helper mode.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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2 thoughts on “Taking 3D images with a 2D phone/tablet camera

  • I knew those 3d glasses from the kids movies were going to be useful the pictures look great.

    Reply
  • Here is a picture that I took with the free version of the app.
    The picture doesn’t upload let me go to the forum

    Reply

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