Yeshen Venema


Workshops, events, the shoot highlights, locations and behind the scenes stories from Photographer Yeshen Venema.

Magic Machines #1. Laack Rathenow Dialytar, Stereoscopic.

The first in a series on antique film cameras. These cameras were passed onto me by my grandfather Ludwig Weiss. He was the proprietor of a camera shop in Tutzing, Bavaria called 'Foto Weiss' from 1950 to 1980. Ludwig was also a keen photographer and would have used many of these cameras throughout his life.

Look into my eyes! The hypnotic front view shows the twin lenses and shutter controls.

First up, is this stunning Laack Rathenow Dialytar Stereoscopic from the early 1900s. This model is particularly rare, there are very few Laack cameras around. If you have any more info on this camera please get in touch or leave a comment below.

Laack was a camera and lens maker, based in the German town Rathenow. It was founded by Julius Laack. In times of the German Democratic Republic it became state-owned and renamed to VEB Rathenower Optische Werke (ROW)

Side view. The case is in remarkable condition considering the age (early 1900s). There is only slight wear on the leather and all the inside chrome and metal elements are mint.

Lens: 156.3 Serie T - Nr 59344 - Pronto 25/50/100/B/T

On the front of the lens are the shutter controls, they are working perfectly. You can watch the shutter open/close to the correct time using an internal mechanism. No battery required!

Top view showing the bellows at full extension. On the left you can see the viewfinder, which is basically a cube with a small mirror, through which you line up the subject.

This model takes 13cm x 8cm glass plates. In order to use this camera, I will need to order these plates from a manufacturer who only produces them once a year, so you might have to wait to see some photos ... but I'll update soon.

When folded closed, the camera is contained in a beautifully made leather case and becomes very portable. The case is reinforced, so great to taking on treks and photo missions. Who knows where this camera has been?

The inside of the bellows is divided into two by a thin wall, separating the light coming in from from duel lenses. The plate would be exposed and a 'stereo card' would be printed. This would be viewed with a 'Stereo Viewer' to give the desired '3D' effect. This was very popular in the early 1900s. You can pick up cards similar to these at the Spitalfields Antique Market (Thursday mornings), or, if you're lazy, ebay.

An example of a stereo plate postcard of the type produced in the early 1900s. Image source:

Links to more stereo camera images and references:

Update 15 October 2012: This camera has now been added to the Laack Camera Wiki page:

A book called 'The Camera Fiend' (1911) concerns a man who installs a gun within his camera to capture 'the soul leaving the body'. Dark stuff. Project Guttenberg have the full e-book available here.

'The Camera Fiend' by E.E. Hornung. A Dark tale of murder by camera!

Flickr group for images with stereo viewers

National Portrait Gallery Collection of the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company (active 1855-1922)