Hold onto your hat: Kodak is delivering on its promise to release a brand-spanking-new Super 8 film camera. Super 8 is the format that just refuses to expire, and with the release of this new camera, Kodak is bringing Super 8 to a whole new generation of filmmakers. The camera system consists of the Super 8 camera, a removable battery pack, and a charger.
What does a new camera mean for Super 8 filmmakers? For one thing, it frees filmmakers from scrounging through flea markets and garage sales to find an ever-dwindling supply of cameras that, in the end, need expensive overhauls to keep them functioning. Although the adventure of searching for a camera may add to the drama of making your film, old optics and a noisy camera can lower the overall presentation and impact of your film.
Super 8 in All its Glory
Originally designed to replace and simplify the labor-intensive Regular 8 process, the Super 8 format features a larger imaging area than 8mm (or Double 8 as it is sometimes known), resulting in a brighter and noticeably less grainy image. Super 8 also comes in a plastic cassette, simplifying the loading process and, as a side benefit, allowing you to remove the cassette from the camera. This way you only lose a small number of frames and it is simple to change the cassette mid-roll, if desired.
Evocative and Impressionistic
Super 8 soon gained supremacy in the amateur or home movie market before there was VHS video. The simplicity of the system allowed young filmmakers to cut their teeth on Super 8; the format evolved from being used to make home movies to becoming a favorite for experimental, avant-garde filmmakers, and it is still used for some commercials and even feature films. Super 8 has grown from a reversal (direct projection) only format, to being supplied with modern negative film stocks.
Why a New Camera?
Older cameras are becoming more difficult to find and service. Similarly, while older cameras could read and set the auto-exposure to match the film speed, with the new film stock options available, the older cameras often cannot be adapted to expose the film properly. So, a new camera means updated options and features, like better ISO speeds.
One of the new options is the Extended Super 8 Gate, which allows you to capture about 11% more image than a standard Super 8 gate. This feature also gets your aspect ratio closer to a more modern 16:9, as opposed to standard Super 8’s 4:3 (approximately) aspect ratio—a big plus when intercutting your Super 8 footage with digital formats.
Compatible with standard Super 8 cartridges, the new Kodak Super 8 camera allows you to select the film type or go into cine mode to set the ISO manually and control your exposure. Additionally, the camera features 18, 24/25, and 36 fps frame-rate options, which you can use to creative effect.
The camera features a C-mount and comes with a 6mm lens so you can start shooting right out of the box. Additionally, using a C-mount for removable lenses allows you to use a variety of C-mount lenses, from affordable to exotic, as well as modern-day to vintage, to bring a distinctive look to your filmmaking. And, since most C-mount lenses are designed to cover the 16mm frame, whichever lens you choose ought to be able to cover the increased size of the Extended Super 8 gate.
Eschewing a tiny, delicate optical viewfinder, the camera features an integrated video assist with flip-out LCD viewscreen. Based on 16 and 35mm video-tap systems, the LCD image is formed when light reflects from the camera's shutter, forming an image on a frosted or "ground glass." The camera has a CMOS sensor that captures that image and relays it to the LCD screen. While I am partial to optical viewfinders, my tired old eyes have gotten used to using an LCD viewscreen, and I do enjoy the freedom of movement that such a setup offers. The camera also has a video output, so you can view the image on an HDMI monitor, allowing you to fly the camera on a variety of remote systems.
Another bonus of the electronic viewfinder is that you can display pertinent info, such as ISO and color balance of your stock, frame, exposure guide, which cartridge you are using, and feet remaining in that cartridge, in the viewfinder. Additionally, and this is really cool, you can set the viewfinder to display a variety of frame sizes as you are shooting, from the new Extended Super 8 to letterboxed 16:9, standard Super 8, square, 4:3, and even 2:35:1 for really widescreen shooting. These bars are only in the viewfinder, and not on the film itself, providing you with an accurate framing guide when shooting, while still leaving room for adjustments in post.
Silent filmmaking is great fun, but sound is half your movie, so insert an SD card into the camera to record audio via an external mic. Record audio when shooting at 24/35 fps using the well-established double-system audio, and don't forget your clapsticks for easy syncing in post. Because it always seems that an ambulance is speeding by during the most delicate of performances, the camera has an audio-out jack so you can monitor your audio to make sure it is clear, clean, and you haven't recorded any stray sounds from airplanes, refrigerators, ambulances, or other audio pollutants.
It is great to see Kodak support this easy-to-work-with filmmaking tool, bringing an updated camera to make working in Super 8 compatible with a modern digital workflow. While I wish the camera could record audio when shooting at "off" speeds, I hope this is something that can come in a future firmware update. The possibilities to work in this revered and unique format that this new Super 8 camera brings are exciting for fledgling and experienced filmmakers.
For more information about the new Kodak Super 8 camera system, be sure to check out the detailed product page for the Kodak Super 8 Camera. Or drop us a line below, and we'll do our best to reply to your comments and questions.