Today I will discuss my first experience with a Super 8 mm camera. Growing up watching skateboard videos, many skateboard companies used super 8/16mm for their video parts. Throughout the years, I’ve always said I’d get a Super 8mm camera.
Living in the 21st. century it’s crazy to think that someone will choose a film camera over a digital one. Yes, that is me. Same thing I did when I traded all my digital for the film. I still miss you Canon 800D.
At the beginning of 2022, I found a great deal on Croatian Craigslist called Njuškalo and finally pulled the trigger.
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What is Super 8 mm?
In 1978, Eastman Kodak introduced Super 8 mm film to the market, aiming to improve over the older “Double” or “Regular” 8 mm format used for home movies at the time. There was no doubt that this system was the most popular in the Kodak universe.
Its nominal width is 8 mm, the same as older format 8 mm film, but its rectangular perforations along one edge are smaller, allowing a greater exposure area. As part of the Super 8 standard, an oxide stripe can be recorded magnetically on the border opposite the perforations. In contrast to Super 35 (which is generally compatible with standard 35 mm equipment), Super 8 doesn’t work with traditional 8 mm cameras.
The final film in each case has the exact dimensions regardless of the type of film system used for shooting.
Types of Super 8mm
In today’s market, we can find a few types of Super 8mm cameras. Here are a few types:
A typical Super 8mm camera comes with a 165° shutter. As a general rule, the shutter angle of a Super 8 camera varies from 150° to 160°, which corresponds to a shutter speed of 1/57 at a frame rate of 24 frames per second.
Super 8mm XL “Existing Light” = XL. When your camera model is marked as XL, e.g. Canon 514XL, it means that the shutters are 230° and the camera exposes the film to light for a long period of time before moving on to the next frame. A normal shutter angle on Super 8 cameras is 150° or 160°, which is a 1/57 shutter speed at 24 frames per second. When compared to cameras with XL, shutter speeds are approximately 1/40 because they are around 220°. This camera can be useful for recording in low light due to its large opening.
A Super 8mm is a non-sound camera. The camera that I own Canon 514XL-S was capable before to produce sound with the special film. In the ’70s Kodak introduced Ektasound—magnetic recording on actual Super 8 film. Today this is a dead format but you can still use this camera for normal Super 8mm cartridges. Check Noah’s better-known “Analog Resurgence” take on the sound format by clicking here.
How to get started?
Buy a camera
The first thing we ask is where can I get a Super 8mm camera? It’s pretty easy to find a Super 8mm camera if you know where to look. The best place to start your search is in film shops, charity shops, garage sales, etc. If you wish to shop online, you have a lot of choices such as eBay, Etsy, Kamerastore, B&H, etc…
My first experience with buying the first Super 8mm camera that I got was a second-hand one from an older guy through a website called Njuškalo. Finally, I found a working camera after searching for a few months. It’s important to keep in mind that these cameras are over 40 years old and aren’t meant to last long.
To ensure that your camera is functioning properly, please ensure that:
- All moving parts are clean
- The lens doesn’t have any haze or fungus
- as well as the viewfinder
- nothing is corroded (battery compartment or moving parts)
- If possible test the camera with a spare film cartridge
- The camera is not making any strange noises
- as well as the buttons and lens.
- Lightmeter is functional
- The lens doesn’t have any scratches
- Test the motor by pressing the shutter button
and so on…
It is always advisable to check the manual of your camera or YouTube tutorials if you want to be 100% certain. In most cases, a manual or YouTube tutorial can be found for a Super 8 mm camera.
Pro Tip: If you are purchasing a Super 8mm camera online or in a physical store, you should always check the market price. My go-to is eBay. Then I’d figure out what the fair market price is for the item. Consider reducing the price by at least 30% out of the current market value if you’re buying in person like on Craigslist because you don’t know if you’re just buying a brick.
As we discussed above, there are several things to consider before purchasing a Super 8 mm camera, including where to look and what to check. Let’s now discuss which camera beginners should purchase. Here are some cameras you should consider when buying your first Super 8 mm:
- Yashica Super 800 electro – $50 – $100
- Canon 514XL or 310XL – $100 – $200
- Sankyo ES-44XL – $50 – $150
- Nikon R10 – $200 – $250
- Braun Nizo 136 – $150
Pro Tip: As a last resort, if no manual, YouTube tutorial, old forum, or other information is available about your camera, I recommend you join the following subreddit on Reddit: r/AnalogCommunity and r/8mm and ask there a question.
Choosing Super 8mm film cartridge
Nowadays, we still have film stocks, but not as much as before. You can get film almost anywhere, either in a physical film store or online. Beginners should shoot black&white or color negative film stocks, especially if you’re using auto exposure. Those coming from analog photography, are already aware that B&W and Color negatives are more forgiving than slide film known as reversal film.
The rule for choosing Super 8 mm film stock is knowing what light you’re recording in. If you’re shooting outdoors in summer, with bright skies and sunshine, you should pick Kodak Vision 50D (D stands for daylight). The same logic applies if you’re shooting at night or under a tungsten light e.g. Kodak Vision 500T (T stands for Tungsten).
Why is it so critical to pick the right film? Shooting 500T under a bright sky at noon in the middle of the day will result in most cases overexposed shots with blue highlights. On the other hand, shooting 50D under tungsten light will result in underexposed footage with yellow highlights.
Also, what is the ISO number? A film with a higher ISO number is more light-sensitive and grainier. The lower the ISO number, the less light-sensitive and grainier the film is.
There are some Super 8 mm cameras that have a switch to change the internal filter from daylight to tungsten. E.g. shooting Kodak Vision 200T in daylight you can switch from Bulb (T) to Sun (D) so you don’t have to switch cartridges mid-shoot or put any additional filters on your camera lens. A camera without a built-in CCA filter will require you either to shoot only in a specific light, use the correct lens filter, or change the cartridge while shooting. Changing cartridges can overexpose the film by a few seconds.
Recommended Film Stocks for Shooting Super 8 film:
- KODAK VISION3 50D – color negative (Daylight)
- Kodak Vision3 200T – color negative (Tungsten)
- Kodak Vision3 500T – color negative (Tungsten)
- Kodak TXR-464 Tri-X – B&W reversal film
- Kodak EKTACHROME 100D – reversal film
You’ve bought your first Super 8 camera, tested it, and got one of the film stocks now’s the time to shoot. My first experience with Super 8mm was similar to yours, as I had a lot of questions prior to shooting.
When you’re recording, you don’t have to think much if your camera does automatic exposure. You just press the shutter button and your camera will meter everything. I would suggest Investing in an external light meter if your camera doesn’t have one. A Super 8 cartridge lasts about three minutes when running at 18 frames per second. The better super 8 cameras can record at 24 frames per second, so a cartridge will last about 2 minutes. Note that these film stocks are 50ft roll.
Using either speed has its benefits, but you have to be aware of the consequences and the issues that come with it. With 18fps you will be able to project reversal film but not with 24fps. If you record at 18fps, you’ll get more minutes, but the footage will be jittery. My first experience with super 8 is that I got a camera that could record at 24 fps because of today’s standards. You can always re-edit footage from 18fps to 24fps, but it’s not the same as shooting at 24fps.
Focusing is not really hard on the Super 8 cameras. Using the focus system correctly requires setting the eyepiece diopter (there is a section in your camera manual that explains how to do this). Then when focusing zoom in and focus, the split prism is very minor, but basically, find an edge to your subject and it will be in focus when the edge appears continuous, with no break in it. The lens should be parfocal, which means once you’ve set the focus, it should stay in focus.
Pro Tip: You should be very selective about what you shoot. In advance, I planned out what I was going to shoot and how many seconds I would take. You can find out how many films you have left with this app by KODAK Cinema Tools.
Scanning and Processing
After you have completed shooting you will hear that motor sounds differently. That means it’s time to send your film to a lab. The Lab I used is called on8mil based in the UK.
You pick what service you want from them. Do you want to process or scan or both? The service I received was 8mm Film Colour Negative Processing + 4HD Scanning, which involves the negative processing and scanning of the film reel to a 4K resolution.
As for processing and scanning, I’ve selected the same frame rate that I’ve selected in my camera, so that was 24fps. Secondly, I selected whether I needed my scans edited or not (RAW). I went with edited.
The last thing is to select Scan Type. Three options: Full-perf Overscan, Standard Overscan, and Cropped. I went for full-perf overscan. Yeah, I got hipster points.
The whole process cost me €170 + €30 shipping from Croatia. In total, I paid €200 for 2:30min.
Pro tip: When shipping your films to the lab it’s really important to protect them. I always put a sticker on a box from Kodak do not x-ray. Please click here on the label that you can print out.
Pros and Cons
Here are some Pros and Cons of shooting Super 8 film:
Finally, the day has come. You just got your scans and downloaded them. Opening a file is like opening a Christmas present. You forget a lot of what you shot after a month.
Based on my experience with Super 8mm, I wouldn’t go for 4K next time. The reason is that my laptop and monitor don’t support 4K resolution, so I had trouble editing them on my computer. It took me a while to edit the jittery footage.
Here is the final result:
My first experience shooting a super 8 film was a blast. I feel the same way about analog photography as I do about Super 8. Would I buy Super 8 now? Simply put, no! If I could travel back in time, I’d choose 16mm over Super 8mm.
If you’re coming from analog photography and you’re used to it metering your scene, then you don’t need Super 8mm. There is a night and day difference in quality between 8mm and 16mm, but the cost is almost the same.
I’ve really enjoyed writing my whole process for the first time shooting Super 8 mm film. I hope you will enjoy and learn something as I did in writing this post. In the previous topic, we touched on What makes Flickr great for photographers in 2022. If you have missed the post you can check it by clicking here.
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