Buying a Super 8 Movie Camera to Use

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Introduction

This guide is intended to help Ebay members to buy a working Super 8 movie (also known as Cine) camera to use and make movies. Buying cameras as an investment or for a private collection is not covered as value depends purely on supply, demand, condition, history and extras such as packaging, accessories and manufacturer's literature. It covers Super 8 cameras from 1965 to the early 1980s. Earlier 8mm cameras made between 1932 and 1966, using spools of film rather Super 8 cartridges are now rarely used and are for specialised collectors only.

Super 8 Film

A bit of history. Super 8 cameras use super film cartridges invented by Kodak in the mid 1960s and still made by Kodak. They are particularly easy to load - like a video tape but can only be used once. After use they must be processed to allow projection by a Super 8 projector or transfer to video tape or computer file. Home processing is difficult and expensive and its easiest to send the cartridges to a laboratory in UK, Europe or the USA, either direct or via dealers such as the Widescreen Centre in London . The original Super 8 film from Kodak was called Kodachrome but was discontinued in 2004. The last laboratory processing Kodachrome for a colour image stopped accepting film at the end of 2010. Kodak replaced Kodachrome with Ektachrome films however Kodak announced in December 2012 that no more Ektachrome 100D would be produced. These were reversal films and suitable for projection without making a positive copy. Kodak now produces colour negative film intended for immediate transfer to video although a positve copy can be made for projection. Kodachrome Super 8 sound recording film was discontinued by Kodak in 1998. Like normal Kodachrome striped Kodachrome can no longer be processed in colour.

Cameras

Cameras fall into four main groups as follows: Basic, Easy, Advanced and Semi-professional. Cameras are also divided into Silent and Sound cameras. Sound cameras can only be used a silent camera using silent film.

Basic cameras have fixed focus lens with short range zoom lenses - no more than 2 to 1 and have automatic exposure only and a single running speed. A few cameras have manual exposure and no zoom. Viewfinders are separate not through the lens. Easy cameras have modest zoom lenses up to 4 to 1 with through the lens viewfinders. The longer zoom lenses will be have focussing either manual or auto. A second faster speed may be provided. Basic and easy type cameras are usually small and light and ideal for carrying about ready for immediate use.Advanced cameras have longer zoom lenses from 5 to 1 through to 10 to 1 with large clear viewfinders, automatic and manual exposure control, single frame, multiple running speeds, remote control and macro (close-up) focussing. The few semi-professional cameras offer extras such as interchangeable lenses, ground glass focussing, sound synchronisation system sockets.

Check whether the camera automatic exposure system is accurate for the film you want to use since most cameras were only calibrated for Kodachrome 40 and Ektachrome 160. Guidance is available on the Super8wiki and Kodak websites.

Prices

These vary widely on Ebay. Perfectly good cameras can be obtained for £5 but are a high risk unless the motor and light meter can be confirmed as working. Expect to pay more for original instructions, cases and accessories such as wide angle converters. A few batteries should be inserted to test the motor. Sellers say things like I think it should work because it looks "as new." Cameras stored for years or even decades are prone to seize solid or worse the batteries left inside have leaked and corroded the conatcts and wiring. The wonder is that some cameras work perfectly after many years of disuse. Cameras in the Easy or Advanced class from popular makes typically fetch £15 to £40 but there are many overpriced cameras out there from sellers charging dealer prices but offering no returns or adequate descriptions. Working Advanced or Semi -pro type cameras can fetch from £40 up to £200 or more. Unless the seller is a reputable and knowledgeable dealer always inspect before parting with serious sums of money and pay by Paypal or other equivalent payment system.

The cheaper cameras can often take as good pictures as the expensive ones. The expensive ones just do more. You pay for the name as well. Do not pay extra for a sound camera as a silent one may be more versatile and lighter.

Favourite Makes and Cameras

My favourite make is Canon. All models seem to be very well made and have excellent lenses. One or two models are prone to electrical troubles particularly the 1014E due to weakness in the battery to body wiring. My favourite models are the 814, 814E and 814XLE with outstanding F1.4 7.5-60mm zoom lenses and viewfinders. The 1014E is a bit heavy for me but even more versatile. Other recommended cameras are in alphabetical order Agfa Movexoom 10, Beaulieu 6008, Braun Nizo 561 and 801, Elmo 110, Eumig 880 PMA (Bolex 680) and Sankyo CME880.

Worth Considering

A good camera for a beginner is the Eumig Mini 3 which is very small but produces excellent pictures. Beaulieu cameras are high quality and very versatile but they mostly require expensive non-standard on-board batteries (the 6008 and 7008 and Chinon made 1008, 1018 and 1060 are exceptions) so most users rely on inconvenient external rechargeable battery packs. Bauer cameras are not common in the UK but have excellent viewfinders and some nice features. Top of the range is the 715XL with the enormous 15:1 Angenieux xoom lens but the cheaper cameras with 6 to 51mm and 7 to 45mm zooms are very good. The later Bell and Howell  cameras made in Japan are a good inexpensive buy. They made sound cameras for Eumig as well. Chinon probably made more cameras than anyone else and the they offer excellent value for money with OK build quality and good reliability. Elmo are best known for their projectors, made some quiet sound cameras and the recommendable 108 and 110 cameras with excellent Canon standard lenses. Eumig and Bolex cameras were both made in Austria  after the 1970 Eumig takeover. Swiss made Bolex Super 8 are scarce but very nice. Chinon made some Bolex models in the 1970s as well. Nikon made 3 or 4 models between the mid 60s and the mid 70s. All very well made but pricey. The ultimate one is the R10 which fetches prices higher than the top Canons or many Beaulieus. Rollei cameras were made by Bauer and Chinon except for the XL8 and XL12. Well made, not too expensive, the later non Bauers have a rather boxy bodies. Minolta collaborated with Agfa in the black Movexoom series and made some high quality cameras in the 60s and early 70s which are now very scarce. Sankyo are very common and are generally reliable, good value for money. Other makes I have had no experience of but seem worth trying include Argus, Carena, Cosina, Kopil, Sekonic, Zeiss and Leitz

Watch Out

There are no bad makes just bad cameras even from the top manufacturers. Halina, Photax and Hanimex offer basic cameras with limited complications to go wrong. They should be cheap. Kodak Super 8 in the M and XL ranges seem not too last due to break up of their plastic gears.

Useful Features

This depends on your needs. Animators for example might want frame counters as provided on the Canon 814, 1014 models:

Fiter switch or sensing pin to remove daylight conversion filter conveniently for Ektachrome 100D film

Zoom lens between 5:1 and 10:1 with 8:1 offering the best value for money

Reflex viewfinder with a focussing aid

Single frame for titling, animation or time lapse photography

Electronic release socket for time lapse and remote control

Multiple speeds

Wide range of film speed notch sensing or + or - auto exposure adjustment - see Super8wiki web site.

Camera Check List

When you receive your camera or visit the seller:

Check lens glass condition and cleanliness

Inspect cartridge chamber and body for damage or missing parts

Put in batteries (AA) and button cell if necessary

Check motor runs at normal and slow speeds (not high speeds without film)

Check metering reacts to light (pointer or low light warnig)

Test battery checker works

Operate power zoom (some work only with film transport running)

Insert old Super 8 cartridge and run for 8 to 10s. Check film running OK indicator in viewfinder and try high speed (slow motion)

Ask for manufacturer's instructions, carrying case, box, wrist strap and all accessories. You might even get them.

Good luck and start filming.

 

 

 

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