Kodak unveiled their new super-8 camera at CES 2016.
That’s right. The company that hasn’t made a super-8 camera in – what? 30 years? – the company who took our Kodachrome away (Kodachrome being the super-8 film stock), the company that went int bankruptcy, has released a new super-8 camera… into a world where everyone has HD video on their mobile phones.
Now, I’ve been saying for decades that it doesn’t really matter what you shoot on; it’s whether you do it right. Story, lighting, acting… All of the techniques needed to make an acceptable film instead of a ‘home movie’. So you can make a good ‘film’ on your phone if you know what you’re doing. And a lot of people do. But ten or 15 or so years ago, everyone wanted to shoot video. And why not? It’s cheaper than film, and you get instant gratification. It’s easier to edit. But, aside from that film has a quality that still cannot be duplicated on video, there’s been an ‘arms race’ on the equipment side. DV gave way to HD DV. Cameras have been touting higher and higher resolutions. If you bought a camera, it would be ‘obsolete’ before it arrived in its overnight package.
Film, on the other hand, is film. Your modern stock will run through a brand new motion picture camera the same as it will run through a 60-year-old wind-up Bolex. Sure, your Arri 416 is quiet enough to shoot sound. Sure, newer cameras have a wider choice of lenses than the C-mount on an H16 will accept. But the film still goes into the gate, stops for 1/24 second, and goes on its way. If you’re a filmmaker on a budget, you can get silent 16 mm cameras (native or modified to super 16) going back to the early-70s that work just as well as the newest ones. More and more indie filmmakers are picking up film cameras instead of HD cameras, abandoning the ‘arms race’, and getting back to the old-school way of doing things.
But here’s a question: With super-16 being so cheap nowadays, why opt for super-8? I can think of a few reasons. Sixteen is still more expensive than super-8. Most films are going to go straight to video or straight to streaming, so a larger format isn’t needed. Super-8 has a different quality than larger formats, which many people like. Several iconoclastic directors like the format. And you have to admit, super-8 is just cool. But is there really enough interest to bring out a new super-8 camera? Kodak thinks so. Pro 8mm thinks so. I hope it is so.
It’s a little exciting, anyway. I have a Beaulieu 4008 ZM2 that I wanted to use for a project last Summer. Maybe I’ll get a chance this year. Oh, and Kodak is selling their Vision 3 negative stock in super-8 cartridges. Nice.