While some of you are still shooting a few rolls here and there, the format that was once synonymous with home movies might just be making a comeback 50 years after Kodak made their first camera. With analog formats getting a new lease on life lately, including film, Kodak is pushing forward with a brand new Super 8mm camera — one that combines analog film with the ease of shooting on digital, like the addition of a flip out LCD screen for shooting (rather than an optical viewfinder), and other digital connections on the back. According to the Wall Street Journal, this model will cost between $400 and $750, but a much cheaper model will be coming out in 2017:
The first new Super 8, expected to arrive in a limited-edition version in the fall of 2016, was conceived with help from the industrial designer Yves Behar. It is likely to cost between $400 to $750, Mr. Clarke estimated. Processing the film should cost $50 to $75 a cartridge, he said.
- Film Gauge: Super 8 (Extended Max-8 Gauge)
- Film Load: Kodak Cartridges with 50ft (15m)
- Variable Speed (9, 12, 18, 24, 25 fps) all with Crystal Sync
- Mount: C-Mount
- Fixed Ricoh 6mm 1.2, Optional 8-48mm Zoom Lens
- Manual Focus and Iris
- Viewfinder: 3.5" Display with Standard Definition Input & Swivels +/- 45 Degrees
- Exposure Control: Built-in Light Meter for Supported Speeds of All Kodak Film Types, Manual Speed/Iris Settings
- Integrated Battery and Charger via Standard USB Wall Adapter
- Integrated Microphone
- Control Panel: Via 3.5" TFT LCD
- Settings: Jog Wheel As User Interface
- Price: First Limited Edition — $400 - $750, Cheap Version Coming Later
The company has certainly seen a steady stream of filmmakers choose film over the last few years since they left bankruptcy, but this has mostly been at the high end with the much more expensive 35mm or crazy-expensive 65mm (in the case of IMAX and filmmakers like Quention Tarantino). Super 8mm film doesn't quite give you the running time of those formats based on the cartridge system (a 50 foot cartridge is only around 2.5 minutes), but for most people just trying to experiment with the format this won't be a problem, especially since filmmakers have been shooting on wind-up Bolex 16mm cameras that only give you around 30 seconds maximum per shot.
Buy Film, Processing, and Digital Transfer in One Step
Here's where things will get a lot more simple though with Kodak's plan. While Super 8mm processing is getting harder to find and more expensive, Kodak is apparently planning to offer services to process the film themselves and give you a digital file. It's unclear what kind of scan they'd be doing, or whether it's just a simple telecine, but a lot of this plan makes sense, as many people would like to experiment with film, but they don't want the complications that come with trying to get it back in a digital form. Here's more from them on that:
Shooting Analogue has never been so easy. When you purchase film you will be buying the film, processing and digital transfer. The lab will send you your developed film back and email you a password to retrieve your digital scans from the cloud so you can edit and share in any way you choose.
It will be interesting whether they do offer a 2K log scan to get the most out of the film, or maybe there will even be options for a 4K scan, which is beyond the limit of what Super 8mm can resolve (but film formats are usually scanned at higher than intended resolutions to avoid aliasing — like scanning 35mm at 6K). Here's Phil Vigeant of Pro8mm talking about a 4K scan:
That's going to decide whether this new venture succeeds. If Kodak can make it really easy to send in rolls of film (and Super 8mm is already simple to load into the camera), then they'll get plenty of people trying it out who might otherwise not have — and there's a good chance they'll bring out the nostalgia in folks who used to use the format as a kid, and might want to try it out a few more times.
Processing has actually been the bigger issue for years with so many labs closing, and if Kodak can keep the processing/digitizing costs down — Super 8mm is already relatively inexpensive enough (under $50 for a 50' cartridge) that I could see it making a comeback. According to their plan, they'll be including the processing/scanning if you buy the film from them. We've seen a big jump in analog formats over the last few years as folks jump on products like the medium format Holga or Impossible Project's new instant film "Polaroid" technology. It wouldn't be a stretch to think these same people might want to try out motion picture film if the processing is simple.
This isn't the first time we've seen people try to bring the format into the digital age, as the recent Logmar Super 8mm camera that we've written about a few times combines the best of digital and Super 8mm, doing many things Kodak plans to do with their camera:
Here's some footage shot with the Logmar camera and scanned to give you the entire negative:
What Some of the Biggest Filmmakers are Saying
There are also no shortage of big Hollywood filmmakers who are behind this decision, like Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams, not only for the film reasons, but also the nostalgia reasons:
At 7 years old, director and producer Christopher Nolan began making short movies with his father’s Super 8 camera. "The news that Kodak is enabling the next generation of filmmakers with access to an upgraded and enhanced version of the same analog technology that first made me fall in love with cinematic storytelling is unbelievably exciting,” said Nolan.
"For me, 8mm was the beginning of everything,” said Academy Award®-winning director Steven Spielberg. “When I think of 8mm, I think of the movies.”
“While any technology that allows for visual storytelling must be embraced, nothing beats film,” said JJ Abrams, writer and director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. "The fact that Kodak is building a brand new Super 8 camera is a dream come true. With a gorgeous new design, interchangeable lenses and a brilliant scheme for development and delivery of footage, this camera appears to be the perfect bridge between the efficiency of the digital world and the warmth and quality of analog.”
While hobbyists and filmmakers will make up some portion of this market, Kodak is hoping that a big supporter will be film schools, especially those that no longer offer film. By making the process as simple and as inexpensive as possible, and by making the tools easy to use, Kodak is hoping they can get film in the hands of people who might not otherwise have ever shot on it — and maybe convert a few along the way who will choose film on bigger projects when they have the budget.
It also seems as if they've got two slightly different versions, or one of these is the cheaper mass-market version that will come out later:
I'm sure we're going to get many more details as we come closer to release, but in the meantime, you can check out Kodak's Super 8 camera site here.