Super 8 Camera Update
January 09, 2018
Here are some highlights from footage shot on the new KODAK Super 8 Camera.
November 29, 2017
In January of 2016 at the Consumer Electronics Show, Kodak announced that it would be making a new Super 8 camera. Even in these early stages the response was energetic.
At CES in 2017, we brought along a working prototype and were able to show the camera in action, exposing film in the booth to onlookers. We were also able to share for the first time footage shot on the new camera.
The LCD flip out monitor, audio record input and C-Mount lens are some of the key additional features to the camera. There is also a wider gate, which is about 11% larger than the traditional Super 8 camera.
Creating a new analog Super 8 camera in today's digital world came with many complexities. As Kodak’s own Program Director for the Super 8 Camera, Steve Parsons, explains:
Steve: Our biggest challenge has been rebuilding the engineering knowledge that’s been lost over the last few decades since the last Super 8 cameras were produced in volume. Our design engineers have had to re-learn lessons that at one time were common, accumulated knowledge in the industry, so there’s been some trial and error as we’ve gone through that process. But it’s been an evolving base of knowledge.
Holger Schwaerzel, Product Manager for the Super 8 Camera, has been integrally working on this project.
Holger: The last super 8 cameras [made] in mass production have been produced [in the] middle of the 80s and all those assembly lines and production companies have closed down their workshops and that’s why we really started from scratch when we decided to produce the super 8 camera again.
Kodak has a long history of bringing heirloom products to the market, products that can be passed down through generations. This requires the utmost scrutiny and attention to detail.
Holger: The key parts are the film transport, so whenever the film is being exposed the film has to be transported by one frame. And as this iconic design also had some changes in the handling of the camera – we, for example, added the LCD display – the internal [hard]ware changed and all these parts have to be designed and created with a mechanical performance. Our goal was to create a Super 8 camera which is better than the Super 8 which we have seen in the past. That means the entire mechanical transport and the core of this camera is very precise. It has to be built very precise and that’s where the journey starts.
Steve: We’re on the verge of testing our latest design of the drive train, and that testing will help us to understand whether the current design will meet our rigorous performance standards.
One of our largest challenges is finding suppliers that are capable of making these precise parts.
Holger: These suppliers have to really deliver parts and elements which are in a very tight tolerance. When you think about it, film has to be transported 24 times in a second and pulled down, expose the next frame, pulled down, expose the next frame -- that’s really something where the heart of the camera is being challenged and where the performance has to be outstanding to really have a good image quality.
Testing has been part of the manufacturing process at every step. Steve Parsons mentioned the drive train, but it goes beyond just the mechanical parts.
Steve: We’ll go into reliability testing for the overall camera. We’ll be going into chambers and testing at high temperatures and low temperatures. We’ll be doing live testing to make sure the camera will be robust and perform over the expected life of the camera.
In addition to some of the added features, there have been some enhancements to the functional quality as well.
Holger: We are still using the same cartridge system, but we focused a lot on the film gate, where the film is being guided, where the film is being stabilized during the process of getting an image exposed. And that’s where this camera really has improved a lot. The steadiness of the image which is always impacting the image quality as an overall impression has been dramatically improved.
At some points in the stage, certain materials were not working so the process had to begin anew, again only accepting that which enables outstanding performance quality.
The original design concept was created by the Fuse Project and Yves Behar.
Yves: I think there was a legacy in quality. There’s a legacy in the craft, and to me, that’s where I start. I don’t tend to look at what’s already there and duplicate this design or replicate this texture or material. But I do think that you can represent the qualities of Kodak and the boldness in ways that will feel very Kodak but are very new. So that’s the way we approached the Super 8 Camera both from a materiality standpoint – how its built, constructing an object that is going to feel solid and that’s going to be reliable, and that’s going to communicate the quality of film and also doing something that is strong visually that is a statement from Kodak saying, “We’re back and we’re proud.” And I think all those things were really fun and interesting to insert into the design of it.
Another part of the testing process has been allowing filmmakers to shoot with the camera prototypes so Kodak could get feedback directly from the types of people who will be using the new camera in a variety of settings and situations.
Steve: We’ve gotten good feedback on image quality as well as the usability of the camera.
Filmmakers Will Mayo and Ian Scott MacGreggor recently shot their latest film with the camera:
Ian: I think that a camera like this being accessible to younger filmmakers is actually vitally important to the creative community at large because up until now, up until this camera, you had to either work on refurbished cameras or vintage equipment that, of course, didn’t give you the flexibility that this is ultimately going to give younger filmmakers and making film accessible. Film is an amazing medium.
Will: I would say that it makes it as easy to use as any DSLR Camera.
Cinematographer Nick Green, who was involved in Kodak and Girl Skateboard’s collaboration, had a chance to take the camera on a skate trip.
Nick: Usually when your shooting a Super 8, you’re looking through this tiny, little eye piece, so small that you constantly wonder if you got it. But when you’re watching it through there [the KODAK Super 8 Camera], you’re so much more confident, like “Okay, I know I got this for sure.” You can get lower, you can get higher. And then the interchangeable lens option is amazing. And it has the pistol grip in the front and then that grip on the bottom. So, if you wanted to do a follow line it was way easier. It’s just insane.
Stephanie Hough and Ben Popp of the Northwest Film Center were able to use the prototype at film workshops, allowing students to have hands-on experience using the camera.
Stephanie: I think across the board, everyone was really excited to get hands on with the camera. The students who had never touched a film camera before, they found it just really easy to load and to navigate and to use. And I think it felt more familiar to them to a digital camera that they have been using because of the digital interface and being able to have an audio recording option and just how I think they were pleasantly surprised how simple it was to load the film and the battery and just how easy the whole process was. I think some of the film veterans who have shot with film before, they also found it familiar to other Super 8 cameras that they’ve used. Again, really simple and streamlined with the added bonus of being able to manipulate the image, being able to change the lenses, being able to have some of those digital menu features, like being able to have a log of the different rolls you’re shooting.
Ben: Especially in terms of instruction where one person can be doing the main shooting, but the other people standing around are able to kind of see what was going on. I think that it was really beneficial.
Clay Patrick McBride from the Rochester Institute of Technology was also able to work with the camera.
Clay: One thing I like is that you’re not having to hold it up to your eye to shoot with it, right? That you can kind of frame, compose and hold it away from your body and see your composition. And as a filmmaker, you’re not blocked from the experience. You’re still able to see the experience and engage with it without a camera being in front of your face and shutting you off from your experience. So, you can still connect with subjects. You can still connect with whatever you’re shooting 100% and not have to hold a camera up to your face and kind of create this shield or mask that kind of takes you away from connecting with your subject matter. I think that’s a really important thing that it does. So often we hold a camera to our face and then we’re no longer a person. That is intimidating, right? So, this idea that I can hold the camera away from my body and still see my frame and composition and be able to connect as a director, as a person, as an artist, with my subject matter is radical.
It was also announced that Kodak would be releasing a new online platform for film development - the KODAK Darkroom. This process is well on its way and will be showcased at CES in 2018.
The Darkroom will enable customers to purchase film and processing. Kodak will provide the address to ship the cartridge. The lab will process the film, scan the film, upload the scans into the Darkroom and notify the customer that the scans are available to begin using. This lets filmmakers access their imagery before receiving the physical film back. Prior to the launch of the Darkroom, film labs that currently develop are listed on kodak.com.
We know so many have been eagerly awaiting the new camera, and we appreciate your patience. We hope this gives you a sense of the journey we’ve been on to create the only film camera ever to combine analog capture with digital tools, and make sure it’s of the same quality and performance you expect from Kodak. While an exact pricing has not been established, the unit cost will be around $2,500 to $3,000. The camera will be available to purchase on kodak.com and through select retailers in 2018. It will also be available internationally in select countries. To keep up to date, go to kodak.com/go/super8.