Every few months or so I once again see promos for the upcoming — it’s been coming soon for what seems like years — Kodak Super 8 camera.
In case you missed it, essentially this is the rebirth of 1960s/70s era Kodak cameras that used film (Brownie, Instamatic, Super 8). It’s sort of retro cool looking… in a geeky film student/hipster sort of way:
It features a flip-out LCD screen on the side and a bunch of ports on the back, along with a power button. The pistol grip design should make the Super 8 convenient for action shooting (there’s also a built-in grip at the top which should make capturing skateboard and low-to-the-ground shots relatively easy).
The idea is that you record onto Super 8 film in 50-foot lengths (I can’t seem to find anywhere how much recording time that will provide, but it doesn’t sound like much). Then, just like the good old days, you send the film to Kodak who processes the film and sends it back to you as a finished film alongside a digital copy.
Per Adorama, the Kodak Super 8 features a 6mm f/1.2 manual focus lens. That should give you plenty of flexibility in capturing wide shots in addition to potentially doing well in low light situations (i.e. that time you record your spouse’s birthday party in Super 8 while dancing with hula hoops).
We know most of the specs on this thing, but not the price. PetaPixel originally expected it to be in the $400-750 range. But now we’re hearing $2,500-3,000. If true, ouch, that’s a heck of a lot to dole out for a grainy image!
I’m not sure what to think about this whole thing.
Is this just a stunt buy Kodak?
Or are they seriously trying to tap into our nostalgia and the love of all things film that we’re seeing on the Big Screen (Star Wars, Dunkirk, etc.) and hoping we’ll want it in our homes as well?
There’s a few things that strike me as odd:
1. You can simulate the film look quite easily without actually shooting on film
Don’t just love Instagram filters? Tap one, and you’re boring, saturated travel photo all of a sudden looks like a Vogue prize winner. Same can be done today with video. There’s plenty of film like stock effects and LUTs (look up tables) that can be applied to make everyday video look vintage, or cinematic, or hipster cool. Yes, it’s still not film. True. But it can very close… without the expense and inconvenience of working with actual film. It’s largely why digital has grown so popular in recent years.
2. Film students would be better served working with something like a Blackmagic Camera
Want to shoot cool film school short films, but only have a small piggy bank of savings? Get a Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera (or the Pocket). Stateside they go for $995. And they give you beautiful looking, filmic footage. And the stuff gets recorded onto an SD card. Which, incidentally, is exactly how you’d need to load your Kodak Super 8 footage into an editing program. At some point, unless you plan to cut physical film like you’re editing The French Connection, then you’ll need to work with digital. Also, that’s how you’ll deliver to YouTube anyways. So even if you start with film, you’ll end up with digital. So why not just get something like a low-cost Blackmagic camera and stick with digital all the way through? You’ll be able to tell your story the same way with virtually the same look.
3. Weirdest of all… it seems like Kodak never intends to really sell this Super 8 camera…
Maybe this whole Super 8 thing was an experiment. Maybe management is testing demand. Or maybe the idea was to generate press and in this world of low-cost digital cameras to keep Kodak in the headlines. If that’s the case then, well, then they’ve done a pretty good job. For what I’m not sure. But at least we’re here talking about Kodak.
Short Films Shot on Kodak Super 8
Meantime, Kodak has been sharing some shorts that have been shot on the new (upcoming!) Super 8 camera. Hint: before you even click you know how these are going to look and feel. Long like 60s hipsters!
I especially like that the Super 8 uses a C mount. That means I can easily attach that vintage Angenieux zoom lens I bought on eBay and run around the streets of San Francisco like a Jean-Luc Godard wannabe.
Regardless what happens next I’ll keep following Kodak’s journey. If anything it’s fun to watch a company try creative things, even if it’s a quasi-product, quasi-marketing, quasi-real thing that’s hard to entirely figure out.