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Shooting With Super 8 Vintage Movie Cameras

Despite the advancements in digital technology and the availability of state-of-the-art movie cameras with all the bells and whistles, there's something that's still alluring about vintage cameras, such as the Super 8. Utilizing an 8mm Super film, they saw widespread use throughout the 1970s and 1980s by amateur movie makers and home video enthusiasts. You can still find models today, such as the Bell and Howell Autoload, in sound working order, and others that are more suited to display pieces.

What Is a Super 8 Movie Camera?

Originally manufactured in 1965, the Super 8 is a motion picture camera designed to use the Super 8mm film format, which was the successor of the Standard 8mm film.

  • Originally formatted to film at 18 frames per second, they increased to 24 frames per second and faster as camera technology improved.
  • Most of the Super 8 vintage movie cameras on the market are from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, although some updated models released in recent years with modern technical features.
  • The 8mm film stocks sell in 15-meter-length cartridges, although there are stocks up to 61 meters, and most are reversal film rather than negative stocks.

What Should You Consider When Buying Super 8 Vintage Movie Cameras?

It's important to keep in mind when shooting with Super 8mm cameras that you need to carefully plan your scenes before shooting, as you don't have the luxury of endless storage capacity as with digital movie cameras. You also need to develop the film before you can see the finished results, which may take up to a few weeks, particularly when you have to have someone develop the film for you.

  • As the viewfinder of some Super 8mm Autoload cameras is not sharp, you need to measure the focal distance of your subject to make sure it's within its focal range before you start shooting.
  • You can find vintage movie camera models and film by a range of different brands, including those by Bell and Howell, a U.S.-based manufacturer of motion picture machinery established back in 1907. In addition to its Super 8mm cameras, it also made 16mm and 35mm sound projectors and printing equipment used in motion picture film laboratories.
  • While some vintage camera models still have sound operation or are serviceable, others sell as display pieces that can create an interesting talking point in your home. The nostalgic aesthetic of these cameras makes for a unique piece of home decor for film or movie making enthusiasts.

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