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How Do Super 8 Cameras Work?

When people view the past. they often look at it through the lens of home movies, and people made many of those films using Super 8 cameras. For many people with a nostalgic eye, that flickering view has become synonymous with the past.

What's the Difference Between 8 mm and Super 8?

While both formats use film stock that is 8 mm wide, they are very different both in use and in packaging. One feature that both formats do share is that unlike most other film stock, they only have sprocket holes along one side of the film. In most other ways, they are very different:

  • Regular 8 mm: Comes in an open reel format and features large sprocket holes between the individual frames. Each frame is 0.130 by 0.177 inches.
  • Super 8: Comes in a cartridge format and features smaller sprocket holes alongside the individual frames. Each frame is 0.158 by 0.228 inches.

What Features Did Super 8 Cameras Offer?

One thing to be aware of is that most home cine cameras of the mid-twentieth century were actually silent. Video with sound didn't become a common part of home movies until the switch from film cameras to video tape. Despite the limitations, many cameras of the period actually offered much to the amateur photographer in search of a movie camera:

  • Yashica Super 825: This silent camera needed 4 AA batteries and featured manual zoom and automatic exposure control. The eyepiece was adjustable and featured through-the-lens viewing just like SLR cameras.
  • Yashica Super-600 Electro: Also silent, this camera offered the choice of three filming speeds: 12, 18, and 24 frames per second. It also offered the choice of automatic and manual exposure control with up to 6x zoom.

Choosing a Super 8 Camera

As with any piece of photographic equipment, the first thing to look at when searching for the right movie camera is the lens. From there, look for a metal body and the number of features. It's just like getting an FX-3 SLR camera; you can get a good movie camera if you just take the time to make sure of the condition and lenses. Vintage film photography is an interesting hobby, and adding motion gives you a whole new range of artistic expression.

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