Regular 8mm or Super 8?

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SurlaCraque
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Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by SurlaCraque » Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:06 am

Hi folks I'm trying to decide what direction to go with my film making. I am a camera nerd, and I got into cine film a few years ago. I got a few Super 8 cameras from that well known internet auction site and shot a few rolls. Strictly home movie family stuff. My town actually had a movie film lab which sadly closed. Anyways, I'd like to start making a few more home movies and for some reason the regular 8mm stuff has captured my attention. I think I just like the aesthetic of the machine age, spring wound Bolexes etc. I have 3 super 8 cameras and they all have issues. Plasticky electronic consumer goods from 40 years ago, I guess it's to be expected. Well I have a minty Nikon R10, which is very solid and probably one of the nicest Super 8 cameras ever made, but my 3 year old at the time knocked over the tripod and now the lens is out of whack. These Super 8 cameras are basically unrepairable. Old Bolexes can actually still be serviced and since there aren't any electronics to corrode that probably helps with their longevity. I also have a Canon 514 - the exposure override feature doesn't work, and it's a simple thing but it takes decent images. I got a Sankyo too, the eyecup is missing which is kind of a hassle and the film door needs resealing I think since the images are a little washed out. I kinda like the idea of having a leather covered metal cine camera with prime lenses that doesn't need batteries. Maybe it has a working light meter, but if not I'll use a hand held (more accurate than any 8mm or super 8 meter) or use the sunny 16 rule.

Film stocks are an issue, but I suppose since Super 8 is more common and is actually used commercially in niche ways (Pro8mm customers), it is likely to be available longer than Regular or Double 8mm?

OK so obviously Super 8 produces a larger image, which, all things being equal, will result in better resolution and ability to project a larger image of the same quality. Are there any advantages to Regular 8? Does the fact that it's 16mm with perforations on both edges mean it has better registration? Or is a electronic super 8 motor steadier? I pencilled out costs and while I think it may have once been cheaper by the foot to purchase and process regular 8mm, I'm not sure that's true any more. You can get super 8 cameras with more automatic features, but on the other hand regular 8mm offer more control. Daylight Super 8 cartridges are much more user friendly than double 8mm spools that have to be loaded and swapped around half way through. But I still use a Rolleicord TLR sometimes so I guess I don't mind a little film loading now and then.

I already have some cameras and a Super 8 projector, so sticking with Super 8 would be easier, but double 8mm stuff isn't too hard to find.

Anyways looking for opinions. How much better is Super 8 image quality? Has film emulsion quality improved to allow 8mm to look better? Couldn't find any side-by-side clips to compare.

Would going for regular 8mm be fetishistic, when for roughly the same cost I can have super 8?

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Charlie Blackfield
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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by Charlie Blackfield » Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:39 pm

Welcome to the forum!

You've already summed up quite eloquently a lot of the advantages and disadvantages of either format. To answer some of your queries as a person who uses both Standard 8 and Super 8 - here we go.

The little Bolex cameras - like my own 1956 B8 - are indeed a good choice for a lot of hobby filmmaking. I use mine fairly regularly when travelling. For one, it's a lot smaller and lighter than most Super 8 cameras. It also has nothing electric whatsoever (not even a light meter - I use a similarly old Weston light meter with it), so no need to worry about batteries, electric motors etc. The fact that it takes prime lenses that can easily be changed is another big bonus. And it shoots a lot of different frame rates, a kind of choice you only find in top-of-the-range Super 8 cameras. And yes, Standard 8 tends to have better registration than Super 8 owing to the different design (although, as far as I know, it has more to do with the pressure plate design than with the double perforation).

There are a few things you need to be aware of. You already mentioned the fiddliness of loading the film and turning it around half way through. I did lose a few of my films by not loading them properly - especially annoying when you've already finished the first half of the film - but I got better at this over time.

One of the most common problems you may find in Standard 8 cameras are worn springs. My camera would normally (if it were new) boost the ability to film up to 1.5 minutes continuously before the motor stops. However, this had already reduced to about 30 seconds when I bought the Bolex in 2007, and is now down to just over 20 seconds. Making sure that you run the motor until it stops whenever you finish a roll of film (unless you're about to film your next roll immediately afterwards) will help delay this deterioration of the spring.

Your choice of film stocks is a bit more limited. Many of them are the same you also get in Super 8 - so there are no issues with lower picture quality, all you have to accept is the smaller image area.

The main drawback on Standard 8 is the very limited choice of processing labs. Home processing is tricky, to say the least, because of having to slit the film along the middle afterwards.

By the way, here's my latest Standard 8 offering (as in the latest I uploaded - I've shot quite a few more Standard 8 rolls since then, mostly during a holiday in Jordan last year): http://vimeo.com/99853999 - sorry I haven't got any direct comparison with Super 8 footage. The film stock used was Wittner's Standard 8 version of Kodak Ektachrome 100D. The weather wasn't great, so the colours aren't quite as nice as they could have been.

Charlei

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by SurlaCraque » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:09 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful response Charlie. I suppose for hobby use either format will work. I'm in the US and film availability seems limited in both formats - purchase and processing is limited to the same few labs. Kodak just stopped making 100D, which was the heralded replacement for Kodachrome? Pro8mm in L.A. specializes in super 8, and have created their own stocks of color negative film, but I'm only interested in reversal film that I can project myself.

Yes I'm looking at the little Bolex cameras so thanks for the information on those. I like the idea of having a small, sturdy, all mechanical camera that travels well. I like the aesthetic myself and I think the novelty factor may disarm your subjects as well. I mostly shoot stills with my DSLR, but occasionally I pull out the Rolleicord - it was my wife's grandfather's camera that I had refurbished - and it's fun to work with and produces wonderful images. It takes a lot more effort to meter and compose a shot, but that's part of the fun, and forces me to be deliberate and thoughtful. Within reason, my family and friends are willing to play along since it's not just another cell phone pic, but a real honest-to-goodness photograph being taken. The same logic applies to shooting film vs video, you've got to plan and compose your shots carefully so as not to waste any precious film.

Regarding the little Bolexes, there is a shop that completely refurbishes them: http://www.bolexrepair.com/ Maybe they could repair your spring, I note they are having a special on their extended CLA service. They sell refurbed cameras for ~$300 on eBay which seems like a lot, but then you know you're getting a "like new" camera.

So I'm still torn between the two formats. I didn't mention before but I do have Canonet Cine 8 I got cheap that I've never used. It has a motor and meter (that takes the obsolete battery but you can just manually expose).

Thanks for the link to the footage - how did you telecine that? I would be interesting to see footage shot on the same type of film, and telecined the same way, between 8mm and Super 8 and see what the differences are.

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by milesandjules » Thu Jul 10, 2014 3:07 am

Yep all the stuff you have mentioned is good….i didn't see a mention of the bolex h8 100ft load capacity mentioned ….which is one of the only small gauge cameras that can shoot a continuous 5min take at 24 frames using an external electric motor. it takes 100ft loads so after you flip the film and shoot both sides its 10mins on the single roll of film at 24fps…..but you have more choices of film stock with super8….unless you get 16mm re perfed to standard 8 :P

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by BAC » Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:28 am

The Bolex cameras are the best and there are tutorials online, including this forum, for repairing them yourself. The Interchangeable lens models like the C8, B8, D8 and H8 are best because of all the lens options. If you buy a fixed lens model and the lens is bad ( fog, mold, scratches, etc.) it's totally useless.

I prefer shooting and projecting Regular 8mm over Super 8 but I do both. The reliability of the cameras is definitely a factor. I also prefer the projectors, the best ones to look for are the Bolex M8 and the Bolex 18-5. Stay away from auto load projectors, they are more prone to damaging film.

I also use an iPhone light meter app to meter the film.

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by doug » Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:52 am

milesandjules wrote:Yep all the stuff you have mentioned is good….i didn't see a mention of the bolex h8 100ft load capacity mentioned ….which is one of the only small gauge cameras that can shoot a continuous 5min take at 24 frames using an external electric motor. it takes 100ft loads so after you flip the film and shoot both sides its 10mins on the single roll of film at 24fps…..but you have more choices of film stock with super8….unless you get 16mm re perfed to standard 8 :P
Very nice camera but rather too heavy and big for normal regular 8mm shooting. I'd just like to make the point that in this age of unlimited duration shots (and super-8 almost provides this, along with digital) generally speaking, most shots when edited are only a few seconds long. A lot of shots in films even last only one second. So I think a 20 to 30 second or so wind in a clockwork camera is sufficient for 98% of ones filming needs. But this is not including those magic moments that sometimes happen as the spring runs out :cry:
Doug
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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by woods01 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 9:12 pm

Regular 8 cameras in general are better than the average super 8. A reflection of the era of manufacturing they come from and the fact they were targeted for a more serious photographer. The cameras are basically free in price comparison and look beautiful, all chrome and leather. But Regular 8 is a niche of a niche market and while capable of quite beautiful images the extra cost and effort of getting film can turn off newcomers. The more limited selection of film is also a problem. If you're willing to put up with that and love using vintage cameras and doing everything fully manual with a light meter then Regular 8 might be perfect for you. I prefer using Super 8 with the built in light meter. As far as image goes, yes super 8 has tighter grain but in a grainy medium owning a camera you love working with is more important than obsessing over grain.

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by Will2 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 9:20 pm

I like the small and inexpensive Regular 8mm cameras so they're easy to carry around like...

Image
Canon Cine Canonet 8 (motorized with auto exposure)

Image
Zeiss Ikon Movikon 8 (wind-up)

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by SurlaCraque » Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:06 pm

So I went ahead I did it, got a Bolex B8 and a Revere P90 projector off craigslist yesterday. I looked at bolexcollector.com to acquaint myself first, and the camera checked out nicely. The spring wound up 11 turns and it advanced the film counter past 6 ft. The manual (the original came with the camera!) says a full wind should get you 7 ft, so I figured the spring is in ok condition. Total run time on the spring was 34 secs. Maybe it would advance less with film loaded IDK. All the other features seemed to work as well and it came with the grip, manuals, a decayed leather case and two lenses: a 12.5mm 2.5 Yvar fixed focus and a Schneider-Kreuznech Cinegon 1:1.8/5.5 wide angle with the viewfinder adaptor mounted. The viewfinder is a little squinty and dusty, I was able to improve the view a bit by cleaning the exterior surfaces. The lenses are in good shape, likewise I carefully cleaned the outer surfaces.

I guess the Yvar was the bargain lens in 12.5mm, does the fixed focus mean it's a little less sharp, or is it a good lens just slower (f2.5) than the Switars? Actually since focusing these cameras is done by scale and guesswork, I guess a fixed focus has some advantages in that say shooting my kids from the hip running around in an unprepared shot I won't have to worry about the focus. Likewise I could give the camera to my wife or a friend and once I've set the exposure they can shoot without having to worry about the focus. On the aperture ring on the Yvar there are distance markings in feet under the f-stops, I assume that these indicate the minimum distance the camera must be from the subject because as you stop the lens down, the distance gets larger, I assume corresponding to the reduced depth of field.

The Cinegon 1.8 5.5mm has a focus ring, but I'm guessing that a wide angle lens set at a reasonable aperture (say >f8 in an outdoor shot with 100ASA) will have such a large depth of field that it can essentially be set at a hyperfocal distance.

The projector is a gorgeous piece of machinery and everything seems to work. I don't have any film yet to try it out. The outer element of the lens seems a bit fogged unfortunately. The outer portion of the lens, labelled 27mm wide angle, screws out, so I'm thinking that it's a wide angle adapter and that film can be projected without it? Meaning that the projected image will be smaller but perhaps crisper.

I am curious about servicing the camera, but it seems like it will work fine now to try out. If anyone has a link to servicing it, I'm all ears. I have a roll of film that's a few years old, but has been refridgerated, so I think I'll give it a try today, hopefully I don't screw up the loading process, I wish I had some junk film to practice with.

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by Mmechanic » Sat Jul 12, 2014 9:33 am

Only very rarely a spring is down. With a spring drive movie camera, if it doesn’t purr nicely anymore, it’s the mechanism that’s clogged with dry grease and dirt, above all the speed governor. I have removed 85-year old springs from cameras, taken them out of the barrel, everything is like on the first day. They are made from special steel.

Regular Eight has a handful of advantages. One is its relation to the 16-mm. format. As long as 16 is alive, Double Eight will be around and vice versa. Perforators are actually the same, only the tools are exchanged, i. e. punches and die. In the heydays of small gauge movie making the film manufacturers used rotary perforators that run at high speeds. Precision was close to what is achievable with intermittent perforating, good enough for the trade.

Next, you have the rectangular perforation holes perpendicular to the film edges like with all other formats. Super-8 has them upright and offering the transporting devices the shorter line. Practice has shown that the crosswise design is superior, mechanically.

Thirdly, the double width of the film relative to the image size leads to a very good registration under the basic conditions of film guidance. Also the edges of the band are factory-made and are the reference edge in the projector. A non straight cut from splitting the processed stock remains without effect on (lateral) steadiness.

Then the apparatus. Most Regular Eight cameras can be kept in good shape. Projectors are often well made, the older models have metal gears. One can maintain her or his gear for money that’s well invested. Only viewers tend to be not so film friendly. Today one has the chance to acquire equipment that have stood the test of time. Once very expensive models are on sale for a song. El dorado

Processing. Regular Eight goes as 16, therefore again system compatibility will persist.

Hands on. Contrary to the idiotic cybernetics cartridge one is free to touch the pellicle. One can practice handling film and to load 25 foot of Double Eight film into a camera, I can only call out, is a matter of twenty seconds. Push the film into the receiving spool core slot, wind on two turns, hold both spools under your palms, introduce two buckles with your forefingers, and slide it. Lacing projectors is a satisfying activity, too. At least for me

I have a mechanic workshop with milling machine, lathe, drill press, punch press, lever scissors, saw, grinding equipment, measuring instruments, tools, collimator. For a Paillard-Bolex pocket camera overhaul I take Fr. 250 (about $280 today), two years warranty.

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by SurlaCraque » Sat Jul 12, 2014 7:43 pm

OK so I shot my first half roll of 8mm yesterday and went to flip the spools this morning and have discovered problems. Even though the film counter showed the film past the 25ft point, and I ran it for 10 secs after to be sure that all the film was on the take up spool, when I opened the camera (in semi-darkness) to invert the spools, I found that there was lots of film left on the supply spool. The takeup spool doesn't seem to work properly, I noticed this when loading. The spool doesn't lock into place on the spindle, and the film tends to want to unwind from the spool. I try to hand wind the spool so that the film is taught, but when I put the spool on the spindle it just wants to unwind, and the spool doesn't seem to lock securely into place. I thought maybe the door needs to be closed to properly lock the spool into position, but that doesn't seem to have worked. Help! Is there something wrong with my camera?

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by Mmechanic » Sun Jul 13, 2014 8:42 am

The spools have 3- and 4-splined spindle holes. There is only one way to put them in place (with one or two exceptions of cameras, not Paillard). Turn the spools until they’re really seated properly. The door must close without force, only the locking spring should be felt.

You open the film gate by swinging its lever to the rear (away from the lens). The pressure plate can then be pulled out for cleaning. It slips and snaps under two bronze blade springs. The lateral film guide is secured by the steel blade spring in the door. Make sure the film is all the way down in the gate and check whether that spring is not bent or broken.

The last point is the take-up spindle. Does it turn with the mechanism rolling? Is it stuck? Your camera is about 60 years old, sticky grease is to be expected. I strongly recommend a check-up by a trained technician. If the winding key feels sandy on turning, the camera is in need of revision. Complete disassembly, thorough cleaning, fresh lubricants, adjustment.

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by cameratech » Sun Jul 13, 2014 12:34 pm

I'm pretty sure that on Bolex Pocket cameras like the B8 the take-up spindle has a single spring leaf that needs to lock into one of the spool slots, so it doesn't matter about the 3 or 4 spline thing. (At least that's how my D8 is, I don't have a B8 here to check but I don't recall them being different in terms of the spindles.) Normally it should lock in either when you load the spool or once the camera starts running, but it's possible the spring leaf is not poking out enough, or even broken (on one of my cameras it broke). If the spindle itself isn't turning, the gear hidden beneath may have come loose or something. To be safe, after loading I always test that the take- up is turning properly by running it for a second or two. I also check that the film is properly located in the gate and being fed through by the claw. If the spool isn't fully seated on the spindle or is damaged it can rub against the door which will also stop the take-up.

You can test the take-up without film, for starters the spindle should turn when the camera runs. Then fit an empty spool and stop it with your fingers while running the camera. It should slip without too much force, and start turning again once you let it go.

I wrote a guide to lubricating Pocket Bolex cameras on my blog:
http://cinetinker.blogspot.com.au/2013/ ... x-d8l.html

Most commonly I've found it's the main bearing behind the brown gear that dries out and causes a camera to run slow, a drop of oil there will often make quite a difference.

Double 8 takes a bit of practice to feel confident, but I prefer it to S8. As others have said, the cameras are often beautifully made, the little prime lenses like jewels, and with everything manual you have to get a bit more involved. The extra grain is, for me, part of the reason to shoot small format film, and you also get the beautiful burn ins and outs and flashes that come with spool loading. Good luck with it!
Dom Jaeger
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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by SurlaCraque » Tue Jul 15, 2014 12:23 am

Thanks for the input cameratech and Mmechanic. Regarding the spools, it's a bit confusing, but I'm assuming the "1" is supposed to be up for the first run through and the "II" or "2" for the second after you flip the spools. The metal spool that came with the camera appears to be identical on both sides, and has 4 splined spindle holes. The plastic spool that came with the film has a four splined hole on the "I" side and a three splined hole on the "2" side. The two side also has an arrow indicating the direction of rotation. It makes sense that the 2 side would face up on the take up reel for the second running, as this puts the 4 splined hole on the bottom like the other spool and the top also has a slightly raised ring that seems to mate with the raised ring on the lid box.

The take up spindle spins smoothly and for >30 secs on a full wind so I think the motor is operating satisfactorily. The camera appears to be in decent condition, and while perhaps it could use a servicing to re-oil things, I don't think the camera is defective. Cameratech, I didn't see an leaf spring on the take up spindle, there's only a slot cut part way up the outer sleeve of the spindle for one of the spool splines to sit in. It doesn't seem like very secure design, but the spool does behave as you describe when I test it, running turning with the spindle and slipping without much force. Oh btw I saw that other post, and the rubber "roller" just below the film gate on my camera doesn't move at all in either direction, I'm not sure if it's supposed to.

So the first time I ran the camera, it didn't take up all the film, but the second time it did. I followed instructions when loading the spools, but what I found was that the take up spool, being not very securely held (by design I suppose) actually unwound due to the pressure of the film that was wrapped around it. The film wants to straighten itself out and with only a wind or two around the spindle it created a enough pressure to unwind the spool. I found this frustrating. Do I need to forcefully bend the film after inserting it into the slot in the spool so as to force it to start winding around the spool and to eliminate the straightening pressure it exerts? Should I not worry to much about the film not winding tightly around the spindle?

I only had one roll of film and given it's scarcity and the cost of buying and developing it, I wanted to actually use it, but maybe I should just sacrifice this roll as a practice roll. Maybe I've fogged it already. I want to keep using the camera and perhaps I will get it serviced, there's a operation in the US that will do it for around $100, but I thought I'd see if it's functional first.
Last edited by SurlaCraque on Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:19 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Regular 8mm or Super 8?

Post by SurlaCraque » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:11 am

Ok here's a pic of the camera showing the take-up spindle if this helps. That slot in the sleeve takes the film spool spline I guess. Is there supposed to be a spring clip or something there? Does this look normal?
Image

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