This piece concentrates on Super-8 cine cameras,
which are those most often purchased from us for film-making, rather
than collecting. A discussion of film gauges - the advantages and
disadvantages of each - can be found in Cine
Most Super-8 cine cameras have
non-interchangeable lenses, usually a zoom. The normal
zoom range is from about 10 mm. to 25 mm. although a few
cameras offer anything up to about 12 to 1
If you are absolutely certain you need
an interchangeable lens, then the only camera likely to
suit you is a French-made Beaulieu. These cameras have a
C-mount for lenses, but the Beaulieu cameras have other
disadvantages, among which is their unique rechargeable
battery system and the high cost of the equipment. For
more about Beaulieu, see Pieces
If you need a long zoom range, the
Canon 1014 is one of several cameras with a 10 to 1 zoom,
and the much less common Canon 1214 has a 12 to 1 zoom.
For more about Canon super-8 cameras, see Pieces
The shortest focal length you are
likely to find is 6 - 7 mm., although some Eumig and
Bolex models offer 4 mm. with an aspheric
Some cameras have a power zoom. This
may be powered by an independent motor or by the camera
drive motor. In the latter case, the power zoom will not
operate unless the camera is running. In a few cases, the
power zoom offers variable speeds.
Some lenses have macro facilities, others claim to
be macro but offer a very limited close-up capability. If you need
macro, check the camera's capabilities carefully. The Bolex 480 cameras, the Canon 1014 and the Eumig Viennette all offer good close-up performance (although not true 1:1 macro). Remember that light
is always a problem, especially with a zoom lens, so depth of field
can be very limited. An XL camera (see Shutter
section for more about XL) eases these problems somewhat, but does
not eliminate them. (Eumig
Remember also that a macro zoom lens
usually uses the zoom movement to effect focusing; thus,
the camera loses the zoom facility when working with
macro. A close-up lens, fitted to the front of the lens
(like any other filter), may give just as good results
and preserves the use of the zoom.
Note that on cameras which offer through the lens
focusing, a zoom lens should be zoomed to the longest focal length
for focusing and then reset to the required focal length for filming.
Eumig made a number of cine cameras with "servofocusing" which selects
the ideal focus depending on the zoom setting - in effect, they have
fixed focus zoom lenses. These are much easier and quicker to use,
but not as versatile. (Eumig
Eumigette, Eumig Mini 3, Eumig Viennette)
Some Super-8 cameras have the
designation 'XL'. This means the camera has some
low-light capability. We have used several of these
cameras of different makes, and in general we have found
their performance in low light to be good, but when used
in bright light the performance may be less
Most Super-8 cameras have electric
drive and therefore require batteries. Some cameras were
designed to use mercury batteries for exposure
metering/setting, and it is worth checking this before
purchasing a camera, as not all sizes are available
The only clockwork Super-8 camera
which I know of is the Russian Quarz cine camera. These
are still available new, but secondhand examples are not
easy to find.
By the time Super-8 came out (1965),
the silent filming speed had been pretty well established
as 18 f.p.s. Some cameras also have 24 f.p.s., which is the speed to use for sound films. A few cameras also offer 25 f.p.s. to accommodate the TV speed (50 f.p.s.).
A good slow
motion speed is about 48 or 54 f.p.s. - you are unlikely
to find anything which offers a higher speed than 54
For animation the camera should have
single frame. Some cameras offer single frame only if a
cable release is used, while others have a control on the
camera. A cable release socket can make some types of
trick photography more difficult e.g. when the camera is
hand-held in the street, but generally there is not much
to choose between the two approaches.
Never run a cine camera at speeds of
more than 24 f.p.s. unless there is a film in the camera.
Some cameras have a 'slow motion' button; to use this it
is necessary to start filming and then press the
If your style of filming includes a
lot of panning shots you may find 24 f.p.s. useful as
this slows the speed of the pan down slightly.
A few Super-8 cine cameras offer
filming speeds slower than 18 f.p.s. Filming at a slow
speed will speed up the action on the screen and allow
exposure in poor light.
Most Super-8 cameras have automatic
exposure control; many also have a manual override. We
have used cameras with automatic metering and manual
override and found that in general the metering system
does better than we do at getting the correct exposure. A
CdS meter requires batteries, and in older cameras
mercury batteries were specified. These batteries are
officially no longer available in many countries, but a
suitable alternative can usually be found. A bit of
"bodging" may be necessary. It is amazing what can be
achieved with a ball of silver paper off a "Kit-Kat".
Check that a suitable battery is still available. Some
cameras have one set of batteries to power both the meter
and the drive. Sometimes the release has to be partially
depressed to switch on the meter, which can be
Reflex viewing is useful, but check
that camera also has reflex focusing if this is important
to you. Some cameras, especially the compact cameras like
the Canon 310XL, have reflex viewing using an aerial
image which is good for framing the shot but which does
not indicate whether or not the picture is in focus. In
these cases, focusing is by guesswork or measurement with
a tape measure (if this is practical). Similarly, not all
cameras have a rangefinder. A split-image rangefinder is
the most common focusing aid but it is not the only
solution. Some Paillard Bolex cameras - the 155 Macro,
160 Macro and 7.5 Macrozoom, for example - have superb
focusing utilising a full frame co-incident image
The Super-8 cartridge design prevents
backwind but camera designers have found ways to overcome
this problem, not always reliably. Using any sort of
backwind increases the chance of a cartridge jamming.
Therefore, while there are several cameras which offer
fade, there are fewer which combine this with backwind to
make lap-dissolves possible. Cameras which offer this
sort of feature tend to be heavy and expensive e.g. the
The Braun Nizo cameras are the best
known cameras to offer a built-in intervalometer, making
it possible to take time-lapse pictures over a period of
time without manual intervention. These cameras are very
popular, we think principally for their elegant
appearance (and a Braun Nizo did appear in Star Trek!).
They are sought after and tend to be expensive. Unless
you really cannot live without the facilities they offer,
you will get better value from another make.
Some cameras - notably the Beaulieu,
Leicina Special and Canon 1014 - had an accessory
intervalometer made for the camera. These are very rare;
if you need the facilities of an intervalometer, do not
rely on being able to get one for your camera quickly or
A few cameras had underwater housings made. They are not easy to find now. The Eumig Nautica is an underwater camera which is sometimes seen these days. Check the rubber seals carefully and test the camera for leaks before you put film through it. It should be supplied with an aspheric lens and a large orange sports-style viewfinder.
Sound film is no longer available for Super-8 cameras.
Single-system sound (where the camera records both picture and sound)
was never wholly satisfactory, and definitely not as easy to use (if
you wanted good results) as might have appeared to be from the advertising.
Sound cameras therefore represent a
good buy for anyone wishing to use them as silent cameras
as they are often cheaper than their silent equivalents.
Check that the camera will work with silent cartridges;
some sound cameras (especially the cheaper cameras ) run
too fast with silent cassettes. These cameras cannot be
used any more.
A flash socket is primarily used to
provide flash illumination for single frame shots by
synchronising the cine camera shutter with a flash gun.
However, it can also be used to provide a pulse for a
synchronised sound system. Few camera manufacturers made
these - they were mainly provided by third parties. Due
to the complexities of equipment and techniques, they are
of little value to the average user, being more suited to
the expert production team.
available in our pages
Super-8 cine cameras
Nizo Super-8 Silent Cine Cameras
Super-8 silent cine cameras
Also check our Instruction
Books section and Advertising section.