Super 8 Film Camera: Definition & 16 Features to Look For
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Super 8 film cameras are classic, vintage, and a fan favorite amongst creators looking for the timeless, retro effect.
This article will dive into what really is a super 8 film camera and its most noteworthy features.
Interested in more gear? Learn about different types of camera equipment and find your preferences.
What is a Super 8 film camera?
A Super 8 film camera is any device using the Super 8mm film format. These cameras were developed by Kodak in 1965 and remained popular until the 80s when digital cameras were invented and took over.
From the 1980s, many brands stopped manufacturing Super 8 film cameras. Only traditional film camera fanatics stuck with the Super 8. Until recent years!
Many creators are revisiting the format for its vintage, grainy look, and natural color.
Will you join their ranks? Read on and decide for yourself.
How much does a Super 8 camera cost?
A Super 8 film camera can cost anywhere between 50$ to several hundred.
Their price dropped quite a bit initially but is now on the rise again as the vintage trend emerges. Check out thrift stores or camera rental options for the best deals.
16 Essential Super 8 camera features
What features does a Super 8 camera consist of?
What should you look out for?
The following 16 features might not be present on every camera, but understanding how they look and function can elevate your Super 8 knowledge drastically.
Explore more of Kodak’s tips for using a Super 8 camera to learn from the master.
1. Main switch
The main switch allows you to turn the camera on and off. It can be just about anywhere on a Super 8, but mostly either on the top or side.
It’s usually clearly labeled with “on” and “off” for clarity.
2. Auto/manual switch
The auto/manual switch on the right-hand side of the camera lets you switch between automatic and manual modes, provided that your camera allows for these.
These modes function similarly to modern cameras, with fewer touchscreens and more physical buttons, knobs, and dials.
3. Shutter release
The shutter release trigger is found on the front of the Super 8, and like with DSLR, mirrorless, or most other types of cameras, its function is simple.
Pressing it opens the shutters to start filming. Releasing it will stop the recording.
To make this easier for the creator, the following feature, the run switch, was invented.
4. Run switch
The run switch works in two distinct ways. When you’re not filming, it lets you lock the shutter trigger so you can’t start rolling by accident.
If you’re already shooting, you can use it to keep recording without holding down the release.
Imagine the muscle cramps you’d get from shooting a 10-minute long film without it.
5. Film door
The film door is usually found on the side, and it’s where the film cartridges are located. Open the film door and switch the film whenever it’s full.
Check out Willem Verbeeck’s Youtube video for more.
When should you change the film cartridge? Excellent question!
This brings us to the feature up next:
6. Film footage counter
A film counter displays how much film is still available most often by the footage, not minutes. This feature is usually on the front or top of the camera.
It looks similar to a timer or speedometer. When the counter hits zero, it’s time to change the film.
7. Handle release
The handle release button allows you to take off the handle for optimal storage and transport. It’s always on the handle, usually where it meets the camera body.
8. Manual zoom and macro lever
Most Super 8 cameras are outfitted with zoom lenses, either manual or electronic.
A manual zoom lens works with a lever attached that you have to physically adjust.
The macro lever usually appears on middle- or high-end cameras. It lets you focus on objects very close to the lens.
9. Electronic zoom
Newer models have an electronic zoom, which closely resembles the zooms on most modern cameras. The buttons are found on the top or the side of the model.
They usually have a plus and minus symbol to zoom in and out, respectively.
10. Focus ring
The focus ring is used for manual focusing when using zoom lenses. By twisting the ring around the lens, you change the plane of focus.
Keep adjusting until your image seems sharp or as desired.
11. Exposure lock
If shooting directly toward any harsh light, the exposure lock or backlight function might come in handy.
It’s usually located on the right side of the camera and increases the aperture with about 1-2 f-stops, allowing your subject to still to be visible when backlit.
The self-timer button works the exact same way as it does on modern cameras or smartphones.
It lets you set a timer that will trigger the shutter after a predetermined amount of time.
13. Battery check
Most, but not all Super 8 film cameras have a battery check button available that tells you whether you still have power.
The display often takes the form of a meter or light and sometimes is separate for different batteries.
14. Frames per second
The options for shooting speed vary depending on the Super 8 film camera model you’re using.
The industry standard is 18fps, but several cameras come with the option of 12, 24, or even 32 fps. This can be adjusted with a dial usually located on the side of the camera.
Learn more about frames rates and their effect here.
15. Orange filter
The orange filter is a built-in element with the purpose to color correcting when you’re shooting outside in daylight.
To turn it on and off, you need to locate the button or slider marked with a sun and lightbulb. When you press it, the filter flips down inside the lens.
Experiment with the orange filter, but don’t forget that you won’t see any difference through the viewfinder, only on the developed film.
16. Battery compartment
The battery compartment is obviously where the battery is stored. Frequently it’s located on the bottom of the Super 8 camera with a clear indication of what sort of battery it takes and how you should insert it.
Rent or subscribe to a high-end camera
Did I pique your interest in trying a Super 8 film camera?
Let the search begin on eBay, local thrift stores, or your grandma’s attic. Discover the best vintage cameras for inspiration.
Looking for something more modern?
Rent or subscribe to a high-end cinema camera with Wedio to gain access without making a sizeable financial investment.
Enjoy exploring your creativity and creating the way you want to.
What is a super 8 film camera?
A Super 8 film camera is any device designed to use Super 8mm film.
How much is a Super 8 camera worth?
Most Super 8 cameras aren’t worth that much unless you’re in possession of a hidden gem in mint condition. Consult an appraiser.