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Nizo 206XL


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#1 Tom Doolittle

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 10:16 PM

I recently got my hands on my first Super 8 camera, a Nizo 206XL, and thought I might post some of my initial thoughts on this camera in particular and Super 8 in general.

Coming from a 16mm world (not a pro, just an addicted hobbyist), I'm not sure where the idea came from to get a Super 8 camera. But, like these things often do, once the seed was planted I couldn't think of much else and spent way too many hours at work researching a format that, for all I knew, had been dead since I was watching Speed Racer in my pajamas. Now and then, when ordering 16mm stock from Kodak I would run across the Super 8 pages on their web site and wonder "who uses that stuff anymore?". Wherever the idea came from, once I realized there were at least several decent stocks to choose from, already packaged in those handy little Super 8 cartridges, I knew I had to have one. I rationalized the decision by telling myself it would be less expensive to shoot than 16mm, easier to load and shoot in public places, and easier to carry around than my Arri 16S with its battery belt and assorted accesories.

The sources I researched (including this forum) made two things very clear. First, Super 8 is not (quite) dead. It apparently has a small but dedicated following, and has survived only through the marginal sales of those little black cartridges. I doubt very much that Kodak, despite the claims made on their 8mm website, is willing to make significant financial investments toward the future of Super 8, and I would not be the least bit surprised to see it dropped from their lineup without any of their board members losing a single night's sleep over it.

Second, I learned rather quickly that Super 8 was, in its day, a "consumer" format. The cameras were built with "Average Joe" in mind, a guy who wouldn't know an f-stop from his elbow, and was quite content to let the camera do all the exposure adjustments for him. Average Joe just wanted to pop a cartridge in, point the camera at his kids, and pull the trigger. I'm not saying this is wrong (just try telling your kids to stay still while you take a meter reading), but because of Average Joe's photographic ignorance, nearly all Super 8 cameras are of the point-and-shoot variety, with various electro-mechanical means of automatically adjusting exposure. A couple of cameras came to light that promised to be a little more than that, specifically the Nikon R10 and the Canon 1014XL, but naturally these were selling for more than I was willing to part with for a "trial" 8mm camera. Plus, as far as I could tell from the pictures I found and the articles I read, half of the features on these cameras are related to magnetic-stripe sound recording, something that really IS dead in all film formats.

So, with little else to go on, I picked a nice-looking little Nizo 206XL that appeared on ebay. It seemed a nice, clean design with no unnecessary frills, looked clean and well-preserved, and was offered by a seller who, judging by his other offerings, seemed to be somewhat of a specialist in the Nizo brand. I searched for specifics on this model, but found almost nothing. The only info I could find on it suggested it was made in or around 1978, was one of the last Nizos prooduced, and was very similar (perhaps identical?) to the 148XL and 156XL. I looked at a few pics of both these cameras, and the only difference I can see is that my camera is painted black while the others are silver.

Upon receiving the camera, I was shocked to see how small it is. It looked a lot bigger in the pictures, and I was used to handling much larger and heavier 16mm cameras. It seemed like a toy, and for a few days I was afraid to pick it up for fear of breaking the little bugger. Still, I was interested to see what it could do and I had already ordered 8 rolls of film for it at nearly $15 a pop.

It took a little figuring to understand what the automatic cartridge reader system was trying to do when I plugged in the first roll of Ektachrome 64T. This camera like so many others, I'm told, does not read the notches in the cartridge properly, and therefore will not meter correctly. No problem, I planned on using a handheld meter anyway, but I soon learned that turning that tiny little exposure knob on the side of the camera was not nearly as convenient as having a ring on the lens itself, like almost every other manually operated camera on the planet. I'm not sure if this is an artifact of the permanently attached lens or the auto-exposure system or what, but it is a relative pain in the ass. I did get used to it though, and by the time I had run four rolls of film though I was no longer grabbing for the barrel of the lens in search of the aperture ring. It works, but in a perfect world it would have a proper ring on the lens.

My biggest complaint by far is the tiny size of the viewfinder. I understand that this is a "compact" camera, but I happen to have a standard-sized eyeball and it simply does not see very well through that pinhole of a viewfinder. Trying to see both the exposure indicator and my scene at the same time proved difficult, and after awhile I found myself avoiding the viewfinder altogether, shooting wide and wild and hoping for the best. It would work better if I didn't have a nose, as this would allow for easier alignment of the eye with the miniature viewing hole. I suspect a reasonable percentage of Nizo's customers had noses and am surprised they didn't account for this in their design. Too late now, but a slightly extended viewing tube would have been worth any extra cost.

This post is getting long, and my wife is complaining. I'll continue later, but for now I'd appreciate any specific info on the Nizo that anyone might have to offer.

Thanks!

Tom
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#2 Tom Doolittle

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Posted 28 June 2006 - 09:47 PM

Okay, that last post was a bit wordy and I apologize for that. To summarize, the Nizo has turned out to be a neat little camera, with solid German engineering on par with my 16mm Arriflex 16S. I like the ease of loading, and the small size is certainly handy in situations where a larger camera would draw too much attention. I shot two rolls in San Francisco, right in front of SFMOMA, and nobody even noticed. I blended in with all the camcorder-carrying tourists. Two more were shot in Half Moon Bay, and only one guy noticed, asking politely if my camera was "one of those reel-to-reel jobs." I've only run four rolls of film through it, and have yet to see any of the processed footage, but the lens seems to be of excellent quality and I expect to see good results.

The downside: the tiny viewfinder is a pain. Larger, man-sized optics would have been nice and I will look for this in any other cameras I consider purchasing.

Also, the built-in auto-exposure system, rendered virtually useless by its inability to read currently available cartridges, I could do without. I would rather have a simple, manually-set ASA dial and a basic needle-in-the-viewfinder setup, with the aperture adjustment on the lens barrel rather than on the side of the camera.

The tiny size and low weight (roughly that of of a modern Canon ZR-series camcorder) is handy for use in public places but makes it a little harder to get steady shots. A little more mass (just a few ounces) would be nice. I might add a small weight to the bottom of the grip to steady things a bit.

SO, overall I like the camera. I have yet to view the processed images, but I expect to have those processed in the next week or so, once I run another few rolls through the thing. I am anxious to compare it to 16mm footage I have shot in the same locations. If it looks half as good as a clean, well-exposed 16mm image, I will be happy. The camera and the format are perfect for quick, simple filming. I expect to use the camera in situations where it would be physically difficult or awkward to use larger 16mm gear, like on moving vehicles or in crowded places. The low power requirements (4 AA bateries) means no need for a heavy battery belt or portable power supply. The lens is made by a well-known german optics company and appears to be of very high quality (though I have yet to see the results). I have some reservations about editing digitized 8mm and 16mm footage into the same movie, but will withhold comment until I have actually done so.

Will I continue with Super 8? I think so, but I'll have to see the footage to make a final judgement. I am impressed with the technology in general, VERY impressed by the fit, finish, and elegant simplicity of the Nizo, and happy to see that Kodak and several smaller companies are willing to keep this format going with their offerings of filmstock, processing, telecine, and other services. As with 16mm, it is nice to know that my decades-old camera can still (with the right combination of skill and practice) make images on-par with modern digital cameras that will themselves be outdated within just a few years. I am saddened by the knowledge that there are no new cameras being made, especially considering the potentially awesome combination of modern electronics and manufacturing technologies and Kodak's latest filmstocks. 16mm users just got the new Arriflex 416, not to mention Ikonoskop's A-Cam. A modern, pro-level 8mm camera could revive the format, and carry it out of the "home-movie" genre. Just imagine the features it might have: interchangeable lenses (perhaps based on existing 16mm offerings), a digital video-inspired flip-out LCD monitor, a large and bright viewfinder, a proper metering system, digital timecode, etc, etc. With the electronics and production technologies of today, you could probably maximize the 8mm format to a level acceptable for commercial television production --another viable candidate in the film-or-video choice every cinematographer makes when starting a new project. The biggest drawback would be the limited recording time, but anybody who uses film is used to this.

A daydream? Maybe. But in my limited experience with the little Nizo and Super 8, I have already developed an understanding of its untapped possibilities. So keep on shooting, keep buying film, keep processing and digitizing those cartridges, and for crying-out-loud would somebody please design a new camera and put it into production? These old cameras are going to wear out sooner or later, and we will lose a fantastic format many of us are only just now discovering.


TD
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#3 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 07:11 AM

A modern, pro-level 8mm camera could revive the format, and carry it out of the "home-movie" genre. Just imagine the features it might have: interchangeable lenses (perhaps based on existing 16mm offerings), a digital video-inspired flip-out LCD monitor, a large and bright viewfinder, a proper metering system, digital timecode, etc, etc. With the electronics and production technologies of today, you could probably maximize the 8mm format to a level acceptable for commercial television production --another viable candidate in the film-or-video choice every cinematographer makes when starting a new project. The biggest drawback would be the limited recording time, but anybody who uses film is used to this.

A daydream? Maybe. But in my limited experience with the little Nizo and Super 8, I have already developed an understanding of its untapped possibilities. So keep on shooting, keep buying film, keep processing and digitizing those cartridges, and for crying-out-loud would somebody please design a new camera and put it into production? These old cameras are going to wear out sooner or later, and we will lose a fantastic format many of us are only just now discovering.
TD


All it would take would be for Kodak or one television show to underwrite the development in exchange for initial exclusivity. I think from a marketing point of view seeing if a home movie format could "make the grade" in the digital age would create a buzz for a theatrical release and or TV show.

Most new technology thrives off of alliances with a television show or movie, the same could be done with Super-8. Why would Kodak do it? Because if Super-8 can make the grade, than 16mm and 35mm are still way in the game for years to come.

Why would a television show do it, because once again, they would pick up a ton of publicity for the novelty of the idea. And the cameras could then be sold off afterwards, recoupng the investment that had been made.
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#4 ken wood

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 10:48 AM

Okay, that last post was a bit wordy and I apologize for that. To summarize, the Nizo has turned out to be a neat little camera, with solid German engineering on par with my 16mm Arriflex 16S. I like the ease of loading, and the small size is certainly handy in situations where a larger camera would draw too much attention. I shot two rolls in San Francisco, right in front of SFMOMA, and nobody even noticed. I blended in with all the camcorder-carrying tourists. Two more were shot in Half Moon Bay, and only one guy noticed, asking politely if my camera was "one of those reel-to-reel jobs." I've only run four rolls of film through it, and have yet to see any of the processed footage, but the lens seems to be of excellent quality and I expect to see good results.

The downside: the tiny viewfinder is a pain. Larger, man-sized optics would have been nice and I will look for this in any other cameras I consider purchasing.

Also, the built-in auto-exposure system, rendered virtually useless by its inability to read currently available cartridges, I could do without. I would rather have a simple, manually-set ASA dial and a basic needle-in-the-viewfinder setup, with the aperture adjustment on the lens barrel rather than on the side of the camera.

The tiny size and low weight (roughly that of of a modern Canon ZR-series camcorder) is handy for use in public places but makes it a little harder to get steady shots. A little more mass (just a few ounces) would be nice. I might add a small weight to the bottom of the grip to steady things a bit.

SO, overall I like the camera. I have yet to view the processed images, but I expect to have those processed in the next week or so, once I run another few rolls through the thing. I am anxious to compare it to 16mm footage I have shot in the same locations. If it looks half as good as a clean, well-exposed 16mm image, I will be happy. The camera and the format are perfect for quick, simple filming. I expect to use the camera in situations where it would be physically difficult or awkward to use larger 16mm gear, like on moving vehicles or in crowded places. The low power requirements (4 AA bateries) means no need for a heavy battery belt or portable power supply. The lens is made by a well-known german optics company and appears to be of very high quality (though I have yet to see the results). I have some reservations about editing digitized 8mm and 16mm footage into the same movie, but will withhold comment until I have actually done so.

Will I continue with Super 8? I think so, but I'll have to see the footage to make a final judgement. I am impressed with the technology in general, VERY impressed by the fit, finish, and elegant simplicity of the Nizo, and happy to see that Kodak and several smaller companies are willing to keep this format going with their offerings of filmstock, processing, telecine, and other services. As with 16mm, it is nice to know that my decades-old camera can still (with the right combination of skill and practice) make images on-par with modern digital cameras that will themselves be outdated within just a few years. I am saddened by the knowledge that there are no new cameras being made, especially considering the potentially awesome combination of modern electronics and manufacturing technologies and Kodak's latest filmstocks. 16mm users just got the new Arriflex 416, not to mention Ikonoskop's A-Cam. A modern, pro-level 8mm camera could revive the format, and carry it out of the "home-movie" genre. Just imagine the features it might have: interchangeable lenses (perhaps based on existing 16mm offerings), a digital video-inspired flip-out LCD monitor, a large and bright viewfinder, a proper metering system, digital timecode, etc, etc. With the electronics and production technologies of today, you could probably maximize the 8mm format to a level acceptable for commercial television production --another viable candidate in the film-or-video choice every cinematographer makes when starting a new project. The biggest drawback would be the limited recording time, but anybody who uses film is used to this.

A daydream? Maybe. But in my limited experience with the little Nizo and Super 8, I have already developed an understanding of its untapped possibilities. So keep on shooting, keep buying film, keep processing and digitizing those cartridges, and for crying-out-loud would somebody please design a new camera and put it into production? These old cameras are going to wear out sooner or later, and we will lose a fantastic format many of us are only just now discovering.
TD

I have been thinking about the new Super8 possibilities for some time now. Most of the R&D has already been done by the Sony's and the Panasonics of digital world. And, Nikon and Conon have done great things with the electronics in the SLR world.
It seems to me the only design work would be the packaging and software. In today's digital manufacturing climate most of this is done sitting at the computer doing cad.
I have to believe that some company out there has lots of capital but needs a product.
Ideas that come to mind on it might happen:
* How about a SLR with a Super 8 back. (Nikon has or had a SLR with a digital back)
* OEM parts from Nikon, Canon, et al to come up a new S8 using off the shelf components.
* Choose a Nikon mount or a Canon mount make everyone happy with great lens choices.
* Design a variable shutter, probably the only R&D to be done. Make it SuperDuper 8 out of the box.
* Choose from scores of great new motors.
* Battery choices galore.
* Battery management from the laptop world.
* LCD coupled with TTL

I gotta have one of these.

Cost: I'm guessing a prosumer version $2500 pro version @ $3500.
What would you pay and when would you place your order?
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Glidecam

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineTape

FJS International, LLC

Wooden Camera

Visual Products

Abel Cine

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Willys Widgets

Metropolis Post

Ritter Battery

The Slider

CineLab

rebotnix Technologies

Technodolly

Aerial Filmworks