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8mm vs Super 8


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#1 Marios

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 05:14 AM

Can you please let me have your opinion on this matter. I know super 8 has a larger film area. But it is notorious for having an unsteady picture. Would an old bolex 8mm have a perfectly steady picture. I think that 8mm regular film has a double registration system with bigger holes and passes through a proper pressure plate. I also am aware that regular 8 has only reversal stocks available. A bolex from the 60s with prime lenses (Switar) can be had for real cheap and I think that those primes would be sharper than any 70s zoom lens. Another adavantage I can think of is that the film itself is 16mm wide and can be home processed with the widely available morse G-3 tank.


Which of the two options (Regular or Super) should yield a sharper image at the end of the day?

Would this metal pressure plate they sell for super 8 carts help it be as steady as regular 8mm?
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#2 Jim Carlile

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 05:06 PM

Can you please let me have your opinion on this matter. I know super 8 has a larger film area. But it is notorious for having an unsteady picture....Which of the two options (Regular or Super) should yield a sharper image at the end of the day?


First of all, it's not the case that S8 has a notoriously unsteady image. Much depends upon the condition of the camera and the age of the film stock, how it was stored, whatever. That's kind of a myth.

It's true that Regular 8 has a pressure plate, but that's it-- there's no extra register pin or anything, unless you get into the later R8 Bolexes, but by then you're basically shooting in a 16mm world. R8 is capable of great results, but the image size is smaller. So it's a toss-up. Bolex prime lenses are great, but so are later S8 zooms. And Bolex R8 cameras are almost 50 years old.

The whole idea of 8mm is ease of use and that certain "look." If you're really worried about quality issues like sharpness or registration, go up to 16mm. Keep 8 simple--- that's what it's all about.
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#3 Marios

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Posted 25 October 2007 - 09:31 AM

First of all, it's not the case that S8 has a notoriously unsteady image. Much depends upon the condition of the camera and the age of the film stock, how it was stored, whatever. That's kind of a myth.

It's true that Regular 8 has a pressure plate, but that's it-- there's no extra register pin or anything, unless you get into the later R8 Bolexes, but by then you're basically shooting in a 16mm world. R8 is capable of great results, but the image size is smaller. So it's a toss-up. Bolex prime lenses are great, but so are later S8 zooms. And Bolex R8 cameras are almost 50 years old.

The whole idea of 8mm is ease of use and that certain "look." If you're really worried about quality issues like sharpness or registration, go up to 16mm. Keep 8 simple--- that's what it's all about.



I thought that 8mm regular is basically 16mm wide double perf with more perfs than normal 16mm. I was thinking along the lines of a bolex C8 and B8 which have prime lenses, have control of speed and also have the size of a modern camcorder (ultra compact).

I disagree that 8 is all about keeping it simple. Some people use this as an excuse for not using a tripod and for poor footage and subject choice sometimes too. If it was all about only keeping it simple, thesophisticated Beaulieus 4008 ,Canon XL-S and the like would not be such hot cameras. People would just let the film roll with any camera. My point is that there is concern with the quality too. After all well done super 8 should surpass the resolution and other image properties of a DV camera, or should it not?
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#4 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 25 October 2007 - 08:39 PM

Marios, when you registered at cinematography.com, you were asked to give your full first name and last name. Could you please explain why this request that everyone else in this place respects (apart from an ever increasing number of one-off newbie posters) has not been regarded by you as applying to you personally as well?
After all, when reading through this forum, you will certainly have realised all the posters' full names?
Please amend your mistake re. your user name in your My Controls before Tim or David gets you...

Further to the discussed points in this forum:

The idea that a "real pressure plate" ameliorates "picture quality" (a term so complex it would take a a multi-thousand words essay to tackle what this could conceptually mean - ARRI tries its best in the current ArriNews issues but simplifies the subject matter a bit as well) is as much an urban myth similar to the idea that a pin registration ameliorates frame stability or reduced frame variance. I posted repeatedly that this is not that easy (anyone comparing an Aaton X-series with an Arriflex SRII will see the difference).

Similarly, the underlying perpetual notion that Super 8 cartridges are cr*p is just not correct and equally simplistically thought-up. You can have shooting problems with film loops and pressure plates as much as you can have a problem with the Kodapak Instamatic cartridge.

The FrameMaster device developed by GK Film and sold via Andec has so far given inconsistent results when reading through ciny.com or filmsht.com, with badly-maintained cameras having slightly better registration, but with well-maintained Super 8 cameras (bi-annual CLA jobs is what every serious S8 shooter shold consider) showing no amelioration; in the contrary, some perform worse.

The pressumed advantages of Normal 8 that the OP suggests are in contrast to Super 8 advantages of modern film stock and a significantly bigger picture area, plus the possibility to use either top vario lenses or primes on cameras with interchangeable lens option as well. The latter format's advantages outweight the first one's by far, IMHO, if aesthetical factors that would make Normal 8 more suitable for a film project are not relevant in the decisionmaking process.

Finally, S8's advantage over S16 of 35 is indeed that it is easier-to-handle than shooting with bigger formats. That does not mean to let oneself indulge in diletantic practices, but the entire format handling is based around ease-of-use. Its resolving power is defined by the film stock used, and when looking at Kodak Vision2 or the X-series of B&W films, it is clearly superior to DV, HDV or HDCAM (3:1:1 8-bit). A look at the RGB-combining MTF of K-40 states a resolving power of 70 lp/mm at 20%, i.e. 750x561 to 791x591 pixel (projection frame or camera frame, resp.), while DigitalBetacam has only a resolution of 720x576. 7217 responds with at least 100 lp/mm at 20% in the important green layer. Under ideal conditions, one could expect a minimum resolution of 1072x802 pixel with a projection frame of 4.01 by 5.36mm, and 1130x844 pixel with a camera frame of 4.22 by 5.65mm.
Read on this subject in my article in the current issue of Super 8 Today magazine (shameless plug, I know, but rest assured, I don't gain anything from it ;) )

I shot Double 8 once, and projected it as Normal 8 on a state-of-the-art dual-format projector by Bauer. Nice experience, good to have done, and important to see how Normal 8 looks compared to other formats, but as far as 8mm-wide gauges are concerned, I would suggest to stick to S8 if your production wants good preconditions to work with. If you want to stick to reel-based filmmaking, consider a basic Normal 16 camera (with a potenial upgrade to Super 16).
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#5 Jim Carlile

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 01:03 AM

Hi Marios,

I think Michael's right. The biggest problem with image stability in Super 8 is the condition of the camera. If the lubricant is old, then the 'chatter' that results can make its way through the entire mechanism. All those parts working together badly can build up. That's one reason, I think, why so many people have problems with super 8 in cold weather, with old cameras. You can tell just by the noise level that adequate lubrication is a must.

The best super 8 cameras can be very good, but believe it or not, some of the nicest images have come out of the very earliest, most basic Kodaks with fixed focus lenses. I've seen footage from M2's and M4's that rival anything, and one of the very best was the Kodak M16-22 series, that, alas, no longer work....

If you're really that concerned with technical perfection, then I don't think 8mm is your bag. Really though, the film's the thing, and super 8 is capable of great results with little effort. IMO all the tweaking in the world only gets you so far-- so I wouldn't worry about it. Just enjoy shooting.
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#6 Marc Guerriero

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 11:27 PM

Hi Marios,

I think Michael's right. The biggest problem with image stability in Super 8 is the condition of the camera. If the lubricant is old, then the 'chatter' that results can make its way through the entire mechanism. All those parts working together badly can build up. That's one reason, I think, why so many people have problems with super 8 in cold weather, with old cameras. You can tell just by the noise level that adequate lubrication is a must.

The best super 8 cameras can be very good, but believe it or not, some of the nicest images have come out of the very earliest, most basic Kodaks with fixed focus lenses. I've seen footage from M2's and M4's that rival anything, and one of the very best was the Kodak M16-22 series, that, alas, no longer work....

If you're really that concerned with technical perfection, then I don't think 8mm is your bag. Really though, the film's the thing, and super 8 is capable of great results with little effort. IMO all the tweaking in the world only gets you so far-- so I wouldn't worry about it. Just enjoy shooting.

I am going to have to agree with Marios here. I have shot with an H8 RX and a C8, and I can tell you, with the precision Bolex engineering and the prime lenses, No S8 can touch it! The registration with both cameras was rock solid. People will use the larger H8 because they want to get more bang for their buck than they would with a 16mm camera of the same size. It's not just about keeping it simple.
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#7 alan doyle

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 09:35 PM

go for the bolex 8 a fantastic steady picture,in fact all it needs is someone to do a few interesting well shot projects on standard 8 to show this formats strengths.
i gave up super 8 for a long time because of a jittery cartridge syndrome,i have 30 super 8 cameras and stuff i shot years ago bests anything i do now.
it is a fact kodak outsourced components for the s8 cartridge,that caused so many problems 4 years ago.
super 8 survives on it's reputation for imperfection which is great for the people making money from it,the standards can stay low.
fuji velvia in a 1950s bolex looks very special with a stability and a grain structure that a super 8 user can only dream of.
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#8 mark_baldry

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 07:36 AM

I swear by my H8 RX4 with prime switars, fantasticly sharp and the H8 has a registration claw so the images are rock steady. the thing to remember with all 8mm photography is stick mainly to close ups, no 8mm format is going to be very good at landscapes and panaramic shots.

i've a website which may be of interest http://standard8.org

Edited by mark_baldry, 16 March 2009 - 07:38 AM.

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#9 mark_baldry

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 07:59 AM

i wouldn't say Super 8 is keeping it simple. there is nothing wrong with the film itself but the source of all the problems is the badly designed cartridge - jamming, problems with the notches etc etc. which could eventually kill the format if Kodak ever drops it. GK Film in germany recently tried to redesign the cartridge but eventually gave up. nothing could be simpler than the a strip of film loaded onto a spool!

here in the uk there is a guy that can reperforate any 16mm film to standard 8 (he supplies all of the Fuji Velvia sold by Wittner) so that opens up the possibility of using all of the negative film stocks.

and most standard 8 cameras can do things like backwinding, lap disosolves etc etc that only the top of the range Super 8 cameras can do and without the dodgy 30year electronics to do it and with an H8 you end up with 200ft of film which is the equivilent of 4 spools/cartridges of 16mm/Super 8 so it really economical.
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#10 Simon Wyss

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 08:56 AM

Is this guy you?
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#11 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:13 AM

Thank you, Mark, for this more reflected view on the two 8mm formats.

Super 8 is in many ways a more sophisticated and better-performing format concept than 8mm, and although the mechanic constructions that drive most Double 8 or Normal 8 or Standard 8 cameras appear to be superior and more appealing, and for many film projects is frankly totally sufficient for the DoP or the key visual idea of the film, it's not that clear cut on a technical matter.

Alot of filmmakers here are quite young. Although I am not a greybeard, I have been involved with Super 8 for a long time, and remember and have archive and freshly-developed film reels that show how the Super 8 format is in no way automatically visibly inferior to Double 8 camera reels. An out-of-the-box 1970s Super 8 camera with a Kodapak delivered (and can deliver today with proper CLA and properly sourced cartridges) superb frame stability beating Canon Scoopics and the rest of the "usual suspect fanboy tools" ;-) . And ahead of demonising the Super 8 cartridge, one should not forget the possibilities offered via the cartridge design that opened up creative filmmaking means that previously couldn't be deployed to 8mm shooters.

I agree that the quality of Super 8 cartridges has fluctuated significantly since the turn of the millennium, and even before that, there have been one-off bad patches that troubled filmmaking in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the quality of the cartridge is very good for what it is, and has been equal or superior to Normal 8 when S8 launched and for most of its lifetime. With a CLA'd camera in hand, and if quality control would be enforced by Kodak at all times, and third-party suppliers with own-packaged film stock would have some quality control in place at all, then we wouldn't have these discussions at all.

As regards the Bolex halo: We have an ultra-rare Bolex 16 Pro in our system park, which is by far the most advanced and exquisite 16mm construction ever made. The more entry-level H-series is doubtlessly very good and has a huge and solid cult/indy halo plus the association with Swiss precision engineering that even pales the (mostly overrated) German reputation. And the look and resolving power that Switar glass is allowing is very good for its price point. Many love the more simple and consumer market H-series, and I too appreciate it for what is.

But I have seen footage from H-models that were sub-par to well-maintained Super 8 cameras (which frankly, most today aren't on eBay or outside the areas where good service is around the corner, i.e. CH, DE, USA-NY+CA, JP, maybe UK). To proclaim that any H-8 will deliver better results continuously and consistently over Super 8 format cameras is too much of a simplification for the sake of "making a point". That I find problematic to leave uncommented on a forum of the quality that is ciny.com here. Why? Because pretty much any Bell & Howell design from the 1940s beats the terrible Arri 16 SR-series (series 1 to 3, exlc. the Advanced and HS) in respect to frame stability! That doesn't mean that John or myself in the 16 forum would state that Normal 16 is superior to the Super 16 format.
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#12 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:25 AM

The GK thingy is pants and will RIP, and deservedly so.

Poor Klose was lured by some self-declared "luminaries" of the German small format scene into believing that all Super 8 needed to survive was being "liberated" from the capitalist unloving claw of the Yellow Giant, and freed-up with "superior-Single-8-halo'd" Fuji stock in a brand new cartridge design with a metal pressure plate shovelled into it. So he spent his pension and took on debt on a bonkers idea that will - so I hear - finally see the light of day this spring (again, like last year, and the one before).

What I find despicable is that those German luminaries turned their back publicly on Klose once it became evident that this just won't work out and the great Fuji saviour headline won't be making them the global super 8 scene stars they craved to be.

For most non-German forum members, you will have to see that there is a lot of baggage in the GK project, which is part of while it failed - the other is lack of understanding of what it actually involved to create a sustainable technology-driven business venture targeted at a global niche market in the 21st century.
A shame about Smallformat, too, while we are at it.

Cheerio,

-Michael
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#13 Marc Guerriero

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 12:08 PM

here in the uk there is a guy that can reperforate any 16mm film to standard 8 (he supplies all of the Fuji Velvia sold by Wittner) so that opens up the possibility of using all of the negative film stocks.


I understand, based on what I have heard from someone that used his stock, that the accuracy of the perfs is not quite up to par with what Kodak provides, thus making it less steady than what you would get from Kodak stock. This would seem to defeat the purpose of using Regular 8mm. Maybe you or others could shed some light on this or possibly refute it based on your own experiences.
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#14 Simon Wyss

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 07:15 AM

It's a matter of how much. Since most Double-Eight cameras exerce quite a bit of pressure in the gate the perforation tolerances (deviations) tend to cause worse steadiness compared to higher class mechanism such as with professional cameras. A Mitchell movement can digest rather bad perforation because there is only little pressure (in front of the aperture) so that the film may slip after when the register pins enter the holes. Even better this issue with fixed conic pilot pins like in the Bell & Howell 2709 where the almost free floating film cannot help but being perfectly centered on the pins.

I'm not saying anything about silenced (blimped or self-blimped) cameras.

Good perforation is genuine. Any reperforated stock is slightly worse. You stand or fall with the combination camera-film. Some have a more effective claw movement, some give too much side pressure, and so on.
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#15 mark_baldry

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 07:05 AM

It's a matter of how much. Since most Double-Eight cameras exerce quite a bit of pressure in the gate the perforation tolerances (deviations) tend to cause worse steadiness compared to higher class mechanism such as with professional cameras. A Mitchell movement can digest rather bad perforation because there is only little pressure (in front of the aperture) so that the film may slip after when the register pins enter the holes. Even better this issue with fixed conic pilot pins like in the Bell & Howell 2709 where the almost free floating film cannot help but being perfectly centered on the pins.

I'm not saying anything about silenced (blimped or self-blimped) cameras.

Good perforation is genuine. Any reperforated stock is slightly worse. You stand or fall with the combination camera-film. Some have a more effective claw movement, some give too much side pressure, and so on.


i've noticed the unsteadiness in my smaller 25ft load cameras but not in my H8. But then my H8 has just been serviced by Bolex so it should be in top notch condition whereas maybe my other cameras are not. so yes i think it depends a lot on the camera but this is true for all film formats and all cameras.

Edited by mark_baldry, 18 March 2009 - 07:06 AM.

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#16 Simon Wyss

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 10:01 AM

Oh, well, no. Your pocket cameras rely on a pressure concept where rather strong side pressure and a short-way back plate brake the film. This because the claw will have to move the entire mass of upper spool and film.

Different it is with toothed feed rollers. In the H cameras only a section of the running film, the little mass between feed and take-up sprocket is in play. One cannot compare full-scale constructions with half serious mechanisms, although these 25-ft. spool cameras almost invariably produce remarkable steadiness, I do admit.

Servicing will do them good, no doubt, especially the take-up friction demands to be maintained.

Edited by Simon Wyss, 18 March 2009 - 10:03 AM.

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#17 mark_baldry

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 11:16 AM

Oh, well, no. Your pocket cameras rely on a pressure concept where rather strong side pressure and a short-way back plate brake the film. This because the claw will have to move the entire mass of upper spool and film.

Different it is with toothed feed rollers. In the H cameras only a section of the running film, the little mass between feed and take-up sprocket is in play. One cannot compare full-scale constructions with half serious mechanisms, although these 25-ft. spool cameras almost invariably produce remarkable steadiness, I do admit.

Servicing will do them good, no doubt, especially the take-up friction demands to be maintained.


which is what i said - it depends on the camera.
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#18 Marc Guerriero

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 04:39 PM

i've noticed the unsteadiness in my smaller 25ft load cameras but not in my H8. But then my H8 has just been serviced by Bolex so it should be in top notch condition whereas maybe my other cameras are not. so yes i think it depends a lot on the camera but this is true for all film formats and all cameras.

Have you used the Yashica Up? And if so, what are your thoughts on it?
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#19 mark_baldry

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 07:23 AM

Have you used the Yashica Up? And if so, what are your thoughts on it?


I've not used a Yashica so can't comment on them.

My personal favorites are Leicina 8SV, Bolex K2, Beaulieu MAR8 (all very sharp lenses) & Bolex H8 but again it depends on condition of the camera and film stock. For a first timer I wouldn't go for Bolex B/C/D8 as they are fiddly to use and don't have reflex viewing so can take a lot of getting used to.
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#20 Kent Kumpula

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Posted 25 March 2009 - 06:33 PM

I do not know what cameras all the footage I transfer are shot with. But I do know one thing: 8mm film can be at least as good as a very good super8 film.

Sure, some of the emulsions I transfer are not available anymore, and surely proper exposure ans focus is of biggest concern. But there is something magic about some of the footage we get. Supersharp, perfectly exposed and just fantastic. This goes for both super8 and regular8/8mm.

The biggest surprise is when we get this kind of quality from 8mm film, it makes me look twice at the filmstandard used. A proper prime beats any zoom, any day of the week. ;)

If you want a pressureplate and and super8-sized stock to expose your images on, look for single8 and a ZC1000 camera. :)
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