Even if you’re not old enough to remember using one, you’ve probably seen the iconic Super 8 camera. It was the focus of J.J. Abrams’s film Super 8, which is a cult classic among cinephiles. Packed into a rectangle a few VHS’s wide, the Super 8 camera was the epitome of portable videography, and kickstarted the careers of many amateur filmmakers like Abrams himself. When it launched in 1965 from Kodak, the film camera was revolutionary.
Finally people could experiment with filmmaking on their own time and actually carry around the necessary equipment. Over time, the Super 8 camera (named after the kind of film it used known today for its vintage, textured look) faded away into irrelevance as cheaper cameras and cheaper film began to dominate the market. The digital revolution was the final nail in the coffin for film, and Kodak announced that it would stop making film in 2005. But things have since changed, and retro is cool again!
In the same year that vinyl record players were one of the top selling Christmas presents, Kodak has decided to relaunch the Super 8 camera in collaboration with Yves Béhar, founder of the award winning design house Fuseproject. A non-working prototype was shown at CES this year, and it looks like a relic straight out of a museum. It’s decidedly old fashioned and makes a sincere attempt to bring back the charm of a bygone era. That’s not to say it’s all old school though. The materials used in the chase and handle are high-quality and quite modern.
In case there was any doubt in your mind, the Super 8 camera absolutely uses film. Yves Béhar thinks the product’s launch in September will reintroduce the film ecosystem that DSLRs left behind. Film certainly still has its advantages over digital images, so it’s nice to see its revitalization in the mono-market of digital processing. Film has been making a comeback in Hollywood lately as well, with Interstellar and The Hateful Eight having newsworthy releases on film.
That isn’t to say that the new Super 8 camera doesn’t have its fair share of modern flourishes too. Users will be able to see what the camera is recording on a small LCD screen, and the camera will come with a rechargeable battery. While there’s no pricing on the film or the accessories needed to actually watch or use what’s recorded, the camera itself will cost between $400 and $750 dollars.
Yves Béhar views this camera as an introductory camera to help filmmakers get their start, but he may have an uphill battle against smartphones. Time will tell if people are ready to go back to film (and, specficially, whether they want to invest in an array of new equipment), but the decision for Kodak to lean on nostalgia was a smart one. Kodak has tried and failed for the better part of the last fifteen years to break into the digital photography world with disappointing results. Maybe going back in time is exactly what Kodak needs to be relevant again, and maybe this new Super 8 camera is exactly what some young filmmaker needs to become tomorrow’s J.J. Abrams.