Kodak’s new Super8 – a retro step too far, perhaps?

Despite having the latest technology available to me through my micro-four thirds cameras, and having chosen from a company that espouses the use of multimedia creation, I am not much of a video maker. I prefer still photography and leave my 4K-enabled video features on my Panasonic GX-8 largely unexplored to date. However, serendipity being what is is, I had just read an interesting book with the lengthy title Pictures, Pop Bottles and Pills: Kodak Electronics Technology That Made a Better World But Didn’t Save the Day by K. Bradley Paxton on the history of Kodak and its demise and was therefore surprised to learn this week that the company is to launch a “new” version of its famed Super8 system.

The original Super8 camera was the the mainstay of capturing those family events throughout the 60’s and beyond, until it was superseded by the convenience of home video cameras, which in turn were replaced by digital cameras, so what are Kodak up to?

160113_KodakSuper8

A quick look through the Kodak blurb on their website provides some useful specifications, but in summary the camera will use 50 ft (15m) of 8mm film at speeds of 9-25 fps. Each film fits 72 frames per foot, which purportedly provides 3600 frames per film cartridge* (2.5 minutes of filming). The camera uses a manual focus, fixed 6mm 1:1.2 Ricoh C-mount lens (optional 8-48mm zoom), but with a 3.5cm LCD TFT tiltable viewfinder.

It all sounds like an interesting mix of retro and modern but to the $64,000 question: will it sell?

Personally, I don’t mind retro styling, as I stated in my Recesky post, and my kids all use their Fuji instax cameras to produce instantly gratifying (to them, at least) images for them to share so I think there is definitely a market for retro styling and products that are marketed to capitalize on a sense of nostalgia in an era of relentless progress. Kodak are also touting the fact that some big name directors, such as Spielberg and Abrams praise the use of film over digital capture for developing technique, but I see the main issues here are two-fold:

  1. With a proposed price of $400 – $700 for the camera and at $75 for a 2-3 minute film, this really is quite a luxury niche product; and
  2. Can today’s consumer, with a need for instant gratification, really wait a couple of weeks to get their (pricey) Super8 film processed?

The second point is a paradox that Kodak seems to be happy to test: perhaps the lost pleasure of anticipation though a prolonged wait to see the final creation will drive a new dawn of creativity. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see a whole new generation of editors sat at splicing desks?

In the end only time will tell whether the big K will get another “Kodak Moment”

~Richard

*to be honest I am not sure how this works as 1 ft = 304mm. If each frame is 8mm then this should be 304/8 = 38 frames per foot. Perhaps someone can explain this to me?

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