Although Super 8 plays a very minor role today now that the amateur film market has long since been swept up in the wave of digitisation, there is still a small and lively small-gauge scene and occasionally even some new products introduced by film manufacturers.
Kodak, for example, recently brought out a new Super 8 film to replace its previous colour reversal film, Ektachrome 64T. The new Ektachrome 100D colour reversal film responds to pressure from the Super 8 community, whose members were dissatisfied in particular with the colours produced by Ektachrome 64T. The new emulsion not only has a finer grain; it also produces more saturated, warmer colours than 64T.
As indicated by its name, the new film is more light sensitive (100 ASA), but, unlike its predecessor, it’s daylight balanced (D=Daylight). This means that in artificially lit settings either daylight lamps have to be used or a filter attached to the lens, which then however reduces the light sensitivity by around 2 apertures to 25 ASA. Like its forerunner, the 100D film is also developed using the widespread, uncomplicated E-6 process. The new film costs about 15 euros without processing and around 26 euros with a processing voucher.
In terms of colour saturation and sharpness, the new emulsion is supposed to approach the quality of the old K40 film. According to reports from the Super 8 scene, there is in fact some improvement here, but filmmakers are still mourning the passing of the popular K40 (1965-2007). Kodachrome’s fate is sealed now that the last processing lab – Dwayne’s Photo in Kansas – has announced that it will discontinue the K-14 process after the end of 2010. In Germany, films can still be submitted for processing until 30 November. So whoever still has K25 or K40 cartridges waiting in the refrigerator should use them up as soon as possible!
Super 8 veterans are surely following with interest Kodak’s corporate policy with regard to Super 8 offerings, but as Kodak has closed down its own network of drop-off points and processing labs, dependence on the “yellow giant” is no longer nearly as great as it once was. There are alternative Super 8 sources worldwide, along with private processing labs. Nor is Ektachrome 100D an unknown quantity, having been packaged previously by specialized companies as a 16mm emulsion in Super 8 cartridge form. The only thing that’s new and interesting is that Kodak is again becoming active in this sector.
There are about 20 different types of film available for Super 8 cameras worldwide. In fact, the range of films is even greater today than in the days of the Super 8 boom. There is hence a larger selection of black-and-white films as well as more choice of light sensitivities (up to 1000 ASA), and various types of negative film are also to be had on this decentralized market. One form of dependency has remained however – that on the film manufacturers themselves. After all, the various types of film available for Super 8 cameras are only different packaging and remanufactured variants of stock produced by film manufacturers for the 16mm and 35mm market. And there are no longer very many of them around!
Yet, there is still an alternative available to the Kodak emulsions: the films offered by Fuji. Fuji‘s product came onto the market as Single 8 film in the early days of Super 8 and was not compatible with cameras built for Kodak cartridges. But the Single 8 cassettes had some advantages: the supply and take-up reels were arranged side-by side like a music cassette rather than adopting Kodak’s coaxial cartridge design with the reels on top of each other. The polyester base was also more stable than the acetate used by Kodak.
Today, Single 8 film is being marketed again, this time in Kodak cartridges. It’s available from the company GK-Film (Bielefeld), whose owners, Gottfried Klose and Frank Bruinsma (Super 8 Reversal Lab, Rotterdam), developed it out of Fuji Velvia Professional 35mm film material. The cassettes are sold under the name Cinevia Super 8.
Cinevia has a light sensitivity of 50 ASA and a very fine grain. In contrast to the old K 40, this is a daylight balanced film, however, like Ektachrome 100D. This means that fine grain and high sharpness are attained at the price of low sensitivity. The advantage on the other hand is that this film can be developed using the E6 process. The 15m cassette is sold for just over €24 euro (€33 incl. processing).
The unsteady image produced by the pressure plate built into the Kodak cartridge has been corrected through another invention by GK-Film: a pressure plate integrated into the camera instead, promising images of even sharpness. But the advances go even further: GK-Film has developed its own cassette for precise routing of the film through the camera, expected to be available by autumn. So, astoundingly enough, the Super 8 film scene continues to produce new surprises and innovations!