Apart from the Netflix announcement this week, the other big news to come out of the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 in Las Vegas was Kodak’s reveal of its new, redesigned Super 8 camera.
The Super 8 was originally released in 1965 as an update to older 8mm home movie formats, but became increasingly outdated with the arrival of digital technologies in each succeeding decade. Traditionally, one would shoot without too much of a clue as to what was actually being filmed, and the results of shoots would have to be developed in a studio before the owner of the film went ahead and physically edited the film strip. Slowly, the Super 8 lost its status as the most accessible home camera in favor of digital cameras and the now ubiquitous smartphone camera.
However, Kodak’s position in a world of highly-digitized cameras could turn out to pose an advantage for the company. Kodak’s new Super 8 digital-analog hybrid camera taps into our fascination with nostalgia, possibly joining the ranks of the vinyl record as a cultural product that successfully managed to reinvent itself to avoid becoming obsolete. The camera’s new look owes itself to San Francisco-based designer Yves Béhar, previously responsible for redesigning the television set-top box. Béhar recognized the need to present the key values of the original Kodak cameras when developing the design of the new hybrid: “Kodak has always represented innovation that is approachable while delivering the craft of filmmaking. Our design aspires to express both these ideals.”
Indeed, the new Super 8 evokes the general look of its predecessor without trying to present a “retro design”, as Béhar pointed out at CES. “I was not interested in being directly inspired in what was done back then. The reason it looks retro is the size and the mechanical restraint of using a [film] cartridge.” Nonetheless, the camera takes on several new features that have enthusiasts interested.
The new Super 8 includes a slot for an attachable microphone on the handle, a digital viewfinder, a rechargeable battery, and an SD slot. Most importantly, purchase of film for the Super 8 also guarantees development by Kodak itself, and the company offers to return the processed film as an eight-millimeter film or as a digital copy.
While it still doesn’t beat smartphone cameras in terms of home accessibility, it does open the market up to the possibility of demand for the kind of image that the Super 8 affords. Even today, filmmakers like J.J. Abrams, who shot certain scenes of The Force Awakens on film rather than digitally, continue to sing praises for the camera’s abilities. Said Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke: “Just as vinyl is making a comeback in music, film is being embraced by more and more amateur and professional filmmakers who appreciate its subtle, rich qualities.”