Movie Cameras - Home Movie Cameras

Home Movie Cameras

Movie cameras were available before World War II often using the 9.5 mm film format. The use of movie cameras had an upsurge in popularity in the immediate post-war period giving rise to the creation of home movies. Compared to the pre-war models, these cameras were small, light, fairly sophisticated and affordable. An extremely compact 35 mm movie camera Kinamo was designed by Emanuel Goldberg for amateur and semi-professional movies in 1921. A spring motor attachment was added in 1923 to allow flexible handheld filming. The Kinamo was used by Joris Ivens and other avant-garde and documentary filmmakers in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

While a basic model might have a single fixed aperture/focus lens, a better version might have three or four lenses of differing apertures and focal lengths on a rotating turret. A good quality camera might come with a variety of interchangeable, focusable lenses or possibly a single zoom lens. The viewfinder was normally a parallel sight within or on top of the camera body. In the 1950s and for much of the 1960s these cameras were powered by clockwork motors, again with variations of quality. A simple mechanism might only power the camera for some 30 seconds, while a geared drive camera might work for as long as 75 – 90 seconds (at standard speeds). Even today there is a market among collectors for these types of camera, as the engineering and materials were of a very high standard and no battery is required. While film stock and the ability to process it exists, these cameras can be used.

The common film used for these cameras was termed Standard 8, which was a strip of 16 millimetre wide film which was only exposed down one half during shooting. The film had twice the number of perforations as film for 16 mm cameras and so the frames were half as high and half as wide as 16 mm frames. The film was removed and placed back in the camera to expose the frames on the other side once the first half had been exposed. Once the film was developed it was sliced down the middle and the ends attached, giving 50-foot (15 m) of Standard 8 film from a spool of 25-foot (7.6 m) of 16 mm film. 16 mm cameras, mechanically similar to the smaller format models, were also used in home movie making but were more usually the tools of semi professional film and news film makers.

In the 1960s a new film format, Super8, coincided with the advent of battery operated electric movie cameras. The new film, with a larger frame print on the same width of film stock, came in a cassette which simplified changeover and developing. Another advantage of the new system is that they had the capacity to record sound, albeit of indifferent quality. Camera bodies, and sometimes lenses, were increasingly made in plastic rather than the metals of the earlier types. As the costs of mass production came down, so did the price and these cameras became very popular. This type of format and camera was more quickly superseded for amateurs by the advent of video cameras, although some professionals continued to make use of its visual characteristics alongside larger format film and video cameras.

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