DS8 (double super 8) – what an ace format

So why was it not more popular? Would Kodak ever consider re-slitting this funky super 8 (S8) format with their new Vision 3 emulsions? Surely that wouldn’t be too much trouble… Kodak?

Double super 8 (DS8) is a simple but elegant idea. It basically does the same as the standard 8mm format – expose two halves of a 16mm film, which is later slit into two 8mm lengths of film and spliced together (during processing). But instead of the larger perforations of standard 8mm film which (arguably) takes a little too much of the valuable picture area, DS8 has the smaller super 8 perforations – hence ‘double super 8’.

Footage shot with a Canon Zoom DS-8 camera on Kahl UT18 film

What’s so good about DS8?

Firstly, it means you can shoot longer pieces of film than your 50 foot super 8 cartridge. DS8 generally ships in two lengths 25 foot (7.5m), which once processed and slit translates as 50 foot of film, and 100 foot (30.5m) – translates as 200 foot of film once processed. Secondly, DS8 is not plagued with the inherent pressure plate issues of the S8 cartridge. The S8 cart has – what many consider – a design flaw: its built in plastic pressure plate, which is tensioned by a flat copper spring beneath it, all built into the cart. It generally causes the film to weave and jitter in transport, which results in the famous super 8 ‘jitter’. This actually seems more pronounced in the modern thinner negative emulsions. Some people like the jitter – some don’t. Of course these days it can be healed with software in post (if you have a sufficiently good 8mm over-scan). Some clever bods have also found ingenious work-arounds to this problem, in camera and with a redesigned S8 cart. More of this in a follow-up post.

Anyhooo…. I digress. By having, essentially, a 16mm film transport, the DS8 system has a much more substantial pressure plate, built into the camera that locks the film in position, delivering well focused and stable images. OK, so film loading is a bit more of a drag than the super convenient S8 cartridge, but the benefits of the system are significant.

And what cameras use DS8?

I own four unique DS8 camera models. They are all (of course) beautiful looking pieces and brilliant (obviously). OK, so you may be getting that I like cameras. Following is a list of these cameras and their benefits. Basically how happy they make me. This is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s just based on personal experience.

The Zenit Quartz 2x8s – 3

The Russians, during the days of the cold war, adopted the DS8 format and ran with it, particularly with one little gem, which is still relatively easy to come by. The ‘Zenit Quartz 2x8s – 3’ is a funny looking piece, made by KMZ (Krasnogorsk) between 1971 – 1983. Very Soviet. It’s a handy little camera that takes 25 foot (7.5m) rolls of DS8. It has a lovely sharp Meteor-8M 1.8 / 9-38 lens, with an ingenious selenium exposure meter, mounted underneath the lens. This camera takes no batteries, is spring driven and a joy to use. Very useable – and I’ve been very impressed with the results. Will post some up soon.

Super 8

‘Super 8 Wiki’ data here: Zenit Quarz DS8-3

The Canon Zoom DS-8

The Canon Scoopic needs no introduction to vintage movie camera nerds. Its baby sister, however, might. The ‘Canon Zoom DS-8’ camera is basically a Scoopic with a DS8 transport and 8mm film gate. Oh and it takes normal AA batteries, instead of the ‘rare as hen’s teeth’ Scoopic rechargeable batteries. I love this camera – it’s got all of ergonomic appeal of the Scoopic, but takes my beloved DS8 film. It’s a sinch to use and has what I consider a more than decent lens for 8mm filming. I think the plan for this camera was to pitch  it as a  semi-professional news-gathering and TV production camera. But I’m not sure how successful that bid was. As far as I can tell it’s a pretty rare piece to come by these days and they seem to sell at around $350 – $500 on Ebay. The above clip was shot using this camera… and it’s mine, all mine.

Canon Zoom DS-8

Official Canon information here: Canon Zoom DS-8

The Pathé Webo DS8

What an amazing looking camera this is. Once again another spring driven camera. I’ve used this camera on a couple of occasions, but the negative film I was running was very out of date and didn’t process correctly – so I’ve yet to confirm the quality of the footage coming from this camera. What I can say with confidence is that it’s a stunning looking piece of camera design – heavy but a joy to use. Again it’s very rare – retails between $400 – $600 on Ebay. You don’t see too many of these.

As with the above Canon example, I believe this camera is adapted from a Pathé 16mm model, with swapped out transport and gate. As soon as I have new scanned results from this camera – I will post.

Double super 8

Super 8 Wiki data here: Pathé Webo DS8

Finally…

The Bolex H8 RX4 Reflex DS8 conversion

So this camera is a conversion of the popular Bolex H8 design, which in turn was based on the Bolex H16. Production of the H8 began in 1938 and continued through to the mid to late 1960s, where I guess its popularity dwindled in light of the new kid on the block – super 8. One of the best descriptions I’ve read for this unique DS8 conversion comes for the sales literature that came with the purchase of this camera. Here it is:

“Converted to Double Super 8 format by Jaakko Kurhi, the renowned Bolex specialist in the San Francisco Bay area, this Bolex H8 RX 4 camera is arguably the most versatile DS8 camera ever made, incorporating more features and accepting more accessories than either the Canon DS8 or Pathé DS8 cameras.  Providing the larger image area of Super 8 and the superior image steadiness of regular 8mm, this camera shares virtually every feature with the Bolex H16 RX 4, including a 1:1 drive shaft, knob rather than lever intermittent/time exposure selector, flat base, and 10:1 viewfinder.  Accepting the wide range of motors and other accessories made for the H16 RX4, this camera is capable of recording images of very high quality.  The spring wound motor runs smoothly and quietly, all mechanical and optical features function as they should, and the slightly enlarged image in the reflex viewfinder (as compared with the unmodified regular 8mm Bolex) is a welcome aid to viewing and focusing.  The film compartment accommodates 25-foot, 50-foot, and 100-foot daylight loads.”

eBay listing description courtesy of G. M. Brady.

Bolex H8 RX4 Reflex DS8 conversion

Black and white excerpts from this music video (the vocal close-ups in profile), were shot using this camera:


How could I not buy that?

Where can I buy DS8 films?

  • From us! We are official Kahl film suppliers for the UK and US and will hopefully soon be stocking all of Mr. Kahls wonderful range of films in our shop. Meanwhile, there are a few S8 stocks in and if you’re after DS8 from Mr. Kahl (and you’re from the US or UK) let us know. Rest of the world please visit the Kahl Films site. Kahl Films appear to be one of the only suppliers left in the world selling colour DS8 material
  • FomaFoto. Fomapan R 100 DS8. Beautiful monochrome film stock this. Will scan and post results very soon
  • Wittner. Occassionally stock Agfa 200D colour reversal film in DS8 format. They have it listed, but as of writing (Feb 2016) it’s not in production 🙁

So in summary, DS8 is still very much alive in the On8mil world.

We now just need to petition Kodak to do a new production run, perhaps after they’ve sold a few units of their new super 8 camera.

8mm film