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Shooting Super 8mm Film For The First Time On The Beaulieu 4008 ZMII

I’ve made it a point to start shooting more film recently, as I have a Super 16mm project on the horizon and want to experiment as much as possible before hand.

I plan to test out a bunch of different cameras and film stocks, and run through the whole workflow – shooting, processing/scanning, color grading – to get a sense of what to expect. As part of this process, I thought it would be fun to buy a Super 8mm camera and shoot tests with it whenever possible, as it’s so cheap when compared to shooting 35mm or even 16mm.

This of course won’t replace testing other cameras or film gauges, but it is a fun experiment on its own to see how far I can push such a small format.

What I’ve learned so far is that super 8mm has come a very long way in recent years, both in terms of the quality of the film stocks and the processing & scanning technology. Today’s well produced Super 8mm film can look more like the 16mm film of years past, which is pretty amazing to consider.

That said, in order to achieve the best possible results there is still a lot to consider, and a lot that goes into it. And really, it all starts with the camera –

THE BEAULIEU 4008 ZMII

When I first started looking for a Super 8mm camera to buy, I almost didn’t care which camera I got. I figured as long as it could shoot 24fps (some Super 8 cameras only shoot 18fps), I would be happy.

After all, unlike digital cameras that can drastically affect image quality (based on sensor technology), a film camera is really just a box that moves film through a gate and lets in light. It’s really the film stock, lighting, and lenses that make all the difference… But even still, as I started doing my research it became clear that there was one camera that stood out above all the others: The Beaulieu 4008 ZMII.

The Beaulieu was a clear choice for a number of reasons. First off, it is widely regarded as one of the best (if not the best) Super 8 camera ever made, based on it’s build quality and reliability alone. It is built like a tank, and was designed to be a professional option for those wanting the best possible Super 8mm experience.

It has countless professional caliber features, such as the ability to shoot up to 70fps (some versions even do 80fps), shutter angle adjustments, a reflex viewfinder, built in light metering, interchangeable c-mount lenses, and much more. This all results in a shooting experience that I believe is closer to 16mm than 8mm.

The camera is also able to be upgraded and restored beautifully, which can’t be said for many other Super 8mm cameras. Although this particular model was manufactured in the early – mid 1970’s, it is still more sought after than many more recent Super 8mm cameras. This again, is largely because of it’s amazing feature set, and ability to continually be restored if needed.

I was able to pick up a second hand 4008 ZMII for a couple hundred bucks, and decided to shoot a few test rolls with the camera as-is before getting it serviced. If the camera was in really bad shape, I would have had it serviced first, but for 40 – 45 years old it was looking pretty good… The viewfinder was a little foggy and the ground glass/focusing screen needed to be cleaned, but that wasn’t a concern as it wouldn’t affect picture quality.

The camera comes with a Schneider Optivaron 6-66 F1.8 zoom lens (which is absolutely incredible), although the focus ring on the version that I had seized up, so I had to replace it with another identical Optivaron lens. This was easy thanks to the standard C-Mount, so I could just unscrew one and screw on the other.

After swapping the lens and ensuring the camera still ran smoothly off the batteries, I was more than confident to take it for a spin.

SHOOTING & SCANNING

I purchased a 3 rolls of 50D (daylight) film stock from Pro8mm in Burbank and took them with me on a little trip to Palm Springs last week. Each roll only gives you around 2 1/2 minutes, so I figured I would easily burn through all 3 rolls on my trip. To my surprise, I only shot 1 1/2 rolls though.

Something happens when you’re shooting film that makes you hyper aware of what you’re capturing at all times. I found this true even just shooting test footage. I was being so selective that I ended up under-shooting, which was kind a nice change of pace. I can only imagine treating a feature film with that level of efficiency, and how it would affect the process both on set and in the editing room.

I took the rolls back to Pro 8mm for processing and scanning, where they were scanned in Log at 2K in ProRes 422 (HQ). Super 8mm can currently be scanned up to 5K, but I don’t believe there is much (if any) quality difference above 2K.

The files were ready a few days later, and I was really impressed with the dynamic range and color quality.

Despite the fact that I didn’t use a proper light meter and was basically guessing the exposure, every image was exposed perfectly fine. That is not a testament to my skill, but rather to the flexibility of film. It just has so much latitude that under or overexposed images were so easily adjusted in post. I really couldn’t get over how much information was in those ProRes files. No digital footage that I’ve ever graded has even come close.

The only real issue with the footage that I found were some dark spots on certain shots (with deep F stops) that I believe were caused by a dirty internal UV filter. I plan to remove this filter (as well as the built in 85 filter) as they are both so old and nearly impossible to clean. Once they are removed, that issue should be resolved and the footage should look cleaner.

Below are a handful of shots captured on the Beaulieu last week. These were overscanned (which is why you see the top and bottom of the previous/next frames).

Take a look:

[tg_vimeo width=”” height=”” video_id=”231456136″]

I will be sure to post some additional articles on this camera and any other film experiments in the near future, so stay tuned!

And for more content like this, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

27 Comments

  • Philippe Maillot
    May 5, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Entre ne rien publier sur votre site et publier 3 fois le même message, il doit être possible de trouver un juste milieu !
    Philippe Maillot

    Reply
  • Philippe Maillot
    May 3, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    Bravo pour ces belles images. Je possède également une 4008 ZM II (ainsi qu’une 5008 et une 7008) en parfait état (probablement remanufacturée par Beaulieu il y a une vingtaine d’année) et comme vous je suis très impressionné par la qualité des images. Vous en apportez la preuve mais on peut aussi s’en rendre compte en visionnant les films de José Luis Vilar ( https://ochoypico.com/en/our-works/) ainsi que le film d’Emir Kusturica : « Super 8 stories ». Vous avez raison d’insister sur la possibilité de faire réparer cette caméra car c’est la seule marque de caméras super 8 pour laquelle on trouve des pièces neuves  chez Wittner Cinetec à Hamburg en Allemagne qui a racheté Beaulieu en 2002 . On peut faire réparer cette caméra non seulement chez Wittner mais aussi chez Ritter Media Service à Mannheim en Allemagne (ancien importateur des caméras Beaulieu) ainsi que chez Pro8mm à Burbank et chez Bolex International à Yverdon les Bains en Suisse.
    Jason Schneider affirme que la Leicina Spécial serait la meilleure caméra super 8 (https://lhsa.org/2019/03/the-leicina-special-the-leica-of-super-8-movie-cameras/). D’une part, je n’en n’ai vu la preuve nulle part et d’autre part il n’existe à ma connaissance aucun atelier dans le monde qui répare cette caméra. Je pense moi comme beaucoup de professionnels du cinéma que c’est la Beaulieu qui est la meilleure caméra super 8 en raison de son miroir oscillant qui élimine le prisme habituel qui vient s’interposer entre l’objectif et le film comme sur les autres caméras super 8. J’ai rédigé un article sur Beaulieu et le super 8 pour une revue française. Je peux vous en faire parvenir une copie si cela vous intéresse et si vous me communiquez une adresse e-mail.
    Cordialement,
    Philippe Maillot
    La Rochelle – France
    E-mail : philppemaillot17@orange.fr
    Site internet : http://philippemaillot-image.com/

    Reply
  • Philippe Maillot
    May 2, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Bravo pour ces belles images. Je possède également une 4008 ZM II (ainsi qu’une 5008 et une 7008) en parfait état (probablement remanufacturée par Beaulieu il y a une vingtaine d’année) et comme vous je suis très impressionné par la qualité des images. Vous en apportez la preuve mais on peut aussi s’en rendre compte en visionnant les films de José Luis Vilar ( https://ochoypico.com/en/our-works/) ainsi que le film d’Emir Kusturica : « Super 8 stories ». Vous avez raison d’insister sur la possibilité de faire réparer cette caméra car c’est la seule marque de caméras super 8 pour laquelle on trouve des pièces neuves ; chez Wittner Cinetec à Hamburg en Allemagne qui a racheté Beaulieu en 2002 . On peut faire réparer cette caméta non seulement chez Wittner mais aussi chez Ritter Media Service à Mannheim en Allemagne (ancien importateur des caméras Beaulieu) ainsi que chez Pro8mm à Burbank et chez Bolex International à Yverdon les Bains en Suisse.
    Jason Schneider affirme que la Leicina Spécial serait la meilleure caméra super 8 (https://lhsa.org/2019/03/the-leicina-special-the-leica-of-super-8-movie-cameras/). D’une part, je n’en n’ai vu la preuve nulle part et d’autre part il n’existe à ma connaissance aucun atelier dans le monde qui répare cette caméra. Je pense moi comme beaucoup de professionnels du cinéma que c’est la Beaulieu qui est la meilleure caméra super 8 en raison de son miroir oscillant qui élimine le prisme habituel qui vient s’interposer entre l’objectif et le film comme sur les autres caméras super 8. J’ai rédigé un article sur Beaulieu et le super 8 pour une revue française. Je peux vous en faire parvenir une copie si cela vous intéresse et si vous me communiquez une adresse e-mail.
    Cordialement,
    Philippe Maillot
    La Rochelle – France
    E-mail : philppemaillot17@orange.fr
    Site internet : http://philippemaillot-image.com/

    Reply
  • Marta
    January 26, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Noam, great footage, thanks a lot for sharing.
    I’ve recently bought a ZOOM 4 version and I’m trying to figure out the main differences between the two cameras. When you wrote “Despite the fact that I didn’t use a proper light meter and was basically guessing the exposure” did you mean that the ZOOM 2 doesn’t have an inbuilt light meter and/or there is no pointer needle of exposure meter in the viewfinder? According to the information I was able to find online, there should be one. Did you mean that you didn’t use an additional light meter on top of the in-built one?

    Since you write that you were guessing the exposure does it mean that you mostly worked in the manual mode? And if so- why did you choose it over the auto?

    Greetings from Germany!
    Marta

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 3, 2020 at 1:47 am

      Hi Marta! I did use the light meter built into the camera, but wasn’t sure how it would stack up to a “real” professional light meter, like the ones I would use on a larger production. That said, the needle/exposure meter worked beautifully on the 4008! And yes, I would shoot everything manually.

      Reply
  • funkz vv
    December 25, 2018 at 1:28 am

    Cool site and great info. I’m soon getting this very same camera and will be glad if it works.. will see.

    Reply
  • Sean Conley
    September 8, 2018 at 5:47 am

    Hey Noam,

    Your shots were beautiful.
    I just rented this camera for a week to shoot a project.

    You mentioned not using a light meter and guessing exposure, you did this in manual mode?
    I am assuming since you switched lenses you weren’t able to use the auto mode.
    I’m planning to rely heavily on the light meter like I would shooting 35mm stills. Was that your approach? I am aiming to get close and as you said over and underexposure is easy to bring back up or own in post because of the latitude.

    It will be my first time shooting 8mm, really hoping I could get similar clarity with 2K scans here in Portland.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 14, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      Congrats on shooting some 8mm, Sean! I didn’t use any sort of auto mode. However, I did use the built in meter in the viewfinder that roughly shows you if you are exposed properly. I just opened or closed the iris so that the needle in the viewfinder was in the center of the image, and hoped for the best!

      Reply
  • Romulo
    March 30, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    Hi,

    Where did you service your Beaulieu?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      April 2, 2018 at 4:17 am

      At Pro8mm in Burbank, CA. They are the best.

      Reply
  • bradley
    February 12, 2018 at 2:43 am

    Dam that footage is nice! I’ve shot quite a bit of super 8 and even when it’s properly exposed/focused I can’t quite get that beautiful look. Do you have any tips for post production? Like maybe duplicating the clip and using different blend modes?

    BTW I think I’m the guy who bought your ‘seized up’ lens on ebay! I was hoping to fix it but I think I’m doomed LOL . Oh well I’m in over my head again.

    Thanks 🙂

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 27, 2018 at 11:38 pm

      Nice! Cool to know the lens went to you… As for post-production tips, I did very little color correction or any other post work on these clips. Just a touch of contrast and a minor color balance here or there… The footage looks so nice straight out of the can 🙂

      Reply
  • Werner
    December 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Amazing look. Did you feel comfortable with the 4008 handle ? Seems a bit short to me…
    Also, have you added/removed some noise/grain in post ?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 7, 2018 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks! The handle is quite short, but I’m mostly using it on a tripod so it doesn’t bug me too much. I didn’t change the noise or grain at all on this, so it looks just like it did straight from the scan.

      Reply
    • Andrew D.
      April 30, 2020 at 7:31 am

      I just picked one up and I charged it, can’t wait to shoot.
      Did you try out the auto on the camera? Or did you shoot all Manual?

      Reply
      • Noam Kroll
        August 5, 2020 at 3:44 pm

        Great to hear! I shot all manual, but used the built in light meter (which worked surprisingly well).

        Reply
  • Al
    October 15, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Good to see some scanned picture from a THE BEAULIEU 4008 ZMII. I used one for shooting news in Australia back in the 60,s. The current transfer technology leaves a lot to be desired. The old Rank scanners are totally out of date. The German sparklite frame by frame transfer systems is brilliant. Each frame is exposed with a flash built into the scanners at the gate and the result is outstanding. I would like to do more with super 8, but the cameras are getting very old. Kodaks new creation I don’t like at all.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      October 20, 2017 at 1:31 am

      I agree about the new Kodak! I’m glad they’re making it, but it doesn’t quite have the same allure as a true vintage Super 8mm camera.

      Reply
  • FLM215 – Week 3 – Site Title
    October 6, 2017 at 9:55 am

    […] One thing that is rarely talked about in today’s film making landscape is film itself. That’s why I decided to focus on one of Noams blog posts called Shooting Super 8mm Film For The First Time On The Beaulieu 4008 ZMII (http://noamkroll.com/shooting-super-8mm-film-for-the-first-time-on-the-beaulieu-4008-zmii/) […]

    Reply
  • Tom
    September 21, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    How did you manage to power the camera? My Beaulieus battery has completely given up and I can’t find an (affordable) replacement. .

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 22, 2017 at 2:06 am

      Hey Tom! I am actually using the original battery which miraculously still works perfectly. I know that Pro 8mm in Burbank, CA modifies these cameras to put a new battery inside the hand grip… Not sure how much they charge, but it’s a great option! I’m sure there are some other DIY options too, but I wouldn’t trust myself with that 🙂

      Reply
  • Fredrik Pihl
    September 10, 2017 at 1:44 am

    Noam!
    Great footage. I myself owned a Beaulieu 2008 and now a 6008 with a fantastic Angenieux zoom.
    A comment about resolving power of S8. We did a number of calculations and tests a number of years ago to determine what the ideal scanning rez should be for S8…. and it is not a lot I’m afraid.
    4k is ridiculous, 2k is way over the top – – – 1080 is ok and I guess a nice halfway there and an easy format to put into your edit / grade software – – but really, its even less…
    50ASA Kodak Vision3 resolves 560 lines vertically in a S8 frame, so for the sake of Nykvists theorem 1080 is quite enough.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 22, 2017 at 1:29 am

      Interesting! And thanks for sharing this here… I’d be curious about the benefits (if any) of scanning at higher resolution when you’re scanning compressed (ProRes) on color information… Appreciate your 2 cents.

      Reply
    • Matt
      September 22, 2018 at 10:27 pm

      I think I read somewhere that the primary benefit of scanning at a higher resolution is largely giving you a bigger area of the image to crop to different aspect ratios. Something like that, anyway. I’m a novice so you shouldn’t take my word for it, of course!

      Edit: Before I posted I just checked one company in the UK that scans/processes Super 8, and here was their explanation for it:

      “By far our most popular service is the 8mm film scan (super 8 and standard 8) at 2.5K resolution. What’s nice about this transfer is, that as many editors are working very comfortably in 1080p (1920 x 1080), the 2.5K scan (coming in at 2448 x 2048) sits in the 1080p edit with bags of ‘pan and scan’ space to play with. In fact to view the full 4:3 super 8 image you’ll need to scale it down by around 65%.

      “So unlike your typical 1080p 8mm film scan, where the film sits pillar box in the middle of the screen with two black blocks either side, our 2.5K scan fills the whole 1080p screen… and then some.”

      Reply
      • Noam Kroll
        November 14, 2018 at 4:58 am

        Very cool to know, Matt! I’m going to experiment more with scanning techniques/options soon.

        Reply
  • Timo E. Doh
    August 29, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Wow. Many thanks, Noam, for posting the video. I look forward to seeing more.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 31, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      Thank you Timo! Looking forward to sharing more, too…

      Reply

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