Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cine Kodak Eight Model 20

I love photographs of people holding cameras, especially when it's a camera in my collection.  The Cine Kodak Eight Model 20 (Mine still works.) is one of the most important mass market movie cameras ever made.  Introduced in 1932, as the great depression took it's toll on Kodak's bottom line, the Model 20 was the first double 8 camera ever made.  (Also know as regular 8 or straight 8.)  Some unknown Kodak engineer came up with a very simple idea.  Take a roll of 16mm movie film, the standard for home movies, double the number of perforations, expose only one half the width of film per pass through the camera, flip the reel over, run it through the camera a second time, exposing the other half of the film.  Four frames where there had been one.  A 25 foot reel of double 8 would have the same run time as a 100 foot reel of 16mm.  After processing, the film had to be slit in half, and the two lengths spliced together, but the greater processing costs were small compared to the savings in film stock.  At a time when the vast majority of Kodak's customers were short of money, the Cine Model 20 kept Kodak in the home movie business.

So, what difference does it make if a double 8 camera still works when the film is no longer made?  Actually, in a way, it still is.  While no surviving film company still manufactures the film, some do make 16mm.  There are companies that still have working 8mm perforating machines.  They buy 16mm, run it through the perforating machines, and new double 8 is made.  In the United States, Dwayne's Photography in Parsons, Kansas.  If interested, go to their website, and place an order.  They'll process it too.  All part of the service.  It's not cheap, but it does keep those of us who love film happy.  And while I haven't bothered to do the research, I'd be surprised if there aren't small operations like Dwayne's still operating in Europe, Asia or South America.

Just looking at this picture, I'm betting that it was taken sometime in the early to mid fifties.  The cars are older than that, but our budding John Ford is pretty young, and he and his friends were probably driving older cars.  Too, take a look at the bottom of the print.  Short shorts, plus the hair cut, and the expanding metal watchband...well, I could be wrong, but taken together, I'm not getting a feel for an earlier time period.

And finally...The serial number on my camera is AK 6181.  That has to be pretty early in the manufacturing run.  Perhaps, 1932.

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