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Standard 8 and Super 8 - how they compare

Standard 8mm film is in fact 25 feet of 16mm motion picture film run through the camera twice. During filming the pictures are exposed down one edge of the stock and then down the other. During processing it is split down the middle and joined at the ends to form one continuous reel of 50 feet.

Super 8mm film was produced as a single 50ft reel in a sealed cartridge that allowed for easy loading into the film camera. It has smaller sprocket holes then Standard 8mm and therefore a larger picture area.

Standard 8mm film cameras had a metal film and pressure gate that made for a more stable film during filming and therefore final projection. Super 8mm cameras relied on the plastic film gate built into the cartridge. This meant that the Super 8mm image tended to have more side-to-side movement during filming. Secondly, many Super 8 cameras had zoom lenses on them that sometimes made focussing difficult during zooming and due to the increased amount of glass in the lens it sometimes gave a more inferior image then Standard 8mm.

Processed 8mm film was usually returned on 50ft reels but most people joined them onto larger reels - the most common being 200, 400 and 600ft reels. Films were joined together or 'spliced' using tape or cement glue that frequently dried out over time and came apart.

The table below shows the most common sizes of 8mm reels and film lengths (approximately).

  8mm Reel  Diameter             length in feet             
 3''      Three inches               50ft                                
  5''        Five inches                200ft                                
 7''       Seven inches         400ft                           
10''        Ten inches              600ft                             
12''      Twelve inches            800ft                             
20''      Twenty inches           1200ft                              

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