Build Battery Packs
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VNF Film and Filters
Super 8mm Links
Super 8 in PC Mag!
Kodak's S8mm Site
Ode to Regular 8mm
Cyber Film School
Stats & Translation
PROFILE - March 2004
Have you noticed that no matter how many movie cameras you discover, there seems to be yet another one out there that has a feature that you just have to have? Well, this Elmo camera attempted to put those kinds of thoughts to rest once and for all. In fact, they even perfected it along the way and in doing so proved that one camera CAN be all things to all people. You see, the Elmo Tri-Filmatic was designed to handle the three competing small format movie films that existed back in tha late 1960's, a time when super 8 was the new kid on the block. With a simple change of a rear cartridge, this camera can accomodate single 8mm (Fuji) film, double 8mm roll film ("regular 8"), and also super 8mm cartridges made by Kodak. In 1965, Kodak had just introduced the new super 8 format while Fuji was close on Kodak's heels with the new "single 8mm" format. Prior to this, Elmo, Fuji, Kodak and others had been participating in a multi-company effort to create a new small format movie film to replace the aging regular 8 format. Near the end, Kodak pulled out only to "surprise" everyone with their new "Kodapak" super 8mm cartridge format. Elmo, not to be left holding the bag, decided to play it safe and follow both Fuji's and Kodak's newly developed yet different formats. It also decided to make this camera viable for those folks who still shot regular 8 film. The sad part is that Fuji had developed the truly better small movie format; the single 8 cartridge was superior in every way to Kodak's. But then again, I have a VHS attached to my TV. Such is life.
Of course, you may be wondering what the fourth format is that I mentioned in my title? Double super 8mm film! Elmo would later invent a giant, powered, 100-foot roll film holder for the double super 8mm format. So, it would seem, Elmo designed something no other manufacturer dared to consider; a camera that could grow with the times to accept both existing and newly-developed movie film formats. Simply amazing, to me at least.
My particular example was a nice ebay find though it did cost $60 including shipping. I took a chance at it working and discovered, sadly, that it appeared to be DOA (dead on arrival). The only sign of life was the power zoom; the one feature I think almost everyone can do without in a movie camera! It came in its original black Elmo case complete with a 52mm lens hood, rubber eyecup, and two backs: the super 8mm back and the double 8mm back. The finish was superb on this camera with the leather applique holding up very well over the years. Only a small sign of pitting on the metal under the lens was apparent. The double 8mm back even came preloaded with what appeared to be colour film and also the original Elmo take up reel. I can make use of these spare reels to cut down a 100-foot B&W roll sitting in my freezer. I like that!
I still find it amazing that back in 1965 (approximately) a company was able to engineer a camera to accept all known formats of small movie film and offer it to the public at a price that obviously created sales. That's just great.
Elmo also made a Dual-Filmatic version of this camera and it only accepted the Single 8 and Super 8 backs. I am not sure if it accepted the double Super 8 back though so be careful.
Back to my C-300. Well, I was a little disappointed to have bought a total "display queen" as I tend to purchase cameras that have the ability to function. I may not run film through all of my cameras but I like knowing that I can if I want to. So, I proceeded to do what all do-it-youselfers tend to do - mess with it! I hit it with my hands, banged it on the desk lightly, bumped it, shook it up and down, and even begged it to work! OK, well first I made sure the batteries I used were good. Then, I discovered that this camera only runs if the back is installed on the camera. Oops, I just gave it away. So, there I was all ready to put the camera away for a few months (years?) after fiddling with it for a couple of hours while watching TV, and, as I walked across the room, PPPUUUUURRRRR! It started to work. It was slow at first and rather erratic. However, after a day or so of running it every so often and adding a little lubrication to the gears, it now runs very well at both 18 and 24 frames per second. At first I could not hear or see any difference in the two speeds, but, as I continued to let the motor run, things started to advance more solidly. I can now safely say it runs smoothly and has two distictly different speeds. Though it is not the quietest camera in the whole world. But then again, does YOUR camera accept four film formats? That's what I thought.
Now, the last CRUCIAL area to check is the light meter. And here's the rub: the camera is only functional if the light meter works and you can find a power source for it. The aperture can be set manually but ONLY if there is power to the light meter circuit. Other super 8 and regular 8 cameras have manual apertures that do not require power so this should be considered the achilles heel of this Elmo model. On my camera, I was lucky that the owner stored his light meter batteries separately from the camera. Unfortunately, the mercury battery is a PX-25 3.9V (or 4.05 volt) kind that is discontinued. However, it appears there is a non-mercury version available online for about five dollars. So, does my camera's light meter work? I don't know. But, the outlook is promising. I checked the contacts with an ohm-meter and discovered there is a complete circuit. I am thinking that given the condition, the light meter may be fully functional. To compare: another camera of mine has a broken light meter and that circuit yields no reading when checked, hence the optimism.
One interesting point on this camera is the "F" and "R" swtich. It allows the camera motor to run backwards for double 8mm and single 8 (and double super 8mm?) film. So, complete double exposures are possible as well as in-camera dissolves, etc. Unfortunately, the circuit will not work in the reverse direction if the super 8 back is attached.
Here are few technical details of the camera:
The battery check function only works if a back is attached. Same goes for the film advance. I found you can run the camera with the super 8 back attached but in the open position. Doing this allows you to sight through the lens and see the rotating pin and the claw pulldown advancing.
With the double 8mm back, you have to slide the shutter lever to the open position to get the camera to run (or check the battery levels). It's yet another safety feature Elmo somehow designed into this historic camera. In fact, I am still not sure WHY I cannot get the camera to run without a back attached. I am still investigating with my ohm-meter as to why this is the case.
Another interesting note on this camera is that the viewfinder scene turns orange when you use the built-in No.85 filter. It seems Elmo decided not to cut the filter for where it overlaps the viewfinder area. I think this was on purpose so as to allow for instant verfication of whether the filter is in use or not. There is a small set screw just to the right of the film speed setting. If you remove the screw from this hole, the filter will be in place. You then put the screw into the accessory screw hole just above and to the right of the filter hole for safe keeping. Oh, and I just love how Elmo uses that hidden trigger switch underneath that silver cap. Very cool.
If you happen upon a C-300 with the double super 8mm back, please make sure it comes with the eyepiece extender. My smaller eyepice simply unscrews where the silver tube joins the black camera body (see pictures above). Elmo had to add the longer tube to clear the larger back of the double super 8mm back. Again, this camera is remarkable for its simplicity in executing the modular requirements of the various formats.
I ever shoot any film with this camera? Most assuredly yes! I still have
to get power to the light meter but after that I will be anxious
to try it on a bright summer morning and see how well the Elmo lens
performs compared to other super 8's in my collection. I am rarely
put-off by film results (except for the usual dust/hair/poor focus/poor
faults that we all make). This particular lens has a very yellow/orange
tone to it, so like I said, I am curious about its performance given
the age of its design.
Happy Film Shooting!
Cheers, March 2004
Happy Film Shooting!