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Stats & Translation
PROFILE - October 2004
Let me start this review by stating this is the one camera in my collection that is always loaded with film and ready to go! Consider this: a camera so compact (not small, just compact) that you will be mistaken for carrying a lady's purse as you go out and about your business. This may be a good thing, depending upon who you are. As for me, this is "Super-8-Man-approved" attire.
OK, now back to the review. The Nikkorex 8 was Nikon's first foray into the amateur film market. Interestingly, they decided to offer a completely automated camera instead of a fully manual camera like many of their counterparts of the time. The Nikon website provides some great insight into the match of wills that existed: the original concept was for a 3-turret 8mm camera with what one can only imagine as incredible prime optics: 6.5mm, 13mm, and 38mm f1.8 Nikkor primes. However, the huge American market must have been their primary market so they decided to offer a camera that provides for more convenience and ease of shooting. And they did it well.
First appearing in September 1960, the Nikkorex offers a 10mm prime lens, rated at f1.8, and, if you look close enough, you can tell it has Nikon glass just like its big 35mm counterparts. You can distinctly see the telltale purple coating on that tiny lens. The autoexposure runs off of a mercury PX-14 battery (2.7volts). The great thing is that sellers on the internet currently offer an exact PX-14 replacement battery, albeit rated at 3.0 volts. Also, if a battery is unavailable, you can also easily set the aperture manually. I am thinking the shutter is of the 160-degree variety so most any old-school light meter (like a Weston Master) with a "cine" setting would work fine. The telephoto lens has its own built-in lens hood which is nice.
Now, a word on that light meter. The camera you see here is actually a combination of three Nikkorex cameras. I got lucky on my third camera to finally find a working meter. However, the face plate on that third camera had dings and scratches. By simply removing the screw you see on each side, the face plate is easily replaced if you can find a better one. It was a bit tricky figuring out where the light meter dial should go but it's not that difficult. It was more difficult keeping the black plastic square in place. Take your time and it will, eventually, pop together.
I love the fact this camera runs on 4-AA batteries. No longer am I trapped by the limit of a spring wind. If you find your camera does not work, like I did on two of them, simply sand down the contacts a bit and they may just spring to life. This has been a typical experience of mine with most movie cameras. Perhaps that is why they are so great to collect and repair?
The Nikkorex-8 even offers a PC contact. I have not tested this but it appears, since there is NO provision for single frame exposures, that this is simply a constant-on switch (when the camera is running) to allow you to connect the camera to a tape recorder. The cord, like the Nikon EA-2 tape recorder sych cord, would allow the recorder to start and stop each time you ran the camera. In some sense this would be overkill for a camera that was apparently marketed based on its small size; you were now expected to carry a big old tape recorder with it! I mean, if you are going to that much trouble to record your event, why take such a small camera? But that's just me..
The telephoto lens is also a work of art. It offers an increase in focal length to 20mm and still retains the f1.8 speed. This means you do not have to make any changes to your exposure when switching between the two lenses.It mounts solidly to the camera body and I found no reduction in sharpness or other usual suspects associated with adapter lenses. This lens is sharp! The coatings are a testament to that.
Here are few technical details of the camera:
10mm f1.8 fixed focus lens
16 frames per second
Non XL shutter (~160 degrees)
4-AA batteries plus 1 PX14 2.7 volt battery
25-foot regular 8mm spool film
5 -100 ASA setting for CdS meter
As I started off stating, this camera is always loaded with film - currently loaded with 200ASA B&W film! And the film that I have taken with this camera is superb. If you are at all familiar with the look of film shot with Nikkor glass, this camera gives you some sense of that. I have used both cinechrome 25 (Kodachrome 25 daylight film) and black and white films and the level of contrast detail is excellent. I found the Nikkor glass was a bit toned towards the red/pink but in a good way. Nothing that could not be tweaked in post production on the PC. The registration is excellent. Also, the film gate is larger than the standard 8 projector opening so you get quite a bit more image area if you are transferring your films to the computer via a workprinter,
The best part about these cameras are they are basically free on the internet. By that I mean you can typically find one for under $10. Also, be sure to look for one that comes with the telephoto lens. This is a must. Another rare feature is the lens cap. It is essentially a square clear plastic cap that covers both the lens and the trigger. I bid on a fourth camera that came with that and the original instructions but when you have 3, it's hard to get excited about the fourth. I lossed out in the end. However, a later model of the Nikkorex-8 came with a reflex videfinder. If I see one for cheap, I may just have to bid on it. Still, I kind of like the spectacle-look of this first Nikon.
In the picture below, notice the spools are set for two different sprocket types - the supply reel on the right has three bumps while the take up reel on the left has four teeth at the base of the shaft. This was yet another way the folks who developed the regular 8mm standard tried to keep you from making mistakes. If you had a roll in your hands that you tried to load and it would not go on the sprocket properly on the full spool side, this meant the film had already been exposed. Very clever. However, this system was not foolproof since Bolex used only one tooth at the base of each shaft. This picture also shows the spring loaded pressure plate for the film. Not the most secure method but very solid and it allows for easy cleaning of the gate if you have a small enough utensil of some kind.
here is a close up of the internal battery box. Fortunately
it shows the polarity of the battery. The
cool part is that you cannot remove
the battery once film is loaded. Nice
safety feature. Like
most cameras of this era, the high level of thought, construction,
and craftsmanship are evident throughout. Anyone
can make a flat back plate. It takes a love of style to make it pinstriped!
Oh, you are also unable to close the lid of the camera
if you have not fully closed
door first. Happy Film Shooting!
Cheers, October 15, 2004
Happy Film Shooting!
October 15, 2004