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Super 8 XL Sound 3000AF Macro
Sometimes, certain cameras only reveal their charm once you actually get your hands on it. While many other cameras are more exotic and inspire you before you even see it in real life, the Elmo 3000AF is, quite simply, a real sleeper. Notice the limited range of the zoom (3X) with a difficult starting focal length of 9mm. Big and boxy with a huge microphone attached at the top just scream "mama's car" but in camera form!
The real secret is precisely the limited zoom and that fact that it is a sound camera . These two facts mean that this camera has less light loss due to the fewer number of elements compared to big professional-type 10X zoom cameras and it runs silent enough to keep sleeping people sleeping! And let's not forget that macro function. How sweet it that!
Perhaps the greatest part of this sleeper was the price: $5 on ebay and I didn't even bid higher than that...just five bucks. It came with the original case, instructions (more detail from there in a minute), microphone, metal lens cap and the original cotton swabs (Q-tips) supplied by Elmo. What a deal. I plugged in 6 AA batteries and the camera came to life with a simple tap of the hand grip. Elmo's are funny that way; they seem to keep on ticking no matter how old they are.
I happened to have a few Kodachrome K40 Sound cartridges kicking around so I loaded up a couple and took it to the lake for some great family fun. Added my own Sony headphones and secondary B&H 600 ohm microphone and shot some great stuff on the water (while in the canoe no less!) and on the beach. Once running, unlike louder Chinon sound cameras, this Elmo just hums quietly and effortlessly.
The 3000AF comes with a f1.2 9-27mm macro lens with a 62mm filter size. Please note that since this is an autofocus camera, it is absolutely essential you do NOT use a lens hood or similar bellows device. The autofocus unit immediately above the lens will not be able to work if you interfere with its field of view.
The camera only offers 18fps and offers a 220 degree shutter. These attributes make it a fantastic low light camera. The light meter is run off of the same 6 AA batteries used for the rest of the camera functions. Highest f-stop is f16. The power zoom is very smooth and very usable in actual filming use. The camera only accepts 40ASA and 160ASA films but you can fully set the meter manually so use of other films is not a problem. The meter is a bit super-sensitive but sort of understandably considering I was shooting in a water environment. You can easily turn the dial and set the desired f-stop and the camera stays rock solid on the setting. It only offers the basic numbers on the readout though - 1.2, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, and 16. you will have to guess at the other f-stop settings.
Also, unlike many sound cameras, this one runs at 18 fps with both a silent or a sound cartridge. Many other sound cameras tend to run at about 20fps when loaded with silent film. The Elmo Action Mic EC-204 is a tidy unit. Equiped to accept a 1.5 volt G13 silver oxide battery, the mic attaches to the top of the camera for normal use. Hook up a second mic and the camera automatically mixes the two sound sources. No battery is needed with the mic mounted on the camera. However, remove the mic, pop in a battery, attach the mic to the camera with a basic male/male 1/8th mono mini plug and you have an off camera mic. Cool.
The auctofocus mechanism deserves special mention. By pressing the trigger slightly, the tiny motor in the camera starts spinning and gently turns the rather stiff focus back and forth as needed. The AF unit is basically a rangefinder and matches two optical images. Incredible when you think about it.
When the camera is fully zoomed, that area you see represents the full AF focus area...zoom back to wide angle and the AF area is the small square that was the previous telephoto full frame area. Hard to explain, easy to comprehend in practice. The little red button allows you to use the AF when the dial is set to manual. And the camera really does focus on the right thing! The trick is use the AF before pulling the trigger all the way and then use the camera normally. In fact, you could easily follow-focus many normal subjects with this camera. Suddenly you can see your own filmaking efforts developing further with this type of camera feature. Not bad for 1970s technology!
Perhaps the best part of this camera is actually using it. It is well balanced and not too heavy at 3.5 pounds. All basic controls are easily used with your left hand while filming. The microphone works great and really puts a whole new spin on movie making efforts when you can hear the subject at hand! The camera reassuredly gives you a blinking green light to let you know the film is rolling correctly. An additional red light blinks in time with the peak recording levels as well. Can't believe I got all this for $5. I used two rolls of my 1994 sound filmstock, saving the rest including my 1999 filmstock for a later adventure.
Sadly, these Kodachrome days cannot last forever. But on this day, Kodachrome lived happily ever after.
your own filmmaking day soon. You'll be glad you did,