I was recently given a box of old photography equipment that a friend found in their grandparent's basement. When I was asked if I wanted the box, my first instinct was to take a pass. I have a ton of stuff already filling my basement, why bring in more. Then for some unknown reason I changed my mind and decided to go get the box sight unseen. Turns out I made a pretty good choice.
Once I got the box and had a chance to go through it, I found a bunch of old leather cases completely covered in dust. This is a bad thing for me as I am quite allergic to thick layers of dust. Immediately my head felt like it swelled five hat sizes and I was sneezing up a storm. Once I got the dust cleaned up a bit my sinuses calmed down and I was able to take inventory of the prizes I had acquired.
There was one old SLR camera, a Super-8 camera, an 8mm Camera and an ancient 8mm projector. Since I already had both an SLR and a Super-8 camera, my interests immediately focused in on the 8mm items.
The Canon Zoom 8 has a lot of bells and whistles for a camera made in 1959. It has a great lens with a zoom of 10mm-40mm. It can do stop-motion, and a whole bunch more. It also makes some great sounds.
It turns out the camera makes some interesting clicks while running. Since it is impossible to see the footage coounter while also looking through the viewfinder, the gear mechanisms were designed to make a little click sound for every 50 frames that travel through the film gate. Not an overly annoying loud click but just a soft click. Just loud enough to be heard while holding the camera up to your eye. As the camera runs off of manual winding instead of batteries the maximum number of frames in a single wind is 600, so you get 12 clicks per full length shot. Also if you let the mechanism unwind fully it slows done oven the last few frames, causing them to be over exposed. To avoid this exposure problem the camera has a little bell that dings right before this slow done occurs. So when running the camera through a full wind-up you get a great little collage of sounds, starting with the whirling of the cameras gears spinning, plus the click every 50 frames and the for the finale you get a tiny bell crescendo followed by mechanical jamming sound at is abruptly stops. Take a listen:
It is possible to run the camera with the door to the film compartment open so the mechanism can be heard in much more detail. Running the camera this way bypasses the 50 frame click but lets the bell ring a little clearer at the end. Here is a full camera wind with the door open this time:
When I was in film school we learned to shoot on Bolex manual wind 16mm cameras. They had a great system with a handle that popped out so it was possible to crank the camera up to a full wind in one continuos motion. It made a great sound while you cranked it too. Sadly the wind up mechanism on the Canon Zoom 8 is not nearly as elegant. In order to wind it up you flip out a small flat piece of metal and turn it in a series half turns. It takes a while to work it all the way to a full wind and is very inefficient in terms of wrist power. As a result it does not make an iconic sound at all like the Bolex did. Way fewer actual gear sounds and many more figeting sounds as the camera is cranked.
Finally here are a few of the old-timey clicks the camera makes. A few shutter movements recorded with the camera in stop motion mode, followed by the film compartment door opening and closing.
Keep a look out for a future post on the sound of the 8mm projector, as it has some great sounds as well.