All my cameras, part 5; Fujica Z800

November 12, 2010

This is a Japanese made (Fuji) motion picture camera. It uses Single 8 film, which is the same format as Super 8 but comes in a different cartridge. Super 8 film cartridges are shaped like a box whereas Single 8 cartridges look like a capital B. Both films were introduced around the same time in 1964/65.

The Z800 was a reasonably high end model. As with Super 8 there were basic consumer models as well as more high end ‘pro’ featured ones. The very best Fujica model was the Z1000 which is still keenly sought after. I would have liked to get one but the asking price was always too high for my purposes. I was working on a project for several years in which I shot a lot of Super 8 film and at one stage I decided to also explore Single 8 as the two formats can be mixed together, particularly if you are finishing for digital output. For my needs the Z800 was good quality at a reasonable price. I bought it second hand via the cinematography web forum.

It has an f/1.8 8-64 mm zoom lens with EBC, (electron beam coating).  Fuji have long had a reputation for making good quality cameras with excellent lenses. The lens can be zoomed either manually or with a power switch. It has a selection of shutter speeds of 18, 24 or 36 frames per second. I always used 18 fps, same with Super 8. It can also do single frame exposures, another function I had no need for and never tried. There is a variable shutter control for fade-ins and fade-outs, however I always filmed with the shutter wide open. There is a fold down handle if you are doing hand held filming. When the camera is to be used on a tripod the handle folds up under the body, revealing the tripod socket.It can be operated via a cable release and there is also a ‘run lock’ switch for extended takes.

The camera is powered by 4 AA batteries. These run the film transport and power zoom as well as the light meter. There is an option for full auto exposure as well as manual override. I found the meter to be accurate enough for shooting reversal and would generally do a range reading of the scene, choose the aperture that would give the best highlight exposure and then lock this in using the manual exposure setting. I always had good results with this method. Full auto exposure is risky (with all cameras) as the meter can shift the exposure during filming if light or dark elements enter the frame, even though the light level remains consistent.

The stock I used was Fujichrome R25N a 25 ISO daylight balanced reversal film. This is still available from Fuji and can be processed in Japan. It’s a beautiful emulsion and reason enough to film with Single 8. It has grain and a colour palette that is similar to traditional Super 8 Kodachrome, however it probably won’t be available for much longer. Fuji already announced the discontinuation of Single 8 several years ago and then decided to let it run for a few more years. I believe the current emulsions will be sold and processed until mid 2012. After this the cameras can still be used as some companies are packaging still films such as Velvia into the cartridges. It seems we are very close to the end of an era.

I’m glad that I got to experience this film while it was still easily available. I suspect it will become legendary once it’s gone, like Polaroid 665/55, Agfa APX 25, Kodak HIE and all the others. The Z800 is a very good camera, easy to understand and operate and produces good results. I bought my film from Tak at Retro and had it telecined (digitised) at Uppsala Bildteknik in Sweden. I live in Sydney but you have to be prepared for global mail order if you want to do this.

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