Certain movie cameras can give owners happy endings

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today's antiques.scott davisBetween movie theaters, TVs, computers, and cell phones it’s likely that every one of us is impacted by moving pictures every day. Moving pictures are used for entertainment, conveyance of information and documentation; and with the advent of digital technology virtually everyone captures moving images without even thinking twice about what an amazing gift it is.

The history of movie cameras is rather short, with the first patent for one being issued in 1888 in France. It then took more than three decades until the Eastman Kodak company introduced the first basic16mm movie camera and corresponding projectors for home use in 1923.

Movie cameras for personal use remained quite simple and produced rather poor quality amateur looking results until the advent of World War II in the early 1940s.  At that time, many government officials and camera makers, both American and foreign, realized the potential power of moving pictures for use as political propaganda during the war.

The new demand for movies catapulted the development of movie camera technology. During that time, professionals were using cumbersome and expensive 35mm format cameras while sophisticated amateurs were using smaller yet very high quality 16mm versions.

Home movies were almost always shot using 8mm film in cameras that we’re priced so almost anyone could afford one. While the 35mm and 16mm formats have lasted unchanged until today, 8mm technology was significantly improved in the 1960s to have a larger image area and smaller sprocket holes. The new format was named “Super 8.”

Today, many folks still own the family movie camera and projector that their ancestors used in prior generations. The problem is that there is a huge supply of those cameras in the market, but very little demand for them since their picture quality is so far below digital technology and the availability of film and processing is virtually nonexistent. Thus, the vast majority of all 8mm and Super 8 cameras and projectors are nearly valueless.

The good news is that if your family sprung for a better 16mm or 35mm camera long ago, it can be pretty desirable today. Check to see if your 16mm or 35mm camera is made by Bolex, Arri, Beulieu, Auricon, DeVry or Cine-Kodak. Those cameras and their projectors can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Scott Davis operates Rhode Island Antiques Mall, 345 Fountain St., Pawtucket. Contact him at (401) 475-3400 or Scott@riantiquesmall.com.

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