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Eric Zaldivar

Argus/Cosina Model 708

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I’m looking to buy a super 8 camera and I’ve seen alot of these argus cameras for really low prices. Can anyone tell me if this is a quality camera? I’m hoping to one day shoot a film on super 8 and I’d like to own a camera that’s reliable.

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Posted (edited)

These are quite well made cameras which were made for ARGUS by COSINA in Japan as part of their joint venture for several years making Super 8mm cameras, 35mm SLRs and other photo products.  The  Model 708 camera has a nice viewfinder, fairly bright and easy to focus with, and some nice features:

[1].   All metal body so it has a solid feel and some heft to it.

[2].  The camera has Automatic and Manual exposure (although, I can't remember if the Manual Exposure is coupled to the Meter's Battery Power...which I believe it is, so if it is, it needs the battery to work in manual mode.  I've got a couple versions, one is this model but can't locate it at the moment to double check). The 1.5 volt batteries will work fine if using the camera in manual mode.  Just compare this against another camera or light meter, taking into the account the light loss from the beam-splitter prism, and note the exposure variation due to the higher battery voltage.  Factor this in and you'll be able to use the camera's own working light meter as a guide to exposure (for those films it will meter with, for those it won't meter with correctly, just factor in the bias as well and you can still use it).

[3].  There are 3 filming speeds of 12fps, 18fps and 24fps

[4].  Manual focusing with the 8mm to 64mm F/1.7 zoom lens and micro prism center spot.

[5].  The camera's metering system/cartridge notch index system allows for automatic exposure for ISO 25/ 40 and 100/160.  But with manual exposure you can use the auto as a guide and then manually compensate for whatever film type you are using and set it.  Meter requires the PX13 (1.3 volt batteries or equivalent).

[6].  The camera's motor and zoom motor are powered by 4 Double A 1.5 volt batteries held in the folding pistol grip, which folds flat against the bottom of the camera, this option also allows you to use it on a tripod this way.  There's also a Battery Level Check Meter on the outside of the camera with a button to activate it and also an Over/Under Exposure warning indicator.

[7].  There's a cable release socket for continuous run, and for single frame, both under the lens on the front of the camera, as well as a lever to set the camera for continuous run or trigger lock.

[8].  Nice rubber grip on the focusing and zoom rings.  So power and manual zoom.

So, if the camera runs okay, the lens is fine, and the meter works (mainly to be able to use the Manual Exposure), then it would be a fun camera to use.  This is not an XL (existing or low light camera) since the shutter is a 170 degree type but I have used this camera and others from that era in lower light, making use of the 12 frames per second running speed to add more exposure power to filming.  As to quality, the lens is sharp, the camera all metal mainly and heavy compared to later made plastic cameras, the overall finish is good, so I personally think it's a well made cameras, especially since so many still seem to run fine being over 43 years old now.  Hope this helps.  Make sure it runs first.....if at all possible.

Edited by Martin Baumgarten

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Thanks Martin, this is just what I was looking for. Do you know how difficult it is to sync audio with this camera?

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As with any Super 8mm camera that doesn't have some form of electric start for a tape recorder, you would have to use the Slate Method.  But then, so many now use some form of electronic or digital sound recording.  Anyhow, slate the scene at the beginning, then you'll have a visual cue in the film and an audible cue on the audio.  In post via your computer software, just marry the two back up together.  If there is some slight drift of image or sound, it will just require some slight tweaking of stretching or shrinking the picture or audio to fit.  The truly rare method these days are for those that want to project film with audio on it.  That requires magnetic sound striping of the film itself, and marrying back the audio to the film via careful alignment of the slate cues and recording it onto the film itself.  I doubt that's what you're interested in, as most users these days desire to have their films digitized and work with them in post via a NLE software program.   Anyhow, it's not difficult to do, just a matter of discipline to slate each shot at the beginning.  With film costs and processing what they are, your slating only needs to be a couple seconds as that's plenty to find the synch point on the film and on your audio.

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