Estes Cineroc (1970)

By | Jun 12, 2014

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I’ve been after a Cineroc on and off for many, many years. I finally managed to acquire one through a private sale and was very pleased.

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The Cineroc was produced from about 1970 – 1975. Rumor has it that production stopped when the tiny motor that drove the camera’s mechanisms was no longer available from the supplier. Due to their short production run, Cinerocs are very collectable amongst rocketry enthusiasts, and perhaps cinematographers as well.

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Upon initial inspection of the parts, its relatively unimpressive, but that’s what makes it so impressive. The Cineroc is a marvel in simplicity. Its light, compact and sturdy, with few moving parts for dependability. The Cineroc carried about 20 seconds of super 8mm movie film in a special cartridge. The lens of the camera peers out a hole in the side of the nose cone payload section, and the mirror angles the view 90 degrees downward. The view as seen on the film is the ground pulling away as the rocket ascends. The second picture shows a close-up of the camera motor and shutter wheel. The motor is geared to the shutter wheel and you can see the shutter aperture in the wheel. The camera’s frame rate was about 30 frames-per-second which provided a slow motion effect when played normally at 18 frames per second. 20 seconds of film was enough to capture all of the ascent stage to parachute deployment and a few seconds after that.

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The inside of the box has a special cardboard container to hold the main parts of the camera and cone securely and separate from each other. Additional box contents include the parachute, shock cord, package of super 8mm movie film in a special cartridge and drive pulley.

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Further views of the Cineroc from left to right are the (1) batteries, film cartridge and packaging, (2) camera, film cartridge and drive pulley, and (3) a close-up of the film cartridge showing the exposed strip of film. The film and batteries have long since expired, but they are so rare, even beyond the rareness of the camera itself, that even in their expired state, they are very valuable and essential to completing the overall package. The film cartridge is only held together with Scotch tape, so if I ever decide to fly the Cineroc, I could load it with fresh film quite easily.

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The cover of the operating manual has some frames of actual movie footage from the Cineroc on the cover. The angle of view is clear; looking straight down to the ground as the ground dropped away during flight.

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Above are a few shots from the user manual. Second picture from the left shows a parts breakdown with identification. Launch tips are in the next two.

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The second Cineroc came with the full assortment of supplemental literature, decals and some crazy wire used to test the camera’s operation. Note the second picture from the left has a sticker with a return address and a reward offer. You would stick it on the camera just in case the camera drifted away during a launch and got lost. Whoever might find it could be enticed into returning the camera to the owner in order to collect the reward.

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The “battery tester” wire was used to ensure that the batteries had sufficient power to operate during flight. These were not high-capacity batteries. You could get 1-2 flights on a fresh set and then they would have to be replaced, which is why they were included in each film pack. Because they had a short shelf life, you were encouraged to test the batteries before flight with the testing kit provided.

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This is a collection of factory photos. They came with the purchase of the first Cineroc and are each 8 x 10 glossies. The recommended launch vehicle for the Cineroc was the Estes Omega two-stage D powered rocket above. The whole outfit was an attractive package in my opinion. I have managed to obtain an unassembled Omega from the seller of the camera, but I’m going to practice making a copy of the Omega from parts first before I assemble the real thing.

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From the left, the first picture is my attempt to make an Estes Omega clone as pictured above. I have a set of replica decals from Excelsior Rocketry but I had to make my own “Cineroc” decals. The second picture shows the Cineroc decal applied to the camera housing. Also in the picture is the blue and black Cineroc/Omega decal for the rocket body.

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The Omega clone now decked out in white primer. Its flanked by the Camroc and latest generation of the Astrocam. The Camroc is sitting on a clone of the Astron Delta two stage carrier. The Camroc could also be lofted by the Camroc Carrier rocket, a single stage rocket produced by Estes.

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This is a very rare roll of 8mm footage that was actually produced by Estes. The movie is a promotional piece showing prepping and launching of a Cineroc. Several flight sequences from the camera are included. Some of the sequences are in slow motion; there’s a clip from a three-stage rocket. Another clip appears to be from a Cineroc shooting out the side and catching its own booster on parachute. I consider this a very lucky find.

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Here is the entire Estes movie. I converted it to video using my own video camera so the results aren’t great. There is some flickering and the colors are off. Eventually, I will have it done professionally and have them apply color correction if possible. (24mb Windows Media format)

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Check out this Cineroc movie (courtesy Mike Jerauld). Mike had a very cool story on his website about getting a Cineroc from a friend’s attic, taking it to a big rocket launch in 2000, meeting Vern Estes there, and actually having Vern launch the Cineroc! I can’t find his website any more, but it was a great story. Hope he doesn’t mind me posting his video here.

Update 7/13/2008: Thanks to Bohus over at retrothing.com, the Estes Cineroc promo video has been properly digitized on professional film transfer equipment. Once I received the digitized original, I used Adobe Premiere CS4 to do some color and contrast correction. It’s not perfect, but considering the color-shifted and faded original, I think it’s an improvement. Check out these before and after screen grabs.


Example 1: Before


Example 1: After


Example 2: Before


Example 2: After

So here’s the entire video now posted on YouTube:

For a little more pizzaz, Bohus over at retrothing.com is a filmmaker and did a nice piece on the Cineroc for retrothing that includes the cineroc film. Click below or visit retrothing.com to view the video.

 

NOS ESTES Cineroc Movie Camera and Astron Omega Model Rocket Combo No. 701-RC-8

NOS ESTES Cineroc Movie Camera and Astron Omega Model Rocket Combo No. 701-RC-8
Current price:
$750.00
Type:
Auction
Bids:
0
Ends in:
1d 10h 18m
Seller: eBay

NOS Vintage ESTES Cineroc Movie Camera Model Rocket Hobby Accessory # 701-CM-8

NOS Vintage ESTES Cineroc Movie Camera Model Rocket Hobby Accessory # 701-CM-8
Current price:
$177.50
Type:
Auction
Bids:
13
Ends in:
0d 15h 32m
Seller: eBay
 

Originally posted 2007-10-06 08:05:27.

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10 Comments so far
  1. hstatler October 9, 2007 7:05 pm

    Nice article! The most detailed overview of the Cineroc that I’ve seen on the web. Love the Estes movie, nice find. Do you plan to fly your Cineroc?

  2. Roy April 3, 2008 5:49 pm

    Hello,
    This is on youtube at
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPzw780SpvE
    I think but not 100% sure. Please review,
    Thanks,
    Roy

  3. rcgrabbag April 3, 2008 6:56 pm

    Not quite the same clip, but similar. A clear difference is on youtube clip is that that after the parachute deploys, the camera is still looking down. In the clip on this page, the nose cone points up at the chute after deployment.

  4. Leo June 26, 2008 1:40 am

    Jonathan, very nice article! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  5. Chris Meyer July 17, 2008 7:49 am

    I have a Cineroc I aquired back around 1980 when I worked at a hobby shop…I don’t really have a use for it…I even have an unused film in its original bag (I doubt the film is still good but the cassette could be re-loaded) If you know anyone interested in it my address is
    Chris Meyer
    12 Ridge Rd
    Wheatley heights
    New York 11798

    send me a letter or Email …I will probably list it on Ebay eventually but thought I’d mention it here first

  6. rcgrabbag July 18, 2008 10:55 am

    I’d make an offer but I already have a few! You’ll do well on ebay unless you get some feelers here.

  7. mark September 4, 2008 10:46 pm

    I’m looking for a Cineroc. Anybody got one I can buy?

    email solbeans@yahoo.com

    Thanks

  8. Dave August 28, 2010 3:18 am

    Great article etc.
    I have a dozen or so Cinerocs a few are used most are in unused “like new” condition.
    Also a few canarocs too.

    Intertsted in trading for NCR Space Shuttle kit.

    Thanks
    Dave

  9. rcgrabbag August 29, 2010 7:07 pm

    I might be interested in one of your unused, like new Cinerocs. Leave me a comment below with your email (it’ll stay safe with me) and I’ll contact you.

  10. Henry Billingsley February 22, 2012 12:16 pm

    I had a Cineroc back then also and had several successful flights. I could not afford a projector so I just viewed each frame with a magnifying glass. Some years later when I finally was able to use a projector I was surprised to notice that it just did not look right until I realized that since a mirror was used to make the view downward the image was actually backwards. Last flight, on second stage engine ignition, the engine mount came loose and deployed the parachute. It looks like a fairly wild ride but it kept filming all the way to the ground.

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