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NPR vs H16EBM


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#1 Marcus Frakes

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 05:42 PM

All brand prejudice aside (if that's possible) I am choosing between two cameras at a second hand shop. The Eclair NPR is going for less than $1500 (w/lens and 2 mags) and the Bolex EBM is over that...but has accessories (4 mags, 4 lenses, tripod, mattebox, but NO battery/charger to test)...both are very good condition. I plan to do feature length movies, music videos, and am willing to blimp the Bolex, etc. for sync sound situations. I really like the Bolex for it's size and style (I used the Eclair in film school but it was a brick to hand hold).

My questions are:
1. Will the Bolex have any issues with image stability? I plan to telecine the footage to digital. Eclair has an additional side rail for stability?
2. In terms of street value, which of the two I've described is a better deal?
3. What are the chances the Bolex motor will not work with a crystal unit? Someone told me to check for this or get a guarantee.

I guess I'm listing the obstacles I need to overcome with getting a Bolex EBM, but I'd really like to make it "work". Admittedly I would pick up the NPR instead and be satisfied in avoiding these issues...it's pretty much just load and lug...I mean go.

Any thoughts appreciated. :D
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#2 Mitch Gross

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 11:00 PM

Assuming both are in decent shape -- and that's a heck of an assumption -- I don't even think it's a contest. The NPR can be adapted far more readily for modern uses with various accessories and lenses, while the Bolex is best suited for specialty use such as stop-motion. Blimping the Bolex is possible, but not particularly workable. Hey, I could use a Mini to haul furniture but it would be a real pain, where a van would be far more appropriate.

How you could possibly think the Bolex with 400' mag is easier to handhold than an NPR is beyond me. And then try adding a huge blimp to that thing--good luck.
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#3 Marcus Frakes

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 06:05 AM

Doggonit Mitch...for some reason you are making total sense. However, one point is I would only blimp the Bolex without the mags attached. I'd use the mags for MOS situations only.
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 08:48 AM

Doggonit Mitch...for some reason you are making total sense. However, one point is I would only blimp the Bolex without the mags attached. I'd use the mags for MOS situations only.


Having made a home made blimp for a Bolex many years ago to shoot sync sound on a low budget film, it's a no contest. To silence the Bolex to the levels needed for a feature film the blimp would be bigger than the NPR. In the end the film I made was mostly shot with an Arri 16BL - it was sooooo much easier.

Get the tool for the job, you may need to put a barney on the NPR for some scenes, but shooting a whole film with a Bolex inside a blimp is a lot of extra work (especially reloading every 100ft). It's a great MOS camera, but not for shooting sync sound. BTW Without the proper viewfinder the 16BL is a lot worse than the NPR to handhold.

Also, shooting dialogue with 100ft loads will leave you with loads of short ends that may be too short to use.
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#5 Boris Belay

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 10:27 AM

Hi, Two very different cameras, indeed, and two different approaches... And what you call brand-prejudice is not really the main problem here, but approach to cameras in general, and, by extension, to cinema. The H16 bears the marks of its origin as an (enlightened) amateur camera and always seemed at best a niche camera to professionals, or wanna-look-professionals. The NPR was always a professional camera, but remains the early TV-news crew beast that it ever was (otherwise Aaton wouldn't even exist). So, beyond what it can actually do for you, it's a matter of personal relation to the machine itself
Synch-sound would seem to point you directly to the NPR (assuming it hasn't gotten noisy with time), but you're obviously leaning the H16 way... smaller, portable, flexible. The qualities of the Bolex way are also its limits (as with every other engineering choice) : what you get in flexibility going from a light, hand-held, 100 footer with a single lens to a 400-footer with zoom and all is the relitive awkwardness of the add-on result. But, like you, I think it's worth the trouble, and the Bolex system is a wonderfully rich one, wit the advantage of an enormous amount of models sold and still floating around for relatively low prices.
It seems to me, your main question is whether the EBM works... isn't that true ? Try any 12V. battery around (there's an EBM manual to download on this site with battery connections schematics, or I can explain it all to you). If your question really is whether the camera is in good running order, the only way to reassure yourserlf is to test it thoroughly in the store.
In terms of quality, the EBM is a very good camera. Obviously the technology dates back to 1971, but it's an evolution of the a model that was already 40 years old then and thoroughly mastered. Some people think that because it wasn't a all-new model created from scratch, it must not be as good, but what I see is that with 90% of the camera tested on previous models, the faults are limited to the remaining 10% (just think of the introduction of plastics as miracle light-weight, durable material in the 60's/70's and what we know they've become 30 years later to relativize the all-new-is-better approach).
To get to the point : image stability should not be a problem on a decent EBM. Bolex are reknowned for that, which is why they're such a reference for animation. Also, the EBM is in fact lighter than the mechanical models, so more portable, and internally, they're very simple cameras : not much that can go wrong there, besides the electronics (of which there is less, and of the same age anyway, than on an NPR). So, check that everything works in the store, and look the camera over : some of these have been very, very little used, and you can see it. I have two EBMs that I got off eBay and they look like they were produced in the 21rst C. That and checking the fonctions hands-on is a good pointer to the actual shape of the camera because it's a simple, straightforward engineering (By the way, the Swiss mentality is much closer to the American "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" outlook than the French flashy engineering that's spectacular in results but pretty knife-edge and finnicky ; think : Concorde... same era!)
And regarding crystal : it should work, why not ? Tobin, for instance, has been making ctiny crystal units for EBM's and EL's for years. I got one for $25 recently. Also, here's a tip : if you use the EBM handle/battery holder but without battery (obsolete model, too expensive to replace), you can actually hard-wire the crystal unit in the battery compartment to have a permanent built-in crystal camera.
So, all in all, if you're more tempted by the Bolex a) make a list of all the good reasons why NOT to get it and all the things it can't do for you ; B) if you're still tempted, spend an hour or whatever it takes for the store-owner to kick you out trying the camera thoroughly an generally assessing its shape. If that's convincing, you're probably doing the right thing buying it. The price with all the accessories sounds ok, depending on the lenses (their quality and whether they suit your needs) and the warranty you get from the seller. It's a bit on the expensive side if the lenses are not good quality Switars, Angénieux, or equivalent (remember that the camera takes 'RX' specified lenses, by the way).
For more on the Eclair, get the opinion of somebody who knows them better than me, but if you need more info or advice on Bolex's, don't hesitate to ask.
Cheers,
B.
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#6 Tim Carroll

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 01:45 PM

Gotta go with Mitch on this one. Go with the NPR.

I had a Bolex EBM, I agree, it is a sexy looking camera. But boy, was it a total pain in the backside to live with. I got it off of ebay and had the whole thing rebuild, camera, mags, mag motors, the works. The camera was done by a certain camera repair shop in New York who will remain nameless. Looked pristine and sounded great. Got a crystal sync unit from Clive Tobin and ran a few short tests. Really inspected the footage frame by frame. Unfortunately I did not project the footage with a movie projector before launching into a project with the camera. Big mistake on my part. The camera had an intermittent shudder bounce (something not uncommon in Bolexes, according to a few others I've talked to). Which means, the exposure flickered and changed every couple of frames. In essence, I lost two thousand feet of 16mm film, as well as two shooting days, and didn't find the problem until I had the film processed and telecined. So I figured, heck, I screwed up, I guess I can get this problem repaired and then I will have a good camera. Not so. The process for repairing an intermittent shutter bounce with a Bolex EBM consists of taking the camera apart, replacing one part, putting the camera back together again and seeing if the problem is fixed. If not, then you take the camera apart again, replace another part, put the camera back together again and see if the problem is fixed. If not, then you...

It was going to cost a few THOUSAND DOLLARS to get it fixed right. And then I would have had a camera that is as noisy as a meat grinder, that really cannot be blimped well. And we had the Bolex Factory Barney's and they did practically nothing to quiet down the beast.

I ended up taking the camera and literally throwing it in a dumpster. I sold the lens and mags on ebay. I must add that the folks at Bolex in Switzerland are incredibly nice and were incredibly helpful, but there was no way for them to fix the situation without me paying for it. By the way, I am the one who created the PDF's of the Bolex EBM, Mags and Lens that are posted below in the Manuals section.

It is naturally your choice as to which camera to go with. If you want to spend your time making films, I would go with the NPR. If you want to have a camera that can sit on your bookshelf and you can admire it's beauty, then go with the EBM.

Good Luck,
-Tim Carroll
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#7 Marcus Frakes

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 04:52 PM

You threw your EBM away?? :blink: I'm ready to go dumpster diving...

Anyways, many, many thanks to everyone who took the time to reply. I'm really glad I made the post and I see that my "quandry" was real enough to debate the issue. After reviewing this and more sites over several days, I'm going with the NPR. I used this camera in film school, and know it fairly well. I have a philosophy about "problem potential" and how that "uneasyness" feels when making a choice. I don't get that feeling as much with the NPR. And I know it won't be my main unit forever.

The NPR kind of reminds me of my first car - a Rambler. It was boxy, Navy Blue, tank tough, and it did the job. I didn't get any girls with it, but it never let me down.

Marcus Frakes
Prague

Just a footnote: I do think to satisfy my Bolex curosity, I'll pick up a used, inexpensive unit to experiment with one day.... :D

Edited by Montage, 14 November 2005 - 04:56 PM.

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#8 Boris Belay

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 08:11 PM

Marcus, If you've changed your mind, it's probably a good thing -- it means you've thought through your problem and sorted it out.
But Tim, what would you say if somebody responded with a problem they had with their NPR 30 years down the line and it would cost 1000's of Dollars to get it (possibly) fixed ? What I mean is, we all know there are overused cameras floating around, of every model (the better they are designed, the more professionals use them... out and move on to the next). So I'm not sure one's bout of bad luck with a camera (and repair shop !) is a reason to discourage somebody else out of hand...
Overall noise level is a reason, so is the quality (or not) of its accessories, so is its maneuverability, its overall convenience, etc.
But thanks for posting the pdfs on the site, and do let me know when you throw away your next economically-unviable professional camera ! But please, don't say EBMs are just good enough to sit on a bookshelf -- if anything, it's unfair for those who only have $500 to invest in a fisrt camera.
B.
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#9 Tim Carroll

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 10:35 PM

But Tim, what would you say if somebody responded with a problem they had with their NPR 30 years down the line and it would cost 1000's of Dollars to get it (possibly) fixed ? What I mean is, we all know there are overused cameras floating around, of every model (the better they are designed, the more professionals use them... out and move on to the next). So I'm not sure one's bout of bad luck with a camera (and repair shop !) is a reason to discourage somebody else out of hand...
Overall noise level is a reason, so is the quality (or not) of its accessories, so is its maneuverability, its overall convenience, etc.
But thanks for posting the pdfs on the site, and do let me know when you throw away your next economically-unviable professional camera ! But please, don't say EBMs are just good enough to sit on a bookshelf -- if anything, it's unfair for those who only have $500 to invest in a fisrt camera.
B.


Read what Montage was asking Bobolex (and please use your real name). He said he wanted to use the camera to make "feature length movies" and, "music videos". I was warned by some of the smart folks here not to buy the Bolex EBM when I too wanted to use it for feature length movies. I did not listen. Just as you won't listen to anything negative I say about a Bolex. They are a great hobby camera. But if I am going to spend hundreds of dollars on film stock, thousands of dollars on processing and telecine, and take up actors and crew time, I will never again do it with a hobby camera. If you want to use it to take 100 ft rolls of your family and kids, or just to play around with, and if the image flickers or weaves a bit it doesn't matter, then it is a fine camera. But it is not a camera to shoot a feature film with. Sorry if you don't see that.

-Tim Carroll
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#10 Robert Glenn

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 11:55 PM

Read what Montage was asking Bobolex (and please use your real name). He said he wanted to use the camera to make "feature length movies" and, "music videos". I was warned by some of the smart folks here not to buy the Bolex EBM when I too wanted to use it for feature length movies. I did not listen. Just as you won't listen to anything negative I say about a Bolex. They are a great hobby camera. But if I am going to spend hundreds of dollars on film stock, thousands of dollars on processing and telecine, and take up actors and crew time, I will never again do it with a hobby camera. If you want to use it to take 100 ft rolls of your family and kids, or just to play around with, and if the image flickers or weaves a bit it doesn't matter, then it is a fine camera. But it is not a camera to shoot a feature film with. Sorry if you don't see that.

-Tim Carroll

An EBM was used to shoot some scenes in one of the recent bond movies
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#11 Marcus Frakes

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 04:41 AM

An EBM was used to shoot some scenes in one of the recent bond movies


What I really need is a workhorse. I know the Bolex can shoot some limited scenes. And I'm willing to experiment with intercutting film between the two systems. Furthermore, I'm considering intercutting between 16mm and HD (for indoor, well lit/controlled shots). I've ran this by DP's and it seems feasible (I'll actually start another post on this subject). But my 1st needs are for a stable, proven camera that can shoot sync sound. I could not easily test a Bolex myself, so I had to rely on the ears and experience of others who have tried this. I "thought' a Bolex could be quieted down enough, but it seems to be more of an ordeal than I'm used to....plus it would affect my filmming technique.

Really Bobolex is making some good points (thanks!) and his main concern is that I've thought this decision through....no one can argue with that. I realize one or two bad EBM's is not enough to generalize the whole lot. The problem could have been introduced by the repair shop in NY, did Tim contact the previous owner on eBay to see if it existed before???? We don't have this information....

But a related story to this concerns a student film I did. I decided to get some location footage before the scheduled shoot, so I borrowed my flatmate's TRV20. I went down to the bar, shot a couple profiles, had a few beers, then just walked the streets shooting neon signs, trolley cars, drunken people....it was supposed to look like a dream-imagery of a stag party. That little camera I just flung around like it was an extension of my hand. I actually got lost for 2 hours because I was so into it.

Then at the shoot we used a tripod, Film Crew, boompole, Lighting, Sony PD170's....really the "right tools" for the job. But ya know what; people kept saying the drunken dream-imagery was the best part of the film. That taught me the value of a smaller hand-held unit, unscripted and unteathered by anything but a collison of ideas....
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#12 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 05:20 AM

Then at the shoot we used a tripod, Film Crew, boompole, Lighting, Sony PD170's....really the "right tools" for the job. But ya know what; people kept saying the drunken dream-imagery was the best part of the film. That taught me the value of a smaller hand-held unit, unscripted and unteathered by anything but a collison of ideas....


The right tool is what is required to tell the story in the way you want to tell it. The Bolex is a good camera and has been used on a large number of documentaries and dramas (many cameras have been converted to Super 16 and used as MOS cameras on high end productions); if it or a PD170 or whatever gets the effect and gives the quality you need, you use it.
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#13 Boris Belay

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 10:14 AM

Read what Montage was asking Bobolex (and please use your real name). He said he wanted to use the camera to make "feature length movies" and, "music videos". I was warned by some of the smart folks here not to buy the Bolex EBM when I too wanted to use it for feature length movies. I did not listen. Just as you won't listen to anything negative I say about a Bolex. They are a great hobby camera. But if I am going to spend hundreds of dollars on film stock, thousands of dollars on processing and telecine, and take up actors and crew time, I will never again do it with a hobby camera. If you want to use it to take 100 ft rolls of your family and kids, or just to play around with, and if the image flickers or weaves a bit it doesn't matter, then it is a fine camera. But it is not a camera to shoot a feature film with. Sorry if you don't see that.

-Tim Carroll

Tim, Sorry in turn if your bad experience with one camera blinds you so much : re-read my posts and you will see how much I try to point out the limitations of the EBM (along with its qualities), its sound level being an obvious one.
Nobody's going to be helped by factually false claims such as that EBMs are 'hobby cameras'. Please keep in mind what the point of these forums is.
And let's remember this thread began with the words "All brand prejudice aside (if that's possible)... "

-Boris Belay

Marcus, you did not say anythig about the lenses included with each camera. That's certainly a big consideration with respect to the monetary value of the kits you're offered.
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#14 Sam Wells

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 10:30 AM

If it were me I'd look for a 16SR or Aaton.

EBM is one Bolex I'm not directly familiar with.

Bolex quality (steadiness, shutter timing etc) is 100 % about the maintenence and servicing.

You factor that in or face surprises. But this is true with ANY camera.

-Sam
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#15 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 11:53 AM

The NPR is a great professional camera. You might consider the Eclair ACL smaller and more fragile but with some interesting after market modifications available.
A CP16 R would be a better choice then a Bolex.

I recently saw a fellow on the left coast with a completely tricked out NPR-S16/PL Mount/Video Assist/Bridgeplate and followfocus. Nicely re-furbed and re-painted-looked new
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#16 andrewbuchanan

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 01:08 PM

I've made several posts in the past about the NPR. I have one, and it really is a great camera. Totally comprable to Arri SR and Aaton LTR 7. Better in some ways (adjustable shutter). Especially when you are paying for one. The Bolex is a great music video/documentary/b-roll camera, but lacks the ability to modernize and accessorize like a NPR. Anyway, look in the archives. Here's a pic of my camera with an Optar 50mm on it.

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#17 Marcus Frakes

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 01:19 PM

I've made several posts in the past about the NPR. I have one, and it really is a great camera. Totally comprable to Arri SR and Aaton LTR 7. Better in some ways (adjustable shutter). Especially when you are paying for one. The Bolex is a great music video/documentary/b-roll camera, but lacks the ability to modernize and accessorize like a NPR. Anyway, look in the archives. Here's a pic of my camera with an Optar 50mm on it.


Dude, that NPR is rockin'! Thanks for the pic. Your motor is different; I assume it's sync sound compatible. Actually aren't all NPR's made for sync sound?
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#18 Mitch Gross

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 01:26 PM

An EBM was used to shoot some scenes in one of the recent bond movies



Can you cite a reference for this? I'm interested to know how they utilized a 16mm image in those 35mm anamorphic films. Perhaps a rear projection in a minature? That was a common practice back in the late 70s/80s. Star Trek - The Motion Picture used 35mm anamorphic for principle photography, 65mm & VistaVision for effects work, spherical 35mm & 16mm for rear projection in miniatures, and even Super-8 rear projection for the viewscreens on the ship's bridge.
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#19 Robert Glenn

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 02:09 PM

Can you cite a reference for this? I'm interested to know how they utilized a 16mm image in those 35mm anamorphic films. Perhaps a rear projection in a minature? That was a common practice back in the late 70s/80s. Star Trek - The Motion Picture used 35mm anamorphic for principle photography, 65mm & VistaVision for effects work, spherical 35mm & 16mm for rear projection in miniatures, and even Super-8 rear projection for the viewscreens on the ship's bridge.

Mitch I got it in an email from an expert bolex user whom I'd rather not name for their sake! Anyhow one of the cameramen for die another day used 2 EBMs and shot some segments with them, presumably for b footage. Not sure of what all segments they used it for, but the Opening where brosnand's on the beach had some footage shot on the bolex which was DI'd, then blown up to 35mm. That's all the technical info that was in the email. Could be bogus but I trust what the person says, so I'll stick with it.

By the way Drew do you have any other pics of your rod support setup on your NPR? Looks awesome

Edited by RobertNC, 15 November 2005 - 02:10 PM.

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#20 Mitch Gross

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 06:48 PM

With all due respect to your friend, I find this very hard to believe. The image area of 2.39 extracted from a standard 16mm frame (okay--let's bump it up to a Super-16 Bolex instead). The image area of a 2.39 frame extracted from Super-16 is something like 1/12th the image area of anamorphic 2.39 35mm. That would make for a pretty glaring cut.
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