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Silent camera : Eclair NPR/ACL or old Aaton ?


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#1 Boris Belay

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 01:33 PM

OK, this Bolex man is ready for a silent, shoulder-mounted camera.
Big step, as I've been a Bolex user, advocate, and fixer for a while now. (So any reference to Bolex models you know will help in your answers too.) Let's just say that an EL with zoom, mag, crystal, and barney is a bit much for a single wrist... and still not so silent. I'll always keep a late Rex-5 with 3 Switar primes for everywhere, all-th-time filming, but I also need a camera conveived for sound.
So, I'm looking toward Eclairs and Aatons (must be the French in me !). But... first major consideration is a budget of up to US$ 2,500. I'm talking eBay $ here, not authorized dealer prices. I'm willing to put up with a used kit that needs a minor tune-up, if I have to, and I know all the eBay ropes, so that's the cheapest way to go.
This price is for a basic kit : camera body, cystal motor (different speeds is a plus, but not required at first), a couple of mags, and a decent zoom lens (obviously not the latest Zeiss 10-100 series for this price!). This would be a starting set, with the possiblity of expanding later. Super-16, if not already built-in, should definitely be an easy option.
In terms of optics, I already have a couple of Eclair mount Angénieux. And a lot of C-mount lenses of course. So Eclair and C mount are an advantage, but not a requirement.

So, what are the respective advantages of the Eclair NPR, the Eclair ACL, and the cheaper Aaton models (LTR?) ? Which other camera would you suggest ? CPs seem nice, but I'm weary of the mount limits (availability of lenses). Arri S and BL don't seem to do it for me, but I'm willing to be convinced...

One of the reason I'm actually starting this thread is because I've been surprised at how many people still recommend the NPR over models that were designed more recently. Ergonomics are important to me, and it looks awkward to hold, and I would have assumed that Aatons where hands down better, but it seems that this camera has big fans.
So, let me know what you think, both in terms of (on paper) characteristics and real-world use.
And also ease of maintenance and repair (given that I like to fix things myself).
Thanks !
-Boris
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#2 Boris Belay

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 01:46 PM

PS. Shoulder work is essential. Thus the ergonomics question. (And if you have particular details to add like specific handgrips that help the comfort of a particular model, that's good to know too.)
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#3 Nathan Milford

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 02:11 PM

$2,500 rules out a working Aaton package. Don't forget lenses and camera support. A good tripod could run you as much as $2,500.

Realistically, $2,500 will get you an ARRI S, with a few mags, some glass and a tripod (that isn't designed for cine cameras, friction head probably).... maybe a sync motor if you're lucky.

You might get a badly maintained NPR for $2,500 sans glass and support.... but it'll cost you to service it and accessorise it.
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#4 Boris Belay

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 02:42 PM

Hi Nathan, thanks for your response. I am just talking about the basic camera kit as I described it, I have all the rest, tripod, filters, lightmeter, etc. included, since I already shoot.
And I am talking eBay prices here, and yes, with all the risks involved ! But with a repair manual, I can find my way around a good deal of problems.
And, besides the price issue, my question is really about these cameras -- their respectie qualities and drawbacks...
If $3000 is necessary, I'll save up some more (sell one more Bolex). And if an Aaton LTR is really superior to an NPR and costs $5,000, I may decide to save even more. In fact, that was my basic idea, but people's response to other questions on this forum have made me think the price difference isn't really justifiable... Is it ?
(Somebody has just started another thread about the next price range, one up from me : is the price difference between a 10,000 Arri SR justified against a good ACL ? My question is the same, but for cheaper cameras.)
Perhaps I should say that I am not a professional DP and don't mean to become one. I shoot personal projects on my own budgets, I don't rent equipment, and I don't work with a traditional film team. H16's have been great for that so far, but I want to shoot sound easily too.
-Thanks !
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#5 Super16Eclair

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 03:20 PM

I have used SR's and an Eclair NPR....and I own an Eclair ACL II. Need I say more?? I love the ACL. It's great for hand held, really quiet, and a fraction of the price of a decent SR. I made up a custom sound barney that covers the whole camera, and you can't even hear the thing running! You can also find an adapter for just about any lens to fit the Eclair. I found the NPR to be heavier and the motor sticks out like...well, you know what, so not much good for hand held work. You should be able to find a basic Eclair ACL 1.5 or 2 kit for about $3,000. Mine is a Super 16 conversion with black and white video split, custom follow focus unit/matte box and Zeiss 12-120 macro zoom. It rocks!
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#6 Ian Marks

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 03:24 PM

Just my 2 cents...

I think an Eclair is the way to go for you, especially as you already have some Eclair and C-mount lenses. I'd agree that an Aaton is out of your price range, but it is probably the most ergonomic of the cameras you mention.

To my knowledge, the NPR is the only camera that combines a variable shutter, quick-change coaxial magazines, registration pin, and Super 16 capability. It's arguably more robust than the ACL, but also bigger. Of course you'll want to evaluate the condition of each camera you're considering individually. Some will be beaters, and some will have been babied. There are various motors for the NPR, and these make some cameras more or less comfortable to hand-hold. The ability to mount a C-mount lens on the turret is a plus.

The ACL seems to inspire some people to fits, while other people love them. There's nothing else like it - the camera body is tiny because it has a unique oscillating "lollipop" mirror and separate shutter. It has the most flexible lens mounting system imaginable (Arri, Nikon, CA-1, C-mount) and is a logical candidate for a Super-16 upgrade (as is the NPR). The camera can look completely different depending upon how it's configured - orientable or non-orientable finder, 200- or 400- magazine, big zoom or little prime lens. Motors are the weak point on this camera - make sure you get a good one and that it will pull film through the 400' magazines. Neither the NPR or ACL were designed with matte box and rods in mind.

I assembled a complete ACL 1.5 kit over a period of time and collectively spent less than you propose, so I know it's do-able. However, you might not be able to get the better (orientable) Kinoptik or Angenieux finder on your budget. If I had it to do again, I would definitely buy a complete outfit all at once, but I financed my kit by walking dogs, so there you go. Also, if you decide to go for the ACL, educate yourself about the difference between the French and English 400-foot mags - they're quite different. There's an ACL message board out there on the internet, but I don't know if it's very active.

As an aside, the CP16R is actually a good value and quite comfortable to hand-hold, even better with the shoulder pad unit once made by Peter Lisand. Lenses aren't as big a problem as you might expect, as CP to Arri standard and bayonet adapters are readily available. A Nikon adapter is also around, but harder (not impossible) to find. The big issue with the CP is threading the beast - it's definitely old school.

Be sure to let us know what you end up buying and how you like it.
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#7 Tim Carroll

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 03:27 PM

Boris,

That is a tough niche to fill. Nathan certainly knows the Aatons better than I and they may be somewhat user serviceable, but not like your Bolex cameras. You need certain tools and certain fixtures, etc. The one thing I have always heard about and worried about with the LTR 7 is the circuit board. I do not know all the details, but when the board wears out or breaks, it is not replaceable and so you have a boat anchor.

I do not know the NPR/ACL cameras at all. I do know Arriflex 16S and S/B cameras and I think those would be great for you, but even if you get one that is very finely tuned, it is still going to be only slightly quieter than your Bolex. When you get up to the Arriflex 16SR it quiets down considerably, but even some of the early SR's, especially the ones with French motors and electronics, are not as quiet as some of the current sound sync cameras. If you were lucky you might be able to find a German motored SR with SR3 mag gears like mine that is very quiet, but you are then looking at between $7500 and $10,000 for the camera, two mags, batteries and charger.

Check out InSync, they are a publication that sells used equipment. You may be able to find a used LTR 54 for somewhere in the $6000 - $10,000 range. That is a very quiet camera and fits your shoulder very well, something you will not find with the Arriflex 16SR.

Remember, with any of these cameras you are going to be needing lenses.

You may also want to talk to the folks over at Visual Products. They sell Aaton's, Arri's and Eclair's and they may be able to give you some good information on what might fit your budget. Also talk with them about the Cinema Products cameras they sell.

Good Luck,
-Tim
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#8 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 03:45 PM

I only will second a few things that were said.

I've been working with Eclair NPR, ACL, Aaton and Arri ST and SR

The ACL may be a choice to consider in your case. The Aaton would be more expensive than an NPR.

The minuses with the NPR are : noisy, hard to hand held and harder to load than the ACL or the Aaton.

I think the Super 16 option really should be considered nowadays.

The ACL is already much more silent than the NPR. and is cheaper than the Aaton. If you can afford an Aaton, it's defenetly the best of all these cameras, but I don't know for the spare parts...
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#9 Sam Wells

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 04:32 PM

Super-16, if not already built-in, should definitely be an easy option.
In terms of optics, I already have a couple of Eclair mount Angénieux. -Boris


Good argument for Aaton right there.

I like light and fast.

Dunno abt Angeniuex primes but the Ang. zooms if "B" models can take Aaton mount no problem, correct ?

-Sam
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#10 Boris Belay

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 07:29 PM

Wow, thanks for all the quick answers...
It's already changing the impression I had gotten from the forum about the NPR being a lot of people's cheaply-priced sound camera choice.
Is that because I've emphasized ergonomics and hand-held shooting, which is not the NPR's strong point, to say the least ?
Is it noticeably noisier than the ACL, for example ? Does it make sense over a blimped H16 EL in terms of noise ?
And to the defenders of the NPR : what are its advantages ? Why woudn't you trade yours for another model ?


Otherwise yes, the ACL seemed like the right compromise, short of a very cheap Aaton kit !
So, two things : what are the things to definitely watch out for on an ACL ? I'm aware of the 1/1.5/2 differences and a bit about the British-made cameras, as well as the viewfinder issues.
Are there things that are likely to go/have gone wrong on an ACL ? Ways to tell it's been overused ?
Then, what are definite bonus/improvements that make one kit better than another ?

And finally, are cheaper Aatons likely to be a bad deal -- because they're old after all and they wouldn't sell for cheap if they were still good ? Or are people a lot more attracted to the specs and reliability of newer models and not so interested in the older ones (as is the case, for instance with Bolex EL's : the early Mark 1 are substantially cheaper than the Mark 3, despite only 5 years difference in design and only minor improvements) ?
-B.
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#11 Robert Glenn

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 11:02 PM

You probably want to buy only an aaton that's been recently serviced. I've seen prices of 1000-2000 dollars just to service them. NPR's are aparently very inexpensive to service, but they can cost a lot to modify for your needs.. 1500-2000 as well. Not sure about the noise level. I've heard that they are very quiet but i've also heard that they are somewhat noisy, so I guess your mileage will vary.
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#12 EytanHarris

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 06:19 AM

Hi Boris,

This might be the solution for you. I am selling my Aaton LTR7 with 3 mags, TTL Light Meter, Beam Splitter, 3 batteries, Fast charger. Wooden Grip. Angenieux 10-150 zoom lens with Fluid Control!. Aaton - Nikon Adapter. a Spare camera Motor!!!! 85 filters set (85, 85n3, 85n6, 85n9)

I'll be happy to mail you pictures of the gear. Please contact me: harris@netvision.net.il

Eytan Harris
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#13 filmguy

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 08:02 PM

You probably want to buy only an aaton that's been recently serviced. I've seen prices of 1000-2000 dollars just to service them. NPR's are aparently very inexpensive to service, but they can cost a lot to modify for your needs.. 1500-2000 as well. Not sure about the noise level. I've heard that they are very quiet but i've also heard that they are somewhat noisy, so I guess your mileage will vary.

I'm thinking about purchasing an aaton LTR 7 with two mags, battery, charger, hand grip and a set of used of used zeiss super speed primes (9.5, 12, 16, 25). The package will be fully overhauled and comes from an extremely reputable dealer. The price is $12,000. Does this seem fair? Any thoughts? Also, is it ture that the LTR does not have registration pins? Is that a problem?
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#14 Ian Marks

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 08:44 PM

Filmguy, the Aatons do not have a registration pin, but don't let that put you off, as they are renowned for their stable image. I understand that they have a "dwell claw" design where the pull-down claw "dwells" in the film's perforation for an instant during exposure, effectively serving as a registration pin.
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#15 filmguy

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 08:53 PM

Filmguy, the Aatons do not have a registration pin, but don't let that put you off, as they are renowned for their stable image. I understand that they have a "dwell claw" design where the pull-down claw "dwells" in the film's perforation for an instant during exposure, effectively serving as a registration pin.

That is definitely reassuring. What do you think about the price quote I got for the LTR with zeiss primes (used) for $12,000. Serviced and from a reputable dealer.
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#16 Stephen Williams

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 04:08 AM

That is definitely reassuring. What do you think about the price quote I got for the LTR with zeiss primes (used) for $12,000. Serviced and from a reputable dealer.


Hi,

Who is this reputable dealer?

Stephen
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#17 filmguy

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 11:49 AM

Hi,

Who is this reputable dealer?

Stephen

It's a camera rental house in NYC. Does this price seem fair? Anyone have thoughts on this topic?
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#18 Stephen Williams

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 12:02 PM

It's a camera rental house in NYC. Does this price seem fair? Anyone have thoughts on this topic?


Hi,

If its Abel Cine an Aaton dealer, then its probably about right for a camera from an Aaton agent. Without knowing the camera condition or specs, nobody can really say.

Stephen
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