Jump to content


Photo

Super 16 on the cheap


  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 Mike Rizos

Mike Rizos
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 330 posts
  • Other

Posted 21 April 2006 - 06:25 PM

After considering prices for a basic super 16 camera and lens, and coming to the conclusion that I would need to spend at least $6,500, I decided to attempt to convert a CP-16R myself. It's a kind of half-ass job, but the results can be rewarding-I'm hoping. Total cost should be less that 2k. I bought the camera off the cinematography.com classifieds for $800 without lens. The camera runs nice and quiet and seems to be ok.

First, I figured I will have a friend in a machine shop file the gate to 12.35mm wide. The gate is easily removable by two screws. Simple enough. I don't think any other modification is necessary in the transport movement. Since two of the rollers are aluminum(the ones closer to the magazine), I was thinking of removing the bottom three rollers and using two of them to replace the metal ones. I am not sure how necessary the bottom three rollers are, but the manual I got with the camera shows a version of the camera without them. The magazines only have two plastic rollers.

The viewfinder shows more that the actual 16mm area. It's very similar to the Arri SR, I looked through. I am thinking of just using the extra area on the left side to compose and leaving it at that.

The lens mount is CP standard. It is a real problem, it needs to be moved by 1mm. I really don't see how it can be shifted, without expert machine work. Thinking about this for a while, the best course of action seems to be, leaving it alone and using Nikon lenses with an adapter. This is not as ridiculous as it might seem at first, because most Nikkors are cheap (less than $100), plus I already own a few of them, but I would need an 18mm and a 14mm. These two I can get for $400. This is the widest I am able to get, and it's not very wide. Diagonal angle of view is about 55 degrees. Off course these will easily cover super 16 without recentering the lens, but they are somewhat slow at f3.5 and 2.8 respectively.
I would not be able to zoom during the shot either, but I don't consider that a problem.

I posted this in order to get some input, and any recommendations are welcome.I am only learning cinematography, and the set up will be used for no budget short films.Is this feasable to do? Anyway to get a somewhat wider lens on the camera? Are the bottom three rollers necessary? Is it possible to get a super 16 fiber optics screen on the camera without modifiying the viewfinder optics?

Thanks for reading this and your input.
  • 0

#2 Josh Hill

Josh Hill
  • Sustaining Members
  • 258 posts
  • Other
  • New York, NY

Posted 21 April 2006 - 06:35 PM

In my experience all of the rollers in the CP are necessary because the bottom loop can be rather hard to form properly as it is.

What you also have to think about, since I'm assuming that you have a bowtie shutter is light smearing. It can be a problem on unconverted cameras, and by extending the image area you are opening yourself up for more of a chance of smearing (or of the mirror not covering the entire gate when it is supposed to).

You're also going to have a hard time judging exactly what is in your frame since the viewfinder DOES show more than just what is in frame, without a new ground glass I have the feeling that you're probably going to be doing a lot of "guess work" while shooting.

Personally, I would never do any work like that to my CP if I planned on running any amount of film through it for a real project. You can't be sure that you are to the exact specifications of the format, you don't have the luxury of a new groundglass, and you're talking about making significant changes that, when you explain them, seem simple. But I have a feeling if that were all that was to converting a CP to S16, the price wouldn't be as high as it is.

Also remember that through a place like Visual Products a significant portion of the price is a complete overhal on the camera (the overhaul on my camera and lens cost 1250, so you're really only paying about 750 for the actual conversion). But you also get a warranty and you will KNOW that your camera will be spot on.
  • 0

#3 Ian Marks

Ian Marks
  • Guests

Posted 21 April 2006 - 08:16 PM

I would think twice about converting the camera yourself. I have spoken at some length with Paul Hillman at Visual Products (who used to be with Whitehouse Audiovisual and is, from everything I've gathered, the guy to deal with for CP16 conversions), and his conversion involves a lot more than just widening the gate and polishing some rollers. For starters, I believe a major portion of the camera's mechanism is repositioned within the body (very clever when you think about it). I'm not even sure that the lens mount gets recentered as a part of the conversion.

As a CP owner myself, I don't believe the excess image areain the finder is sufficient for you to see the entire image area if you were to file out the gate on one side and not recenter the lens mount. In a properly converted camera where the film path and optical axis are properly aligned, I think there is just about the perfect amount of image area outside the standard 16mmm to provide for the Super 16 frame. Also, as Josh pointed out, there are smearing issues with the bowtie shutter which I believe Paul addresses as part of the job.

It also seems to me that this kind of "sorta" conversion would result in a camera with lousy resale value, whereas a professionally-converted camera would be worth something. One thing you might consider as a less expensive alternative is an "Ultra 16" conversion, which would involve the gate only. I know that Ultra 16 is something of a red-headed stepchild, but it's more or less reversible, and would permit a later conversion to Super 16.

As a final thought, you might consider just shooting regular 16 and extracting the wider image from the 1.33:1 frame. With modern stocks, you might find the results surprisingly good. You could buy yourself a proper lens in a CP or Arri mount (with adapter) and not have to fool around with still camera lenses. Oh, and have you factored in the cost of a CP to Nikon adapter for your present scheme? I paid about $300 for mine, and I don't see them for sale often.
  • 0

#4 Jamie Metzger

Jamie Metzger
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 773 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • San Francisco

Posted 21 April 2006 - 09:42 PM

I thought it would be as simple as you were making it seem; it's not.

Someone mentioned that you have to recenter the lens (and lens mount/turret if need be), and plus some internal work.

All stuff you probably shouldn't be doing.
  • 0

#5 Mike Rizos

Mike Rizos
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 330 posts
  • Other

Posted 21 April 2006 - 09:46 PM

Hi Josh and Ian thanks for you replies.


The viewffinder looks like has 1 to 2mm on the side almost exactly the amount needed. I know it's not precice, but it must be close.

The camera has the 170 shutter. Iching it by hand, with film in the gate, the claw doesn't engage until the shutter has closed. I don't think this will be a problem.
Incidendly this claw seems very well engineered. It's extra long and after pulldown it goes through a long vertical pullout which positions the film better.

And actually, I was in Visual Products today, and met Paul Hillman. Off course I didn't mention any of this, lest they take me for a lunatic. I just asked what my options for lenses were. They said they could provide me with a compact Angenieux or the full sized one for a grand or two respectively. Or three Schneider primes. Paul said he's in the process of running tests on the Schneider 10mm to determine if it covers S16. They also sold me the Nikon adapter.

I admit that the resale value will be very low if the camera is messed with. $2000 is probably pretty reasonable to have the camera converted and rebuild.
  • 0

#6 Josh Hill

Josh Hill
  • Sustaining Members
  • 258 posts
  • Other
  • New York, NY

Posted 22 April 2006 - 12:16 AM

You're lucky you have the half moon shutter, though I've not had any problems with my bowtie (though I admit, I had not processed any film until Paul Hillman gave it an overhaul). I think the benefits of getting Paul to do the conversion far outweight the possible results of you doing one yourself (such as ruining a gate or pulling out necessary rollers).

Paul will also replace all of the belts in the camera so that you don't have the issue of the belts losing teeth and screwing around with your filming.
  • 0

#7 Ian Marks

Ian Marks
  • Guests

Posted 24 April 2006 - 12:03 PM

Well, kudos to you for getting as much information as possible before diving in, although I still would not attempt this conversion on my own. I'm not sure which Angenieux lenses you refer to, but it sounds like you're getting into spending some fairly serious money. I hope you'll keep us updated on your conversion and let us know the result.
  • 0

#8 Matt Pacini

Matt Pacini
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1246 posts

Posted 24 April 2006 - 03:14 PM

I'd say you're about to ruin your camera.

Have Paul Hillman at Visual Products do it. The guy's a camera genius, he's done these mods before, and everyone is happy with them.
No sense in reinventing the wheel, and this is not something that just any machinist can do. Lots can go wrong.

MP
  • 0

#9 Mike Rizos

Mike Rizos
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 330 posts
  • Other

Posted 27 April 2006 - 11:17 PM

I appreciate all your comments, but in spite of everyone's discouragement, I went ahead with this.

I had the gate machined to s16 dimensions. It was done very cleanly. I put it back in the camera and ran some film through it, happily there was no sctatching. I plan to leave all the trollers alone, unless some scratching develops that can be traced to them.

I also went ahead and bought two wide angle Nikon lenses. That gives me six lenses from 14mm to 105mm. I am a little disapointed about the mechanical quality of the Nikon wide angles. Compared to cine lenses they don't feel that solid at all, in fact there is so much play in the barrels, you can move the image in the viewfinder by pushing up on the lens. I plan to talk to a repairman about them to see if anything can be done about it. They are also large, difficult to focus, and prone to flare.

Next, I plan to run some tests to determine what sort of optical quality I can expect, and how the lenses compare to each other.
The first test will be 35mm still slide film. This is simple enough with a Nikon SLR. To give me a gauge, and to compare them to a cine lense, I converted a 12-120 c mount Angenieux to Nikon mount as follows: I took the mount off a cheap brand Nikon zoom. Next I removed about three rings off the back of the Angenieux, up to the aperture ring. After installing the mount by itself on the CP, and holding the Angenieux up to it, by trial and error, I was able to find the right spacer (about 2mm) between the Nikon mount, and the aperture ring. I assembled the new mount by drilling and tapping set screws on the side of the mount. The lens focuses at infinity, and seems correct when checked against a measuring tape.
I can now use this lens with 35mm still film and compare it against the Nikkors, in the same camera, in the same conditions.
It will fit on a FT-3 with the mirror locked up. Off course there will be no viewing through this lens on a SLR.
Focusing will have to be done by measuring, and framing will have to be done by another lens of the appropriate focal length.
I plan to examine the results on a regular still projector.

I also plan to shoot some reversal film with the CP and all the lenses and projecting the camera original. I will also try to determine exactly what fileld of view the viewfinder provides, and how much of the s16 area is cut off.
  • 0

#10 Ian Marks

Ian Marks
  • Guests

Posted 28 April 2006 - 01:22 PM

I also went ahead and bought two wide angle Nikon lenses. That gives me six lenses from 14mm to 105mm. I am a little disapointed about the mechanical quality of the Nikon wide angles. Compared to cine lenses they don't feel that solid at all, in fact there is so much play in the barrels, you can move the image in the viewfinder by pushing up on the lens. I plan to talk to a repairman about them to see if anything can be done about it. They are also large, difficult to focus, and prone to flare.


I don't know of any manual focus 14mm lens for the Nikon. You're not using autofocus lenses are you?

Also, remember that a 14mm for 35mm still use (two 35mm cine frames plus the area in between) is formulated for a much large area than Super 16mm. The designers have to jump through all kinds of hoops to get acceptably sharp results over that big area and to clear the camera's big instant return mirror. Designing a 14mm lens to cover Super 16, by comparison, is no big whoop - You could buy an old Angenieux or Cinegon or something similar for a few bucks and it would probably be as sharp as your Nikkor over the area you'll be using with your CP, but without the potential for flare and focussing slop you're encountering. Still camera lenses seem to be most effective in longer focal lengths - 50mm and up - although if you're happy with your 14mm more power to you.

I converted a 12-120 c mount Angenieux to Nikon mount as follows: I took the mount off a cheap brand Nikon zoom. Next I removed about three rings off the back of the Angenieux, up to the aperture ring. After installing the mount by itself on the CP, and holding the Angenieux up to it, by trial and error, I was able to find the right spacer (about 2mm) between the Nikon mount, and the aperture ring. I assembled the new mount by drilling and tapping set screws on the side of the mount. The lens focuses at infinity, and seems correct when checked against a measuring tape.


I'm sure you know that the 12-120 does not cover Super 16 at wider focal lengths. The "trial and error" method you describe sounds dicey to me. Lens techs invest a lot of money in specialized equipment because optical tolerences can be a matter of microns where flange depths are concerned, especially with wide angle lenses. I've observed - by eye - how a thin shim can knock a super-wide angle lens off-focus. Again, if you manage to get it right by trial and error, that's great, but I have to say I cringed a bit when I read your post.
  • 0

#11 Alain LeTourneau

Alain LeTourneau
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 355 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Portland, Oregon USA

Posted 28 April 2006 - 01:59 PM

Honestly, I'd ditch the CP and buy and Eclair NPR. It is better in every way, and the conversion
to super 16 is in the ballpark of a Bolex conversion....very affordable.

The CP is similar to the Arri BL, two cameras that have not made the leap to super 16 very well. I couldn't stand the thought of going back to a displacement mag, coaxial is just so nice.


Alain
  • 0


Technodolly

Wooden Camera

Willys Widgets

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

rebotnix Technologies

Paralinx LLC

The Slider

Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

Glidecam

FJS International, LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Visual Products

CineLab

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Opal

CineTape

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Rig Wheels Passport

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Tai Audio

Wooden Camera

Abel Cine

FJS International, LLC

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Glidecam

The Slider

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineLab

CineTape

Ritter Battery

rebotnix Technologies

Visual Products

Aerial Filmworks

Paralinx LLC

Opal

Metropolis Post

Technodolly

Willys Widgets