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16mm Camera choice for film beginner


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#1 Ben Ryan

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 07:34 AM

I have been studying the forums for months and am at a point where I would like to get a film camera to learn with.

I own an HVX200 (Panasonic 24p) camera, but have a strong desire to learn to shoot/edit with film.
I am also a veteran Media 100 and now Final Cut editor/producer, so I have seen all footage from P2 to Digibeta to XDCAM and still think film has the upper hand when it comes to my taste.

I would like to shoot music videos, shorts, and creative programs with the camera.

I know there are tons of choices, but right now I have an opportunity for the following two cameras:

CP16/R maintained by Whitehouse - well kept and not banged up. With 12-200 Ang lens and all accessories. Not S16. $1300 (can be mod. to s16 with video tap and PL mount for addt'l $2500 +/-)

Super 16 K-3 with crystal sync. $1400

If you were choosing between these two, which would you prefer. Which one would be best for me to learn with as a total beginner. Loading and actual hands on using rather than having an experienced DP do it for me.

Since I have production knowledge I will probably be able to put it to use for something sooner than later.

Thanks.
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#2 Tim Carroll

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 09:55 AM

If those are your only two choices, I would definitely go with the CP16/R from Whitehouse. Ken does very good work, and you are buying from a person with a very good reputation who is extremely knowledgeable about that camera. And you have the option of upgrading to Super 16. And Ken will stand behind his work.

-Tim
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#3 Ben Ryan

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 10:06 AM

If those are your only two choices, I would definitely go with the CP16/R from Whitehouse. Ken does very good work, and you are buying from a person with a very good reputation who is extremely knowledgeable about that camera. And you have the option of upgrading to Super 16. And Ken will stand behind his work.

-Tim

Thanks for the reply Tim. I guess these aren't my only two choices, just ones that have presented quickly. I am not looking to jump on a purchase quick, so any other advice in the price range of 1-2k would be appreciated.

Again, looking for a beginner friendly camera with a little longevity when it comes to my learning curve.
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#4 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 11:16 AM

The Krasnogorsk 3 is a good camera for getting into 16mm at a cheap price.....when the asking price IS cheap. It's a good camera to learn on. However, even though the K3 that is being offered has been converted to super 16 and is crystal sync, I think $1400 is a bit overpriced for such a camera. I have a K3 and it has served me well but for that sort of money, I think a more higher end camera would be a better buy.

Others recommend a Bolex H16 for someone first starting out in 16mm. This is quiet a versatile camera and depending on the model, you have the option of using it without power (with the spring motor) or running it on electricity. Early models do not have a reflex viewfinder while later ones do. Their viewfinders are not the easiest to focus though! Many accessories were made for this camera.

And others recommend a Canon Scoopic as a beginner camera. Ive heard that they are very easy to load. Though bear in mind that most Scoopic models have a fixed (non interchangeable) lens.

I don't know about the sound level of the Canon but both the Bolex and K3 are loud cameras so consider this for whatever type of filming you are planning to do.

Edited by Patrick Cooper, 03 May 2007 - 11:18 AM.

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#5 Tim Carroll

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 12:02 PM

If you are considering MOS cameras, which the K3 is, as well as the Bolex and Canon, then I would definitely take a look at one of these:

Posted Image

But I will admit a certain bias . . .

-Tim
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#6 rohtash chandel

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 12:18 PM

hey patric sorry to drift you from the topic , as you have been using panasonic hvx200,i would like to ask few things about the camera, recently we shot a travel show on the hvx 200 and we were shooting on dvpro format,gamma was set as cine, as i was curious about p2 card i shot some footage on it and i was amazed with results; contrast was amazing and even colors were more vivid
i always wanted to shoot on p2 , but these guys had some aprehensions about that,
is shooting on p2 card such a complicated process?
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#7 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 12:24 PM

Tim, Ive heard from some sources that an Arriflex needs to be serviced on a regular basis. Is this true or can you get such a camera serviced once and then use it on a semi-regular basis to keep it in good running shape? I wouldnt be able to shoot 16mm on a regular basis but I suppose one could keep charging the battery and give the camera a 'dry run' every once in a while....
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#8 Tim Carroll

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 12:42 PM

If someone sends me an Arriflex 16S for a complete overhaul, I disassemble the entire camera down to the last screw, ultrasonically clean everything, and rebuild the camera to original ARRI factory specs, using only the original ARRI factory lubricants. Once it has been set back to factory specs and factory lube, as long as the owner keeps the camera clean and dry, runs it for 10 minutes every month and does not shoot more than 50,000 feet of film through it, it should be serviced about every four or five years. And that will give you a professional production motion picture camera image for those four or five years.

The Arriflex 16S is built like a tank. If is far more durable and reliable than the Bolex, Canon Scopic, K-3 and the CP16/R. It is a workhorse professional production motion picture camera.

The difference in build quality between an Arriflex and any of the cameras listed above is pretty substantial. And any motion picture camera needs to be serviced on a regular basis if you want it to produce top notch images. There is no way to get around that, they are highly precise and highly complex mechanical instruments that need to be taken care of and maintained.

All things being equal (i.e. lenses, film stock, lighting) the difference between an Arriflex 16S and the other cameras in that price range will be seen in little things like image sharpness in the corners of the image, registration/steadiness of the image, lack of weave, lack of flicker, and other small things that make the difference between an "old 16mm motion picture camera" and a professional production motion picture camera.

-Tim
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#9 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 12:44 PM

Hey Rohtash, I'm glad that you got pleasing results with the HVX 200. Though to be honest, Ive never used such a camera. The only semi pro digital camera that Ive used was a Sony DVcam at university.
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#10 Krystian Ramlogan

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 02:16 PM

I would go for the CP16/R over the Krasnogorsk 3, having used the CP16/R and gotten some really good results.

But,

I would suggest getting an Eclair NPR - I own one - and it is a really good camera. Easy to load, accessories can be found relatively cheaply, and its built like a tank (heavy too, 22lbs with Mag)!

I have a Bayonette mount and a CA-1 mount, so I can use a fair number of lens types. I'd suggest you look for a good buy, good package, and then purchase.

I've had my footage side by side with that from an Arri SR2 and its held up - though honestly, the SR2 is easier to use (lighter too!).

Well, that's my 2c.

Coincidentaly, some friends and I had invested in a Panasonic DVX100 and then HVX200: I think 16mm still blows the HVX away.

So, good luck. If you have any questions for me specifically about my Eclair, just ask.

K.
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#11 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 02:30 PM

I'm gonna go along with Tim on this one. Check out the Arri 16s. I havent used one, or even played with (held/looked at in person) one, but they seem to e very popular. Look around eBay and then send it up to Tim for service.
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#12 Tim Carroll

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 04:20 PM

I am in the process of adding the Arriflex 16M camera to the www.Arri16S.com web site. I like to refer to it as the "forgotten Arriflex". It is a great little camera build on the movement design of the Arriflex 16S. I am working up an Arriflex 16M Operating Instructions PDF which is made up of parts of the old ARRI USA manual for the camera and other ARRI publications from the 1960's, and I ran across this description published at that time, explaining why the Arriflex movement was better than the other cameras available back then. Thought I would share it, with a picture:

Posted Image

FILM TRANSPORT MECHANISM

As with any Arriflex Motion Picture Camera, you are getting the finest, most reliable and accurate film transport movement ever built. Here are some details:

FILM GATE

The film gate is extra long (3 inches) and has a solid, removable rear pressure pad and a side pressure rail. Cross stages around the picture frame both on aperture and pressure plates eliminates "film breathing". Made of stainless steel, and lapped to high precision, it has a highly polished surface to assure against film scratching; but is porous enough to prevent molecular adhesion of film and the resulting deposit of base material and picture jitter.

REGISTRATION PIN FILM MOVEMENT

The registration pin, which engages the film from the base side, can be seen when the film gate is open just above the transport claw. Its function is to locate the film precisely in vertical position and hold it in place during the moment of exposure. Thus, in combination with the side rail, it ensures rock steady pictures and a perfect, precise frame line for accurate inter-cutting of takes. This precision is of the utmost importance when multi-camera setups are used for special effects or multi-screen productions.

FILM TRANSPORT CLAW

The film transport claw engages the film from the lens side, thus making loading easier. You can watch it's action by turning the inching knob on the motor. Because of the interaction of the pull-down claw and the registration pin, the film is always engaged during filming and cannot slip, irrespective of camera position or gravity forces.


-Tim
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#13 Antonio Bunt

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 04:28 PM

The Arri S is a tank, a very sturdy and relaible camera. Worked with it twice a long time ago and I loved the ergonomics and design!
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#14 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 05:45 PM

The Arriflex 16S is built like a tank. If is far more durable and reliable than the Bolex, Canon Scopic, K-3 and the CP16/R. It is a workhorse professional production motion picture camera.


Its interesting you say that, i came across some footage that I shot a few months ago for some tests for a student short film - I was really screwed over by that camera.

A student/director was at a terrible film department (uni of westminister) and wanted to shoot her project on Super16, so she had asked me to shoot it for her.

When conducting tests we borrowed one of her univeristy's Arri S, to test push processing Fuji Eterna 500T, we shot at midnight at Paddington station. It was a very temperamental little camera, loading wasn't as straight foward as it should be and after filming it would often stop with the shutter open - meaning you couldn't see through the viewfinder, without having to wind it open.

I sensed she was interested in a Wong Kar Wai type of look, so went for a 50mm for the shallow DOF look. I judged focus by eye, but also estimated distances to corelate with my eye judgment. I did also correctly set up the eye piece for my vision before hand too.

Guess what? despite those shots being perfect to my eye, approximatley 80% of those 50mm shots came out soft. The focus not on the foreground i had focused on but the background instead.

A week after viewing the tests, that student wouldn't answer her phone to me, nor reply to my emails - there went an opportunity to shoot a super16 short - but I can't blame her, if the cameraman can't get tests in focus its time to worry.

And i've succesfuly used K3s, Bolex, Arri SR I + II and Aaton XTRs - rarely having a problem.
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#15 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 05:59 PM

Ben,

Personally, and i'm trying to be as sober here as possible - I suggest you go for a dirt cheap K3 to cut your teeth on. Don't wory about motors or super 16, just get something cheap that you can learn the basics on, and won't hurt your pocket.

Latter on, when you've got over the initial hurdles of shooting 16mm film then think about looking around for a sync camera, but only if you can't borrow or rent one from a non-profit organisation, which do exist and often have good but older sync cameras like Arri SRIIs or Aaton XTR/LTRs.

If you can't find such a nearby organisation, then and ONLY then consider buying a cheap sync camera - like a CP16R, Eclair NPR or ACL.


For many test situations the K3 will suffice, and for the amount of times you will be using this camera, it won't warrent paying the high price that Bolex and Arri S currently demand. Yes these are snazzy, attractive cameras but they will be of limited use.

Shooting film is expensive, so always be careful on how much you spend on equipment.
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#16 Tim Carroll

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 06:00 PM

Andy,

Did anyone check FFD before the shoot? Did anyone take the time to make sure the lens was collimated? Did anyone do a ground glass check before the shoot?

It does not sound like any of this was done, because if it had been, the problem would have surfaced before the film was exposed.

With film school cameras, my above recommendations as far as service intervals goes right out the window. I maintain Arriflex 16S cameras for a number of different university film departments here in the States, and I service those cameras yearly. Because the students beat the hell out of them.

It is not the fault of the camera that it is not taken care of properly. And if you neglect an Arriflex 16S, and do not do the normal checks of your equipment before you shoot with it (like you should do with any motion picture camera that you have not shot with before), then you can't blame the camera design for the resultant bad images.

-Tim
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#17 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 06:14 PM

It is not the fault of the camera that it is not taken care of properly.


What do you mean by FFD?

I performed the usual checks I always do when embarking on a shoot, though admitedly faster than usual - and I gave up on the lens colimation because many of the markings were rubbed off. (Yes film school cameras do have a rough time)

The thing that was particularly unusual about this phenonomon was it only existed on the 50mm lens (not on the other two lenses) and it wasn't universal on all the 50mm shots. It was either present on a 50mm shot or not - but it was on the majority of them. All of these shots were on F2 but things were still specificly in focus.

Its very possible that the mounting was worn on that particular lens - unfortunatly the relationship with the university technitian was already strained before we used it - shame she stoped talking to me so soon, I was looking foward to giving the technitian a good bolecking for sending the equipment out in such poor condition.

I''ve had to use other cameras in equally scrappy states at times, and they have usually still performed - I think the Arri s is a proffesional camera, it needs to be maintained to proffesional standards.

Edited by Andy_Alderslade, 03 May 2007 - 06:16 PM.

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#18 Tim Carroll

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 06:31 PM

Andy,

Just curious, your signature says you are a "Camera Trainee" and you mention you want to do cameraman work. Where are you training to be a cameraman where they don't teach you what FFD means. It is flange focal distance and it is a critical dimension on any motion picture camera. It is the distance between the lens flange (that the lens seats against on the camera) and the film plane.

Again, you want this person to have you be her cameraman, but you do not check out the camera and lenses before you shoot, and the footage comes out bad so the woman is not going to use you for her cameraman, and you want to blame the design of the camera. That is quite a stretch.

The Arriflex 16S camera is a professional production motion picture camera, and does need to be maintained, but no more so than any other motion picture camera.

If what you say is correct, that the footage you shot with the Arri S and the other lenses turned out fine, and the footage shot with the Arri S and the 50mm lens turned out not fine, then it would be safe to say that the problem lies in the 50mm lens. Not sure how that makes the Arri S a "very temperamental little camera".

-Tim
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#19 Krystian Ramlogan

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 06:44 PM

To bring it back to what we're mostly discussing: I still say the Eclair is far superior. It averages the same starting cost. Its a sync-sound camera. It is built like a tank. Produces rock steady, perfectly registered, and beautiful images. Lots of accessories. Not hard to find reputable service personnel or accessories. It can be upgraded to s16.

But, I also agree that anyone learning should focus on just shooting film. Over many differing situation, conditions, setups, etc. To learn how to expose, light, etc. And develop their sense of aesthetics as it relates to capturing an image on film.

Any film camera will do, but for one with growth potential that won't break the bank, I love my Eclair.

K.
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#20 Sam Wells

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 10:41 PM

I've had an Arri S for 25 years, thousands of feet of film run through it. Total maintenence cost: $ 8 in camera oil.

(I did upgrade the motor to Tobin.....)

-Sam
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