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Keystone A3 camera


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#1 Marc Roessler

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 02:03 PM

Hey Guys,

I just obtained a Keystone A3 16mm camera, for free basically.
The lens is an "Ilex Cinemat" with F 3.5 (!) "E.F. 1 inch"..
The actual lens diameter is about 5 mm (!).. There is no focus adjustment and the lenses do not seem to be coated. Lens mount seems to be C-mount (or CS?), though I haven't measured
the focal flange yet.

As far as i know, the Keystone cameras were more like "consumer" cameras, quite cheap.
Has anyone here ever used that camera? What are the results, film-handling wise? Sharpness,
picture steadyness, other issues? What about the original lens? What about changing this for
a different lens?

Looking forward to hear your about your experiences...

Greetings,
Marc
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#2 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 06:29 PM

I just obtained a Keystone A3 16mm camera, for free basically.
The lens is an "Ilex Cinemat" with F 3.5 (!) "E.F. 1 inch"..
The actual lens diameter is about 5 mm (!).. There is no focus adjustment and the lenses do not seem to be coated. Lens mount seems to be C-mount
As far as i know, the Keystone cameras were more like "consumer" cameras, quite cheap.
Has anyone here ever used that camera?

HI Marc, yes the Keystones are a real tin can consumer camera. I have tried several and they can work well, they really are all ready for some clean and lube, having been made before WWII for the most part.
Your Ilex is a consumer lens, and should work from maybe 8 ft to infinity with shapness that would have been acceptablefor home movies in the 1930's Some of the Keystones come with the Wollensack 1 inch focusing lens which also looks like it has minimal coating and so is prone to flare. The camera has a C-mount, but the lens board is just a steel stamping so yoi may not have enough accuracy to use a randowm C mount lens unless you have it "alligned" The manual even asks the purchaser of the accessory 3 inch telephoto to send both camera and lens to the factory to have everything adjusted.

The small box in teh finder is for the 3 inch lens.

I have a long term project to figgure out how to clean and lube one of mine. I did get reasonable results on a couple of test rolls but the last time I had one out, it was a chilly day and the camera started to run slower and slower. I was playing with it hand held, I did not do formal registration tests. A revere might be a better consumer comera, but the Keystones do seem to turn up regularly.
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#3 Robert Hughes

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 09:42 AM

As for "Is it worth it?", the only way to find out is to give it a decent CLA at home (Don't pay a pro to fix one of these), then load up a spool of TriX and shoot (check to make sure you get dual perf film if the camera has dual perf sprockets). If you have an image at the end, you won! And even cheap 65 year old cameras can provide surprisingly good results. Give it a try.

Edited by Robert Hughes, 14 August 2007 - 09:43 AM.

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#4 Marc Roessler

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 02:54 PM

Charles, this is basically what i thought... seems quite "tinny"...
I'd go for more wide angle lenses... of course then the viewfinder will not match any more, so
it'd be more like "shooting from the hip"... Concerning your test, what lenses did you use? Could you elaborate a bit more on what "reasonable" means? ;)

The "worth it" was more or less with regard to the fact the 16mm film does cost money... if quality is worse than Super 8, then for me it would not be worth to bother with the Keystone...

Robert, luckily my A3 has single perf sprockets... so the standard single perf film should do...
I think i will get some Tri-X film just as you suggested. On the long run, i'll strongly tend towards obtaining an Arri ST... :rolleyes:

Thanks so far, guys! Will keep you updated.

Greetings,
Marc
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#5 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 08:14 PM

Concerning your test, what lenses did you use? Could you elaborate a bit more on what "reasonable" means? ;)

I used the wollensack 1.9, on Foma or old Plus X. The lens I used may have been the one that came off My old "lunch box Devry".

REsults projected on a Kodak Pagent - in a small room so the image was only 3 feet wide, looked stable/steady. I did not try a stability test - where you double expose the same strand of film, to a cross hatch target that is moved between shots so you can se if the spacing varies on different frames.

The Foma shots with the old lens did have a very good 1930's feel to them, which was probaly the flare built into the lens. I was impressed enough to go out and try to get some shots of some Owls that landed in Kanata 2 winters ago, I did get some nice looking shots but as teh camera worked in teh cold, it started to run slow. I Can only assume that the remains of teh lubricants could not take the cold weather. I partly stripped the camera, and cannot see how to get into where the berrings are without getting far to close for comfort to the spring. I may try a solvent dunk, approch with some lighter fluid, and some sewing machine oil in the general vicinity of the berrings, but it is a low priiority at the moement.

I find it interesting that the A-3 units I have are single perf, but the A7 and A9 are both Double perf. Only one came with the 1.9 lens, the rest with fixed focus units.
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#6 Robert Hughes

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 09:13 PM

On the long run, i'll strongly tend towards obtaining an Arri ST... :rolleyes:

Great. Except an Arri costs about 50 times as much as a Keystone, even had you paid for it. First things first. If you have a paying project, rent an SR or Aaton, otherwise be happy with the Keystone.
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#7 Marc Roessler

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 11:18 AM

I'm totally aware that an Arriflex can not compared to the A3, and I also know the average prices
for the Arris.. but having a Keystone does not mean that I plan to settle at this level...

By the way, anyone knows what shutter angle the A3 has? Otherwise i'll have to measure
with the scope tomorrow, as the shutter is not accessible very well for taking a look...

Greetings,
Marc

P.S.: Charles, funny you mention the Foma(pan) film... just decided this morning i'll order some of it, as it's about half the price of the Tri-X...
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#8 Will Montgomery

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 01:22 PM

It's always fun to get an older camera to work but I'd stick with a K100 from the 50's before getting into pre-wwII cameras.
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#9 Robert Hughes

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 02:03 PM

A Kodak K100 is really a fabulous camera; super steady, easy to load, runs for 45 seconds on a wind. Ergonomically, it leaves something to be desired in handheld work; that's a lot of weight to hold in front of you. But the same can be said for an Arri S.

I've never been seriously tempted to buy a Keystone; I am very happy with my Bolex and B&H Filmo cameras for MOS and the Auricon "chop top" and CP-16R for sync sound shooting. But again, I paid real money for these so I can look these horses in the mouth.

As for Fomapan, remember it requires a special processing chemistry that is not compatible with everybody else's process. My local b&w lab refuses to touch it.

Edited by Robert Hughes, 15 August 2007 - 02:06 PM.

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#10 Marc Roessler

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 02:59 PM

Fomapan processing should not be a problem: Andec Film (Germany) offers processing for EUR 30 per 100 feet roll. Also there is a Fomapan reversal kit available that is described to also work with Plus-X and Tri-X, so it can't be that different from a chemical standpoint? Maybe the process times vary...

Guys, don't get me wrong... I'd never have bought a Keystone either, but now that I have one I'm
curious on how it will perform, just for the fun of it.

Greetings,
Marc
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#11 Marc Roessler

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 04:56 PM

In case anyone else ever needs this: took some measurements off the A3...

Shutter opening is roughly 154 degrees (I'd tend towards saying it it has a 150 degree shutter...)
For the particular A3 I measured (at room temperature, near maximum spring wind):
- minimum speed ("Low") is 9.5 fps
- normal speed ("Normal") is 15.4 fps (expected to be 16 fps)
- high speed ("slow motion") is roughly 50 fps.
With my camera, the 24fps setting is where the "A" of the "Normal" lettering is - may vary with other cameras.

Greetings,
Marc
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#12 Will Montgomery

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 05:49 PM

A Kodak K100 is really a fabulous camera; super steady, easy to load, runs for 45 seconds on a wind. Ergonomically, it leaves something to be desired in handheld work; that's a lot of weight to hold in front of you. But the same can be said for an Arri S.

True. Especially the 3 lens turret model. But it is built like a tank with very heavy metal.

As for Fomapan, remember it requires a special processing chemistry that is not compatible with everybody else's process. My local b&w lab refuses to touch it.

Oh yes. Some labs say they will try it but I've never had it come out right at 3 different labs. Not worth it in my opinion when Tri-X and Plus-X are great B&W reversals. Personally I like the look of Double-X negative as well.
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#13 Marc Roessler

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 10:10 AM

The film is processed, so now for the Fomapan/Keystone test shot results - just in case anyone is interested.

Picture steadiness is, of course, not very good. I'd say it's roughly S8 picture steadiness.

Picture sharpness is actually better than I had expected, but still much worse than modern lenses (esp. at the edges).

The focal flange depth of the camera is not set correctly, but matches the lens that came with the camera.



Some other weak points of the camera that you should be aware of:

The camera makes quite some mechanical turbulence while running, so it is very difficult to hold it perfectly steady (especially with the 1" lens), as it is more or less shaking. I suppose this is from the feed and takeup spool axis. The feed and takeup spool axis is square at one end, and round at the other end. The old daylight 100' spools also had square holes on one side, a round hole on the other side (probably for preventing wrong loading). The problem is that the new square/square spools won't sit very good on the square/round axis, and thus wobble around slightly - enough to be felt while holding the camera.

The shutter gear is highly susceptible for skipping a tooth and thus running out of phase. The gear (made from Resitex) is very delicate, does not make good mechanical contact (very much play) and is stressed very much every time the camera is stopped. The reason for this is that the camera does not "roll out" but is stopped frame-accurate by a claw, so the camera will always stop with the shutter closed. This stopping puts a lot of stress on the fast-revolving shutter gear, especially with frame rates higher than 16fps. On my test roll, the shutter gear went out of sync after roughly half the roll had been shot.

Another problem is, of course, that the camera does not really keep its speed. Also it runs slower with film loaded than without film (I'd say roughly 2 fps slower).

The upside: no scratches on the film, very compact camera.

Greetings,
Marc
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#14 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 01:53 PM

Picture sharpness is actually better than I had expected, but still much worse than modern lenses (esp. at the edges).


The Cinemat is probably a triplet, three elements. A Tessar type lens of the same vintage will probably be a bit of an improvement.
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