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35mm Ultracam movie camera


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 05:16 AM

Never heard of an Ultracam before and I THOUGHT I was fairly familiar with 35mm movie camera brands, I then later read on Reduser.com (sounds like a site for Seconal addicts) that David Mullen used one back in the day. Can anyone tell me about these cameras? I did a search but it turned out to be rather fruitless, I kept getting digital video cameras. I know they exist, I saw Stephen Williams shooting with a 35mm one in at the bottom of a swimming pool at below zero temperates in a pic on another thread so enlighten me, what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, why haven't I ever heard of them before, what's their average cost, who makes them, ect. Thanks-The Captain B)
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 05:51 AM

Never heard of an Ultracam before and I THOUGHT I was fairly familiar with 35mm movie camera brands, I then later read on Reduser.com (sounds like a site for Seconal addicts) that David Mullen used one back in the day. Can anyone tell me about these cameras? I did a search but it turned out to be rather fruitless, I kept getting digital video cameras. I know they exist, I saw Stephen Williams shooting with a 35mm one in at the bottom of a swimming pool at below zero temperates in a pic on another thread so enlighten me, what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, why haven't I ever heard of them before, what's their average cost, who makes them, ect. Thanks-The Captain B)


Hi There,

There were 15 cameras made, I have 2 of them. There is a write up in American Cinematographer around Sept 1979.

They were built by Leonetti to go in competition with Panavision, the camera was released at the same time as the Aaton 35 & Moviecam Super America.

The cameras were rushed and slightly 'unfinished' I think there were servicing issues at Leonetti that gave the cameras a bad reputation.

If one incorrectly threads the camera it will work OK until the batteries go low, then the take ups don't work & the camera will jam. I have heard the camera referred to as UltraJam but that is IMHO an operational error, I made that mistake once and won't again!

I paid $10-14000 for each package including Zeiss 'Ultratron' lenses. The lenses all have cleaning marks but work ok. I generally only use them for personal projects or zero budget shoots. They are very quiet, probably not as quiet as the 20db claimed but way quieter than the Arri SR2 I used last week.

The video tap's I have are home made, I have a box of spare parts and support is rather lacking. I know somebody who recently did a 2 perf conversion in Australia.

Although my cameras serial no's are 1 apart the cameras are not identical.

Stephen
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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 10:03 AM

And if I'm not mistaken, they also have a slightly slanted reflex mirror (like the Aaton 35 has), which makes the possible Flange Focal distance very short. This means that it's one of the few cameras where just about any mount can be mounted - including very short FF lenses like Nikon and such.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 11:45 AM

They are simple cameras that work fine -- until they don't. Some were better-built than others. If you can get a good deal on one, I'd look into it.
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#5 Hal Smith

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 03:44 PM

I have an original 5X6 Ultracam mattebox that I made a custom adapter to use it with my Arri 2 and Tobin motor. If someone needs it, I'll discuss a trade for a different mattebox. My only requirement is that the box be adaptable to an Arri, take 138mm filters, and have hard mattes. I've got a pretty good collection of 138's (I made custom 138mm/5X6 adapters).
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#6 Stephen Williams

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 04:10 PM

And if I'm not mistaken, they also have a slightly slanted reflex mirror (like the Aaton 35 has), which makes the possible Flange Focal distance very short. This means that it's one of the few cameras where just about any mount can be mounted - including very short FF lenses like Nikon and such.



Hi Adam,

The mirror is slanted slightl. The standard mount is BNCR. My 2nd package came with an Canon 18mm, I thought nothing of it until I used the 18mm from the other package. The camera seemed rather noisy, the mirror scraped the back of the metal on the 18mm lens! The mirror already has several marks so it did not really matter. I have 2 spare mirrors so one day when I am feeling brave I will replace it. the camera is working fine I would rather leave well alone.

There was a really dumb design fault, light leaks through the back of the aperture plate through the register pin holes & advance pin slot. Nothing that electrical tape won't fix but it caused the previous owner some anxiety, he only has a slight fogging issue 25% of the time (over many years). From my shooting through the base tests I carried out I knew that the Fuji base was far more light resistant than Kodak. He only had an issue when shooting on Kodak stock!

It's quite funny, when my client in Geneva has a good budget they want to shoot with a Viper, when the budget is smaller then we shoot S16. When the budget is minimal we use the Ultracam and get the best pictures LOL. They saw the one light pass today from last Thursday & were blown away.

Stephen
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#7 chris dye

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 04:45 PM

Matthew Leonetti used them for Poltergeist (which is where I first heard of them). I'm sure there are a few others.
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#8 Stephen Williams

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 05:24 PM

Matthew Leonetti used them for Poltergeist (which is where I first heard of them). I'm sure there are a few others.


Hi,

Raise the Titanic, Jumping Jack Flash there were some others. Searching Ultracam on imdb used to bring a list of results it no longer works.

Stephen
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#9 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 07:09 PM

They are simple cameras that work fine -- until they don't. Some were better-built than others. If you can get a good deal on one, I'd look into it.


It's the "-- until they don't" part that worries me :D ! I'd be up for buying one based on your recommendation alone but DAMN where would you ever find parts for it and I'd have the same concerns Stephen has with regards to tech support, who the Hell would you ever get to work on these things? It's bad enough trying to find parts and people who will service these commiecams at a decent price :lol: !

It's probably academic anyway, with a total of 15 cameras made and Stephen owning 2 of those, there's very little chance the opportunity will ever come up. I do have one question though, where these comparable to the Panavision cameras of the time (Late 70s, eariy 80s I'm assuming from the date of the article) they were meant to compete with, you know, aside from the jamming problems and lack of standardized manufacturing design and lax quality control or were they actually no competition at all?

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 12 November 2007 - 07:11 PM.

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#10 nathan snyder

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 08:15 PM

You know Martin Hill has or had a couple of ultracam cameras and ultracam mount lenses (The ultracam mount BTW is similar to but not identical to the BNCR, it think that BNCR will go on an ultracam but ultracam lenses will not go on a BNCR mount or something like that, the FFD is the same on both though) I think he may also have either the prototype or the last production model left but I am not sure. I am pretty sure he ended up owning the ultracam name so he has the drawings and pile of parts gathering dust as we speak.
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#11 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 08:53 PM

But then again, I could be wrong. :huh:
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#12 Stephen Williams

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 02:22 PM

It's the "-- until they don't" part that worries me :D ! I'd be up for buying one based on your recommendation alone but DAMN where would you ever find parts for it and I'd have the same concerns Stephen has with regards to tech support, who the Hell would you ever get to work on these things? It's bad enough trying to find parts and people who will service these commiecams at a decent price :lol: !

It's probably academic anyway, with a total of 15 cameras made and Stephen owning 2 of those, there's very little chance the opportunity will ever come up. I do have one question though, where these comparable to the Panavision cameras of the time (Late 70s, eariy 80s I'm assuming from the date of the article) they were meant to compete with, you know, aside from the jamming problems and lack of standardized manufacturing design and lax quality control or were they actually no competition at all?


Hi,

5 different cameras have exchanged hands in the last 3 or 4 years to my knowledge, all but 1 was advertised on Ebay the other on CML.

The guy who originally did the electronics still supports the cameras. I understand one of the tech's at The Camera House in LA knows the cameras quite well. I have a list of phone no's that I have never had to call!

Stephen
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#13 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 10:39 AM

I notice the Ultracam is in the 1981 edition of the Professional Cameraman's Handbook. This edition doesn't have anything on the Aaton, which had been made in the hundreds by that time, so there must've been great hopes for the Ultracam at the time.

With the quirks, it does sound like it would make a personal camera rather than rental camera.
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#14 Stephen Williams

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 11:48 AM

I notice the Ultracam is in the 1981 edition of the Professional Cameraman's Handbook. This edition doesn't have anything on the Aaton, which had been made in the hundreds by that time, so there must've been great hopes for the Ultracam at the time.

With the quirks, it does sound like it would make a personal camera rather than rental camera.


Hi Brian,

It also made it into the American Cinematographers manual.

Stephen
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#15 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:22 PM

Hi Brian,

It also made it into the American Cinematographers manual.

Stephen


Must be the LA connection.

Could the BNCR mount be changed to a PL mount by an engineer or would that not work clearance wise?
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#16 Stephen Williams

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:44 PM

Must be the LA connection.

Could the BNCR mount be changed to a PL mount by an engineer or would that not work clearance wise?


Hi Brian,

It could be done fairly easily I think.

The reason I guess that nobody has is the Ultratron Zeiss lenses are pretty good. A complete Ultracam package costs less than 3 Superspeeds so it's not really viable.

Stephen
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#17 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 02:13 PM

Hi Brian,

It could be done fairly easily I think.

The reason I guess that nobody has is the Ultratron Zeiss lenses are pretty good. A complete Ultracam package costs less than 3 Superspeeds so it's not really viable.

Stephen



Yes, makes sense if you own the lenses. I was pondering if you had to also rent your lenses.
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#18 Stephen Williams

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 02:28 PM

Yes, makes sense if you own the lenses. I was pondering if you had to also rent your lenses.


Hi Brian,

Package 1 came with 18,24,28,35,50,85,135 4 x 500' mags & 4 x 1000' mags

Package 2 came with 18,24,35,50,135. 2 x 500' mags & 1 x 1000' mag. There were some extra mags that needed attention that I did not bother to ship. (The first package consisted of 14 cases some containing dead batteries and other junk.)

Most are T1.4 with 16 iris blades so the bokeh is very round, I think the 18, 28 & 135 are slightly slower around T1.8

There was also a 14mm lens produced in the series.

I also picked up a Cooke Universal to BNCR mount for £30, so I can use my Cooke 20 -60 & 20- 100 Zooms as well.

Stephen
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#19 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 02:56 PM

You could certainly shoot a movie with that kit.
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#20 Stephen Williams

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 03:10 PM

You could certainly shoot a movie with that kit.


Hi Brian,

That was the plan, I was flying to New York with a director, we had just spent more than the cost of the first kit on a 3 day Rental. It seemed like a good idea at the time! LOL

Stephen
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