This seems to be a common question among beginning filmmakers looking to buy or use available 16mm gear. I am just posting some results of the math I did recently to decide how to proceed filming my own project. Keep in mind the sacrifices and or decisions of presentation have varying degrees of importance to each filmmaker. This math is a very sterile look at what you can expect from the results. Although the sacrifices have very different visual appeals I only addressed them as if you are either linearly degrading the capture negative, or the display area.
Assumptions of the equipment:
Reg gate 16mm is avail for sale all over the web and can use or be cheaply adapted to use a massive cache of stills lenses. Many buy these and then ask questions. 2X anamorphics are about the same. 1.33 anamorphics are less avail and questionably useful unless they are the high end of the spectrum and adjustable. Native 16:9ish film cameras or super 16 are not overly available on the resale market and are fairly expensive. Most super 16 cameras use professional cinema mounts for lenses so the glass will cost more. This exploration assumes the final product will be displayed on either a 16:9 tv or a digital projector without use of optical anamorphic projection.
The default display is 16:9 so we give it a value of 100% whether its SD widescreen or HD we are assuming it stays the same whichever you choose.
The ideal capture is 16:9 so we give it a value of 100%
If you use both your are utilizing 100% of available negative and display and 100% of whats possible
The commonly avail capture is reg 16 which is about 75% of 16:9 so thats its value.
If you capture using this and display as is [4:3] you are using 75% of 75% of available display, and are using 56% of whats possible. Your Sacrifices: presentation with side bars but you are using the emulsion as is.
If you use a reg 16mm gate and a 2X anamorphic you are still only utilizing 75% of possible negative as 4:3 is 75% of 16:9 or super 16. When you display and you keep all the anamorphic gathered width you are reducing your display height and the resulting display is 75% of whats available. Using this method gets you 50% total of whats possible.
Sacrifices: presentation of the available display area. speed of camera setup [note if it were an anamorphic lensed projection system this becomes a final value of 75%]
If you capture in reg 16mm and crop to 16:9 in transfer you are using 56% of the total available negative but displaying a full 16:9 so you get a final value of 56%
Sacrifices: Film grain is enlarged, choices of film speeds have to be made more carefully.
And finally if you use a reg 16mm gate and a 1.33 anamorphic you are using the full 4:3 negative are for 75% of whats available and displaying on full 16:9 for a final value of 75%
sacrifices: negative size, speed of camera setup
summary of results for digital / non anamorphic display:
Shoot super 16: 100%
Shoot reg 16 use 1.33 anamorphic adapter: 75%
Shoot reg 16 crop in post display as 16:9: 56%
Shoot reg 16 show as is: 56%
Shoot reg 16 use 2x anamorphic adapter: 50%
What I decided doesnt really matter. But, since photography I do use for work but it only augments what I do, I will obviously spend more than the student filmmaker. But, I will not spend what someone who uses it day in and day out would. So depending on which I could get a better deal on... Id want a super 16 [properly] converted camera that uses the glass I already have or can get easily. Or I would go with the 1.33 anamorphic rig. And my last choice [based on the math] is to crop reg 16 in transfer. Which I have no choice on some recent footage but to do just that. So if it turns out to be a happy result I'll have to value the tradeoffs. IE I need fast camera setups. The 1.33 anamorphics still need to be focused separately or you will have to use small apertures and loose shallow depth of field opportunities. Which is important to me.
I hope this helps somebody look at this from another angle. I have revisited this many times through the years. It may not be precise math. And math may have little to do with your final decision. But it may illuminate from a different angle.
Edited by steve waschka, 14 May 2015 - 10:46 AM.