I'm on my 4th Bolex now as I've tried out different models I could (cheaply) off of Ebay to get my feet wet in features and shooting film. The limitation of only being able to shoot for 27 seconds, and the limitation of having to change film before you've shot 3 minutes worth led me to settle on the EL which gives me options around those limitations. However, there are a couple of other limitations I'd like to get around and I'm inclined to go in a more "professional" hardware direction as well as go with S16. I do intend to get enough use out of this so that I'm looking at purchasing (and am kinda amazed at how inexpensive that can be). There are 2 major limitation that I have with the Bolex EL but there may be other limitations (that I haven't encountered yet) or reasons to upgrade. The first is sound. The EL is too noisy for close work and the sound recording options (based on my limited, non-first hand knowledge) appear to be fairly primitive with their own issues. The second is viewfinder. I've actually managed to cobble together a monitor for the EL by using an iPhone on the eyepiece and connecting the iPhone to my laptop. This allows me to do shots or angles where I can't physically be behind the EL but still be able to see what's in the frame of the shot. This is only a bit more than marginally functional at best. So I need sound and monitoring capabilities. It looks to me like Arri PL mount would be desirable. Another purchase factor would solidity & dependability. I'm not with a couple hours of nearest service so would likely need to ship to either coast for repairs. The options that jump out at me are Arri SR3, Aaton XTR Prod, or the A-Minima. In my dreams (but likely out of my budget) would be the Arri 416. Am I overlooking any serious contenders? What would be the feature differences between these that I should consider? I'm anticipating making a purchase in early 2018 so I have plenty of time to listen to input Thanks, Tom
S16 purchase considerations
Posted 14 April 2017 - 02:34 PM
They both have their own little issues, neither is perfect, but I think either one could be bought and used for years if maintained properly.
I wouldn't for instance buy on ebay unless your buying from a reputable vendor who has re-built the camera, especially the SR because it's far more complicated then the XTR in my opinion.
I personally prefer the XTR because I think the way they designed the camera leads to less wear and tear on the mechanics, it's much softer on the film, has excellent registration AND is a better hand-holding camera. The Prod has the 35mm viewfinder and usually a better video tap, but every camera is different. It'a also quieter then the SR3, which is a benefit.
The SR3 is a 24v system, so it's incompatible with standard 12v power sources. It also doesn't hand hold very well as the camera is flat instead of curved for the shoulder of the camera operator. Outside of those two issues, it's a really nice camera with a beautiful viewfinder and a very professional feeling when using. The XTR feels like someone made it by hand, but the SR3 feels mass produced.
If you're waiting a year to buy a camera, it must be said prices are going up. What happened between 2013 and 2016 is that most rental houses got rid of their cameras at a time when Kodak was looking iffy financially. So the market was flooded with ex-rental cameras and they were going for cheap. I saw full XTR Prod packages go for $2500 bux at one time and an SR3 sold for $1800 in 2015. However, once Kodak stabilized and once that gluttony of rental cameras were gobbled up by people like me, the prices have started to go back up again. So far in 2017, there have been very few decent camera packages for sale and those that have been, are going for 25% more then they were in 2016. Remember, there are no new cameras, so once all these rental house cameras are gone, there simply won't be any more cameras available unless an owner/operator like myself, chooses to sell one of their packages, which is... to say the least, probably not happening very much. So if you wait until 2018 to buy something, you may find the only cameras available are very expensive, like $5 - 8k. I lucked out on the last three cameras I bought, they were all amazing deals from private owners who needed cash, all done on a personal level. If you don't know anyone, it will be hard to get a deal like that, you're relying on retail establishments like Visual Products, who are great, but charge a lot for their excellent work.
Posted 14 April 2017 - 02:44 PM
A very interesting point on the direction of the prices and why it's happening. I may be in a position to act sooner so I'll give that some further serious consideration. On the eBay mention... I'm quite happy bottom fishing on eBay to allow me some hands on exposure but I readily dump back on eBay once I've done so. If I'm putting several grand into a long term purchase, it would likely be thru different channels (this forum being one). Thanks for the input.
Posted 17 April 2017 - 03:35 PM
The XTR's are probably better designed cameras, especially for handheld work but honestly I'd stick with Arri in the U.S. simply for all the repair parts and people that know the SR's.
Plenty of 12v Super 16 SR2's out there. The SR3 has some advantages in view optics, quietness and other features, but there are so many updated and modified SR2's that you may find it to your advantage to save some money with S16 SR2.
I have SR3 mags for my SR2 and it's super quiet. Not quite to the point of a full SR3 but very usable when recording sound.
Tyler has a good point on camera packages...you may want to jump on one soon. And don't be afraid to pay a little more for a kit with more accessories. Those accessories were crazy expensive back in the day.
Posted 18 April 2017 - 08:07 AM
On the topic of repair availability... If I acquire an Arri (likely SR2/3) that needs attention, what are repair options in US? Any "factory trained" techs? Parts availability for service due to normal wear & usage? How self serviceable by someone with tinkering skills? Same questions if go the Aaton route. Thanks, Tom
Posted 18 April 2017 - 10:20 AM
If I acquire an Arri (likely SR2/3) that needs attention, what are repair options in US? Any "factory trained" techs? Parts availability for service due to normal wear & usage? How self serviceable by someone with tinkering skills? Same questions if go the Aaton route. Thanks, Tom
Arri NYC was able to repair an SR1 motherboard for me about 3 years ago. There's at least one guy there keeping the 16mm dream alive there.
Most major rental houses can handle repairs on any SR. Visual Products certainly can. Abel Cine. Bernie at Super16Inc.com. Tons of camera shops still out there. While new parts are not being made of course, there were so many of these cameras in the U.S. that parts can still be found for most things that wear out.
Whatever camera you get, you'll want to make sure you send it in for inspection and a tune-up. With all the mags too. Plan on adding at least $600 to whatever price you get to do this. Very important. And send it in at least every other year depending on how much you're shooting. Pick up the SR Guide to learn you're routine maintenance.
You can even check with Panavision and offer beer bribes if they could help. Technically they're not supposed to but they love the old cameras and might help as a public service.
If you get an S16 SR2, you can always get another standard SR2 to keep for parts if you think that's needed.
I'm fairly sure Abel Cine can handle Aaton repairs although not sure how deep their parts stock is. Most of the same guys that handle SR's can probably tune-up an Aaton, just not sure if they'd get parts if needed.
Remember not to think of these cameras like any digital camera...they're closer to industrial sewing machines. You must take regular care of them to keep them going...but they ARE built extremely well and designed to shoot everyday for years.
Posted 18 April 2017 - 12:04 PM
Aaton support has been good. Abel in both LA and NYC have continued to support all of the cameras. Plus, Visual Products has an excellent technician and the parts are a lot less money then Abel. I'm pretty sure Aaton in France still has quite a parts inventory, so getting parts from France is a possibility as well.
There are a few really good independent Arri tech's though. The problem isn't the labor force, the problem is parts. Getting anything from Arri Germany is tricky I've been told, so unless one of the tech's has a lead on some (new or used) parts, it's pretty hard to replace anything that's broken and can't be repaired by the technician.
I hope as more consumers own these cameras, we'll see the service industry flourish once more. My big concern is that without "new" parts being made, we will see the end of ALL parts for these cameras at some point in the near future. Then it's really down to re-building what exists to keep the fleet going. Due to the fact these cameras are built really well, I don't see this happening in the next 10 years, maybe 20 though. I've been personally collecting spares of things, boards, motors, optics, belts, just so I can have an inventory "just in case".
Posted 18 April 2017 - 05:02 PM
I readily dump back on eBay once I've done so.
Tom, re looking for advice on 16mm cameras, have a serious rummage through the past posts on cinematography.co. It's been discussed a lot....argued over....Take care who's advice you listen to. You will always find on these forums someone who pretends to be some one who they are not....
Re dumping on eBay. Nothing wrong with that, on proviso that one discloses all defects, and admits to any inexpert fiddling that one has done.....
Posted 19 April 2017 - 10:10 AM
Gregg - I hear ya on both counts. I've looked at a lot of threads here (and other places) and mentally filtering out personality issues is just a part of it. Advice & opinions are just pieces of a puzzle that you eventually have to put together yourself.
My dumping on eBay typically comes with what I know of the item and that I'm not an expert. Item is as-is but I've not hesitated when someone (only happened once that I recall) asks for a refund.
Posted 19 April 2017 - 10:14 AM
While having a lot of back and forth with my model.
I want to suggest the Eclair ACL as well, considering that you can actually have adapters made, and use everything from PL, to C-mount, to Bayonet, to Nikon F-mount, (and even EF lenses). And they are pretty nice on your shoulder
Posted 19 April 2017 - 11:54 AM