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What is considered the best 16mm camera?


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#1 Eric Lopez

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 01:22 PM

I am interested in buying a 16mm camera to shoot a documentary but there are so many out there I am a little worried. I don't know that much about cameras. Which manufacturer should I avoid and why? Who makes the best cameras? Is the Bolex Rex 5, Beaulieu R-16, Arri 16 BL or Canon Scoopic any good? Which manufacturer still services their older models? Which camera has tons of accessories available in the secondary market at an affordable price?
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#2 Nathan Milford

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 04:18 PM

That's tantamount to asking what is your favorite color.

Aatons are well recieved by the documentary filmmaking community.

What are your criteria for 'best'?

What is your price range?

A 30 year old Aaton LTR kit can be seen for 6-9 grand and a brand new XTRprod kit can be seen for up to 100 grand (body, mags, lenses, matteboxes, sticks etc...)

You can get an Eclair for 3-4 grand in good condition.

All cameras that survive in the market have specific strengths and weaknesses to attribute to thier survival and popularity. You should first critically ask yourself what you want out of the camera. Price? Portability and size? Super 16 or Regular 16? Power requirements?

You can really get any camera serviced, even if not by the manufacturer.

So what is it you want out of your camera?
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#3 Alain LeTourneau

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 04:59 PM

Nathan is being modest, of course the Aaton XTR prod is the best camera! ; )

Eric, "best" is a loaded phrase but I think I understand where you're coming from.

My criteria (in order):

-steady images
-bright viewfinder
-lightweight, portablility

Other features are bonus items IMO. But as Nathan stated, it all depends on what you're doing.
I shoot only off sticks, rarely move the camera during shots, mostly shoot std 16 B/W, shoot sync and non-sync, and never pull focus. I also rarely shoot people and interiors. I'd consider myself a specialist in this regard, as movies are usually about people (or wildlife).

I've owned the following cameras: Bell & Howell 70DR, CP-16A, Bolex RX-5, and Eclair NPR.

I currently own the following cameras: Bolex SBM and Eclair ACLII

What I currenly own I am very happy with. If I had a little more money I'd by an Aaton 54LTR or Bi-phase XTR. If I had a little more than that, a newer model XTR, and if someone threw a whole lotta money at me I'd buy a brand new Aaton XTR prod direct from the factory. But for now, I'll take what I can afford in a camera, and spend more money on glass.


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#4 Alain LeTourneau

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 05:13 PM

I should add....

Bolex is the best entry level camera IMO. A RX5 can be had for less than $1000, and an SBM
you can get direct from a dealer for around $2000. Tobin makes a great sync motor for both these cameras for around $500. Switar lenses are good glass too! Parts availability is good, Bolex is still in business and plenty of techs around (Dieter, SMS, TCS Inc, and of course Bolex).
Oh, and Bolex cameras are the cheapest to convert to super 16, usually $1000-2500.

Arri S is a fine camera, haven't shot with one in years though. Parts may be tricky. Use of Arri std mount Schneider and Cooke and Zeiss lenses with interesting results.

Arri BL I'd avoid.

Cannon Scoopic I'd avoid.

Bell & Howell filmo cameras can be had for cheap, but I'd avoid them unless you're on a real tight budget.

Eclair NPR, ACL and CP-16 if you want to shoot sync. Parts are available, plenty of techs. You can get a nice package for $2500-5000. For Eclair there's Optical Electro, Bernie O'Dogherty and for CP there's Ken Hale at Whitehouse AV. You can super 16 all these cameras ffrom $2000 and up
(although I think Bernie can beat this price.)


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#5 Logan Schneider

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 10:36 PM

Most of the sets I've visited that were shooting super16 use SR3s. I've heard that doc people like Aatons but all the BBC type people that I know all swear by ARRI for its ruggedness.

I started with an ARRI S because it is a tank. $2500 for a good package. Daylight spools are great for learning without spending too much. Try to get the Crystal motor that Tobin makes and one of the old Zeiss 10-100 zooms. The Angeniux mine came with always vignetted at wierd times.

I have a friend who used to use his BL a lot, but because of the blimped lenses it can be a hassle. He had it cleaned well enough that it was as quiet as almost any SR1 I've used.

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#6 Alain LeTourneau

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 03:12 AM

Most of the sets I've visited that were shooting super16 use SR3s.  I've heard that doc people like Aatons but all the BBC type people that I know all swear by ARRI for its ruggedness.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



In my experience, the word "rugedness" in regards to cameras is often used to describe cameras frequently in use at rental houses and schools. Two places were "ruggedness" is often equated with abuse.

I think in terms of individual ownership, having an Arri SR is not entirely necessary and certainly cost prohibitive, even at this late stage in the cinema (future of 16mm?). I bought an SR1 for a school I used to work for. I also worked at an Arriflex rental house, and most of the AC work I've done has been with SR cameras. They are certainly nice cameras, and absolutely the SR3 is a work of art. But practically speaking (read: economically speaking) its gonna break the bank.

A while back when I was looking at cameras I found a few SR1s in decent shape for $5000 and under. Super 16 conversion would have been another $6000 at the very least. And this was without a lens (or with a Angenieux that is not suited for super 16).

Now if you're making money off the camera that's something else altogether and calls for consideration of a heafty investment in gear.

Again...the questions goes back to...It depends on what the buyer is looking for.


Alain
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#7 Oliver Gläser

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 11:10 PM

I love my eclairs!!!
for more reasons that I can list I believe that they are the a filmakers camera. perfect for studio and location. THe NPR i prefer to the ACL and I have one of each. With Tobin Motors (My beat up old perfectone compact just died recently), Video taps ( mine is by AZ spectrum), Video transmitter, strengthend front iris mounts ( for the rods) arri follow focus, arri matte box. I use my NPR on a steadicam ( made by Basson steady in argentina) and on an amazing cartoni made Arri Gyro head (formerly belonging to stig Nygren, I think the spelling is right) and of course one of my favorite features... the variable shutter ( still not mastered in the SR3 to the same degree in my opinion) The ACL is great for the tiny size and convienience. but clearly made for a cinematographer.
Thanks
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#8 Steven Budden

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Posted 14 August 2005 - 09:55 PM

And I love bolexes, both for their beauty and their portability. When I look at mine it just makes me want to run out and film. And I confess I love the spring winding, though at times a pain, no need for batteries or anything (same with the filmo). And it's easy to load and not much can go wrong with it, lasts and lasts. Then again I'm into experimental film, where bolex is the norm, but it also creeps into some features (like Nolan's Following... so they say) for the MOS shots.

Steven
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#9 Marty Hamrick

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Posted 14 August 2005 - 10:27 PM

Who makes the best cameras? Is the Bolex Rex 5, Beaulieu R-16, Arri 16 BL or Canon Scoopic any good? Which manufacturer still services their older models? Which camera has tons of accessories available in the secondary market at an affordable price?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>




Bolex Rex V :Excellent camera to start with.The camera can grow with you.You can start with basic and later add electric motors,intervalometers,4oo foot mags,longer zoom lenses.It also easily converts to super 16.Disadvantages are,it's awkward for handholding and noisy.

Beaulieu R-16:Shot with this camera for years,owned one.Loved the portability and it had great stability for image.Shot multi pass animation with it,it was that steady.It can be fiddly to load and when you do load it at the gate,you have to make sure the gate is seated or your film will breathe.Can't put 400 footers on it without a modification,but the 200 foot mags can be some advantage.They don't require a separate torque motor. This is also a noisy camera.I've shot sync with it and I found it harder to silence because it makes a high pitched whine as opposed to the low grumble of a Bolex or Arri S.

Arri BL:Great sync sound camera as long as you have the blimped lens on it.Designed for news/doc type work.400 foot mags and with the offset viewfinder you can shoulder shoot with it ENG style.Generally good as a sync sound camera only.Not good for much else (animation,time lapse,slow motion).

Canon Scoopic:Easy to use,auto loading,light and designed for handheld news and sports type stuff.Nice zoom lens with macro BUT,it's fixed to the camera and it's the only lens you can use.Higher end models have single frame and one model has sound on film capability.Like you really need that these days.

I think Bolexes can still be serviced by the company,don't know about the others but there are some technicians throughout the world that still service these cameras.
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