I am in the market for a solid beginner 16mm camera and thought you guys might be able to help. I am looking for a camera that is lightweight enough to be hand held, preferably one that I could find a mount for with grips to do hand held shots with. My purpose for getting this camera is so I can begin to learn the 16mm format so I can shoot music videos and documentaries. I would like to get a camera with a nice option of lenses and accessories like matte boxes and follow focus units. I am not looking for a super 16. I have heard that the Bolex SBM is really nice, and I have also heard that eclair and aaton make a solid camera too.
I have searched the archive and I have tried to stay clear of the "best of" questions even though mine is in that vein. Hopefully I have provided enough info to start. Thanks.
Do you have a price range in mind? And if you are thinking about using it mainly for music videos, then having an MOS camera is not going to be a problem because the talent will be lip syncing anyway.
If you can afford it, I think an ARRI S or S/B would be a better idea than a Bolex, mainly because you will have a wider variety of lenses, and you can get a crystal sync motor from Tobin that will run it at exactly 24fps. The SBM, while a nice camera, is spring wound so you will not have a constant film speed, and that may make syncing music and lyrics pretty difficult in post. You can get a motor for the SBM, and Tobin does sell a sync for that motor, but I personally have had problems with them, not so much from Tobin's end, more from the electronics from Bolex. So that may cause you some headaches.
Any Aaton will be quite a bit more money. Though you may find an Eclair NPR for about the same price or a little more than a good ARRI S/B goes for.
How stupid of me. I forgot how much I wanted to spend. Ideally, I would like to spend about $5,000, and I have had the idea of buying the body and renting lenses from a local rental house until I find one that I find that covers a wide area of shooting situations. So about $5,000 but if I find one that is a good one and lenses are in good shape I might want to spend as much as $10,000 but certainly not more than that starting out. I do plan on keeping this camera for a lifetime even if I uprgrade.
That opens up alot of possibilities. If you are willing to go $5000 for the camera alone, then you should look at ARRI SR1 and Aaton LTR54. You could probably find either of those in decent shape in the $5000 range. And both of those cameras are workhorses and can be converted to Super16 sometime down the line if you want to go that route.
You should be able to pick up an ARRI SR1 in decent shape with a Zeiss 10-100 T2 zoom lens for about $10,000 if you really look.
Either the Aaton or the ARRI are much better cameras than the ones I listed above, and both will be fine as sync cameras, although you may have to barney the ARRI SR1 or at least throw a leather jacket over it.
If you've never shot film before I'd say go with a bolex and get to know film. Many people get into buying a nice camera package and they never even shoot with it. You'll see most nice ebay auctions say something like... "I bought this camera a few years ago and never used it." In case this happens with you, might as well not throw all your money in one direction. You can get a sync SBM with a good zoom for under $2000, and use the money for film processing and the seemingly infinite other expenses that seem to arise as soon as you plan to start shooting. You can easily convert it to super if you'll be editing on a computer.
Also, for documentaries, the bolex is small and you can wind it for those non sync shots which fill most of every documentary. Also, if you can get a PTL or an MC zoom, you'll have many possibilities. Macro, decent speed, etc. I've got the MC and it can even take a 6.5 wide angle aspheron.
If you find that you need a more "sophisticated" camera (you probably won't), you can easily sell it off and upgrade without losing much money in the process.
Just start shooting as soon as you can. It's easy to get obsessed with gear and that wastes valuable time you could be using gaining film experience.
For $5k I would watch ebay for an AATON LTR 7 I have seen them selling in the $5k-$7k range. I know there are alot of Eclair fans out there. The AATON is a far better camera. The only advantage the Eclair NPR has over the Aaton is the variable shutter. The Aaton is smaller, lighter, more comfortable to handhold. Aaton still exists as a company, an all important factor for service and parts. Every now and again you see an Arri SR I sell in the same price range. The Eclair is difficult to service. The viewfinder is small and not very bright. The motor situation with the Eclair should be reason enough to avoid it. The alcan motor was the best motor made for the NPR and it is one very rare bird these days. I've heard that Clive Tobin may cease production of his NPR motor. If you spend the cash to upgrade it to PL mount and video tap you still will have a camera that will not perform at the level of the LTR or SR.
If you are going to spend that kind of cash for a camera you should search out camera owners in your area. Contact them and set up a time to check out their gear. Put the camera on your shoulder. Look through the viewfinder. Call rental houses and service shops to see what problems are common to certain cameras. What upgrades are available etc.
I am sure that is a nice conversion to Super 16 for an EL, but if you are considering that camera, make sure you don't want to do sound sync with it, because it is noisy as heck. A friend of mine refers to it as a meat grinder and I would have to agree. I shot with one that was heavily barneyed and it still ruined the audio, we had to ADR the whole shoot. A bit frustrating.