Why 16mm?

Despite the many options for shooting a short film, or longer on various digital cameras, or Super8 cine film,  many people consider 16mm film an increasingly preferable alternative to these formats.  The cost of purchasing 16mm Cameras has fallen sharply in the last few years.  Many production companies and film schools used 16mm cameras and in the late 90's started selling off their cameras and changing over to digital.  These kits are still occasionally coming up on auction sites.  Although some 16mm cameras can sell for high prices, many cameras are selling for less.  Usually, for consumer to professional cameras, lenses and equipment are very affordable.

Sometimes a cheap 16mm camera is not the bargain it seems.  If it is quite old, it may only shoot 2R film (double sided sprocket hole film, not produced anymore)  It may be very hard to find lenses, Kinor and Pentaflex for example.  If it has a wind up motor, it's Fps rate may vary wildly without a full service.  Early cameras use parallax viewing, (not through the lens as per modern cameras) Parallax viewfinders take practice, proper adjustment, and patience.  Non wind up cameras use batteries, these will require re-celling, potentially an expensive option.  The biggest factor that may affect camera choice is the available resources to repair or service it.  Many camera technicians have retired, and those that remain cover camera brands that are still popular and may have parts.  

So, a Bolex or Arriflex reflex camera kit may be quite expensive, but it is high quality, easily serviceable in most places, has many accessories, and good lens options.  Comparatively, a lesser known camera may be cheaper, but chances are it's lenses are rare, accessories non-existent, user manuals either don't exist or are in another language, and there is likely no-one on earth who knows how to service it.  Before any purchase, research how usable the camera is and consider how much effort you want to put in to learning about it. 


Below is a very brief and general guide of commonly available cameras, mostly based upon majority internet based opinion by users, and is intended to be a quick reference denoting general aspects.  Each camera has unique characteristics that may benefit a user over other cameras.  Any person researching buying a camera needs to conduct in depth research to ensure they buy a camera suited to their needs.  All manuals below courtesy of http://www.apecity.com/


PRO's: Well built, lenses widely available, early cameras very affordable, later cameras getting cheaper. Uses 1R film. Lots of service support.

CON's: Early cameras hard to get parts, possible worn lens turret, noisy.
PRO"s: Well built, well suited for tripod work, sound recording options, getting very cheap. Uses 1R film

Heavy, suited towards semi-pro user, very specific running requirements etc. parallax viewfinder. (non-reflex, not TTL) and power supply. 120v converter needed

PRO's: Well built, easy to use, many accessories, widely avail. Highly sought after.

Need specific batteries, often have to get re-celled, not too costly. 100ft load, rare 400ft mag available.
PRO's: Very well built, spring wound, widely avail. and affordable, reliable, high quality design, large lens choice. Mostly 1R, early cameras 2R.  240 series camera quite advanced, solid, well designed camera.

CON's: 100 ft loads, spring wound, parallax viewer.

handy links:
SB/SBM Manual   Reflex Manual

PRO's: Very well built, reliable, numerous model types, spring wound and later motor powered, common lens type, high quality cameras getting cheap. Most Reflex models 1R, earlier are 2R

CON's: Early models require skilled user, parallax viewfinder etc.  Most cameras 100ft load.  Note: RX and non RX lenses differ.  Rare 400ft magazines avail. See links for more info: LINK1 & LINK2

handy links:
PRO's: Well designed, reliable, easy to use, quality results, ideal learner camera. Uses 1R film

CON's: 100 ft load only, fixed lens, and rechargeable battery will most likely need re-celling.

handy links: 
website 04  CP User Manual
CP Technical Manual
PRO's: Well designed and built, easy to get serviced, reliable, can be converted to Super16. Uses 1R and 2R film, takes 400ft magazines

CON's: Magnesium body causes oxidisation, early shutter issues caused smear on exposed film, mostly resolved by now. Battery leakage terminally damages circuitry.

Cinema Products Youtube Tutorials

viewfinder alignment                      magazine loading  
fitting magazine                            using the battery

handy links: 
website 01  Eclair16 Manual
EclairACL Manual
PRO's: Well designed and built camera. Easy to use, many accessories, very sought after.

CON's: rare, very expensive, rechargeable battery will need to be re-celled or replaced.
PRO's: Semi-professional camera made between 1975-92.  Good quality design, renowned image stability, moderately quiet at 42d, takes 1R & 2R film, many available high quality lenses.  Multiple varieties of cameras were made, see THIS site for a clear picture of Russian cameras.

CON's: Camera specific lens mounts, service support limited outside Russia and Europe, parts very hard to get.
Note: For D.I.Y service and repair tutorial: LINK

K1,K2, or K3
handy links:
PRO's: Solidly built, later K3 cameras have common M42 lens mount, spring wound, cheap intro camera, easy to repair. Uses 1R & 2R film, quality standard lenses

CON's: Only 100ft load, prone to jam if over-wound, easily removable loop formers can scratch film, early cameras had bayonet lens mount, ie less lens variety
Note: For more websites related to Russian cameras, see the following page on this site: "Australian 16mm" and the links listed under "Australian & International websites of interest"

handy links:
k100 Manual  Special2 Manual
Model E Manual
PRO's: Well designed cameras, cine special has 100ft int. load, 200ft magazine available, reliable

CON's: Spring wound, getting quite old, will need service, camera specific lenses.

handy links:
PRO's: well built, moderate availability. Accessories mostly unavailable, uses C mount lenses so good range of lens choice. Easy to self service. Runs 2R & 1R film, spring wound so no electrics to corrode.

CON's: Internal 100ft film load only, larger mags available but as with accessories: expensive. Has delicate glass as part of viewer, must check before purchase.
Note: For D.I.Y service and repair tutorial: LINK
PRO's: Solidly built, moderate availability. Accessories moderately available, range of quality lens available. Can use spring wind attachement or 12v electric motor, easy to service. Runs 2R & 1R film

CON's: 100ft mags most commonly available, camera specific lens mount, camera very heavy, accessories expensive.
Note: For more websites related to East German cameras, see the following page on this site:"Australian 16mm" and the links listed under "Australian & International websites of interest"

Note: For D.I.Y service and repair tutorial: LINK

NOTE:  Although the above is intended to be a very simple guide, if a person should suggest useful information not covered here, I would be happy to include it.  mishkin.film@gmail.com


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