OT: Motion Film Camera

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by r s, Feb 25, 2006.

  1. r s

    r s

    Sorry for the off-topic post but wanted to get some thought on this
    from the people on this forum in case anyone have any personal
    experience with this.<br><br>
    For some time now I've been toying with the idea of picking up a
    classic motion film camera. Basically something that resembles my M3
    in the way that it is well built, beautiful, takes great optics,
    built to last and does not have a lot of plastic or LCD displays
    (how's that for trying to tie this to a Leica and the forum..?).
    I've done some research and think I've settle on the Paillard Bolex
    reflex camera make. Does anyone here have any personal experience
    with this camera - or any other classic movie cameras?
    My father was an avid amateur movie-maker and I played around with it
    myself for a few years when I was 17-20 years old. Would be fun to
    try it out again - and now couple it with my passion for older,
    classic camera equipment and lenses.
  2. I used to shoot Super-8 film and longed for a 16mm camera. I still haven't got there but have had some brief exposure (no pun intended) to 16mm Arri cameras thanks to my friend who studied film back in the mid '90s.

    Any decent brand will do, whether it's Aaton, Arri, Bolex etc. They are all top machines. You'd prefer an electic motor if you can get it, but if it's compactness you want then you can put up with a spring-wound motor.

    16mm looks beautiful when transferred to video, especially if care has been taken in terms of lenses and emulsion.

    Funny you should post this as I've been thinking of getting a 16mm camera recently. I basically want to just mess with it - anything too serious will cost too much. ;-)

    The great thing about cine cameras is that they do slow-motion very well. I don't know of any inexpensive video camera that does slow-motion (but of course you'll pay for the film!). That's one thing that Mini DV sucks at - some Super-8 cameras had 9fps (for low-light and/or fast-motion) and the slightly better ones had 56 or 64fps (for slow-motion). And Super-8 was fantastic because there were so many brands and ways of doing things.
  3. Sounds good but where do you get 8mm cine film from nowadays??
  4. And as importantly who would process it?
  5. OK I have answered one of my own questions...


    Amazed that they are still selling it AND adding new film types.
  6. "...something that resembles my M3 in the way that it is well built, beautiful, takes great
    optics, built to last and does not have a lot of plastic..."

    Then a 16mm Bolex is what you want. No batteries, even, it has a spring-wind motor, and its
    C-mount for lenses will accept nearly every lens ever made.

    FWIW, Super-8, regular-8, and even 9.5mm film can all be purchased and processed. Kodak
    is still processing Super-8 Kodachrome.
  7. E. Leitz made a series of Super 8 cameras in (no kidding!) M-mount, offered Angenieux and Schneider zoom lenses to fit them, also a 10 mm Schneider Cinegon. They were fairly well-regarded in their day.

    I've never had one, got a couple of S8 Beaulieus instead. These are not for the faint of heart or light of wallet, but they are lovely.

    If you're going to go 16mm or S16, consider an Eclair ACL or an Aaton. Much nicer than Bolexes, and quiet.
  8. It depends on whether you want to shoot 16 mm or 8 mm. 16 mm is expensive and needs a tripod, therefore I assume you would not like to start with it. Bolex and Arri have excellent 16 mm cameras in their portfolio.

    On 8 mm there is double 8, super 8 and double super 8. Double 8 is somehow outdated although there are pretty nice 'hitoric' cameras. Super 8 is most common. Due to the small film format the lenses have to be absolutely brilliant for best performance. Afaik there is no serious Super 8 camera from Bolex. The Leica Super 8 are also pretty crappy despite the Leicina Spezial - which is rare, expensive but excellent.

    Beaulieu Super 8 cameras are pretty good and might also fit with the Leica style - although they have the swinging mirror concept in the finder. The 4008 series is metal made and fun to use. Try too look for a 4008 ZM 2 or 4 with the Schneider Kreuznach Optics. Due to the C-mount you can adapt almost every SLR lenses. I did imho 'fascinating' macro movies with a Micro Nikkor 55 mounted to the 4008 (which is something like 300 mm in 35 mm equivalent).

    However, the disadvantage of super 8 is the planarity of the film due to the pressure plate which is integrated into the film cassette. This is overcome by double super 8. Bolex 16 mm (H16) or double 8 (H8) cameras are modified for double super 8. These are possible the high end 8 mm solutions. If you can afford it go for it, otherwise Super 8 with Beaulieu might be a more rational testing alternative. But be aware if you buy such an old camera from ebay! The are probably over 30 years old and defect. Even from professional vendors I have NEVER bought one single proper one and always had to apply some repair works (gear oiling, finder calibration, aperture servo and metering adjustment). So it is important that the vendor would accept money back in case of problems.

    Of course the image quality of the projected image is still much lower than Leica 35 mm slides and therefore could cause disappointments!

  9. >I've done some research and think I've settle on the Paillard Bolex reflex camera make.
    Does anyone here have any personal experience with this camera - or any other classic
    movie cameras?

    Sounds like a good choice for what you want. You might want to look at Nizo cameras if
    you want to shoot super-8. Aaton and Arri are probably out of your price range...

    Don't mind the obnoxious pop-ups at fortunecity... here is a great link. If I recall correctly,
    put together by Martin W. Baumgarten, a guy who probably knows more about small
    format cine than anyone alive:


    He helped me out with some Super-8 processing problems...
  10. Oh yeah...





  11. The Bolex cameras are gorgeous until you look through the viewfinfer. Bolex viewfinders are the worst crap, comparable only to disposable pocket-110 cameras. What made them put such a crap on so wonderful cameras is beyond me.. it doesn't affect the fondling factor and image quality, though. Beaulieus have much better viewfinders, but many quirks of their own.

    For actual filming in 16mm on a budget, I highly recomend the Arri 16ST
  12. Um, Marc, the Eclair ACL and Aaton cameras (all but the A Minima derived from the ACL) are designed to rest on the camera operator's shoulder. So is the Eclair NPR, now that I think of it. I've seen ARRI 16Ss shot hand-held, I found 'em too heavy and clumsy for that. The SR16 goes over the shoulder too. All are orders of magnitude better than Bolexes, and prices for used ones reflect this.

    Your recommendation of Beaulieus is slightly dangerous. French-made ones, not the 1028XL and its brother whose name I've forgotten, are all metal and seem very solid. But they're quite fragile; used ones require an expert (the factory) overhaul before they'll run reliably. I've had a 4008ZM with 8-64/1.9 Angenieux, have a 4008ZM2 with 6-66/1.8 Schneider and a 5008S-MS with 6-70/1.4 Schneider. Within its limitatations the humble Canon 310XL with its modest little 8.5-25.5/1.0 zoom shoots better than any of them.
  13. r s

    r s

    Thanks for all the replies so far - a wealth of information here :)
    One question on the hand-holdability aspect...since I was planning to mostly 'play around' with the format there were two important factors I left out in my original question;
    a) I would need to be able to hand-hold the camera for most of the time (I'm 6'3 and 205lbs so I should be able to carry it),<br>
    b) my 'budget' for the camera and lens(es) is only about USD 500-1,000.
  14. If your budget for camera AND lenses is 500 to 1000 bucks, how are you going to afford the 50 to 100 bucks per 3 min. of footage? How are you going to view your results? Take the cost of a projector into account, the cost of video transfer if you want to edit and share your clips, etc. ... 16mm has been a hobby format for the well-off and will stay such even more so with all movie cameras eventually being substituted by digital. So, unless you are willing to invest a fortune into mere nostalgia stay away from these toys. I've never afforded a movie camera of my own thru 25 years of working on films as a cinematographer and director. But I love to "mess around" with my Mini-DV.
  15. r s

    r s

    you raise some great questions.
    My budget was just for the camera and initial set of lens(es) and browsing around the net - including completed auctions on eBay - I got the impression that this may suffice for that purchase.
    When it comes to development cost you raise a great point. I will readily admit that all I quickly did was to check if film and development was still available - I didn't spend a lot of time looking at the price structure.
    Is 16mm development really USD 50-100 per 3 minutes of footage?
    Is super-8 or double, super-8 development in the same price class?
    As far as viewing comes around I will have ways to project either 8 or 16mm film.
  16. I like my leicas and all but if I was shooting MOVING pics, HD or mini DV is much cheaper
    and much better for editing especially for sound.
  17. 16mm processing is NOT 50-100 USD for 3 minutes. There are many places that develop for 20 cents a foot, and thus 100 feet (a little under 3 minutes at 24 FPS) would cost you 20 dollars. Super 8mm is sligtly more expensive at around 13 dollars a cart, which will gie you about 2.5 minutes of run time at 24 fps. In addition, Beaulieus are not as problem prone as many people say. There was a polla whiule back, and from what I rememeber, the Beaulieus on had a very slightly higher repair rate than any other camera. I'd also suggest asking your question at the filmshooting.com forums.
  18. Gaah! I guess I just can't spell today. Sorry.
  19. Dan, I was proposing the Beulieus in case Rich wanted to shoot Super 8. I guess he is still not sure about the format. I do not have too much experience with 16 mm because at the times I was playing around with movies I simply could not afford too much 16 mm. Of course Aaton is a professional camera brand and must be good, but was out of my range. From the comparison 16 mm R16 Beaulieu and H16 Bolex I would prefer a mechanical Bolex which is compact and somehow 'lightweight'.

    As I said, buying a Beaulieu could be a risk. But once they are repaired I never faced a problem with two 4008 and one 5008. I also have a Leicina (no Special), a Nizo and a Bauer, and from the optical performance the Bealuieu is one league ahead. The mechanics of Super 8 cameras might be fancy and imperfect in case of a Beaulieu (the Bauer and Nizo are even worse), but it is still absolutely simple and no problem to repair - a task one could fulfill alone.

    For Rich: from my point of view 16mm is still much too expensive for not using a tripod. Handheld shots imho mostly look bad unless the scene is willingly used as such.

    Therefore, if I would consider entering the movie scene again, I would start with double super 8.
  20. I recall reading somewhere of a shop in CA that will convert a Bolex 16 into a Super 8. Does anyone here know anything about it?
  21. Rich, I was roughly calculating the cost of a 30m daylight spool (what a simple Bolex takes) plus development. I doubt that Kodachrome can be developed at 20 cents/foot, but anyway, you would have to add the cost of the emulsion. Plus, with chrome emulsions you will be left with an original, prone to be scratched any time it is going to be viewed, unless you have it transferred to digital/video for editing - an additional cost. If you were planning to shoot negative stock, add the cost of having a positive printed to the cost of emulsion and development. Hence my estimate. All this is excluding sound. Re-think DV before you invest in a nice-to-fondle paperweight. Cheers.
  22. Lots of ground covered in this thread, so I'll wade in with a random bag of very generalised comments on some of the cameras that I have used.

    Re Bolex H-16 conversions to 8 mm. There are Double Super 8 conversions - ie they use film that is 16 mm wide, but with a set of Super 8 perforations on both sides. There are also H-8 cameras, which are Standard 8 (aka Double 8 or Regular 8)

    The choice between Bolex H-16R (varieties) and an ACL or NPR or SR16 etc: Bolexes are noisy and not much use for sync sound. On the other hand the ACL, NPR and SR16 aren't any good for animation, which the Bolex excels at.

    The NPR takes C-mount lenses, and can be adapted (slight mod to turret) to take M-mount lenses. M lenses fit C-mount cameras using an adapter, by and large. C-mount lenses fit D-mount cameras (typically Standard 8) with an adapter, by and large. The ACL can also take C-mount lenses, as I recall. The SR16 can't. The Bolex H-16RX can, but the thickness of the beamsplitter affects the back focus of fast lenses not designed for it (marked 'RX' on the barrel). The NPR is an extraordinarily reliable camera. It is also quite heavy for a handheld camera, but it sits quite nicely on your shoulder. Aaton LTRs (varieties) are more expensive than the NPR/ACL but significantly better in many respects. The XTR series are pure joy, but they sell for rather more than $1000 and I don't know why I mentioned them, so I wont mention the Minima either.

    The Leicina Special with an M-mount was a nice idea, if you like long lenses. The 10 mm Cinegon is a fantastic lens, and it has a fully-closing aperture. The camera has some neat features, including manual film speed (ISO-type speed) selection and selectable reflex viewing screens by turning a switch (how neat is that?). It is not a quiet camera.

    The Nizo 6080 is one of the finest Super 8 cameras ever made. Very quiet. That series are all good and fairly quiet (3048, 4056 etc). The first two numbers tell you how fancy the camera is (30xx rising to 60xx) and the second two tell you the longest focal length of the zoom.

    Later Beaulieus (6008, 7008) can be an expensive heap of unreliable junk in comparison to the earlier 4008 series (can you tell that I have had big problems with both the 6008 and 7008 - they can let you down, and that's not good on a professional shoot - you'd better have spare cameras).

    Best, Helen
  23. In addition to the Nizo models listed above, the Canon 814/1014-XLS are also very quiet,
    well made cameras.

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