Thoughts on a 16mm SLR system

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by Karim Ghantous, Apr 29, 2021.

  1. I'm pretty sure I've given my thoughts on this before. But I was thinking about this again yesterday, as I was having coffee out in the back yard.

    I really do like the small format look. Grainy, but not overwhelmingly so. And all that rich colour. I've seen a lot of examples of Super 16mm frames, scanned properly on cinema grade scanners. They look terrific. So I'm thinking, why not build an SLR system that takes 16mm film?

    The system would be an SLR, with a typical mirror box setup. But instead of an optical finder, you'd have a sensor above the mirror. It would feed a nice, big EVF. Resolution would be switchable between HD and 4K.

    The film would run horizontally, and the gate would be 14.82mm x 12.52mm - double the surface area of a Super 16mm frame. This is a bit on the square side, but the system would offer anamorphic lenses as well as conventional lenses. The frames would be pin registered, allowing easy scanning and predictable cartridge lengths. A roll of film would be as long as maybe 70 exposures or so, maybe a bit more.

    If my rough calculations are right, you could use the Micro 4/3 lens mount, which would mean that you won't have to develop a new mount. And you have at least some lenses that you can focus manually.

    Here's the thing: would it sell?
  2. With about 185 square mm of film area, it has about 1/5th the image area of FF 35mm film. I way prefer the images from my m43 sized 20mp Sony sensor to FF 35mm film, so I can't imagine what I would would do with 1/5th sized film format.
    Jochen likes this.
  3. AJG


    Given the sales performance of the Narciss mentioned above in an era when film was the only medium for picture taking, I think it would never sell. The infrastructure for film processing is slowly disappearing and introducing a new format that would probably require different processing machines would be a non-starter, especially since the image quality is likely to be marginal by conventional standards. Film is film, and bigger film always looks better than smaller film. For anyone who needs compactness and the ability to have a camera loaded with lots of shots digital wins hands down, particularly when the image quality will probably be much better than 16 mm film.
    bobbudding likes this.
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Bought a Mamiya 16mm Automatic as a Teen in '61 with the idea that I could always have a camera with me, and it did work for that, As long as you were ordering wallet size or 3x5 you got adequate snapshots. The film was expensive and special order, processing was not only more costly, but took longer. I used it for about a year and then retired it when i got a 35mm. Eventually the film became unavailable. Gave it to a sub miniature collector a few years back. Just the other day i was going through some cartons of slides and found several boxes of 16mm slides and a bunch of negatives. I will have to try scanning some, the slides, at least will be possible.
  5. Does MFT really offer enough flange distance for a mirror? Wasn't fourthirds the SLR system?
    IDK to whom you'd like to sell. 110 had its time and is dead.
    4K footage for the EVF? I'd grab stills from that and use the film just as a proof for how lousy a photographer I am, like a failed attempt to plink with a BB gun, when it comes to hitting decissive moments.
    Fast 35mm film always looked more than crappy enough for my needs and taste. Shooting that with an ND filter should be cheaper than a dedicated niche market system.
  6. There are some 16mm and approximately 16mm SLRs that I have coveted, but I've always been stopped by the inner realization that the film(s) for these are getting rarer and hard-to-find. Alas.

    I do have one 8mm camera that is actually a movie camera, but can be shot one frame at a time. I haven't yet worked up to trying to find film for it and shooting it.:oops:
    Pentaka AK-8 "Schmalfilm" from the Workers' and Peasants' State of the DDR

    ad from Peerless, 1956-01 USC
  7. This might have been a practical proposition about 40 years ago, when 16mm movie film was plentiful and cheap. But nowadays?

    Anyway, what you're describing is about what you'd get from a half-frame camera taking more easily obtained 35mm film, and with matching lenses to go with it.

    How good are you at grinding a 20mm lens to fit your dream (nightmare I'd say) camera?
    You like this?
  8. I don't know. Sometimes a grainy look can be "artistic", can't it?
    Egypt-Ibn Tulun
    GAF 500 35mm film
  9. The above examples sure look awful, especially rodeo_joe's contribution. While I am in no way supporting Karem's 16mm concept, but if you look at the still images of a few recent movies shot in Super 16mm (both using a 2K digital intermediate master format), such as Carol in 2015 and Moonrise Kingdom in 2012, they look far better than what is shown here.
  10. In the days when I was using GAF 500, it was very often a choice between grain or no picture at all, so I differ with the "sure look awful" view. The first law of photography is "first, get the picture"

    What would all those war and sports photos be without grain?
    bobbudding likes this.
  11. I had no idea, so thank you for bringing this to my attention. They aren't cheap, by the looks of it, but at least I get most of what I'm wishing for. Maybe one day I'll buy one.

    I wouldn't bet on it, but it might just work. Maybe. I'd consider jamming a fixed semi-silvered mirror in there.

    You are not wrong. It's not quite the same but it's most of the way there. And practical.

    I'm not sure what you're driving at here. More details?

    They certainly do. There's a lot of stuff on Vimeo and YouTube to look at, too.
    John Farrell likes this.
  12. If the limited availability of 110 size film (13x17) vs (10x14 for Mamiya 16) there are a couple of SLR options: Pentax 110 SLR offered interchangeable lenses and Minolta offered a couple with built-in zooms.
    Karim Ghantous likes this.
  13. Good point. I do have one of the Minoltas (the flat one).
  14. It seems that 16mm movie film, such as Vision3, is easily available, and
    about $50 for 100 feet. There is 500T, so ISO 500 tungsten balanced.

    Somewhat better price than Super8 which is about $35 for 50 feet.
    Ektachrome is a little more, and Tri-X a little less.

    As far as I know, it is used in cinematography school.

    There is also 35mm and 65mm, proportionally more expensive,
    and available in up to 2000 ft rolls.
    Karim Ghantous likes this.

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