16 mm. camera .... but in digital ???

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by igmolinav, Apr 15, 2009.

  1. igmolinav macrumors 65816

    Aug 15, 2005

    I have never shot with a 16 mm. camera. I was looking at one on e-bay:

    And without any doubt, it seems to me a very cool camera to shoot

    I just wondered if there was a digital camera that you would recommend
    that feels as easy to handle as the 16 mm. camera of the above link.

    Thank you very much, kind regards,

  2. mtfield macrumors 6502

    Jan 9, 2008
    I have had a good amount of 16mm and digital experience. In fact I've shot with that very camera you want to bid on.. as well as 16mm Arri cameras. I do love the format and it has good depth of field characteristics. However the biggest issue you are going to find with film is going to be the development cost (about $40 for 5 minutes with b&w) and the fact that you need to know your stuff to shoot it. It is critical with film to have accurate light readings and distance measurements. also I see that camera has an extreme telephoto and wide lens but no more middle of the road lens... (25mm) I'm not sure what your $$$ situation is like... but it can get pricy shooting and developing 16mm plus you need to know a lab to do it... if you had the money and were interested in getting a digital camera with similar (but better) DoF characteristics i might recommend the Panasonic GH-1 ($1500) with a solid all around lens. Good luck! film is fun to shoot... but defiantly has its draw backs... I'm happy to answer any questions about the format though!
  3. igmolinav thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 15, 2005

    Thank you for your answer : ) !!!

    Actually, it is with a digital camera that I am looking forward to shoot with.

    The Panasonic GH-1, seems like a good camera : ) !!! Even though I don't see it in stock at the B&H website. Is there any other camera tha you would recommend ??

    Definitely I don't want to shoot with film. It is very expensive and complicated !!! The only thing I like of the 16 mm. camera is the size and portability.

    Thank you very much, kind regards,

  4. mtfield macrumors 6502

    Jan 9, 2008
    The GH-1 is still unreleased in the US... I believe it is expected to be released in early may... what would your budget be? and what characteristics are you looking for in a camera (depth of field, HD, tape vs HDD, etc.) and I would be happy to recommend a few : )
  5. Mavimao macrumors 6502a


    Feb 16, 2005
    Lyon, France
    I've also used that Bolex camera and while it's a great, rock solid camera and I love 16mm as much as the next person, doing sync sound on a wind-up bolex is near impossible and your shots will only last about 30 seconds before you have to wind it back up. You can buy a motor to attach to it but it will cost you even more and then you'll have to deal with noise (that is, if recording sound is an issue)
  6. obeygiant macrumors 68040


    Jan 14, 2002
    totally cool
    The Bolex might be good for arty cut aways in your doc, but other than that its basically a hammer.
  7. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    The bolex is actually a pretty awful camera for documentaries. It has a mediocre viewfinder, can only run for less than a minute once fully cranked, is nearly impossible to sync to audio for more than a couple seconds, and is a bad camera for getting highly accurate exposures. Plus, it holds just over two minutes of very expensive film and it's fairly loud and tough to pull focus with. It's super cool for non-sync 16mm footage, though, and if I could afford to own and use one, I would.

    So, if you want those qualities in a video camera, well, you're possibly crazy. (Get the pixelvision or something if you must.) Why endure the pain of a cheap 16mm camera without all the cool emulsion-exclusive benefits lacking in everything digital? But if you want that look in a digital camera, the Sony EX1 is about the cheapest you can get while retaining the resolution, speed (light sensitivity), exposure latitude, and depth of focus of 16mm. Shoot in 1080/24p and run your footage through magic bullet looks or whatever grading software you choose and you should be all set.

    That's if you have $6,000 or plan to rent. If you want something small and light (like the bolex) and easy to operate, I'd recommend the canon hv40, which is only $600. Its only flaws with respect to documentary utility are the format in which it records (HDV has compressed audio), its lack of a high quality microphone input, its poor manual controls, and relatively slow speed (80-100ISO, give or take), which is barely mitigated by relatively low noise.

    Between these price points, the canon xh a1 and panasonic hvx200 look quite nice; each has its advantages, and your choice should boil down to your needs and workflow even over image quality and ergonomics. So far as I can tell the GH-1 is not suited for serious video work; it's basically a still camera with a video function as an afterthought, and it lacks an established workflow, but it may be fun for casual projects and provide very good image quality and a great shallow focus look.
  8. iPhoneNYC macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2007
    The 16mm Bolex was a great camera. But for the above mentioned reasons it is not right for you - stay with digital. However, just to think about a look, New York's MoMA had a retrospective of the filmmaker Peter Hutton, who shot most of his films with that wind-up Bolex. Here's a link to last year's show:

  9. ppc_michael Guest


    Apr 26, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    I guess I'm not really clear on why you were asking about the Bolex if you specifically want to shoot digital, but if you want your stuff to look like film, you should consider shooting with a 35mm lens adapter, like a Redrock Micro M2 or a Letus35. It greatly increases your DOF options, as well as lets you use 35mm lenses with you camera.
  10. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    I'm going to strongly disagree with this statement, at least so far as the usefulness of an adapter in a documentary setting is concerned.

    While the adapters you've mentioned are pretty cool and surprisingly functional, they offer a number of trade-offs that make them best suited for narrative rather than documentary (as the first poster suggested was his interest) shoots:

    Most adapters lose about two or three stops, rendering a 320ISO digital camera as slow as 80ISO; this makes noisy cameras such as the panasonics virtually unusable in an indoor environment without significant additional light; maybe for talking heads these adapters are useful, but not for anything spontaneous.

    Adapters require a follow focus, external monitor, and a decent-sized crew capable of off-the-cuff focus pulls. You can't really zoom in an unlit interior unless you rent a dozens-of-thousands-of-dollars PL mount zoom, as SLR zooms are strictly f2.8 and slower. You may not agree, but if you only have one chance to shoot what you're shooting (as you would in a documentary), you won't have time to light, repeat focus pulls, etc. Furthermore, if you have multiple planes of action, good luck getting the stop necessary to render them all in focus.

    It was the introduction of cheap sync-sound 16mm cameras and increasingly fast film stock that spurred the popularity of Wiseman-esque documentaries in the late 60s and beyond. The benefits of these cameras included comparatively deeper focus at the same sensitivity on the order of two stops, portability, and the ability to have a very small crew. The 35mm adapters offer none of these benefits.

    Furthermore, the majority of bolexes I've used have had t2.2 to t2.8 lenses with a 16mm 4X3 frame. Assuming you're cropping for widescreen and finishing on high definition, you should have a similar depth of focus on the bolex as on the EX1, which has a 1/2'' sensor and f1.9 zoom lens. Of course, super 16 would have a shallower depth of focus, but I don't know of any super 16 bolex cameras. So stock up on some ND filters and you should have no problems in this regard if emulating the aesthetics of 16mm (rather than the "feel" of the Bolex camera, for which I'd recommend the hv40) is indeed your goal.
  11. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    That's not true of the latest generations from most of the main manufacturers. Several are quoting around half a stop loss. Even if you take that with a pinch of salt, you're probably looking at less than a stop. But I agree with you in seeing them as largely impractical for documentary shooting.

    If it's the look of film you're after, look for a camcorder with user-selectable gamma curves. If it's the very act of shooting of film you like the thought of — well, there's only one way to achieve that.
  12. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    I don't want to run this pointless argument into the ground, but "less than half a stop" is highly deceptive. Maybe the diffusing material (ground glass) loses half a stop, but the effective ISO of the system decreases dramatically.

    Take the hvx, for example. Natively, it's about 250ISO and has a f1.6-f2.8 zoom lens, focal length contingent. To use an adapter, you need to zoom in to the point where the camera cannot open up further than f2.2-f2.8, depending on the adapter. That's at least one stop. Then the diffusing material loses another half stop or more. Then you add the actual lens; an f2 (very fast) lens means an additional loss of two stops over no lens at all. Compare the hvx200 at f2 with the hvx200 with an f2 lens on an adapter; the difference is 3.5-4 stops. The effective shift in ISO is more than three stops, even if less than one stop goes to the diffusing material. This is admittedly fuzzy math because there are so many ill-defined variables involved (so it may not be quite that bad), and you could put an f1.4 lens on the adapter, mitigating this by a stop, but good luck pulling focus on-the-fly.

    Of course, none of this really matters, because with a documentary, every stop counts and even if you lost only one stop, you'd still need twice the light, which is significant. Furthermore, most documentaries (excluding "talking-head" portions) benefit from deep focus.
  13. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    Not necessarily. I see your point, but another example would be: Sony EX3 > Letus Relay > Letus Ultimate > Nikon 50mm f/1.2.

    The Relay is f/1.5, which drops to f/1.8 at the ground glass, and ends up around f/2.2 with the Nikon wide open. I don't know what aperture the EX3 stock lens would be at the equivalent FOV, but the widest the lens goes is f/1.9, so it couldn't be more than half a stop better.

    It really depends on the specific equipment involved.
  14. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    That's completely true, but good luck shooting a documentary with a f1.2 lens while treating it like a (single-operator) bolex; add to that the high (much higher than the hvx, for instance) cost of the EX-3, external hd monitor, relay lens, and high-end nikon optics and you see what I'm getting at. Have you ever tried pulling focus on a rig like that? Even the most experienced focus puller couldn't be counted on (with focus marks), and no one alive could do it off-the-cuff. An EX-3 without an adapter might be an ideal documentary camera, though, but it's still quite expensive.

    Also, how many affordable f1.2 lenses are there? Surely you can't shoot a documentary very well with one focal length? You're right that I've over-simplified things, but I'm arguing with respect to general usability rather than semantics and hypotheticals; 35mm adapters obviously have their place, but this guy's documentary almost certainly isn't it.
  15. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    That is a very high price. I've seen those camera sell in the $250 range. It is a wind-up spring driven camera. For good for shooting on a long backpacking trip where you would not have abillty to re-charge a battery for two or three weeks at a time.

    My dad has one of these and I've used them. They work for silent 16mm shots. No way to sync sound that I know of. The frame rate is set by use of a mechanic flywheel governer. So you can't do lip-sync without a lot of work later.

    I used to process B&W film by hand. It's not hard and not expensive. It you load the camera with B&W film and do your own lab work the camera is cheap to shoot. I can tell you first hand that even a teenager with a part time job can afford to shot silent black and white movies. Don't forget you will need access to an editing machine. I used a hand cranked one.

    You best option today is to shoot in HD and add the film-like effect in post.
  16. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    I wasn't arguing against what you were saying, just adding some context. I'm actually not much of a fan of adaptors. I'd rather simplify than add equipment of dubious robustness and operability. Especially on a low-budget or run-and-gun shoot. I think the adaptor thing is often an attempt to look legitimate — it looks like 35mm so by implication it looks like you know what you're doing.

    I think as more stuff (and more and more high-end stuff) goes digital, people will be more willing to embrace it for what it is. People will stop trying to make it look like film and make the most of what digital has to offer. There's plenty of scope for making digital look amazing without the first port of call being "right, how can we make this look more like film?"
  17. TH3D4RKKN1GH7 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 25, 2009
    It seems that many people associate shallow DoF with film. The two aren't exactly tied together. It's more about the lens of course. I'm more into figuring out how to get a digital camera to take in light how a film plate does. Sure the DoF is important but that's nothing a lens can't fix. I'm trying to decide what's the next camera I'm going to go with. The thing is, there's a new one like every other damn day it seems. Any of you more knowledgeable fellas want to point me in the right direction. The camera would be used for mostly narrative things. Gosh I'm sick of doing documentary work.
  18. bigbossbmb macrumors 68000


    Jul 1, 2004
    with so little information about your needs, how can we really give you a suggestion? you know what? i'm going to anyway... go buy a RED One and you'll make fantastic narrative movies.
  19. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    I hope you're kidding; despite its coolness, relative affordability, and impressive image quality, that camera has far more work flow issues and interface quirks than a real film camera. It's still a great rental item if you know what you're doing and you're shooting something short, though.

    With respect to adapters, yes, they're irritating and (so far as ease of use goes) basically the worst of both worlds. But they have their place and they're affordable. While it's great that they exist, some day hopefully they won't need to; the coming transition to 3D exhibition will favor 2/3'' cameras over super35, anyway.

    The funny thing is, it looks like all this guy wanted was a small consumer camera for amateur documentaries. That he wrongly assumed the bolex was sync-sound and easy to use led to a lot of tangential information and misinformation.

    So I'll offer this instead: get a Canon HF100 or HV40 or something comparable. Those cameras are inexpensive, light, easy to use, and surprisingly capable. If you are indeed doing documentaries, buy the HV40 for its tape deck.

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