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Which 35mm camera?


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Hello I’m considering selling my Arri Sr3 buying a 35mm camera. However I’m wondering which camera you guys recommend? I was thinking the Arri BL2 but i think that’s a bayonet mount, and I’m not sure how much that would limit my options of buying a lens for it. So maybe the BL4. This is not a for a any particular project, it’s for me to shoot my own projects. Ultimately I love the look of anamorphic, so I was thinking Normal 35mm 4 perf. But maybe 2 or 3 perf is more cost effective?  In then end I will typically want a 2.39 aspect ratio and want to use as much of the exposed image as possible. I will always want to finish my projects with a 35mm final print and on most occasions also make a 16mm print From 35mm negative so I can project it at home. 

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It will cost a lot more so you will most likely shoot a lot less. Also, doing optical reduction prints from 35 onto 16 negative is very costly. I would keep the SR and rent a 35 camera when you need it so this way the cost of shooting would be a lot less prohibitive and be able to shoot a lot more stuff.

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Posted (edited)

Hey Bryan, welcome! 

Honestly, as someone who has owned/worked with intimately nearly every major 35mm camera; Moviecam; Super America and Compact II, Arri 2C, BL4S, 535A, Arricam LT, ST, 235 and 435, I actually dumped nearly all of them and settled on an Aaton 35III. I couldn't stand the 7 cases it took to shoot with the studio cameras. At one point I had a BL4, 535 AND Arricam LT all together in cases and it literally was 30 cases. I kid you not, 3 cameras = 30 cases. Mind you, I had a lot of mag's and batteries. But when every single component comes in a case, it really gets crazy. Then you add the weight of these cameras, you need a $5k tripod to hold them up. 24v battery solutions like old school battery belts and brick batteries, limit your motion as an operator. Then you have all the issues with age, the BL series cameras are VERY old, they ALL will need new belts. The replacement belts from Arri are grossly expensive. So many use 3rd party belts, which don't last as long OR are as smooth running. You could blow $3 - $4k easily getting Arri belts installed, on a $6k 4 perf camera AND blow another 5k on a tripod and a grand or so on some batteries, before you ever get shooting anything. 

So ya got 2 choices... 

1) If you must have 4 perf anamorphic sync sound silent, buy a Moviecam Compact II and just be done with it. Phenomenal camera. Zero complaints besides the weight and physical size. 

2) Buy a small camera like an Aaton 35III and realize it's gonna be loud. Barney it for those close up's and the rest of the time leave it open. You'll be running around 4 minute loads at 4 perf and you won't get a desqueezed anamorphic viewfinder, which is annoying, but on rare occasions you can find 3 perf versions and run 1.3x anamorphic lenses? 

Personally, I'm more about the story than the camera and the idea of making film prints. It's WAY easier and a whole hell of a lot cheaper to shoot in 2 perf, scan at 6.5k on the Scan Station, edit and finish in 4k and then record back to 35mm at 4k. You can find recording deals, you just gotta ask some smaller shops like Color Lab and Cinelab. Doing a photochemical finish is a boat load of headache AND worst off, you still won't get anywhere near the quality unless you strike prints directly off the negative. If you want to shoot 4 perf,  if you have that kind of money, rent a package from Panavision. If you rent their anamorphic lenses, they will practically give you a camera package. They have so many Millenniums, XL's and XLII's, they'd cut you a deal easily. To own an antique camera for the sake of shooting a few personal projects, it just doesn't make much sense and you can't rent an old BL4, nobody wants 4 perf cameras. 

If you're bored, I have a new YouTube series which is launching very soon, (probably sometime early April) which goes over a lot of these problems and explains why I think for 35mm sync sound cameras, it's much better to rent than to own.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8v6hFXTvlgd-Dy1IzsE4-g

This is why I have an unusual camera the Aaton 35III and leave it at that. No reason to have a fancy tripod, no reason to have all the crazy expensive accessories for studio cameras AND it's modern enough to have a decent tap and it's super light comparatively. 

Ohh and 16mm prints? With mono optical sound? Yuck! No thanks. 

Just my 2 cents. 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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@Giray Izcan   thanks for the advice, I think you are right. It may make more sense for me to just keep the SR3

@Tyler Purcell   thabks for the warm welcome. I really appreciate your input and taking the time to create such an informative post. I’m going to look onto the cameras you mentioned. If I sell my SR3 I’m definitely going to take your advice. Checking out your YouTube link now!

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If you can get a decent 2 perf camera like an Aaton Penelope or an Arricam etc then I'd say go for it. I would much rather own sr3 than a 2 perf Konvas or an Eclair CM type cameras with no modern accessories and they all sound like coffee grinders so forget the sound...

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Posted (edited)

with lab work being sometimes similar in some labs but scanning more expensive, i I think you'll end up with 150-200% of the cost of 16mm - Tyler for sure could give you more precise numbers for the US

Edited by David Sekanina
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2 perf would still be a bit more expensive but sharper for sure. Even if you crop it to 1:85, it is still 1.5 or 1.6x larger than s16 despite what people may say in terms of how 2 formats being really close to each other. 

If you want to shoot narrative rather than mos music videos etc than of course you should get a 2 perf, quiet with pl mount type camera. Forget the 2c type cameras for narrative work is what i would say.

Edited by Giray Izcan
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27 minutes ago, Giray Izcan said:

If you want to shoot narrative rather than mos music videos etc than of course you should get a 2 perf, quiet with pl mount type camera. Forget the 2c type cameras for narrative work is what i would say.


yes I want to shoot narrative. Is it uncommon to find a 2 perf Aaton 35 III? What are 2c type cameras ? 

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Posted (edited)

Spec wise, 2 perf is around 2mm taller than Super 16 and a whole heck of a lot wider. 

Here is the skinny tho... 2 perf ain't what it's cracked up to be. 

First off, it doesn't use the full width of the film, it reserves room for the soundtrack in 2.40:1 aspect ratio mode. So your image is MUCH smaller than it COULD be width wise. This is why a lot of people shoot 3 perf and crop to 2.40:1 because that format uses the full width of the film to deliver 1.78:1 aspect ratio. 

Second, 2 perf has hard frame lines at 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This means, if you get hair in the gate or dirt, you have to crop in to remove it. Where on 3 perf, you're nearly ALWAYS cropping in anyway to deliver 1.85:1 or 2.40:1 (the two common delivery standards). So it's way easier to re-frame and re-compose shots in post to fix issues on set, which always happens. 

Third, 2 perf cameras are expensive, there is no way around it, they are exorbitant compared to 4 perf or even 3 perf. The premium goes up exponentially and sync sound cameras for quiet operation like an older Arri BL or something like that? Holy crap, try $20k for a 30+ year old camera that will need lots of maintenance. Wanna buy a 2 perf Arricam or something modern? Sell everything ya got, they're also unobtanium. 

Finally, 35mm is expensive, 35MM IS EXPENSIVE!!! There is no magic with 2 perf. Even if you got short end deals, even if you got scanning deals, even if you got processing deals, it's still 2x more than 16mm to work with. If you don't have deals and you pay retail for everything, it's 3x to 4x more to shoot 2 perf than 16mm, if you think about everything in the chain from camera through post. 

So when I look at 35mm in general, I just see dollar signs. I also think that unless ya go 3 perf, or 4 perf, it's kind of a waste of money. I haven't seen a 2 perf film that makes me think "hey I need to shoot 2 perf", but with 3 perf or 4 perf, when you get that larger beefier negative, it all starts to make sense. I really want to shoot 3 perf with 1.3x anamorphic lenses, use that cost savings of the format + wide aspect ratio. 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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3 hours ago, Bryan Becker said:

yes I want to shoot narrative. Is it uncommon to find a 2 perf Aaton 35 III? What are 2c type cameras ? 

It's uncommon to find Aaton 35-IIIs at all. I don't believe there was ever a 2 perf option.

2C refers to the Arriflex 2C - an iteration of the original Arriflex, a small, loud 35mm reflex camera, designed primarily to be handheld, and very popular in the 60s and 70s and beyond. A legendary camera but no good for dialogue unless blimped (which is not worth doing these days). Successors were the Arriflex 35-3, 435 and 235, all MOS cameras (meaning too loud for dialogue).

 

Before you take Tyler's advice without question, it should be noted that he makes money renting out his Aaton 35-III, so he has an interest in spruiking it. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with an Aaton 35-III, but I think people should be transparent about having a vested interest when giving advice.

 

22 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Then you have all the issues with age, the BL series cameras are VERY old, they ALL will need new belts. The replacement belts from Arri are grossly expensive. So many use 3rd party belts, which don't last as long OR are as smooth running. You could blow $3 - $4k easily getting Arri belts installed, on a $6k 4 perf camera AND blow another 5k on a tripod and a grand or so on some batteries, before you ever get shooting anything. 

I wouldn't recommend investing in anything older than a 35BL4 or 4S, which are about 10 years older than Aaton 35-IIIs. Any old camera needs maintenance, including Aatons, and it can be hard to source parts for them. But you're much more likely to find Arriflex parts and technicians.  $3K-$4K to simply replace a camera belt is not realistic, by the way. It's not a difficult procedure. You might spend that on a full camera overhaul. And Aatons can be no less expensive to maintain. A local rental house here where I live got rid of its 35mm Aatons in part because they were having too many problems.

 

19 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

No reason to have a fancy tripod, no reason to have all the crazy expensive accessories for studio cameras..

When did a tripod become a fancy accessory? Don't you tend to operate your Aaton with a fancy Steadicam, Tyler? Handheld is a particular aesthetic that doesn't suit every project.

 

19 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

So ya got 2 choices... 

There are always more than 2 choices.

 

19 hours ago, Giray Izcan said:

It will cost a lot more so you will most likely shoot a lot less. Also, doing optical reduction prints from 35 onto 16 negative is very costly. I would keep the SR and rent a 35 camera when you need it so this way the cost of shooting would be a lot less prohibitive and be able to shoot a lot more stuff.

I think this is good advice. Renting also lets you try out cameras and get a sense of what works for you, or what might suit the type of projects you want to do, if you decide to invest in something down the track. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Before you take Tyler's advice without question, it should be noted that he makes money renting out his Aaton 35-III, so he has an interest in spruiking it. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with an Aaton 35-III, but I think people should be transparent about having a vested interest when giving advice.



It's uncommon to find Aaton 35-IIIs at all. I don't believe there was ever a 2 perf option.

Actually, having used nearly all of the 35mm cameras made in the last 30 years, I actually made the decision to buy the Aaton. At the time of acquiring it, I already had owned a BL4S and 535A, along with 2C and a few Eyemo's. 

As a filmmaker first, it offers "us" something the other camera's really don't. A tight, compact package that is quiet enough for sync sound. Nobody else got near that market for 35mm, which is quite surprising. 

Also, it doesn't rent much at all. People like yourself are scared off from it. Those "in the know" understand it's value and use it on occasion but my business is mostly 16mm, that's where my business is these days. 

Aaton 35III's are very popular in the states and Europe. Andree Martin was the person who got them working and I believe Aaton did make the minor changes to make them work in later production. My camera came from Panavision Australia and so didn't my friends. I re-built one from Abel that had some issues and sold it. I also brokered a deal to sell another one. So in the last 5 years, I've seen/worked with 4 different cameras, 2 standard 4 perf models and 2 pretty special 3 perf models like mine. Also, Alan Gordon got the left over inventory from Panavision when they went out and I believe at one point, Wayne had at least 3 of them sitting around. Andree Martin is also the top expert on the camera in the US, he's also a few miles from my house and one heck of a nice guy. Living in Los Angeles, I would have NO quorums about buying a used 35III and simply having him re-build it. He charges $1200 for a go through, which is honestly, amazing for what you get out the back end. The cameras are perfect when he's done as I can attest from my friends.

So yea, you're probably liable to find a Arri sitting in someones closet before an Aaton for sure. However, there are a lot of 35III's around, Ebay nearly always has one. 

Quote

 $3K-$4K to simply replace a camera belt is not realistic, by the way. It's not a difficult procedure.

I was quoted $1700 - for the Arri spec belts and the labor was $1500 to install. The non-Arri spec belts were 1/2 the price, but the labor was the same. I believe the labor may have been high because there were no belts on the camera, they had fallen apart. So the re-timing of the camera "may" have been more difficult than if you could have held the timing in place and simply change the belts. 

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Aatons can be no less expensive to maintain. A local rental house here where I live got rid of its 35mm Aatons in part because they were having too many problems.

There isn't much if any maintenance. The only real issue is keeping pulldown consistency when it comes to pitch. Due to the way the pulldown movement wears, it can cause the pitch adjustment to slowly fall out of whack. So every few years, ya gotta open it up, turn an eccentric on the cam and run the camera a few times to get it quieter and that's it. The rest of the camera is easy to work on, MUCH easier than the Arri's. But, it's a more fragile camera for sure, nothing beats the robustness of an Arri. However, the sacrifice seems to be worth it thus far.

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When did a tripod become a fancy accessory? Don't you tend to operate your Aaton with a fancy Steadicam, Tyler? Handheld is a particular aesthetic that doesn't suit every project.

The tripod required to hold a 30lb camera, is a different tripod than the one required to hold a 60lb + camera. 

You can easily get a 30lb fluid head tripod for $500 bux on Ebay, any day of the week. I have 2 of those and it's what I mostly rent with my cameras. 

A fluid head tripod to hold a 60lb+ camera is... well, $3000 - $5000 on Ebay. I have one of these, only really for the bigger heavier duty rigs like the Arricam's I use on occasion. 

Also... as you pointed out the Steadicam system. A Steadicam for my Aaton is $700 bux used. A Steadicam for a Arricam LT or even Arri 35III is more like $6k + used. Someday I'll buy a $6k Steadicam, but that money can go towards other things like lenses. 

With film cameras these days, the most expensive gear shouldn't be the accessories (outside of lenses of course). The most expensive bit should be your camera. If you own lenses, then those should be the most costly element, before camera. Most people can't afford to own fancy lenses tho, they're so cheap to rent. 

 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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1 hour ago, Dom Jaeger said:

2C refers to the Arriflex 2C - an iteration of the original Arriflex, a small, loud 35mm reflex camera, designed primarily to be handheld, and very popular in the 60s and 70s and beyond. A legendary camera but no good for dialogue unless blimped (which is not worth doing these days). Successors were the Arriflex 35-3, 435 and 235, all MOS cameras (meaning too loud for dialogue).

Thanks Dom!

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28 minutes ago, Giray Izcan said:

Aaton 35 is a good camera for sure. If I'm shooting a feature though, I'd much rather use bl4s or a 535 than the Aaton as the A camera. 

For sure, but if you have the money to produce a 35mm feature, you probably have the money to rent a camera. Panavision will literally give you a camera body if you rent lenses from them. Many other rental houses have similar deals for low-cost bodies IF you rent full packages. Since most people can't afford to own the lenses required to shoot a big show, it makes sense that renting is what you'd always do. 

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Right... I like certain lenses that I rent but I was watching The Sound of Metal recently got me thinking about Tokina's proper cine lenses. They seem to perform really well. I woukd like to shoot on them once and print it to see how it really performs without any di tricks.

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10 minutes ago, Giray Izcan said:

Right... I like certain lenses that I rent but I was watching The Sound of Metal recently got me thinking about Tokina's proper cine lenses. They seem to perform really well. I woukd like to shoot on them once and print it to see how it really performs without any di tricks.

I like my Rokinon's as well. I think too many people put too much energy into one of the top lenses. Just go out and shoot! haha 

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2 hours ago, Giray Izcan said:

Xeen lenses... how do they perform at 2.8?

After F2 they're fine. F1.5 they're soft. We put them on the projector not long ago and were shocked how bad they were a 1.5, it's like a total joke. For sure workable, but for half of a stop, just run them at F2

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Nice... my go to stop is 2.8 for nights, interiors and 5.6-8 for day ext so I should be fine then.

How are the index marks? Do they actually match tape measure?

Edited by Giray Izcan
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