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"Low Budget" 35mm Movie Cameras


Josh Vance
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Hello. I am fimiliar with super 8 and 16mm camera formats, however, I want to dip my toes in to 35. I have seen posts over 15 years old on the topic of budget 35mm movie cameras, but I want to bring up the subject again

 

What are some of the better, low budget 35mm cameras, and how much will they run me? What are the downsides of these cameras?

 

Thanks!

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downside of all low budget 35mm movie cameras is that they are either noisy or extremely noisy.

if you need reflex viewing then you are pretty much limited to Konvas cameras, the Cameflex Standard or CM3 and the Arri 2A/B/C.  Sometimes you can get a Arri 35-3 for good price but that is very rare.

The Konvas cameras tend to be from 250 to 800 USD without lenses depending on the motor and accessories and if it is serviced or not. If you want it to have a crystal motor then it is from 800 to 1k without lenses. The lenses, however, are pretty affordable being typically couple of hundred usd for a prime lens if it is not a rare model.

The Cameflexes are typically from 600 to 1000 USD without lenses. The original lenses tend to be from 1k to 4k a piece but you can get Cameflexes which have one mount on the turret converted to Nikon F which allows using the very affordable Nikon lenses with it. I have diy converted my own Cameflex having a M42 mount as well, so the turret has one Cameflex mount, one Nikon F mount and one M42 mount. That should cover most uses this type of camera is good for.

The Arris are typically well over 1k for the camera body and motor and a magazine or two. The lenses can be expensive depending on what you want but it is possible to find lower price lenses (something like 400 or 500 usd a piece) if you can wait and look around long enough.

These prices don't include any overhaul / cla costs. If you need motor modifications it is best to find out about the possibilities beforehand because there is only two or three persons in the world doing crystal conversions for these cameras

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The Cameflex and Arri 2C were popular budget 35mm cameras. But now you can sometimes find BL3 & 4 packages for 2.5-3.5K. Andree Martin has a 535 for 4500$, larger 535 packages usually go for 5.5-8K. 3perf ones are more expensive of course.

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there seems to be couple of Arri BL packages on eBay but they are either sold non-tested or are missing parts like magazines and such. So I would add 2k for the overhaul and the missing stuff to make the set complete. That would get them closer to the the 5k price range.

There is used Moviecams in the same from 4k to 8k price range. Might need some service as well but which camera doesn't :)

If you want a low cost MOS option and don't need wider lenses than 28mm then I would probably go with the Konvas 1M and let Olex service it before use. Orientable finder, affordable lenses etc.  The 15epss motors can be converted to crystal sync though it is very time consuming modification (Olex is capable of converting and I am just finishing the first conversion of this motor type). It helps a lot when you can use the 15epss motors because the original Konvas crystal motors are very very rare nowadays and converting the 15epss costs about the same than purchasing the original crystal motor (if you could ever find one of the original ones...)

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How expensive is relative to what you have in mind.  The film stock, processing & transfer will be your biggest expense so the camera is not a huge line item in your budget.

Sound cameras like the Arricam require a high degree of maintenance and expertise in your camera department.  Using an MOS camera and dubbing any dialogue in the european low budget system would make production far simpler and speed up your production days by a lot. 

In my opinion the Arri 235 is the finest MOS camera ever made and is equal to the Panaflex in design elegance.  You should be able to rent a 235 package with cheap lenses (Zeiss CP-2's?) for a song or even free if you can get a shop like Panavision to back your work. 

Good luck!

Neal Norton
Director of Photography
Tampa, Florida

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6 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

Sometimes you can get a Arri 35-3 for good price but that is very rare.

 

That is not entirely accurate. That may have been true about a  couple of decades ago but all early generation (pre-1990) movie cameras prices for 4 perf and even a few 3 perf movie cameras have crashed. Now 2-perf systems of any kind that would be true .... any 2-perf movie camera are scarce these days and sellers are asking a premium for those. But you can easily find Arri BL1-BL4 movie cameras on the used marked (in 4 perf) for under $7-4K these days. And there are plenty of Arri 35-3 (again in 4 perf) for under $4K  now so that is non-issue. In fact Alan Gordon has a fine Arri 35-3 in 3-perf right now with warranty for $6,5K and a BL4 in 3-perf for about $8K both a bargain the last time I check both are are a excellent movie cameras. If I wasn't already shooting with a 235 movie camera I would take either one. The 435 would be the exception that one is usually north of $10K even in 4 perf.

 

Quote

 

Sound cameras like the Arricam require a high degree of maintenance and expertise in your camera department.  Using an MOS camera and dubbing any dialogue in the european low budget system would make production far simpler and speed up your production days by a lot. 

In my opinion the Arri 235 is the finest MOS camera ever made and is equal to the Panaflex in design elegance.  

 

Ditto what  Neal said on the Arri 235 movie camera and everything else. If you have a good ADR team and sound guy (or gal) MOS should not be any problem. Europeans have mastered this the MOS / ADR problems for decades and we can learn much from them. Here in the US,  sans music videos, documentaries and commercials...  we (Americans) are a bit intimidated to shoot with MOS these days in the 21st century but as I mentioned with a good ADR team and studio this can be overcome. On the Arricam or Moviecam that  is just more than maintenance you need at least minimum 2-3 camera crew crew ( Camera Operator, Focus Puller, AC 1,2nd...ect) on the set just to get a handle in a speedy, efficient manner on any kind of of film production ... in other words the Arricam is *generally* not a one man band movie camera unlike a MOS movie camera which can be operated by only one camera operator.

Edited by Rob Guerrero
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24 minutes ago, Philip Forrest said:

Don't discount the Bell & Howell Eyemos. Parallax viewing, but otherwise an amazingly reliable camera. It doesn't come any less expensive with reliability than an Eyemo.

Phil Forrest

Phil I am not too familiar with the Eyemos but I am always hearing great things about them for low budget 35mm filmmaking. Do the Eyemos have pin-registration do you know?  Alan Gordon has one for sale with a Nikon mount! 🤠

 

https://www.alangordon.com/sales/used/cameras/35mm/crystal-eyemo-nikormount

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To give you an idea about the filmstock cost... 800 for 1000ft load which is 11 mins of runtime or recans are 62 cents per foot. And you still have the processing and transfer. All that expense, I wouldn't want to shoot on an unreliable camera myself. 

Edited by Giray Izcan
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12 hours ago, Rob Guerrero said:

Do the Eyemos have pin registration?

They don’t but the claw exerts a strictly straight pulldown. Film guiding parts are nitrided steels, no wear. Gear train made from tough steel, oilable. The Eyemo is mechanically superior to many 35-mm. movie cameras. You will be satisfied with image steadiness.

Finder parallax can be eliminated for close-up and macro shots by the aid of the focusing alignment gauge, an accessory. That is rather hard to find. The turret-style finder with attachment optics affords a bright and clear view with parallax compensation down to three feet. The bayonet lens mount has flat threads inside with little play. A maintained Eyemo never fails you.

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1 hour ago, Simon Wyss said:

A maintained Eyemo never fails you.

But 100ft daylight spools, so 90 seconds of film is about all ya got, unless you can find one with the magazine and motor drive. 

I really like the electronic Eyemo's with the reflex viewfinder system, I had 7 of them at one point from Clairmont. I should have kept one, but I knew I'd never use one when I have other lightweight cameras available. 

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23 hours ago, Josh Vance said:

What are some of the better, low budget 35mm cameras, and how much will they run me? What are the downsides of these cameras?

 

Probably the Arri 2C is the most accessible low-budget 35mm camera. The only downsides are; how loud it is, the stability and many are stuck with turret mount for lenses. With a Cinema Electronics motor base and Jergens orientable viewfinder door, these things rock. Give them 12v 4 pin power and slap them on a pretty normal tripod setup with a decent lens and you can go to town. They will also do high speed, but I only got mine up to 55fps with 2 12v batteries, not sure how much faster they can go. 

You can get into a 2C for sub $2k with standard Arri Bayonet Mount lenses and OE motor. With a PL mount and modern motor, maybe a grand more? There really isn't another camera on the market like it for the price range. All the other cameras will be MUCH more money OR be missing any modern features like a mirror reflex, which is critical in my opinion. If you have more money ($6 - $10k) you can get into a sync sound camera no problem, but you'll be in a world of hurt for other reasons due to belts, heavy duty tripod requirements and much higher voltage requirements. 

This one recently sold with a nice orientable viewfinder door, very good deal. 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/144022501856?hash=item218868f9e0%3Ag%3AbUsAAOSwFGZgiLye&nma=true&si=FPo2aLpQMZ93E1V%2BoWqNY7%2Bl9Cc%3D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

They are bulletproof, all direct drive, super easy to work on and even though they're loud, they're pretty nice cameras to use. The model that came after the Arri III is a much better camera, but it's also MUCH more money. I actually built my 2C from a bin of parts, having never built one from scratch before. It was a fun project, but I learned a lot and the new owner has shot dozens of projects with great success. Such great little cameras. 

Where I do like Eyemo's, I don't think they're worth the effort unless you can find a real Clairmont one with the reflex viewfinder and the Nikon mount. People charge an arm and a leg for them. 

Let us know what you plan on doing with the camera and maybe we can figure out one that will better suit your budget and requirements (sound level/lens mount/size) etc. 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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to me a camera body costing between 5 and 11 k is not "low cost". By a "low cost camera" I generally mean anything which costs under 3k serviced and with basic accessories and mags but without lenses.

But there seems to be some confusion what the OP was looking for...  by a "low budget camera" did the OP mean to ask for a camera which is inexpensive  OR  a suitable owner-operator camera for shooting movies which are low budget? Those are completely different things and explain the funny comments where I am saying that Arri 35-3  's are "expensive" and then another member writes that Arris are not expensive at all and there is lots of "very affordable cameras in the 5k to 10k range" 😅

So which one is it?  Looking for a camera for a movie which is "low budget" or looking for a cheap camera body? And what do you mean by "cheap", how much it can actually cost to be an option?

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as mentioned before, sync sound is expensive. As well is 2perf and 3perf modifications. The more noisy and difficult to operate the camera is the cheaper it generally is... just like with the 16mm cameras, first people purchase the S16 modified silent ones which are ergonomic and great to use and when those are sold, then it is time to trade the crappier ones which are not worth that much.

If the camera can be noisy with bad or mediocre viewfinder system and can be lacking in ergonomics or can be a bit more challenging to use, then it can be got for cheap. Another option is to purchase a non-working higher quality camera like the 35BL2/3/4 and hope that it can be repaired to a working condition without needing the kind of spares which were sold out decades ago

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7 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

But 100ft daylight spools, so 90 seconds of film is about all ya got

Not quite. There were so-called max spools with a smaller hub, ¾" diameter I think. These take 150 foot. Thin-base films have been on the market since 1950, turning your 100-ft. camera into a 200-ft. capacity (Du Pont “paper thin”). Too bad that the industry didn’t want thinner stocks.

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8 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

"low budget camera" did the OP mean to ask for a camera which is inexpensive  OR  a suitable owner-operator camera for shooting movies which are low budget?

I agree on this ... the OP is very vague to say the least on what "low budget" is for the movie camera. For some cinematographers low budget is around $10K for others only $1K then of course it depends what is required for the feature film or film project as far as how much cinematography F/X is involved and accessories such as visual aids as video village...ect. The more cinematography F/X and/or accessories the more expensive the movie camera. And if sound is important or not,  that is a big factor. We are are all just kind of guessing until the OP clarifies what  defines as "low budget" .

This is just me but I would consider any solid reliable 35mm analog movie camera in perfect condition sound or MOS under $10K in the world of cinematography as "low budget" but thats just me. If you are  Dean Semler, Jack Green, Roger Deakins, Robert Richardson...ect or any other  A-list DPs their versions of low budget may be much more than that.  Here is one at a fraction of that a ARRI 35-III at only $3500 fully serviced, with Cinematography Electronics. Unless the OP can clarify further  what their version of "low budget" is I would recommend this movie camera I am pretty sure even the most seasoned cinematographers here would agree this movie camera is a good 35mm  "low budget" movie camera for the OP. 🤠

 

Arri 35 -III movie camera with Cinematography Electronics motor (low budget 35mm movie camera)

https://cinemagear.com/details/arri-3-c10908.html

Edited by Rob Guerrero
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1 hour ago, Simon Wyss said:

Not quite. There were so-called max spools with a smaller hub, ¾" diameter I think. These take 150 foot. Thin-base films have been on the market since 1950, turning your 100-ft. camera into a 200-ft. capacity (Du Pont “paper thin”). Too bad that the industry didn’t want thinner stocks.

Yea I was referring to how the cameras work today. 

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Right you are. Eastman-Kodak manufactured a colour film in the 1970s on an “ultra thin” polyester base (0.0015"). Imagine, that meant 300' on the H spool or 3'20" at sound speed.

On ebay now an unknown 35-mm. camera with a two-ports turret and electric motor, the EAC-1. Hans Hodres of Munich built a handholdable 35 with an electric motor in 1934. In California 1933-34 was the Akers Featherweight camera. Still one of the best cameras is the Parvo by Debrie. From 1921 on (model L) metal housing, moving register pins (same position as Mitchell), direct view of film behind aperture, 400 feet of film, quick release and mount of lens, electric motor available. One can say a museum piece. I deem the Parvo among the most important designs. Compact, versatile.

Else, CINEFLEX or ARRIFLEX. A Konvas only with a good relation to a technician. Everything can cause trouble there.

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45 minutes ago, Simon Wyss said:

A Konvas only with a good relation to a technician. Everything can cause trouble there.

By my experience, the biggest problem with Konvas cameras is that people don't have any experience with them and don't know how to use them correctly which gives an impression that they are bad cameras and unreliable. Additionally, persons who shoot with them expect them to work right out of eBay which is never the case with cameras which have been stored unused 30 or 40 years in a box in someone's garage in Ukraine. Of course it is in bad condition and dusty and all the lubricants are dried and it may even have small rocks inside (that is the one I use the most after servicing it) .

The advantage of the Arri 2C's over Konvas is that the Arri has always been much more expensive so the previous owners probably could not afford keeping it in the garage all the time. They had to use it to get the money back from it and that means that someone took care of the camera and serviced it regularly. Thus it is in better condition "out of the box" than the garage camera but that does not mean that the garage camera could not be cleaned and lubricated and adjusted and then shoot wonderful images just like the Arri could. 

The Konvas has the advantage of having orientable viewfinder and massively cheaper lenses which I stated previously

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Wow, i didnt check this thread for a few days after posting, and I got a ton of responses! Thank you all!

I sincerely apologize for my vagueness. I guess I didnt really have an exact price in mind, I considered low budget between 1k to 10kish. 

I dont have a specific project in mind, I just wanted to see what cameras are the most reliable for that range. Sounds like 2Cs and Eyemos are really good options. I'll do research on the cameras you all listed, thank you. 

 

 

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max. 10k for the camera body + mags  OR with lenses and all the accessories? you will need a good tripod and lenses and other stuff which will cost about half of the total price of the package.

I would probably look for a silent sound camera with pl lens mount and some kind of video tap possibility. Most likely either a serviced Arri 35BL (bl2, 3 or 4) or the Moviecam Compact. Someone suggested the 535b which is a good option too. The arricams are too expensive and most other options are too loud for sound shooting. One option is to get the Kinor35N (sometimes listed as "35H" if cyrillic not translated) if you can find one with a good lens set and which is modified to BH perfs (the camera shoots originally KS perforated film and needs to be converted for shooting modern Western stocks) . The Kinor is basically a Soviet copy of the Moviecam SuperAmerica with their own lens mount and some Soviet engineering. Every one or two years one pops up on eBay but they are relatively rare and may need some repairs before use (not that unserviced Western cameras would need any CLA before use as well)

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I would get a BL 4s with pitch control which is the same movement as the 535 cameras hence it's at the same quietness level as a 535. I would just start shooting projects on that camera instead of collecting film equipment. Having an MOS camera for certain applications is nice but, realistically, do you shoot high frame rates etc all the time which means that much more film stock as well? For most other conventional shooting style, a Moviecam Compact or a bl or a 535 style sync sound camera is all you need really. MOS cameras are too limiting in that sense if you want to own one. You get cornered with a loud camera. Surely, you can do adr etc but if you want a decent looping then it is a lot of money too and not to mention how much more complex it gets really. 

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