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Brand new Film Camera?


Sava Silin
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Hi, might be a silly question, but is it possible to buy a brand new film camera? like arri sr3 or arricam. Do they even make new ones? 

Another question. Do you know any reliable store\dealer who sells arri film cameras (sr3 or arricam)? Preferably in Europe. Thank you.

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Sadly nobody makes a new film camera currently. There are rumors about a new 16mm and 35mm camera introduced by the guys who made the pretty recently released Logmar Super 8 camera, but nothing solid. 

I have spent some time talking to the guys who hold the Aaton patents about taking them and re-making the camera as an "updated" version, but the cost to start that business would be in the hundreds of thousands. Not many people are also willing to pay $30 - $50k for a "new" Super 16 camera. 

There are plenty of people buying and selling film cameras in Europe. https://cameramarket.eu/equipment.php?type=dicam_16mm

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14 hours ago, Sava Silin said:

Hi, might be a silly question, but is it possible to buy a brand new film camera? like arri sr3 or arricam. Do they even make new ones? 

All the major manufacturers - Arri, Aaton and Panavision - had stopped making film cameras by 2011. Interest in new cameras plummeted around 2009, especially with so many second hand cameras flooding the market.

A lot of people don’t realise how expensive new film cameras were back then. In 2006 an SR3 Advanced body alone was US$40,000, mags were over $5000 each, an IVS over $10,000, each ground glass was $1000. A full SR3 kit with 3 mags, IVS, extension viewfinder, on-board batteries and charger, travel case and accessories could easily set you back $100K.  An Arricam ST body without even the viewfinder was US$140,000, a full kit with mags and all the accessories and maybe a 3 perf movement kit would cost a rental house half a million dollars.

When people wish someone would make a new camera, these are the sort of costs you’re looking at. The 65mm camera Logmar made a few years back was very primitive compared to a late Arriflex or Panaflex. No-one will ever make a film camera as sophisticated as an Arricam or a 435 ever again.

15 hours ago, Sava Silin said:

Another question. Do you know any reliable store\dealer who sells arri film cameras (sr3 or arricam)? Preferably in Europe. Thank you.

Apart from cameramarket.eu, FJS International has a European branch:

https://fjsinternational.com/film-cameras-2/

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I hate to say this (because I'm sure it comes up again and again), but the lack of new film cameras - or even certain spare parts for older cameras - does make me worry about how long celluloid filmmaking can realistically continue. Hopefully the revived interest in analog filmmaking will result in more people who know how to keep them running, but is it really feasible that people will be able to shoot with these cameras 50 or more years from now? They have to give out eventually, right?

Then again, when I visited the ASC a couple of years ago, I got to hand-crank a Mitchell that belonged to Mary Pickford. Our guide assured us that we could load it up and shoot with it today if we wanted, so hopefully I'm wrong.

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Mary Pickford’s Mitchell affords the same image steadiness as the latest Panaflex or Arricam does. Nothing has changed in that respect.

If film should have a (new) future, printing needs to be improved. Intermittent equipment should be used, be it old or fresh, and―to fantasize a little―projectors with precision movements. The industry would have to find a way how cutting on prints can be prevented, else registering movements won’t last long. The film must remain uncut in one piece.

As a projectionist (for more than 20 years) I can sing a song of mutilated positives, literal ruins of films that actually constitute fraud on spectators. Even a fresh print with bad steadiness, worst were the 1990s high-speed printing methods, is not what a producer wants to sell.

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I think if there is realistic demand, eventually someone is going to answer that demand. After all, someone is buying those Arri Alexa SXT sets for $95,290 USD!

The current professional 16mm and 35mm cameras aren't that old yet and in most places they probably don't see as much use as they did when film was the only option. There are also lots of older well working professional gear in the hands of hobbyists.

So, in the end this might depend on whether or not rental companies see a need to buy new film cameras at some point. If film use grows -- as it seems to be growing -- and their cameras see constant use, at one point they might have a real need if those cameras don't work reliably enough despite servicing.

In the still photography it is clear that film use has been becoming quite popular, with many higher end cameras seeing higher (2-3x) prices on Ebay than a couple of years ago. Still, those cameras work pretty well so thus far no new 35mm or 120 cameras have been manufactured - the prices are still so low.

 

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4 hours ago, Brett Allbritton said:

hate to say this (because I'm sure it comes up again and again), but the lack of new film cameras - or even certain spare parts for older cameras - does make me worry about how long celluloid filmmaking can realistically continue. Hopefully the revived interest in analog filmmaking will result in more people who know how to keep them running, but is it really feasible that people will be able to shoot with these cameras 50 or more years from now? They have to give out eventually, right?

 

I agree, I do think this market will eventually exist, but it doesn't yet. We're still in the "we got film cameras because they were cheap for a few year" owners, I am one of them. But once those people A) can't afford to shoot film anymore due to the cost going up. B) cameras fail and there are no parts, I think the current paradigm will change. 

I hate to be "that guy", but prior to covid, there was a lot of movement in developing new stocks and new cameras, but in our "covid" world, I think people are more worried about other things. My fear is that covid dictates our lives for the next few years and the people who would shoot on film, can't afford to shoot at all. Production is doing better, but it's still bad times for the lower-budget folks, those who shoot 16mm. The commercial filmmakers have no problem, Panavision makes excellent cameras and they have the knowledge on how to keep them working forever. It's really the narrow gauge formats which are most concerning. 

For the record I will say that these cameras are pretty bullet proof. I just got an SR that went through a flood. It was locked solid, but after taking it all apart and cleaning everything, the darn thing powers up and runs fine. Good luck doing that with an Alexa! So I do think film cameras have a longer life than most people expect, even the electronic issues are easier to fix than digital cameras.

To me the biggest problem is money. There will be a tipping point very soon where labs will start charging too much and film will also be too expensive. So less people will shoot the narrow gauge formats. I think the most recent price increase, maybe the beginning of that trend. Everyone went up quite a bit in 2021 and this year so far has been nearly dead for me. I've done 5 shoots or so, which is what I normally do every month. Even during covid in 2020, I had more work than this year so far. That's pretty telling honestly, it shows that low-budget guys are simply not shooting film. Even though Kodak has told me, narrow gauge film sales are through the roof, I just haven't seen it this year like years prior. 

I think in 50 years we will be in more trouble as a society than having to worry about our film cameras. I will be long dead by then, but everything points to us worrying less about what format we shoot on and focusing on survival. But that's a discussion for a different thread. 

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the way I see it, professional cinematographers don't need completely new very expensive film cameras because they either already have one if they are in a point in their career that they really need a film camera kit worth from 40k to 100k and shoot enough with it to justify the investment...  OR they are in a point in their career that the production company can just rent any suitable camera from their favourite rental house (that camera most likely being the 416 or the sr3 if talking about s16 cameras) . 

the only people who really would need to purchase a completely new 16mm camera are the ones who shoot lower level non-commercial or low budget scripted short films and indie films and those people can't afford paying for a new camera which would inevitably cost around 40k or 50k for the body and mags. Well, they would surely die for one of those cameras and for them it would be a "great idea" for a engineering company to design and manufacture a camera like that but in the end none of those enthusiasts would really buy one because they don't really need it for their work nor can finance it in any way (shooting too small amounts of material and too small projects to justify owning a top quality camera) and they can't really afford it (even if they COULD afford the camera body, then they would have sold their home and car and couple of their organs and don't really have any money left for the actual film stock and developing and scanning. So then they would OWN the high end camera but they would not have any infrastructure to shoot any serious project with it.  though when talking about film cameras or cameras in general, most persons prefer owning them rather than actually shooting with them because owning is just much easier and gives them similar amount of respect in the eyes of others) 

So the way I see it, anything over 20k for the camera body and mags goes way over the budget of any person who would really use such new toys instead of the best quality rental house 16mm gear available out there. This limits the budget of manufacturing the actual camera body to somewhere between 9k and 13k.  No one in the world would make a camera with the same quality and specs than the 416 but costing from 6 to 8 times less. If anyone would make such a camera body in similar quality it would most likely cost around the same than the 416 or even more (because there is less serious demand for this type of high end high price camera body than it was in 2005 and the company could only secure orders for max. couple of dozen cameras at most)

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surely someone could make a kickstarter out of a new S16 camera project and would first collect 1M from it and then make couple of dozen cameras for the backers. 

How many of you would be really, REALLY willing to throw 50k of your own money to a kickstarter project to get one camera body two or three years later?   No matter how great and groundbreaking that new camera would be?

Exactly.

See why the "new professional quality silent S16 camera" will never happen?

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1 hour ago, aapo lettinen said:

So the way I see it, anything over 20k for the camera body and mags goes way over the budget of any person who would really use such new toys instead of the best quality rental house 16mm gear available out there. This limits the budget of manufacturing the actual camera body to somewhere between 9k and 13k.  No one in the world would make a camera with the same quality and specs than the 416 but costing from 6 to 8 times less. If anyone would make such a camera body in similar quality it would most likely cost around the same than the 416 or even more (because there is less serious demand for this type of high end high price camera body than it was in 2005 and the company could only secure orders for max. couple of dozen cameras at most)

If you re-created an already existing design (aka using Aaton's patents) and made MOST of it in Asia, possibly you could get cost of manufacture in the $15k range, without an optical viewfinder or ground glass. Basically using a high-res CMOS imager as the viewfinder, but a standard spinning mirror reflex design. So for Super 16 you'd use something similar to what the pocket cine camera had, which is very low cost component wise. Sure it needs a bit of engineering, but not rocket science. The optical viewfinder would be a deal killer sadly, that design and manufacturing alone would be $10k easily. I don't think in todays world, people actually care. 

You could easily make it up to par with a 416 feature wise, in fact it would have way more features/functions. 

I've done a lot of research, talked to manufacturers here state side and over seas. Obviously there are a lot of hurtles to overcome, but if you made the movement state side, which is around a dozen parts and the rest over seas, it wouldn't be bad. Each camera would come with 2 mags, EVF, integrated battery system (probably v mount) and of course some sort of integrated rail system. 

The idea would be to hit the $30k price point, doubling profits per camera. But because it would be based on a camera system that already existed, there would be technicians who would be able to work on it no problem at all. 

The first thing that would need to be developed is a new front housing with the CMOS imager and altering a probably not functioning XTR to get the camera system developed. Once that's done, it's about bringing the design to them and saying, here is what we plan on doing. I've already had conversations, they're intrigued for sure and they do have all the drawings. They'd just take a licensing fee, which isn't bad. Startup cost would be $300 - $500k. 

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Tyler, I think your reasoning is on point, even if it's just a hypothetical right now. Indeed, you don't need to design a new camera from scratch. There are plenty of expired patents to choose from. With modern machining, you could even make them in America or Japan and you'd still have an affordable product. AFAIK, anyway, I have no idea how manufacturing works.

I want to make my own line of lenses (if the concept I'm thinking of works the way it should), so one day I will definitely have some exposure to manufacturing. But, lenses are way easier than cameras.

An idea I had some years ago was to design a really really compact 2-perf 35mm movie camera. I have zero knowledge of how to design machines, but I'm fairly confident that my basic idea is workable.

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Forget the manufacturing in Asia - only a very few machine shops there can deliver the precision parts you need, and only after a lot of back and forth. You end up paying roughly the same as with a manufacturer in Europe for parts with very tight tolerances. It's fine for a quick and dirty proof of concept, but not for the final product.

I agree with you Tyler, you'd have to ditch the optical viewfinder and go with a sensor for TTL viewing. The Minima's viewfinder is one of the few simpler ones, and even that would end up costing over 5K in a small batch production.

Except for a very few, all of ARRI's and Aaton's patents around film cameras expired - there's no need to buy them. You could negotiate a deal to get the drawings with all the tolerances. But a redesign would make that not very useful.

ARRI is still maintaining their 765 and Arricam fleet, Panavision maintains all their film cameras and will do so as long as they are rented out. I hope Andree at AM camera and Danny at Cinefacilities keep the cameras at other rental shops running for many years to come and will train a younger generation to take over the work before they retire.

I'm still confident Tommy and Lasse from Logmar will surprise us one day with a new camera.

As for  the one I am working on, it's very niche, and still 12 to 18 months away and a money pit 😔🙂

Edited by David Sekanina
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2 hours ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

I want to make my own line of lenses (if the concept I'm thinking of works the way it should), so one day I will definitely have some exposure to manufacturing. But, lenses are way easier than cameras.

lenses are way way more challenging to make than cameras if you need to design new opticals for them. Custom mechanics may be an OK project to design for your own lens line but there is a reason why most of the budget "cine lens" manufacturers just use some of their old tried and through optical design from their stills lens lineup (for example Xeens and Compact Primes) or why the Soviets mostly just copied the Western lenses instead of designing their own (most of the KMZ and Lomo cine lenses are just copy of the Western lenses, for example of the Zeiss Standard Speeds, Zeiss zooms and Angenieux designs) . Or why some of the "completely new modern anamorphic designs" are actually stolen optical plans from another manufacturers which is why they are so cheap for the end user (someone else has done the hard work on the optical designs) .

Every Chinese sweatshop can manufacture some kind of crappy cine mechanics and housing for a existing stills lens optics and then just rehouse but designing completely new cine optics from scratch? none of them can do that for you. it requires extremely high level of expertise and you will need to make all the custom tooling from scratch designing them by yourself. Not something you can learn reasonably well in less than 20 years or so

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personally I would not want to pay 30k for a film camera which does not have an optical viewfinder. if the camera costs more than a used xtr or sr3 then it should be at least on par with them in quality.

they made the 416 in 2005 , I don't see how much the manufacturing would have changed since then that it would be magically 10x cheaper to make a film camera. Well there is the 3d printing now but you can't 3d print camera movements if they need to be usable and high quality. The 3d printing will of course save on the manufacturing of the mag housings and the camera housing but still all the actual mechanics need to be machined just the same way than they did 15 years ago

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29 minutes ago, aapo lettinen said:

personally I would not want to pay 30k for a film camera which does not have an optical viewfinder.

I'm the opposite: I do not want an optical viewfinder on a film camera. I would expect an EVF. There are far more problems with OVFs than with EVFs. For example, the flicker. That's just one.

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12 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

lenses are way way more challenging to make than cameras if you need to design new opticals for them. Custom mechanics may be an OK project to design for your own lens line but there is a reason why most of the budget "cine lens" manufacturers just use some of their old tried and through optical design from their stills lens lineup (for example Xeens and Compact Primes) or why the Soviets mostly just copied the Western lenses instead of designing their own (most of the KMZ and Lomo cine lenses are just copy of the Western lenses, for example of the Zeiss Standard Speeds, Zeiss zooms and Angenieux designs) . Or why some of the "completely new modern anamorphic designs" are actually stolen optical plans from another manufacturers which is why they are so cheap for the end user (someone else has done the hard work on the optical designs) .

Every Chinese sweatshop can manufacture some kind of crappy cine mechanics and housing for a existing stills lens optics and then just rehouse but designing completely new cine optics from scratch? none of them can do that for you. it requires extremely high level of expertise and you will need to make all the custom tooling from scratch designing them by yourself. Not something you can learn reasonably well in less than 20 years or so

I believe some of the early 50mm Lomos are Cooke copies and the 37-140mm zoom an Angenieux copy, etc. but slightly different. .

But the 22mm OKC-3-22-1 for instance was so far as I know a unique focal length at that speed. So while I figure it's based on something, what is it based on?

This is a good faith question I'm just kind of curious about. What does it take for a 21mm f2.0 Olympus lens to become a 17mm f2.0 Movicam lens? Or what did the PVintage line start out as? Is it a matter of adding in bespoke additional elements?

Is this why Aspherons/Panspherons are so much sharper (in my experience at least) than generic wide angle adapters? Or are they just better?

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21 hours ago, David Sekanina said:

Forget the manufacturing in Asia - only a very few machine shops there can deliver the precision parts you need, and only after a lot of back and forth. You end up paying roughly the same as with a manufacturer in Europe for parts with very tight tolerances. It's fine for a quick and dirty proof of concept, but not for the final product.

I was thinking electronics and making the magazines out of plastic in Asia. I think they can do it and modern plastics with a metal frame that holds the drive mechanism, would be pretty easy to make there. I've done some work with Chinese and South Korean vendors and they're pretty good. I agree tho, the design would have to be perfect for them to make it right. 

Motor would probably be sourced from Europe as a complete part. 

The main housing would be probably machined from a single piece of billet, super cost effective to do state side. 

All the movement components and gate, also state side. But honestly the only "tricky" parts to manufacture are the gears, cam, pulldown claw, lever, pusher and gate. Everything else is pretty straight forward since the camera will still need a lot of calibration to work anyway. 

But yea, I think we're on the same page, but it would need to be a "US" product. 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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19 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

personally I would not want to pay 30k for a film camera which does not have an optical viewfinder. if the camera costs more than a used xtr or sr3 then it should be at least on par with them in quality.

Currently people are paying $40k for old unsupported 416's. In 10 years when there are literally zero parts left and everyone who has ever worked on one is long retired. How do you think the people who paid $40k for them going to feel? I personally would never be able to afford $30k for a film camera, but rental houses can, especially if it offers something that's unique and doesn't exist on the market like a ground-glass free camera that uses modern accessories. 

19 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

they made the 416 in 2005 , I don't see how much the manufacturing would have changed since then that it would be magically 10x cheaper to make a film camera. Well there is the 3d printing now but you can't 3d print camera movements if they need to be usable and high quality. The 3d printing will of course save on the manufacturing of the mag housings and the camera housing but still all the actual mechanics need to be machined just the same way than they did 15 years ago

I mean Arri overcharges for everything because they can. Arricam's were $150k. Do you really think it cost them $100k to make them? No way, it's PURE PROFIT and when you're a huge company like Arri, with people getting paid well, you have to make a lot of profit. They have engineering and service teams all over the world, paid for nearly exclusively by their camera manufacturing. So yea, the margins are huge. 

With a small company of a few employees, mostly entirely outsourced manufacturing, only internal assembly and design work, you can get away with much lower profit margins. We'd also make more cameras than a fancy 16mm camera. 

1) 16mm "Basic" which is a re-tooled MOS motor driven K3 design. $999 retail, entirely made in Korea 

2) 16mm "Pro" which adds a video tap to the same design with an HDMI/HDSDI connector, for $1499 made in Korea

3) Silent 16mm, which is the re-do of the XTR we're talking about earlier for $30k

4) A re-design and re-packaging of the Penelope, using modern electronics and no optical viewfinder $60k 

I have some super 8 designs as well. 

If you sell some lower end product made over seas inexpensively and use that as your bread and butter, it's a lot easier to make and sell higher end products. 

The concept with our cameras is that you can record super high quality video with them if you don't want to shoot film. Completely changing the paradigm of a film camera, now we're actually selling digital cinema cameras that can shoot film as well. It's a very doable concept, but it also will cost a lot of money to get right and in the end, does anyone really need a new camera? If guys like me stay alive, we'll have plenty of people to fix old cameras for decades to come. 

 

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  • 8 months later...
On 8/19/2021 at 6:13 AM, Tyler Purcell said:

I was thinking electronics and making the magazines out of plastic in Asia.

I assembled most of my crystal sync board prototypes in my batchroom using the washing machine as a table and with the cheapest 8 euros soldering iron I could get. All small SMD components and pretty complicated designs. Works perfectly well for single boards as long as the components are large enough to handle manually and you have enough time for it. This arrangement was because the bathroom had the best ventilation and thus the easiest to get rid of the flux fumes. (you read correctly, I did not even have a table for assembling the circuit boards, I used the washing machine as a table!)

The most difficult and time consuming part is to design the physical circuit boards from ground up and writing the software from scratch. But you will send the finished circuit board cad files to a outside company anyway to get the boards made and the assembly can be ordered from anywhere or you can often do it by yourself for single units if being handy enough and the parts are not too small to handle. So you will outsource the board base manufacturing anyway and the other parts can in most cases be arranged very easily without it mattering who does the assembling work as long as they are careful and keep the quality standards.

 

the point being, you don't necessarily need a "high end lab facility" to build complicated drive electronics for niche products like film cameras. But if they are very complicated the amount of work needed for DESIGNING them may be way too much for the budget and this sets huge limitations on what it is possible to do in the first place.  For example, designing the video tap part from ground up using your own signal processing and boards would take so much time ( = money) that you would need to get a million or more in sales to get the developing costs back from it and thus it only makes sense to use a standard readily available camera module for the work instead of trying to build anything from scratch even if one would be capable of doing that

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