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Quietest 16mm Cameras


Owen A. Davies
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The quietest sub 10k camera is the Aaton LTR. You can get one for $6 - 7k range, super 16 no problem and they're very quiet. There is a really nice SR on eBay right now for $5600 I believe. They're pretty quiet as well and the Arri B mount is a good lens mount, lots of options. The Aaton mount on the LTR's is kinda nice because you can go to Nikon, C and B no problem. However, it's hard to find the adaptors these days. 

Stay away from the Eclair's and the CP16's. They are very cool cameras, but they are A LOT older tech and it's better to get the more recent, more widely used tech than stuff that is rarer. Parts are the key and there are a lot of Aaton's and SR's around. 

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2 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

The quietest sub 10k camera is the Aaton LTR. You can get one for $6 - 7k range, super 16 no problem and they're very quiet. There is a really nice SR on eBay right now for $5600 I believe. They're pretty quiet as well and the Arri B mount is a good lens mount, lots of options. The Aaton mount on the LTR's is kinda nice because you can go to Nikon, C and B no problem. However, it's hard to find the adaptors these days. 

Stay away from the Eclair's and the CP16's. They are very cool cameras, but they are A LOT older tech and it's better to get the more recent, more widely used tech than stuff that is rarer. Parts are the key and there are a lot of Aaton's and SR's around. 

Time to blow away some of the nonsense with some simple facts....

Eclair ACL (source Boris Belay)

English ACL I production ended in early to mid 70s.

French ACL I production, 1972 - 1979. (#1200-1700)

             ACL II....1979 - 1985. (#2300-3000)  (Gregg: can't explain the gap in #)

Aaton LTR  (source Jean-Louis Seguin)

LTR  1974-1982 (#250-950)

LTR54 1982-1985 (#950-1300)

So, facts or myths?  Perhaps just another example of Tyler rewriting history on a capricious whim...?

My reading tells me that the ACL had less design changes that complicate the servicing, parts issue.  Opinions on this worth reading are easy to find, for example ...

Tim Carrol posted Dec 11 2006  (scroll down. 

 

Plenty of talk on the relative virtues of these two cameras ACL/LTR on the forum. Unfortunately there is some absolute nonsense among that...

For the record, the lens mount system for the ACL is about the most useful mount system there is for a 16/S16 camera.

Gregg.

 

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8 minutes ago, Gregg MacPherson said:

My reading tells me that the ACL had less design changes that complicate the servicing, parts issue.  Opinions on this worth reading are easy to find, for example ...

I'm confused. The ACL came out before the LTR and you state right here, it had less design changes generation to generations, where JB was changing the Aaton's every few they made. 

Also, an "old" design doesn't refer to when the camera was made. 

 

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26 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

I'm confused. The ACL came out before the LTR and you state right here, it had less design changes generation to generations, where JB was changing the Aaton's every few they made. 

Also, an "old" design doesn't refer to when the camera was made. 

 

The first ACL Is came out before the "LTR" (LTR7). The ACL II was roughly contemporaneous with the LTR54 (was produced in roughly the same time frame). See the facts given earlier.

I did not state or refer to "design changes generation to generation". I was referring to the lack of design changes in toto, (relative to the LTR/LTR54) that complicated the parts and servicing issues. I'm trying to think of changes in the movement block in the ACL and all I get sofar is that early English ACL I may not like running at 75fps if you swap out to a later model motor.

Regarding the age of the design relative to the LTR. I am a bit in awe of Beauviala. He can do no wrong. The "cat on the shoulder" idea is very strong and innovative. The overall styling, in keeping with the era, like shapes after Star Wars,  less curves and more polylines with rounded corners...maybe not that meaningful. The movement block and motors I'll let the qualified camera techs debate. The lens mount. I think the Aaton mount was a mistake. It should have been an ACL type interchangeable mount. The mirror and the mount are sort of conjoined design opportunities. He went the other way.

Regarding the relative quietnes of 16mm cameras. If perfectly running cameras are compared the results may surprise. The expertise of the tech is important. In the 80s I had a really high mileage ACL I,  only ever run at 24/25fps, regularly serviced by an expert, and it was quieter than the 16BL and SR1 I remember. But with only a couple of BLs and SRs for that ad hoc comparison it's very unscientific.

Gregg.

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1 hour ago, Gregg MacPherson said:

The first ACL Is came out before the "LTR" (LTR7). The ACL II was roughly contemporaneous with the LTR54 (was produced in roughly the same time frame). See the facts given earlier.

Nobody is suggesting buying an LTR7. It's hard to even find one. The majority of LTR's are 54's or early gen XTR's, which are still labeled LTR. I just serviced an LTR with a triphase motor and mag drive, but no LCD display, old movement, but newer style mags and electronics. 

I've serviced every single generation of Aaton camera and what now dozens of ACL's. Just wrapped up one a few days ago. They are very easy to service, but they don't even remotely in any way shape or form approach the level of stability, user friendliness and reliability of the Aaton's. Outside of electronic issues, which plague EVERY camera, the Aaton's in my opinion are the best 16mm camera on the market. Mainly because of their weight, size, quietness, stability (without the need for complicated registration pin), decent viewfinder and of course, 180 degree mirrored shutter which reduces flicker and allows for a better finder image, short flange distance housing, ease of hand holding and standard voltage (12 - 16v) design. 

There is no doubt the SR's and 416's when new/completely re-built, can deliver a more stable image. They also have a better, more accurate aperture plate which touches image are of the emulsion, thus allowing for a less variance. Where this is clever, it can lead to hairs building up in the gate, a problem you don't get at all with the Aaton's, as long as they're kept clean. A well maintained SR3 will absolutely create a more stable and theoretically crisper image than an XTR/Xtera. However, it is louder, heavier, 24V which is more tricky to deal with power wise and does not work great for hand held work. If you're just shooting studio work with a full crew, I think the SR3/416's robustness is a benefit. 

The benefits of Aaton mount are pretty well known. Being able to use C mount, Nikon and Arri B, is pretty incredible. Converting to PL is simple, just buy a mount, get your flange distance and screw it on. So that means you can shoot with 4 styles of very common lens mounts no problem at all. Where the Aaton system may not be the shortest spinning mirror shutter flange distance, it's for sure on the list. 

I've gotten ACL's to be quieter than BL's (that's not saying much), but they can't ever match a spinning mirror shutter due to the oscillating mirror design. It makes a "tick" no matter what you do. Also, the front housing radiates the noise, it's almost like an echo chamber. Aaton's make a whirr when running without film, they're nearly silent. The pulldown (and potentially magazine noise) are the only things making noise.

I'm sorry that I discount the Eclairs, but in 2022, they are a backup for a backup. If Aaton's were the same price, NOBODY would even be discussing Eclairs anymore. They exist because people can't afford Aaton's or Arri's. In fact many of my friends who have owned Eclairs, have been contemplating selling them because they can't ever go on shoots with them for client work. Nobody trusts the system sadly. Mind you, I've serviced SR1's that go on commercial shoots all the time. I have a special place in my heart for the SR1/2 because I shot all my early films with one. But now that I service them, it's sad to see so many come in with irreparable issues; IE waiting until we can find parts. It's sad and Aaton's have similar issues. People just throw broken Eclairs away sadly. 😞 

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Aatons are one of the most difficult cameras to service/get serviced and it can get quite expensive just like Arri SR's ... I actually have an LTR which I cannot afford to get overhauled (would cost something around 2k) and thus I can't shoot much with it. If it would be an Eclair it would be possible for me to cla it by myself but the LTR would be too difficult to open for servicing without breaking something and there is no much spare parts available making it too risky (even if there would be lots of spare parts they would be ridiculously expensive and needing to pay someone else to install them shipping the camera to another country). 

people like to bash Cinema Products cameras for their electronics but if you change the electronics to new ones and adjust the film track a little they are quite good cameras actually and very easy to service. They have the Auricon movement which is not as stable as the other cameras mentioned here but they are super easy and straightforward to service which is a pretty huge deal if making low budget indie stuff. my 1-speed crystal modification makes it even more easy to service the CP16 cameras because the modification is designed so that one does not need to remove circuit boards to get full access to the mechanical parts if wanting to adjust something

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when choosing a camera I would first look if the lens mount is good enough for the use and if I can get the needed focal lengths for it . Then the viewfinder system and possible video tap compared to other camera models. Reliability if there is a reason to doubt it. Then ergonomics depending on how much film is shot and if the camera fits to the operating style or not. Then the power options and framerates etc. THEN the sound levels compared to other possible cameras which could be used. Finally service costs and service logistics with the planned usage levels.

it does not have to be the quietest one as long as it is silent enough so that one can shoot the planned scenes without too much issues.

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3 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

 Converting to PL is simple, just buy a mount, get your flange distance and screw it on.

Got any PL mounts that just screw on to an Aaton LTR front?

Love to know where you can find one of those if you have any leads.

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19 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

The quietest sub 10k camera is the Aaton LTR. You can get one for $6 - 7k range, super 16 no problem and they're very quiet. There is a really nice SR on eBay right now for $5600 I believe. They're pretty quiet as well and the Arri B mount is a good lens mount, lots of options. The Aaton mount on the LTR's is kinda nice because you can go to Nikon, C and B no problem. However, it's hard to find the adaptors these days. 

Stay away from the Eclair's and the CP16's. They are very cool cameras, but they are A LOT older tech and it's better to get the more recent, more widely used tech than stuff that is rarer. Parts are the key and there are a lot of Aaton's and SR's around. 

While I'm going to be looking in the under $10k price range, I'm absolutely aiming for cheaper. This isn't gonna be a professionally funded production by any stretch of the imagination, and my entire aim is to find quality for cheaper. I'm more than happy to use old tech that meets my requirements if it's a few thousand less expensive. Right now the three cameras that seem like my most probable options are the Eclair, CP16, or the Kinor. What are your issues with these cameras?

Edited by Owen A. Davies
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I would say CP is probably the quietest out of all you mentioned. But all of them will cause issues in quiet places - even more so in quiet and small spaces. Even, Arricam LT is not all that quiet in small spaces. I am not comparing LT and the cameras above for clarification. 

Edited by Giray Izcan
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19 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Stay away from the Eclair's and the CP16's.

Love my CP16R - just installed a tap on it. They're not so expensive and pretty quiet depending on the mag you use, there's 2 styles: "Mitchell" and "PLC-4" made by Cinema Products, in my experience the CP mags are quieter.

I use an Angenieux 9.5-57mm zoom and also a M42 adapter to mount 35mm still lenses using the original CP mount. Also got a Angenieux orientable viewfinder. 

Ken Hale still sell batteries(couple other camera stores as well) and new belt kits. Having opened the camera several times - it's not so complex. 

I don't regret buying it one bit - only positive things. Bought it when film camera prices were getting really expensive and an AATON was out of my budget. Loading is a little tedious but once you get the hang of it it's super fast.

Visual Products can install a PL mount to it but been happy with my zoom/m42 adapter combo. 

 

 

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7 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

It was last serviced 15 years ago and I would likely ruin the bearings if shooting a lot with it

That's pretty easy. If you wanna send it to me, I can take care of it. We have all the tools to re-calibrate. 

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10 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Got any PL mounts that just screw on to an Aaton LTR front?

Most people with not much money to spend, aren't buying PL lenses FYI.

It's stupid easy to put a PL mount on an Aaton camera. The problem is finding them. 

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1 hour ago, Robino Jones said:

Love my CP16R - just installed a tap on it. They're not so expensive and pretty quiet depending on the mag you use, there's 2 styles: "Mitchell" and "PLC-4" made by Cinema Products, in my experience the CP mags are quieter.

I use an Angenieux 9.5-57mm zoom and also a M42 adapter to mount 35mm still lenses using the original CP mount. Also got a Angenieux orientable viewfinder. 

Ken Hale still sell batteries(couple other camera stores as well) and new belt kits. Having opened the camera several times - it's not so complex. 

I don't regret buying it one bit - only positive things. Bought it when film camera prices were getting really expensive and an AATON was out of my budget. Loading is a little tedious but once you get the hang of it it's super fast.

Visual Products can install a PL mount to it but been happy with my zoom/m42 adapter combo. 

 

 

IMG_5410.jpeg

IMG_5411.jpeg

Did you buy yours from Visual Products?

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1 hour ago, Robino Jones said:

Love my CP16R - just installed a tap on it. They're not so expensive and pretty quiet depending on the mag you use, there's 2 styles: "Mitchell" and "PLC-4" made by Cinema Products, in my experience the CP mags are quieter.

Yes, the later flappy ear mags aren't bad. 

I've run A LOT of film through CP16R's, probably as much as SR's honestly. I've done many small projects with them and I agree, they are good cameras. I discount them because the lens mount makes it tricky to source decent lenses and I've had a lot of issues with scratch damaging due to the threading type. It's very easy to damage film, which is the last thing a low budget filmmaker really wants sadly. Coaxial magazines are the way to go with 16mm. I haven't ever used a GSMO, but it maybe a better option for that alone. 

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1 hour ago, Owen A. Davies said:

What are your issues with these cameras?

I think Tyler generalizes one point of view to everyone which just doesn't work.

  • Do you work on high end commercial productions and have a good access to rental companies? Rent, rent, rent. Why would you want to worry about technical side of the cameras? Get the best there is, get the work done.
  • Do you work as a DP on high end documentaries that often shoot on film with a real budget? Buy that Aaton XTR, it's a tool that pays your bills and owning an expensive piece of equipment that gets taken to road perhaps for months is justified.
  • You are an artist that makes art installations? That Bolex is probably going to serve you well for all weird ideas you are going to get.
  • Do you make a bit lower budget commercials on digital but would want to shoot more on film? Buy some cheap Arriflex 16ST and get some quick film shots (paid from your own pocket) on the first cut and see if your client likes them
  • You want to shoot short narrative or documentary films, but you don't have the option of renting (companies too far away or you can't justify the rental prices with the way you work) nor does your film work pay your bills to such extent that it would be justified to buy a more expensive camera? Now we are talking. Eclair ACL or NPR, CP16R, Kinor. These cameras can be quiet enough for sync sound work, they are relatively cheap to own and lenses don't cost that much. They can give you professional results. You can get a video tap for Eclairs if you need one. I'm in this league. I'm happy with my ACL and the results I can get with it. 

fire.jpg
One screen cap from my latest shoot, on Kodak Vision3 250D, Eclair ACL and Optar Illumina 25mm

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Furthermore: In the end, is it possible to make a feature film with a 100ft load 16mm MOS camera? Yes. Is it going to be easy and fun? Probably not. Most wouldn't even try it, but some have done it. Could you compete with such feature film with Hollywood high end blockbusters? Most likely not, but even if you had Arriflex 416 you would have hard time so there's that.

In the end what really matters is how you use your tools. Doing some things is much easier with more expensive tools but everyone has to find the sweet spot of how much you can spend and what ease of use you can buy. And after that, the rest rests on your talent and will.

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18 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

The benefits of Aaton mount are pretty well known. Being able to use C mount, Nikon and Arri B, is pretty incredible. ..... Where the Aaton system may not be the shortest spinning mirror shutter flange distance, it's for sure on the list. 

I've gotten ACL's to be quieter than BL's (that's not saying much), but they can't ever match a spinning mirror shutter due to the oscillating mirror design. It makes a "tick" no matter what you do. Also, the front housing radiates the noise, it's almost like an echo chamber. Aaton's make a whirr when running without film, they're nearly silent. The pulldown (and potentially magazine noise) are the only things making noise.

 

Touting the usefulness of the Aaton mount is a bit bizarre. The mount system on the ACL does all those things Tyler claims, but with a purpose made interchangeable mount system. Not adapters in the common sense.

Getting cameras running quiet is a job for experts. I don't think Tyler's results there are indicative at all. The logic fails. It's like saying..Oh the Mona Lisa is nothing special, when I painted my version it didn't look so good....

The noise without film may be useful to the tech, but is otherwise not a measure. On a healthy ACL without film it is extremely quiet. There is no tick, tick. There is the faint whir of the mirror, which is oscillating at 12Hz (half the 24fps). If there is a tick, no film, it needs service or repair.

The noise (with film) normally is a muted tick, tick from the pull down claw and/or the loops. Even with a perfect camera, the film stock can up the noise. Older film, changed perf pitch, aged lubricants, worn perfs from using the same scratch test roll too many times...all can up the noise.

For the record, most of the noise on a healthy ACL comes out the back, as though it's sneaking around the front of the mag. It doesn't project as much out the front of the camera body. Struggling with camera noise in small spaces, the solution was to drape an SR barney over the back, with no real care at the front, and no optical flat.

I think Giray is right, the CPs were very quiet. If they are still relatively cheap and easy to get serviced that may be the way.

Gregg.

Edited by Gregg MacPherson
CP16 worth a mention...
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