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Stephen Perera

cheap camera + excellent glass = same result as.....

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Hello everyone, I would love to hear your opinions on the following....

 

I'm waiting for a Russian K3 16mm camera to arrive which I bought recently and ordered some Kodak 16mm stock for it....

 

.....in the meantime (as one does in this day and age) I've been thinking about 'upgrading' to an Arriflex SR +....then I started thinking....why? which is where you all come in I hope to offer advice, knowledge....

 

An aside.....I used to shoot stills with a Hasselblad 503CW back in the day and now I have a standard 500CM but using the same excellent Hasselblad zeiss lenses = same quality of images.....the lenses give me the quality NOT the model of the Hasselblad I am using....thats a fact with me.....

 

So i was thinking of how this relates to the K3 or Arriflex SR (whatever) scenario....

 

If the K3 gives me the 24fps without variation (it is a winding mechanism after all) using my beloved zeiss glass on it via the M42 mount..e.g. my superb 50mm aus jena f1.8.....or even using a Hasselblad V mount to M42 adapter (also in the post).....surely I will get the same results as using the same glass on an Arriflex....

 

my question really is, as long as the film is moved in front of the gate properly and at the correct speed does it matter what camera body I use (variable) given the quality of the lens???? or even simpler....would I get the same quality of image if I use the same lens on a K3 and an Arriflex SR3?

 

There is a lot of garbage shot on 16mm which probably degrades the 'image' of the medium, sure this has to do more with the fact people do not know how to shoot film as opposed to cheaper cameras....cos the film is the same quality as long as a great lens is in front of it but sensors on digital cameras...well, we all know how different those all are....

 

(obviously the above is assuming I don't want internal light metre, video monitoring, audio capabilities, timecode, and any other advanced features that have nothing to do with image quality)

 

Thank you for your time I look forward to replies....

Edited by Stephen Perera

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the K3 image will be less stable and might have more focus issues than the SR. theoretically it should not matter much but in practice the quality and technology of the film transport matters quite much.

whether the difference is significant or not is up to you of course. practical things like better lens mounts and viewfinder optics, larger mag capacity, stable speed and electric motor may matter much more than the image quality itself.

 

the stability of the film is more of a multi-dimensional issue and you may have all kinds of problems with incorrectly adjusted cameras. horizontal+vertical+diagonal stability in addition with depth azis. one corner of the film may be for example more unstable and than the other... it's like trying to make moving rubber band completely flat :ph34r: or, like in this case, almost completely flat and stable but maybe just a little bit concave, just a tiny controlled amount

Edited by aapo lettinen
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I never use my new old stock K3 after it jammed solid after a simple wind test at 24fps. My windup Bolex under similar scenario has never jammed. The K3 transport is very low quality relative to materials used.

 

The Arri is worth every penny and is a significant factor relative to transport.

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Essentially, if everything in the camera is working perfectly ( a bit of a gamble with K3s, but possible), then the same lens and film stock should in theory give you the same image as an SR3.

 

However there are many other factors to consider, many of which will affect the image quality.

 

The camera flange depth and ground glass focus settings are pretty essential for sharp images, and much more likely to be correct (or easily adjusted by a tech) on a pro camera like an SR. Most K3s I've come across are pretty good, but not perfect.

 

The better and brighter the viewfinder, the better the chance of accurate eye-focussing, and an SR3 viewfinder leaves a K3 for dead.

 

There is much more chance of a light leak, film scratching, unsteady registration or camera malfunction with a K3.

 

You can get exposure fluctuations, that may cause subtle variations in the look of the sky, for example.

 

You won't get an exact film speed, and the speed will slow down during a long take, because the camera is powered by a spring. Expect to be off by up to a couple of fps, making dialogue dubbing next to impossible.

 

Some other questions that may be important:

 

Do you need a quiet, sync sound camera to record dialogue?

Do you need to shoot more than 100ft before having to load new film, is wasted set time an issue?

Do you need to be able to record quickly, without having to spend 10 seconds winding the spring up first?

Do you need to record a take longer than about 25 seconds, the limit to most spring powered cameras?

Do you need to use a matte box or follow focus, which are much more compatible with an SR?

 

Basically, for student practice or as a hobby camera a K3 would be fine, but for any project that may have a budget attached, or is valuable to you in some way, an SR3 would be far better.

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Agree with Dom.

 

You will get the best results with your personal control over camera and lens.

 

Le Prince used two similar lenses in a double mount, one for taking and one

for focusing on a ground glass. That was in 1888. The Lumière people

focused directly on the film. That was in 1894. Jackson Rose used the

rackover system with Bell & Howell’s new camera in 1912. Vinik used a side

ground glass and a mirror shutter. That was in 1917. Arnold & Richter offered

a mirror shutter in 1936-37. Bell & Howell offered the rackover system anew,

for 8mm shooters, from December 1938 on. Paillard-Bolex had a critical focuser

with the H cameras since 1936, an eye-level finder with it from 1939 on, and

finally a camera slide or rackover in 1953. Pathé introduced the pellicle reflex

finder in 1946-47. Paillard brought a double-prism TTL reflex system in 1956

and Beaulieu an up-and-down mirror shutter March 1958. The Eclair ACL has

a waving mirror arm.

 

Every system has its advantages and its pitfalls. The point is that you take

control of the lens by the aid of a system after the system has been adjusted

by a technician.

 

It may not sound comforting that all camera makers, believe me, all of them,

had or have film flatness as main technical problem. The problem is easily

seen by everybody who looks through the lens port of a movie camera

loaded with film, shutter open. When the camera is tilted under a light it

should, in theory, be reflected mirrorlike by the film. There is a little room

allowed for the film, about two or three hundredths of a millimeter, a thousandth

of an inch. Flange focal distances and the adjustment of lenses usually under-

match for this reason, I mean to say that the lens almost always sits that little

distance closer to the theoretical film plane in order to project the theoretical

plane of best sharpness into the photographic layer pack rather than onto its

surface. The film is never as flat as a sensor, one of the brutal truths about

the success of video over film.

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the benefit of using the K3 is to be able to use very affordable Russian lenses and to adapt stills lenses to it. good lenses for an Arri may cost few dozen times the price of a K3 and zoom lens set so they have their uses and are good for shooting random tests and art stuff. for narratives, they might work OK for small silent shorts, but a bit better camera may be worth it even for MOS broll stuff depending on the project

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Honestly, the K3 is a real toy. The pressure plate, gate and pull down system, really prevent the camera from being any good. I've never been able to get "stable" images out of my K3 and it's really clean and in really good shape.

 

I mean the short flange distance is nice, but there are other far more stable cameras with a short flange distance, the Bolex for instance would be first on the list, followed closely by something like an Eclair ACL. So if the idea is to save money on glass... umm, those two cameras are winners in my view. The bolex has excellent registration in a very small package.

 

What you get with cameras like Aaton and Arri, is a much better/stable image, plus far better consistency (speed). This is why the entire industry uses Arri and Aaton cameras, it's not because they're expensive, it's because THEY ARE BETTER and are compatible with modern glass.

 

If you don't care about "modern features" then I'd simply buy a Bolex... Either EBM (electonic) or H16R wind up. Sure, it's a beam splitter camera, but you can't beat the image.

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Tyler is correct along with what others have said already. I have owned several K3s and they are at best a gamble. Lots of scratches. Just a few months ago, it may have been correct to say that you could pick up an Aaton s16 or Arri sr3 cheap, but that is rapidly changing. Good packages have all but disappeared. People are hanging on to them. Prices have leveled off if not gone up a tick. So if you find one, snag it. I own two and am not parting with them.

 

Tyler you are so luck to own the Aaton 35 III, in 3 perf no doubt! Like I said, cameras like these are very hard to find now. It really does seem as if many have left the market place. What did you pay for your Aaton 35, if you don' t mind me asking?

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Honestly, the K3 is a real toy. The pressure plate, gate and pull down system, really prevent the camera from being any good. I've never been able to get "stable" images out of my K3 and it's really clean and in really good shape.

 

I mean the short flange distance is nice, but there are other far more stable cameras with a short flange distance, the Bolex for instance would be first on the list, followed closely by something like an Eclair ACL. So if the idea is to save money on glass... umm, those two cameras are winners in my view. The bolex has excellent registration in a very small package.

 

What you get with cameras like Aaton and Arri, is a much better/stable image, plus far better consistency (speed). This is why the entire industry uses Arri and Aaton cameras, it's not because they're expensive, it's because THEY ARE BETTER and are compatible with modern glass.

 

 

Before we get all euphoric and head into the twighlight zone where "feelings trump facts"....

Do you have data on the relative vertical and horizontal stability of 16mm Arri, Aaton, ACL, K3 cameras? Please share...

When I use the word data I assume that all the cameras are properly serviced.

Also, do you have any comparative data on the Xtal control on Arri, Aaton, ACL ?

 

These are rhetorical questions, for the sake of the challenge, but they are real questions.....Unavoidable..

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Tyler you are so luck to own the Aaton 35 III, in 3 perf no doubt! Like I said, cameras like these are very hard to find now. It really does seem as if many have left the market place. What did you pay for your Aaton 35, if you don' t mind me asking?

I lucked out, it was a great deal (around 6K) and it fell into my lap, from a fellow filmmaker who saw my school's website online and wanted to help. This is the 3rd such "hookup" I've been fortunate to receive from fellow filmmakers who wanted to help me out.

 

Later I figured out, there were 5 of them made by Aaton before they made the Penelope. They were an added expense and Aaton gave the owners a 4 perf movement as well, which is cool little bonus for a used camera to have. :)

 

Anyway, I love the camera. It has a lot of idiosyncrasies, but it's the smallest, lightest, quietest, 3 perf camera on the market. Makes the 3 perf Arricam SL look like a tank when put side by side. I had a friend whose been shooting 35mm for 2 decades come over recently and throw it on his shoulder. He laughed and asked why nobody used this camera, he absolutely loved it and he's not the only one. :)

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Before we get all euphoric and head into the twighlight zone where "feelings trump facts"....

Do you have data on the relative vertical and horizontal stability of 16mm Arri, Aaton, ACL, K3 cameras? Please share...

When I use the word data I assume that all the cameras are properly serviced.

Also, do you have any comparative data on the Xtal control on Arri, Aaton, ACL ?

 

These are rhetorical questions, for the sake of the challenge, but they are real questions.....Unavoidable..

 

I think Tyler's comments were pretty accurate Gregg, I don't have data on all those various camera registration specs either but a sense of a particular camera's stabilty can be gathered from the experience of using them. Nobody is arguing against those conclusions.

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No experience with the Krasnogorsk models, but I know the Alpha well enough.

 

I shouldn’t call it a toy but just lousy made. The workers in the former Soviet Socialist Republic Ukraine had no relationship with what they made at the factory. With E. Paillard & Cie that was different, also with Arnold & Richter.

 

There’s a Mitchell 16 on eBay for $1,995. That is something of a camera. One wouldn’t take it on the shoulder, would one?

The Revere 101/103 have a very well made film gate and are nicely serviceable. Underestimated

Else the Ciné-Kodak Special has a just-prior-to-shoot reflex viewer.

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Simon you were saying....

 

It may not sound comforting that all camera makers, believe me, all of them,

had or have film flatness as main technical problem. The problem is easily

seen by everybody who looks through the lens port of a movie camera

loaded with film, shutter open. When the camera is tilted under a light it

should, in theory, be reflected mirrorlike by the film. There is a little room

allowed for the film, about two or three hundredths of a millimeter, a thousandth

of an inch. Flange focal distances and the adjustment of lenses usually under-

match for this reason, I mean to say that the lens almost always sits that little

distance closer to the theoretical film plane in order to project the theoretical

plane of best sharpness into the photographic layer pack rather than onto its

surface. The film is never as flat as a sensor, one of the brutal truths about

the success of video over film.

 

But I was wondering if a perfectly flat film in the gate actually matters that much, at least most of the time. After all, the lens has some depth of field even wide open. And if this fails, much of the footage doesn't need to be pin-sharp at the extreme corners of the frame. I can see it is a far greater problem with a projector, where the back pressure-plate doesn't exist. I would have thought in a 16mm camera (which is more focus-tolerant than a 35mm camera ? because of the shorter lenses) the only real concern is the steadiness of the image.

 

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I shouldn’t call it a toy but just lousy made.

Well sure, but the lousy manufacturing (some small design flaws too) makes what could have been an awesome camera, just a toy.

 

Yes, it exposes film, but not much more then that. :P

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While we’re at it and with reference to similar threads I’d like to bring in the argument of serviceability. Consumer cameras, everything like Kodak Brownie, Paragon or Canon Scoopic can cause tremendous costs with repair today. A Scoopic you cannot open without having to break Loctite seals and unscrewing very delicate rings. The Kiev Alpha 16, as you mention, has design flaws, actually conversion flaws when schematics were transposed to technical drawings. Screw heads in the aperture plate dangerously close to the film, insufficient film guidance around sprocket drum, a short stud holding the lower film loop away from pressure plate assembly.

 

A professional instrument can be disassembled and assembled back in relative short time. No resin seals (black mastix for example), no shoestrings (cord), long enough screws, and the tapped parts should be of tougher material than the cheaper screws. We have very often steel screws in aluminum alloys, something that makes my hair stand on end. There ought to be through bores, bolts, nuts, and washers. The more general mechanical conventions apply, the better is serviceability. I think I’ve waited a long time to have the opportunity of speaking that out.

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Agree with Dom.

 

You will get the best results with your personal control over camera and lens.

 

Le Prince used two similar lenses in a double mount, one for taking and one

for focusing on a ground glass. That was in 1888. The Lumière people

focused directly on the film. That was in 1894. Jackson Rose used the

rackover system with Bell & Howell’s new camera in 1912. Vinik used a side

ground glass and a mirror shutter. That was in 1917. Arnold & Richter offered

a mirror shutter in 1936-37. Bell & Howell offered the rackover system anew,

for 8mm shooters, from December 1938 on. Paillard-Bolex had a critical focuser

with the H cameras since 1936, an eye-level finder with it from 1939 on, and

finally a camera slide or rackover in 1953. Pathé introduced the pellicle reflex

finder in 1946-47. Paillard brought a double-prism TTL reflex system in 1956

and Beaulieu an up-and-down mirror shutter March 1958. The Eclair ACL has

a waving mirror arm.

 

Every system has its advantages and its pitfalls. The point is that you take

control of the lens by the aid of a system after the system has been adjusted

by a technician.

 

It may not sound comforting that all camera makers, believe me, all of them,

had or have film flatness as main technical problem. The problem is easily

seen by everybody who looks through the lens port of a movie camera

loaded with film, shutter open. When the camera is tilted under a light it

should, in theory, be reflected mirrorlike by the film. There is a little room

allowed for the film, about two or three hundredths of a millimeter, a thousandth

of an inch. Flange focal distances and the adjustment of lenses usually under-

match for this reason, I mean to say that the lens almost always sits that little

distance closer to the theoretical film plane in order to project the theoretical

plane of best sharpness into the photographic layer pack rather than onto its

surface. The film is never as flat as a sensor, one of the brutal truths about

the success of video over film.

 

Well , a good serviced cinecamera can deliver supersteady frames. My Bolex EMB has nothing to envy those pin registered cameras. An electronic video image, with its artificial/flat look can only forget the warm/pastel look of cine film. To me the "brutal " truth about success of video over film is only related to its immediate availability

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Well , a good serviced cinecamera can deliver supersteady frames. My Bolex EMB has nothing to envy those pin registered cameras. An electronic video image, with its artificial/flat look can only forget the warm/pastel look of cine film. To me the "brutal " truth about success of video over film is only related to its immediate availability

Agree film always looks more natural to human analogue eyes. My EBM is extremely steady. My SBM less so. Each Bolex camera as with other makes, has its own working history. It doesn't really matter as long as one is aware what can be done with that camera and what can't be done. I use the EBM for all really static stuff, and very confidently the SBM for much other shooting. The only defect I've found on the EBM: some markings on the front face of the prism, but after exhaustive tests there doesn't seem to be any effect on the film. Very often it's OK to just live with the odd defect rather than spend loads of money on repairs because 16mm cameras, at least regular 16 ones, are cheap now.

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Older ears love to hear such tones. I put my highest hopes in younger generations, that you discover yourselves in old apparatūs and the necessary work tied to them.

 

The prism block is quite rugged but its mounting or adjustment mechanism, to be precise, lacks professional robustness. Man, have I a love-hate with the H cameras!

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I think Tyler's comments were pretty accurate Gregg, I don't have data on all those various camera registration specs either but a sense of a particular camera's stabilty can be gathered from the experience of using them. Nobody is arguing against those conclusions.

Computer hardware hiccups stopped me from entering a debate on this. Perhaps for the best....Social necessity may trump the needs of science.....

 

What seem like conclusions may in fact be commonly held generalizations, founded on part fact, part misperception, and be, actually, socially useful myths....

 

So does a Bolex have a more stable image than an ACL..? What supports that assertion..?

 

It's actually not that hard to design a registration test that will yield a reasonably rigorous result. When the test chart is tilted for the second run, if the angle is known, or the opposite/adjacent values of the triangle given by the tilt are known, then with an appropriate tilt angle one could have an easy way to measure unsteadiness of the image. The two lines, at an acute angle, will converge or diverge if there is unsteadiness, and marked increments on the base of the triangle can be easily scalable to give a result in terms of image height. One could take notes from the projected image.

 

Years ago (1984?) I did steadiness tests on a 16BL and a CP16A. The results were exactly as expected from advice from the DoP that explained how to do the test. The BL had small, jittery vertical instability, the CP had large, slow, rythmical vertical instability. But the results, while subjectively being very persuasive, weren't actually measured, the experiment wasn't precisely framed. All one could do is make comparison of the apparent mode of instabilty between one particular camera and another particular camera. One couldn't make a legitimate conclusion about all 16BLs vs all CPAs.

 

So for me, this is a lesson in the difference between a sloppy generalization, or if you like, a commonly held quasi conclusion, vs a legitimate conclusion founded on more rigorous observation and measurement...

 

Another thing I mentioned...re the fps stability of the different cameras, I think ACL had all it's speeds, up to 75fps (yes, 75fps), Xtal controlled before the LTR, so I took objection to someone introducing confusion on that....

 

Finally, the relative cost of these cameras. I know the SRs were expensive, don't know how much, but I do remember, the word was that the first Aatons here were only about NZD18000, a very close match to the ACLII ex Australia at that time. So down here Aaton was pitched as a cheaper camera vs the SR, trying to dislodge the ACLII.

 

So Dom, sorry, but there were a few quasi conclusions, in fact sloppy geralizations or myths. Not that myths are bad, but I like to be clear on these differences.

 

As I said, social necessity may trump the needs of science.....

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For the Paillard-Bolex H-16 from #100,401 on have inverted lateral guidance they theoretically cannot hold up against any other camera that guides the film on the reference edge. Put another way, prints from H-16 originals might show some lateral uncertainty. Vertically they all position in perforation hole +3 so that one has cancellation of perforation pitch deviations with +3 projectors. Of course, +3 printers would need to be used. The early H-16 don’t have a counterweighted shutter which causes some vibration. One model I have here, #10,005, is a real shaker.

 

Register pin cameras should nail the film. The pin is lightly tapered and should fit any hole size within tolerance. I have the impression that there are differences among register pin geometries with Mitchell, ARRI, Eclair, Milliken, and others. CP’s steel ball gate is an interesting alternative.

Edited by Simon Wyss

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Been reading all comments with interest.....some of which I can't relate to of course given the fact I haven't used any of the mentioned cameras/systems nor do i know the idiosyncrasies of the systems....

 

in summary though, so far its pretty clear you all agree I'm risking it with the K3 given its shortcomings with film transportation and possible scratches, not to mention consistent fps accuracy ......of course EVERY second I shoot is important as film has its price and I have a very considered pre-planned mindset (still have the photography make 12 frames count 120 film mindset)

 

thus....what would be REALLY helpful to me is is what everyone concurs is a baseline quality camera - by quality I mean reliability to move film along in its canister at a fixed speed without scratches and everything else mentioned.....

 

......there are a lot of Bolex H16's on sale, Arriflex SR to SR3, Aaton LTR to XTR Prods, Beaulieu R16s....obv depends on budget but I am not interested in video assist nor in camera light meters etc....

 

I know I know, its the modern day 'what camera shall I get' thing but note what Im saying...I just want a camera recommendation that will give me accurate 24fps and pass that film over the gate as best as possible.....the quality I can get with proper lighting, great lenses and great film stock.....

 

ah comments on 16mm or super 16mm also helpful....I was thinking of masking the viewfinder if need be and actually thinking normal 16mm is more useful as it would allow more cropping flexibility as long as the main point of interest are maintained in the middle of the frame.....

 

.....ironic is the fact that regular 16mm looks better on an iPad Pro on Vimeo for example than a super 16mm as it practically IS the 16mm format!!

 

THANK YOU ALL

Edited by Stephen Perera

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1. What's your maximum budget, including lenses and batteries?

 

2. Do you need a quiet camera for sync sound recording?

 

3. Can you live with regular 16mm (1.33:1)?

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1. What's your maximum budget, including lenses and batteries?

 

2. Do you need a quiet camera for sync sound recording?

 

3. Can you live with regular 16mm (1.33:1)?

 

I can live with regular 16mm yes.....preferably a quiet camera yes so I can be 1m away and recording sound with a boom.....I'd like to spend no more than 2,700 dollars incl. fully working battery and magazines....lenses I have my own and can adapt....

Edited by Stephen Perera

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