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Patrick Cooper

High speed 16mm cameras

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Now and then, Ive been tempted to get one of those high speed 16mm cameras that are sold for next to nothing (insanely cheaply) on eBay. Although Ive shot some 16mm before in the past (with a K3) I admit I don't know a great deal about the operation of high speed cameras. Obviously, they are very specialised devices. Are there any particular models that are recommended? I notice the Wollensak cameras seem to be fairly common on eBay. If I manage to obtain a Wollensak or another high speed camera, is there a decent chance that I could find an instruction manual somewhere? Knowing the film loading procedure and basic operation would of course be mandatory, as well as any idiosyncrasies that the cameras may have.

I'm guessing that a lot of these kind of cameras don't have reflex (through the lens) viewing? I'm okay with that because a lot of the stuff I would be shooting would be studio set ups. Though I would like to be able to frame and focus accurately. I'm also assuming that many of these cameras would be regular 16mm rather than super 16?

I was once talking to a cinematographer who mentioned that high speed cameras require regular servicing. This is no surprise considering the stress that's imposed on them (high frame rates.)

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There's an interesting thing I notice by looking at the photos of some of these cameras on eBay. It looks like a number of these cameras can be loaded with 100ft daylight spools. And unless I'm mistaken, with some, I don't see the option of adding a 400ft mag. This is really surprising because one of these cameras can film at 4000 - 5000fps. Surely, at those kinds of running speeds, 100 feet of film would just last a few seconds?

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most of those were gun cameras or scientific cameras that would be triggered precisely to capture what was being studied. While some were usable for film production (IIRC some were used on Hurt Locker) most are not exactly ideal for narrative or doc production use

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