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On this page I have writtten articles about using 16mm in the present times. Articles and stories are continually added and as such this section is constantly growing.

Contents

Cine Kodak Model BB Junior August 2021

A New Super 16 Camera April 2021

110 Photography Jan 2021

A New Twist on Tradition October 2020

Low budget Filmmaking - Using Film Oct 2020

A Quest For Better Image July 2020

Real Costs of Using Film July 2021

Kodak 16mm Camera July 2020

Old 16mm Camera June 2020

A New Super 16 Camera June 2020

Affordable 16mm Options Feb 2020

Super 16 lenses Updated July 2020

16mm Filming Feb 2020

16mm Magazine Cameras Jan 2020

Writngs and thoughts on 'film' Jan 2020

The Relevance of Film Jan 2020

Cine Kodak Model BB Junior

When we think of Kodak [well for those who do] we don't think of Kodak cameras, we hear and read great things about their film stocks; both in still photography and as motion picture film, their film is the best and still beats many of our current digital image capturing technologies, I don't think there's anyone out there who'd disagree. About a year ago I got hold of an old Cine Kodak Model BB Junior 16mm camera from 1929; it was immaculate and ran flawlessly, almost as quiet as a modern sync camera, it got me thinking about Kodak cameras, their philosophy has always been about ease and this small 16mm camera was definitely easy to use, but at the same time it felt extremely well made, I have used many of Kodak's Super 8 cameras and I never got the same feeling, I think many will agree that most Kodak Super 8 cameras aren't anything special. Unfortunately I didn't use the BB and sold it to a collector, but I learned from collectors and technicians that before the 1960's Kodak made very good cameras, they were well designed, well engineered and manufactured and they ran very smoothly, the fact that a camera from the 1920's runs perfectly is testimony to this. This started a sort of a chain reaction as I started looking at other Kodak 16mm cameras.

The K-100 [ K-100T] from the 1950s is certainly an interesting design with a distinctive look, surprisingly the K-100 is not awkward to hold during filming, it's quiet but I still think the BB is quieter, winding is very easy and on a full wind the camera can run for 40 feet - that's the longest run I know, it's well over a minute and at 24fps, there's also a very useful indicator telling you how much spring power is left. I have been quite impressed with it, the camera also has a port to attach an electric motor, any electric motor can work, the viewfinder although 'parallax' [not reflex] is much better than other 16mm cameras of that era that I have used, I have been out filming with it using a 25mm Switar lens and have been impressed at how well it handles. I'm really hoping the images it produces are good as it seems this camera has an amazing untapped potential for current users, it's truly a lost gem. Hopefully this could be the perfect compact easy to use 16mm camera that I've been looking for.

While I have been filming with the K-000 I realised that I had to try the Cine Kodak Model BB Junior 16mm camera, the camera that started my interest in Kodak's 16mm cameras, so I got another, the BB Junior seems to be very common here in England and there are many of them on sale on Ebay, this one doesn't look as good as my original one I had, but it works perfectly. I am intrigued with the unusual curved gate design by John Capstaff, and I am eager to see if this actually helps keep the film steady. I have cleaned the camera modified it for single perforated film and enlarged the gate for Super 16 and have been out filming with it, this one's been more fun to use than the K1-00, for a start it's smaller and lighter and it's much quieter than the K-100, but at the same time I am worried about two things; the lens and the frame rate. Fortunately the lens was clean, while the lens seems good, it's very old and I know that major developments with lens design and manufacturing in the 1950's revolutionised cine lenses and today's modern lenses really do make the most of every last detail on that tiny 16mm frame. I have now I've machined a c mount les mount to the camera so that I can use more recent lenses, but the 16 frames per second frame rate still bothers me, I have never shot anything at 16fps, so it will be interesting to see how this works and what effect it has.

A New Super 16 Camera

Getting a Super 16 camera can be difficult and expensive and like many I have often thought about there should be a more affordable and simple Super 16 camera, I have even thought of making one myself, I have looked into it, researched it but in the end I've always stopped, as I'm a filmmaker I don't really want get drawn into making a camera. But despite not trying I have sort of accidentally ended up building a Super 16 camera, using bits from several old cameras and creating new parts too. It all started during a clean out when I had found an old spring driven16mm camera; I remember when I originally bought it [a few years ago] I thought it was probably the same as the Keystones as it looked the same, but this was very different as it had an odd lens and is for double perf only.

I often open old cameras just to see the mechanism inside and I decided to open this one. It was simple inside, but the construction was much better engineered than I expected and there's far greater precision than my beloved Keystones. I was going to give this camera away, but decided I just wanted to use the camera to see how it felt and to see what kind of imagery it produced. In order to this I needed to do a little work to it; first I cut the claw and machined the sprocket for single perf film, I also fitted a c mount ring and worked out the Focus Flange Distance to use C mount lenses. I started cleaning the claw assembly, this is when it all started as I accidentally broke it so I ended up rebuilding it and made it more efficient and smoother at the same time I decided to machine a new Super 16 gate with film guides to increase stability. I then used this camera with film and was delighted with the initial results so I decided to make more improvements, mainly removing the old spring motor which was loud and heavy. I used a new electric motor, it's not a crystal sync motor, but it runs the camera at precisely 24fps.

At first glance this looks like an old camera but, but looks are deceptive and while from the outside it is an old camera, the mechanism inside it certainly isn't old. By the time I finished working with the camera; virtually all the inside mechanics were all new and barely resembled the original, although everything still sat in the original camera body. Finally I decided that I needed a reflex viewfinder, because of the odd lens of the old camera the shutter does not protrude forward and is right behind the gate, so there's ample room to put a pellicle mirror between the shutter and a c mount lens for reflex viewfinder optics. I am using the viewfinder eyepiece from an old CP-16 camera and a very modern handgrip which contains rechargeable batteries, this unique hand grip has been taken from a Super 8 camera; the Yashica 50XL, I have modified the handgrip slightly by adding a push button switch and a remote control socket..

110 Still Photography

 

The 110 format has always been dubbed as sub-standard and as such it has been looked down upon, much smaller than 35mm, it's obvious the quality would be less, it'is known as the poor relative to 35mm. In its heyday it was characterised with inferior cameras and film stocks that appealed to the average consumer because they were cheap, stylish and most of all offered greater convenience. The 110 frame is 13mm x 17mm, it's bigger than the Super 16's frame size which is much smaller at 7.41mm x 12.52mm, yet Super 16 is not considered poor quality; instead Super 16 imagery is always referred being as being alive, organic and immensely rich in texture that evokes a creative but realistic atmosphere. I have been trying to understand why 110 is labelled as inferior, clearly most 110 cameras were cheaply made and used very grainy primitive colour negative film and had inferior [most likely plastic] lenses, it wasn't like these point and shoot 110 cameras with such plastic lenses would have given the high end image quality that we would expect from a Zeiss lens. On the other hand Super 16 cameras were manufactured to very high standards and cost thousands and their lenses are meticulously built too, adding to that the Super 16 scanners are so well engineered that they extract every last detail out of that tiny Super 16 frame. I suppose there is also a difference in perception of detail and sharpness in projected film versus a printed still. Due to the randomness of the grain structure on film there will be variation in what parts of the image are being resolved with greater detail or sharpness from frame to frame. Projected Super 16 film will always be 'perceived' as having more detail than a still frame from that same scene as the brain sort of compiles the details from the different frames into a perceived image that is resolved with greater detail.

I have never used 110, but I remember those slim-line horizontal shaped groovy cameras that were very popular, as I was growing up we had one too, and as cameras go they were very basic, the film my parents used wasn't all that either as it was always a free film given by the pharmacy after you had you collected your processed prints. I'm sure the whole system was designed purely for looks and convenience rather than quality. With 16mm I have learnt that there are three main elements to consider; first, it's all about the lenses, secondly, it's the film stock and thirdly, it's the camera. At the beginning of last year I got some Pentax 110 lenses [read about them below in Super 16 lenses July 2020] and made an iris and c mount adapter and used these lenses on my Super 16 camera, I know people like to talk about the small size of these Pentax lenses, but the quality for Super 16 from them is amazing.

I have just managed to get the Pan Focus 18mm, the only lens from the Pentax 110 series that I didn't have, the lens has come with the little Pentax Auto camera, ironically the camera works. I think I have an old cartridge lying around somewhere and I am curious to use the camera and am preparing myself to embrace the challenges of re-spooling and loading the 110 cartridges. I have been watching Youtube videos on re-loading 110 cartridges and I'm am thinking of loading some Vision 3 50D to see how it turns out, of course the images won't be like the larger 35mm, but the Pentax Auto is one of the best 110 cameras ever made, I know the lenses are extremely good and Vision 3 50D in 16mm is excellent, all this coupled with professional developing and scanning should make my 110 adventures very interesting.

 

 

 

 

A New Twist on Tradition [Revised October 2020]

In today's increasingly competitive world I believe the camera 'person' needs create visual images that stand out. In order to do this the camera 'person' needs a wide spectrum of tools to work with and film needs be there as a viable choice. There is a lot of growing interest in film, especially 16mm from youngsters, but they need a modern camera that is easy to use and has the features associated with today's cinematography.

I believe the Kodak K100, made from the mid 1950's to the mid 1970's fits the bill as I have said before it is really an underrated camera, fortunately it was mass produced and so there are plenty of them about. I used one and I liked it very much, I realised that it could be easily modified to suite the needs of the contemporary camera 'person' who is used to digital cameras.

I machined the aperture plate to Super 16, I designed and made a new camera front to re-centre the lens mount and more importantly I reflexed it by using a pellicle mirror and a ground glass. In addition to that using the service manual and I dissasemled it, cleaned it, oiled and lubricated and the reassembled it.

 

 

 

 

Low budget Filmmaking - Using Film [Revised October 2020]

In independent and low budget forums you often hear people asking the same questions again and again, like "which digital camera is better to get for a decent film look" and what is the "best digital camera for less than 10k", you also get quite a few people promoting that their short film cost them only a few hundred pounds to make. While interesting I do I find this a little disconcerting on several levels; first there's certainly a desire to have a 'film' look, second 10k is quite a lot of money and if your budget for making a film is only a few hundred pounds then it raises all sorts of questions about ones ethics and morality. Now on the odd occasions even I have asked professional actors and technicians to come and help me and work for free, by offering a great experience and food, but there are more times where I have paid people too, and I can sincerely say that our labour, our actors, technicians and all those involved in making the film are the biggest costs in filmmaking. I think 10k is a lot to spend on the camera, but people are ready to do this, they often forget that their expensive camera will become obsolete pretty quickly, they don't even consider other essentials such as sound gear, lighting and such as production design. There's something troubling here too as simply getting a camera and plonking it in front of some actors isn't filmmaking. Having the latest gear doesn't automatically make you a good filmmaker.

While the 'film' look is desired, for many using actual film doesn't come into the equation, many think it's old fashioned, expensive and out of reach just a mere luxury for major budgets filmmakers. The rumours and myths that film isn't relavant or made for low budget filmmakers, or that it's too expensive and only used by some major Hollywood filmmakers are unfair and untrue, my advice is just buy some film and try it. Just as using digital tools film-celluloid presents its challenges too, the film workflow is perhaps a little more involved, the first major hurdle is that film isn't instant and that's a big deal for many, to see what you've just shot you have to wait, sometimes hours, sometimes days or even weeks until the film is processed, printed or scanned only then can you see what you've shot. This creates anxiety and a nervousness which I think introduces a great deal of reluctance amongst younger filmmakers to seriously use film, the demand for instant gratification is simply too great, so it is easy for many to simply accept that using film [celluloid] just brings trouble and add to an umwanted level of uncertainty coupled with impracticality and therefore it should be avoided and as a result many just don't want to even think about using film. The rumours about costs are always too hyped and exaggerated too, I always ask young filmmakers if they have actually investigated the actual costs themselves, I know that making a short ten minute film on 16mm doesn't have to cost anywhere near 10k, I have done Super 16 camera, stock and lens tests for well under £100, I have shot shorts films on Super 16 and have paid everyone and still my overall spend hasn't reached anywhere near 10k. So is this just an obsession to justify getting new gear? Because then we can pat ourselves on the back and confidently say that having current gear makes us good filmmakers? I know that many people working across the world who are making films on low 'micro' budgets use film too, so film isn't really for the 'big Hollywood types'. I always urge people that before they succumb to the popular myths and rumours they ought to do their 'own' research into the availability of film, equipment and costs. Film-making in general is quite an expensive activity whatever medium we choose to use. Most seem to choose digital, it's current' and most naturally it's easy to assume it's cheaper and easier. In many ways it is easier but if we're honest its costs are questionable and rather debatable.

A Quest For Better Images

My simple Super 16 frame by frame set up using a small consumer digital Samsung NX Mini and a Schneider S Componon 50mm enlarger lens which is reverse mounted to c mount macro tubes attached via an NX to c mount adapter.

As a filmmaker my aim is to make films, I want to work with film [celluloid] while I still can, so I am always tinkering with gadgets to make my film experience a little easier, hence making a scanner an easy way to digitise my films. This time I wanted to build something that would be more compact and even easier to use. I know that for many scanning film seems like a complicated affair, a lot of people are put off using film because they don't quite understand the scanning part of it, scanning film can be the most expensive aspect of using film, but it doesn't have to be as simple DIY frame by frame scanners can produce remarkable results, which in my opinion can be as good as professional scans. I want to make the whole process easier and am very open to sharing ideas and disseminating information. Ideally I needed a no fuss, compact film scanning system for newly exposed Super 8 and Super 16 film; it can be time consuming and expensive to transfer small quantities of film at a professional lab and sometimes you don't really need a professional scan, especially when you are just testing a camera for scratches or light leaks.

Whether you intend to scan Super 8 or 16mm film I believe the best way to build a frame by frame scanner is by looking at the four main components of a film scanner separately; the backlight, the film transport, capture camera and its lens. For the film transport system something is needed to move the film and stop it in the gate and for this purpose it seems easier to use and modify a conventional projector and many people who make their own set ups do just this. However, for all sorts of reasons I don't think adapting a projector is the best way to go, though initially I did modify an ordinary Super 8 projector [Chinnon] and it worked quite well, but as with all projectors it was a chore to set up being too bulky and cumbersome. In addition I feel that there's just so much to do to projectors to make them suitable for frame by frame scanning so I looked for an alternative and found a very unusual projector - the Hanimex Moviematt, this is smaller and less cumbersome than most projectors making it much easier to modify and it works extremely well as a frame by frame scanner, but I found there were still some issues, mainly with the backlight which I discovered had to provide a perfect consistent light across the frme, especially when scanning negative film. After using the Hanimex for over two years I decided that I needed a new film transport mechanism, the fact that the Hanimex was falling apart made me develop my ideas.

Super 16 film frame grabs, Fujifilm 64D, Keystone camera at 24fps, processing by Cinelab London

The Machine Vision Camera Samsung NX100

The capture camera and its lens are incredibly important, I don't know a great deal about digital cameras, I used machine vision cameras starting with a simple Mightex then switching to a camera from The Imaging Source and finally settling with a camera from Point and Grey. I was told that Machine Vision cameras are ideal for this sort of work and I know that most sophisticated set ups use them as they seem to offer a lot of advantages, they are small and can be fitted with virtually any lens. However, I became increasingly aware that for me these cameras weren't getting the best out of my Super 8 films and began to look at other digital platforms, maybe I was using them wrongly. I was further encouraged by the people who've developed the Kinograph as they use a conventional DSLR as a capture camera saying that they wanted to work with easily available consumer cameras. The idea of using consumer level digital cameras intrigues me, especially because I know they would provide a standalone system which would be simpler as it wouldn't tie up my computer like the machine vision cameras during the scan. I know that DSLR's have mechanical shutters which will wear out quickly [apparently after 300,000 shots which is about 400 minutes], but I believe that mirror-less consumer compact digital cameras don't have such shutters, but in any case these cameras offer great quality and are cheap and easy to replace - after all this is the disposable age!

 

I looked at the many digital compact mirror-less cameras, eventually I bought the Samsung NX100 [which I have upgraded to the Samsung NX Mini, the Samsung cameras interested me because most have a simple wired cable release and interchangeable lenses. Using adaptors i.e. a Samsung NX to 42mm or to c mount extension tubes I have reverse mounted a 50mm Schneider S Componon Enlarger lens, the same lens I used with my machine vision cameras, it is an excellent lens and many others use this lens for scanning too. On further reading and after experimentation I discovered that my Samsung will take pictures very quickly at 0.5 seconds and saves them on an SD card and the camera's auto focus and auto exposures systems need to be switched off, obviously a fast SD card is needed, so at best this camera can work as a telecine camera running 2 fps. A typical 100ft roll of 16mm film is made up of about 4000 pictures, if I work slower and take one picture per second with the Samsung it will take me just over an hour, which is fine, after all for me speed is not an issue. The camera will save each picture as Jpegs or in Raw as image sequences, once the initial scan has been completed the image sequences on the SD card can be assembled into a movie with any non-linear editing program on the computer. Of course when not scanning I can use the camera for taking pictures.

I scanned several rolls and have been very impressed as I feel that the Samsung is definitely getting the best out of the film. Images are sharper with richer colours, generally more detail and depth as you can see from the examples above [which are in a lower resolution here], clearly the consumer camera produces much better images off film and for the first time I feel that I am getting real quality from films. Perhaps machine vision cameras are over-rated and in general not as good as video cameras, after all aren't they just basic industrial things.

Real Costs of Using Film

We need to own our vision and stay true to our artistic process! I strongly believe that film is a viable option for todayy's filmmaker, but it does demand a conscious effort and participation on our part, especially if we are on a tight budget.

I often hear; why use film at all in this day and age, as it costs too much! My response to this is; film is expensive, but not as expensive as many like to point out. Sadly students and new producers and directors are unaware of the actual cost of shooting on film. I often hear the many misconceptions as to costs of film where young people mistakenly believe that if it was not for the 'digital revolution' and the 'democratization' of the moving image that they would never have had the means or capability of producing a film due to the 'high' price tag of film stock and lab costs. Okay film does cost money, this is nothing new, but there are several workarounds or unconventional approaches that one can adopt and what seems like a daunting expense is very manageable over time. Also, that expense encourages expertise and also helps to elevate the quality of the project, it makes you work more efficiently and creates a 'film discipline', where less film is wasted, less time is wasted and overall less money is wasted. In many ways shooting film can actually be cheaper in a variety of situations especially if we shoot at low ratios, if one shoots at a shooting ratio under 5:1, film will come in below the cost of purchasing or renting digital equivalent cameras. Many established filmmakers are known for shooting quickly and efficiently with only very few takes, in many situations it can be done, though there are exceptions where you need to have lots of takes.

Students and newcomers are repeatedly told that film is a thing of the past, it is the rhetoric of the electronic companies and by people who have never worked with motion picture film and those that don't like film. They say that film is 'costly, cumbersome, and too risky'. These electronic companies want you to BUY their cameras and naturally they are going to downplay shooting on film and give film a bad press. The major digital camera manufacturers attract the newcomer to their products and once the newcomer is hooked [it's easy to get hooked to gadgets] these companies hope and know that you are going to be addicted for life. This addiction of endless upgrades focuses on false promises convincing you that your project will be better because it was shot on the newest camera, the best sensor and so on. Newness sells, it means that something is 'now' and it's current and therefore it's more attractive, each new upgrade promises more and if you do not upgrade in six months, you risk becoming 'obsolete', it is the 'fear of missing out' [FOMO] or being left behind. It is as if everyone's needs to accept things and just go with the flow. Few think that their super expensive digital gear will be obsolete in a few years if not sooner. If you are the business of selling cameras, digital has opened up a whole new market since digital video cameras have built in planned obsolescence allowing you to market a whole new line every two years and turn a big profit from young and old users.

Unlike digital cameras which are highly dependable on resolution and constant software upgrades film cameras can last forever, with film, the addiction to camera upgrades just does not exist. Well made clockwork 16mm from the 1950's [and before] like the Keystone A 12 Criterion or the A15 Newport, the Revere 101 or 103, Bell and Howell Filmo or the 240 series and Kodak K100, are cheap and still going strong, they may need a clean, lube, and adjustment. The question many ask is; why are companies like Arri, Aaton, and Panavision not making any new motion picture film cameras? The answer is simple; there are so many excellent used film cameras out there which can last forever camera manufacturers cannot make a profit in making film cameras. I always encourage people to pick up an old camera and run some new film through it and they'll see what I mean.

At the end of the day the choice is up to the individual, the artist, not the camera companies, I am reminded of an intersting paradigm when a film studentt didn't see the filmmaker as an artist. There are many ways to save money whether using either film or digital as both mediums can be inexpensive or very expensive depending on one's resourcefulness. Borrowing equipment for cheap rates or for free, not paying people is a common way to save costs, perhaps 'immoral', if you do it all the time. The longevity and cheapness of film equipment, and low shooting ratios are the biggest ways that using film has the potential to save over digital. Every filmmaker needs to do some research on the real costs of using film without becoming seduced by the myths and the popular digital rhetoric and should honestly share their findings. Expense should not be an issue, especially with so many passionate and friendly resources out there, individuals and companies who can help you on your journey if you choose film. Film is not just for the big budget projects for major Hollywood directors, it's for all of us. There are ways to work on celluloid, even on a modest budget, I know I do it all the time. I believe film and digital video are not just mediums, they are creative processes, a way of life and both are unique in their own ways. Both demand different mental and physical approaches and both have issues and present the filmmaker their challenges. Some people can easily switch back and forth, while others stick to their preferred tools. From many years working and teaching film, I've noticed that the tools of celluloid film emphasize process over product, whereas the speed and immediacy of digital video tends to favour the product over process workflow. I suppose a mindset obsessed with technology can get in the way of ones artistic journey.

 

Kodak 16mm Camera

Recently a 16mm camera that I have come across is the Kodak K100, this was made from 1955 to 1973, after using it I am quite impressed with it..

In the past I have used a lot of 16mm cameras from the most basic amateur ones to some of the most sophisticated and professional ones. Despite this I have never used a Kodak 16mm camera, though I have used several Kodak Super 8 cameras, most of them are easy to use 'point and shoot' cameras and as far as I can remember they were good but basic, after all Super 8 was designed to be easy to use. My interest in Kodak 16mm cameras started when I got hold of a Kodak Model BB Junior 16mm from the 1930's, I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet and smooth the Model BB Junior ran, almost as quiet as a modern sync camera, and learned from collectors and engineers that Kodak cameras are known to run very smoothly. This started a sort of a chain reaction as I started looking at other Kodak 16mm cameras.

The K100 certainly has an interesting and distinctive look, surprisingly it's not awkward to hold whilst filming, I wonder if the arrangement of spools has to something do with this. Kodak never really made cameras where the film spools were arranged vertically on top of each other, apart from their very first 16mm camera, instead they usually chose unconventional and somewhat 'trendy' ways to arrange film spools horizontally one behind the other or coaxially. In the K100 the spools are arranged horizontally; one in front of the other, making this camera unlike other 16mm cameras from the 1950ís. Winding it is very easy, on a full wind the camera can run for 40 feet - that's the longest run I know, it's well over a minute and at 24fps it's over a minute, there's also a very useful indicator telling you how much spring power is left. So far I have been quite impressed with it, the camera also has a port to attach an electric motor, any electric motor can work, the viewfinder although 'parallax' [not reflex] is much better than other 16mm cameras of that era that I have used, but I can make this into a reflex camera just as I did with my a-cam, and of course I can modify it to Super 16 too. Luckily a filmmaker gave me a copy of the service manual for the camera so I have gently cleaned and lubricated it before loading it with fresh Vision 3 250D film, I have been out filming with it using a Switar lens and have been impressed at how well it handles. I'm really hoping the images it produces are good and if they are I will definitely reflex this camera and widen the gate to Super 16. It seems this camera has an amazing untapped potential for current users, it's truely a lost gem. Hopefully this could be the perfect compact easy to use 16mm camera that I've been looking for.

 

Old 16mm cameras

Bell and Howell 240 Series

I always encourage using older 16mm cameras, I like the Keystones, but there is a more recent camera that I like too. It's the Bell and Howell 240 series of cameras from the late 1950's, they are cheap and abundantly available in the current market. In total Bell and Howell produced four models in this series; 240, 240T, 240TA and finally the 240 EE. [Electric Eye]. In England I have only seen the GB 627 [this is the 240T], I have not seen any other British models. All Bell and Howell equipment with the 600 series model numbers are equipment [cameras and projectors] were made in the UK at the Bell and Howell factory.

I think they definitely are a lost gem of the past. As with all older 16mm cameras they need a little bit cleaning and lubrication to make them run perfectly, they have the longest run times of any wind up camera I have seen about 55 seconds at 24fps from a full wind and they are so easy to load with their auto loop formers. Each model in the 240 series differs slightly in terms of lens arrangements and finally the 240-EE has auto exposure, meaning Electric Eye, it's the only camera in the series that does not have a c mount lens, instead it has a fixed 20mm lens, but mechanically all the cameras are all the same and the internal mechanics are completely interchangeable.

The Bell and Howell Company were pioneers and as such they were at the forefront of motion picture development with their cameras, projectors and other cine-machinery products. From the very beginnings of 16mm they started producing precision cameras andprojectors for the home user - the amateur, a trend that continued until the 1960's. Bell and Howell were located in Chicago as was another camera and projector manufacturer - Revere, Revere was much smaller and it focused on low cost equipment for Home Movie Making only. Both companies made very similar 16mm magazine cameras in that era too and they both released their 16mm spool cameras around the same time, the Revere 101 and 103 16mm spool cameras are very similar to the Bell and Howell 240 series of cameras, I wonder if they shared ideas or whether there was a lot of industrial espionage going on, I don't think they were in direct competition as Bell and Howell were huge in comparison. Bell and Howell used to famously say that 16mm magazine cameras were targeted at the amateur who needed quality and ease whereas their spool cameras were for the serious user, the professional and yet it seems they somewhat diverged from this in the mid 1950's when they released the 240 series of 16mm spool cameras. While these cameras were made for the amateur the level of precision is great, it's astonishingly amazing and all done without the aid of today's CAD.

Some claim that the 240 series of cameras were a replacement for the professional Filmos 70's, but it seems the 240 series cameras were most likely designed and aimed at the 'Home Movie Enthusiasts' rather than the professional. Some new technology was applied that the Filmo 70 didn't have, which made them more user friendly, for instance they had very easy to use features like auto thread loop formers, a metre to indicate how much 'power' of the spring was left and the 240EE had auto exposure, which aimed to make filming a simple point and shoot affair. On the other hand the Filmo 70's had oiling ports, detachable motors and the ability to attach magazines for 200ft or 400ft of film and had more complex critical viewfinders, in comparison the 240's had simple objectives like the magazine cameras therefore it would appear that the 240 series was not a replacement for the Filmo, this is also evident as Bell and Howell continued to manufacture the Filmo 70's to the very end, until 1983, but it appears that they stopped manufacturing the 240 series by the beginning of the 1960's when virtually all amateur filmmaking had crossed over to 8mm and then Super 8. While these cameras look good and produce great pictures I don't think they were as versatile or as rugged as the Filmo 70's. In a lot of Bell and Howell advertisements they show the 240 whe Angenieux 17-68 zoom lens [with its own reflex viewfinder], it seems a popular combination and Bell and Howell was the 1st company in the States to introduce this lens

 

A New Super 16 camera

I think it would be great if someone made a new Super 16 camera. I have personally seen the demand for an affordable Super 16 camera system increase lately, while there are plenty of standard 16mm cameras, there really isn't an affordable Super 16 camera out there, this is probably why the newer Arri SR2's, SR3's and 416's have become quite expensive as have the Aaton Super 16 cameras. Older cameras that that have been converted to Super 16 may be a suitable option like the Eclair NPR or the ACL, and Super 16 Bolex cameras. Most standard 16mm cameras can be converted to Super 16, it's easier to do this on some cameras, but very difficult and expensive to do on other cameras. The simplest option for S16 is to use standard 16 and to crop the image; naturally this will affect image resolution and increase grain, though it's not really an issue with newer slower film stocks. I use Ikonoskop's Super 16 camera the a-cam SP-16 while it is very stylish it isn't very practical.

I discovered that one of my SP-16 cameras has a problematic take up and jams film, unusually the a-cam SP-16 has a separate motor for the take up spool, I can't fix this issue so I am doing something rather ambitious; I have designed a new camera body I and I am fitting all the mechanics and electrics into this new camera body. By doing this I can improve the practicality by adding auto threading, but the auto threading has required me to redesign the entire shape and have transformed the SP-16 into a very different looking and unrecognisable camera, in effect I have made a new Super 16 camera which currently has the same mechanism and electronics.

 

Affordable 16mm Options

What to do if you want to film in 16mm, especially if you have no experience of shooting film?

Well the first thing is to do is lots of research! The standard route is to hire or buy a professional sync camera like an Arri SR2/3 or an Aaton and then buy film stock, with such a camera it is more likely that you have to have to rent lenses for it and these could be expensive.

There are alternative ways if you don't have or want to spend money, you might be able to borrow a professional camera kit and lenses, perhaps you need to just ask around, but you must remember that all most all of these professional cameras are big and not always suited to the individual - lone filmmaker, they take the larger 400ft film cores which do give you 11 minutes, this costs around £110.00, in addition you have to factor in the costs for processing, about £60.00 and scanning another £60.00 so you could be paying around £130.00 [or more] for your 11 minutes.

Alternatively you can buy, or borrow a smaller camera that takes 100ft daylight spools. Unlike the professional cameras most are cheaper, smaller and use c mount lenses which are much cheaper, these cameras are definitely easier to use, especially if you look at old vintage cameras from the 1950's which were designed for amateurs or hobbyists.

I had very little money [which is nothing new], but I decided to shoot a test on 16mm film. My first 16mm camera was a Keystone 16mm, there was no specific reason for buying this camera, it was very cheap, it worked, the camera takes c mount lenses which are plentiful. A professional 16mm camera to buy or rent would have cost around £2000 depending on where I went, I couldn't afford this, I did some research on the Keystone cameras I spoke to many people online including film historians and collectors, I discovered that Keystone 16mm cameras were never taken seriously by the film community or by the Keystone company themselves, the company also produced toys and they themselves referred to their cameras as 'toy' and 'novelty' cameras. One thing for certain is that Keystone made their cameras to look good and elegant with their shiny chrome trimmings, I don't think performance was a priority, but despite this these cameras can and do still work wonderfully with a simple mechanism which I discovered the company hadn't changed since the early 1930's. I must stress that I am not an engineer, but it was easy to open my Keystone camera, clean it and apply new oil, it just took an afternoon and some wine, at the same time I decided to widen the camera's gate to the Super 16 image ratio. For the purist I need to re-centre the lens for a proper Super 16 modification, but I didn't do this, after I reassembled the camera and put everything back I had a smooth running 'Super 16' camera ready for new film.

For film stock I shopped around and instead of getting 100ft daylight spools for £45.00 I saw an add that a professional filmmaker had put out, he was selling some left over stock from a production, a total of 6 [large] rolls of 400ft, each roll was £50.00, I bought this and spooled off 100ft of film in the dark onto a daylight spool to use in my Keystone camera, again not hard, so my 100ft of film cost me £12.50. I filmed a bunch of tests and I sent the exposed film to a lab in London, they had policy to process 400ft as minimum and my 100ft was simply too small of an order, but then I did something radical, I picked up the phone [yes I know in the era of emails and texting] and spoke to someone and talked and they agreed to process my 100ft roll for £15.00. I received the 100ft negative and scanned it myself on my DIY frame by frame scanner, which takes forever but the results were great.

In total this test cost me £40.00, I think it proves that if we think 'out of the box' and find alternative work around solutions we can work with film cheaply. I could have done this differently and taken the more standard route by renting a large professional camera and lenses from Take 2 or Four Corners in London and paid around £500-£800 [or more] a week and bought fresh film 100ft at the undiscounted price of £45.00, or most likely 400ft rolls at £110.00 and had it process and scanned by the lab which would have cost me another £120, this way I would have definitely spent a lot more money.

 

Super 16 Lenses July 2020

There are no real budget lenses for the Super 16 film format, in fact Super 16 lenses can be very expensive, but I have found that most lenses for standard 16mm of 20mm or above will work without any issues, however wide angle lenses may not work well as we will see a lot of vignetting, barrelling and softening in the corners of the frame. I have discovered that Pentax lenses for 110 film formate work extremly well for Supoer 16.

I have come across some very interesting lenses that should work beautifully for Super 16, though they are originally for the Pentax 110 system and date from the late 1970's to the mid 1980's, because they are over 30 years old these lenses are often described by many as vintage lenses, but they give very sharp images that don't really have that 'old worldly' look that we often see with images taken by other vintage lenses. They are unlike any lenses that I've used like the Switars and are capable of producing very strong contemporary looking imagery.

The frame size of 110 is bigger than Super 16 so the image circle of the lenses will easily cover the S16 frame. These lenses are popular on Micro 4/3 cameras because the sensor is only slightly bigger than the size of the 110 frame, but the image circle produced by these lenses is not quite big enough to cover the entire Micro 4/3 sensor [as you can see in my diagram on the left], so these lenses will produce images that are softer and darker in the corners of the Micro 4/3 frame.

The Pentax 110 lenses have no aperture control, which is probably why they are so small, they are set wide open at f2.8, but despite this they are still very sharp, I know that most lenses become even sharper when closed a little, I also know the centre is often sharper than the edges, since the S16 frame is much smaller and it will occupy just the centre area these lenses should be ideal for Super 16

To get the best out of these lenses I made a unique c mount adaptor with an iris control so I could have more control by setting the aperture manually.

In total there are six Pentax 110 lenses; 18mm, 18mm PF [fixed focus lens], 24mm, 50mm, 70mm and 20-40mm zoom, I have five, I don't have the 18mm PF lens. The first thing one notices is how small and dinky these lenses are, the 24mm is the smallest one, but despite this, I think it's the best one of the lot, the 24mm was also the standard lens that came with the camera. The focusing ring is so smooth on all my lenses unlike other older lenses which can be stiff. Before trying them out on my Super 16 camera I went out and took photos with my Samsung NX mini digital camera, its sensor is only slightly bigger than the Super 16 frame. I compared results from the 24mm Pentax 110 with my Pentax CCTV 25mm and my Switar 25mm. I will post the results soon. I originally bought Samsung NX Mini because unlike many other mirorrless digital cameras it has a wired remote control, which is useful for frame by frame scanning, however I've found it quite handy for geneal photography too and often use it for street photographyt and to test lenses.

 

16mm Filming September 2019

People often say that audiences don't care about the technology that is used to make films, but I believe that there is an expectation that a film should look like a film and when we watch a film that has been originated on analogue film we see things in a different and a better way, there's a iinteresting emotional connection with the images, whether it's their colour, grain, texture or all of these factors, I know that we can't always explain this feeling of watching a film that has been shot on film. I am always encouraging young filmmakers to use 16mm film and make the case that we should use film while we can. A few years ago using 16mm film became very cheap, it's still not that expensive [though at first glance it is much more expensive than digital]. Professional 16mm cameras are getting expensive, about a year ago a good Aaton XTR camera packaged struggled to sell for $1000, but in the last few months the same Aaton XTR camera package sold for $18,000 - quite a difference suggesting that there is renewed professional interest in 16mm. For many young people the questions still are why should they and that film is far too expensive, the digital tidal wave is strong, but I strongly feel that as filmmakers we need to reach our audiences and should strive to be unique.

There are so many different choices for 16mm cameras and film stock [as discussed on the other pages], we can go to the top end and get the much sought after Arrri 416, buy some fresh film direct from a Kodak reseller and start shooting. We must remember that most professional cameras like the 416 will use PL mount lenses, while good these are expensive. Well, if we don't want to spend much we could use a simpler or older 16mm camera. With film most of the magic is created by the film stock and lenses, obviously the camera has to work well, this is where I have had luck using old amateur cameras from the 1950's with fresh film stock and new lenses. I believe that one should use film, it is worth the hassle, the fixes and workarounds to get that beautiful, timeless cinematic film look. I have always been interested in using older technology instead of simply disposing of them. It's pretty easy to use get an old vintage 16mm camera today at a cheap price and to use it with new lenses and new film stock. I have done this many times and when the camera's cleaned and working well I get amazing results.

 

The Age Old Question - Is 16mm Relavant? September 2019

Short answer is yes it's relevant as it gives your work a unique and distint look, it's not that expensive either. In reality it's complicated, some say it all depends how much you shoot, if you're shooting a lot then 16mm can work out cheaper, but if you plan to shoot the odd roll here and there then it can be expensive, but this isn't always true as I have shot single rolls off 100ft and have paid very little. A factory sealed 100ft of 16mm is around £45.00 and a 400ft roll is about £100.00, for processing it is around 15 pence per foot and scanning is another 15 pence per foot a total of £120.00 for 400ft of film. In reality it is possible to get 16mm film cheaper, through re-cans or from other filmmakers who've just finished a shoot, I have often got fresh stock this way and paid around £50.00 for a 400ft roll. I often use the a-cam and it takes 100ft daylight spools, it is quite easy to split the 400ft roll onto the small 100ft daylight spools. I have always managed to get fresh stock in 100ft daylight spools for £14.00, 100ft of 16mm gives you 2.5 minutes the same running time as one Super 8 cartridge. If you can get 16mm stock cheaply then 16mm definitely works out slightly cheaper as for each 100ft stock, processing and scanning can be around £45.00, while many are reluctant to do their own processing many are comfortable digitizing their films, thus bringing the costs down further. The problem for some is that with 16mm the equipment is bigger, it's more expensive, lenses can cost quite a bit too and then there's minimum charges from labs for processing and scanning. All in all 16mm can be more complicated but the results are spectacular.

 

A note about 16mm Magazine Cameras September 2019

In the past I have not taken 16mm magazine cameras seriously at all, always encouraging people to stay away from them, but I have changed my mind and am using these little cameras quite a lot. Once you've got your 50ft of film loaded in the cartridges, which are called magazines, it's just so simple. I am in the process of writing a section on this website about this system.

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The Relevance of Film

The two questions that I regularly get asked are;

1. In this day and age why do some filmmakers choose to use film [celluloid] to shoot their projects and not digital?

2. If everything is going to be finished digitally, then why shoot film in the first place?

Both questions are related but are not easy to answer, the second question assumes that 'everything' filmed is being finished digitally, which isn't quite true as there are still many who finish their films photo-chemically and project them using analogue projectors, though digital finish has become the norm since the 1990's even when the film has been originated on film [celluloid]. So the question remains why shoot on film [celluloid]? The answer is complicated and not always easily explainable, many have tried to give structured responses, some are emotional, while some are practical, some say they use it because of the look of film, its aesthetics and claim films rich colours, textures and warmth all adding to an organic feel, whereas digital often gives a harsh soulless feel, others talk about nostalgia of film citing its archival properties, then there are those who perplex us with technical talk of films wider latitude over digital.

The simple thing is film is available and in many ways it's is much easier to work with and in many cases cheaper too. I know many will be thinking that film isn't cheap, no one really advocates film as being cheap, we always hear that it's expensive, well it isn't cheap; especially if we do a side by side comparison, film is expensive. So what do I mean when I say film can be cheap? Well in film and television productions the media used whether it is film or digital is only a small fraction of the total budget, the biggest cost is labour, not only talent in front of the camera but talent behind the camera. In an industry where people are usually paid by the day filmmakers need to be quick and well shooting on film allows that, working on film means a fast shoot [therefore cheaper], whereas digital shoots take longer and therefore cost more. In post production film is quicker too; film just looks good straight after processing even with a simple scan and without complex wizardry, whereas with digital a colourist has to spend [costly] hours making digital footage look good.

Writngs and thoughts on 'film'

I really love it and get very excited when younger filmmakers choose to use film for their projects, but I am not sure how I feel when people say they have chosen to use film to pay 'homage' to old school filmmaking, to me this suggests that 'film' / celluloid is no longer relevant for modern filmmaking. It's true that 'film' is not relevant for many of today's young filmmakers who are fed with incorrect information that everything is digital and many are becoming detached from seeing the whole picture.

Many say that film in the digital age is an aesthetic choice; personally I disagree with this view as I find film is more practical, economical and more affordable.. Unless given for free a RED or an Alexa camera Package, this includes the basic camera, cables and accessories, lenses and batterries will cost far more than renting a modern Super 16 camera package. The shooting time will increase and there will most certainly be more footage to edit and the xtra time is extra money. I choose to use film for many reasons;

1) Film gives you that authentic film look effortlessly

2) There's a certain way you work when shooting film, you are more decisive and more certain

3) High end digital systems are expensive to rent, whereas film cameras are very cheap, film can be expensive but it depends on your shooting ratio

4) Most of the time digital shoots take longer and therefore are most costly, especially in narrative film-making

5) With film you spend less time in the edit or with computers trying to 'fix' the images, digital images need a lot more work in post

On this page I will be putting together my creative writing, the stories that I have published and am currently writing.

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