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Tips for Buying a 16mm Film Camera

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/20/2010

Learn what you need to know before you try to by a 16mm film camera.

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    Buying a 16mm Film Camera

    In the world of HD and digital video it seems like archaic to seek out and purchase a 16mm motion film camera. 16mm is often expensive to purchase and process, and the cameras themselves are not something that your average home producer owns. If you are thinking about buying your own 16mm film camera you have a few things to think about since this is not the normal consumer item. Here are some tips for buying your own 16mm film camera.

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    Camera Shopping

    The rule of thumb for buying a 16mm film camera is that you will spend exactly how much you want, and get exactly what you pay for. There is no set price for a 16mm film camera, and you can easily find some online for under a hundred dollars. If you actually want to do some serious filming on it then you are going to want to spend a decent amount of money, at least that which is comparable to a more high end digital video or HD camera. You can usually find a used sync sound one ranging from $900 to around $5,000. If you pay somewhere in the middle then you may be doing alright, but you should still have the camera checked over first. If you are just going to go with a lower end used Bolex camera you can find this for under a $1000, sometimes down to $100 or $200. Since you are not going to be able to do any serious production with a Bolex camera then you may want to itemize your needs first. Check the Jesse Chambless catalogue if you have a chance and then cut the price that you will pay for the Bolex gear to half or a quarter of what is listed there. You may also want to look into the price that you will get for extra film magazines. This can be an added expense, as well as any attachments you are going to want. You are really going to need to get together a number of lenses if you are serious about it.

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    The brands that you may want to buy into for your 16mm film camera are much more limited than in digital video because less people need them on a regular consumer basis. Arriflex is still known as being one of the best in the 16mm film camera market, and Panavision and Eclair are also top of the line.

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    There have consistently been rumors that you can find cheap 16mm cameras from the Russian market. The 16mm Kranogorsk-3 camera runs for only a few hundred dollars, but you will have to find the camera in a market that is not easy to catalogue your way through. It will include most of the features that you are going to need for serious 16mm production, but will look a little different for those who have dealt with 16mm cameras in the past.

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    Super 16mm

    Super 16mm is a great choice, but not usually for people without the money to spend. The Super 16mm technology was first created so that you could get images comparable to 35mm without the camera size, but the processing cost of using Super 16mm is often going to be out of people's range. It may be best to stick with a regular 16mm camera, unless you have serious funding for your film productions.