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May 3, 2013
Buy a 50 years old camera and shoot!

To get more knowledge working with film, I bought a 16mm camera online. I paid about $450 for a Beaulieu R16 "automatic". It's just fantastic how these machines can work being almost 50 years old. I can't imagine a RED Epic or Arri Alexa to work in 2060's. To be honest I don't think a "todays" camera will work in 10 years. But I can be wrong.

In this article I will describe the basics and how to get started working with this beautiful camera. The first issue you will run in to is probably power supply, and later where to buy some film stock, and where to develop and scan the film.

My Beaulieu R16 camera

First some brief history of R16
Beaulieu was founded in the early 1950's by Marcel Beaulieu.
The first R16 was a spring motor version that came out 1958. In 1965 the R16 Electric, an electric motor version of the R16 was introduced. Later models include the R16 Sync, R16 Automatic. The company manufactured the last camera in 2002. Both spares and servicing are still available (see links at the bottom).

A price example shooting a 5 minute short on 16mm film

Buy an old camera (lenses included) - $450
400ft film stock (~10 minutes) - $360
Development - $156 ($39 for 100ft)
Scan to 2K dpx - $458 ($114 for 100ft)

That's a total of $1424. For this price you get 10bit cineon DPX footage with great possibilities to grade the footage the way you want. You get nice film grain. You can experiment with a wide range of cheap lenses from ebay. High speed footage up to 64fps. You don't get any sound. Your camera will last several decades!
(prices varies, this calculation is from april 2013)
Price for a 5 minute short shoot on 16mm

Get some juice in to the camera
The first problem you probably will run in to is to get some juice in to the camera. The camera runs on two voltages. The light meter runs on 3.6V and the motor on 7.2V. You can create a nice new battery and put it in the same case as the old battery. How to re-cell an old battery is described on this site. It is also still possible to buy a new battery from beaulieu.de (be prepared for silly high prices). To get my camera to work asap I bought a DC power supply ($150) and a 25 meter (82 feet) cable. I connected the 7,2V and ground contact and the camera was now ready for the first shoot! I didn't connect the light meter, I use a DSLR camera as exposure reference.

Beaulieu power supply
Beaulieu R16 connectors
DC Power Supply
DC power supply
Beaulieu R16 battery
The R16 battery

Film stock
In europe it can be difficult to order directly from Kodak for consumers. You can contact your local photo store, preferably one of those with a unique collection of old cameras and lenses in the window.
In Stockholm you can still buy film stock from wibergsfoto.se. I bought a couple of Kodak stocks; Vision3 5219 500T and Vision3 7203 50D. 200ft reels are not available so if you are using the "ears" you need to buy 1000ft and roll your reels yourself. The price were about $90 (550 SEK) per unit (100ft). You can run either singel or double perforated film in the Beaulieu R16.

First you need to load the camera with film. You don't need to be in "total darkness" but it's good to cover up as much as you can. If you are not able to cover up from the light, the first second or so will have some nice light leaks. It's a good idea to use some old film to train your fingers. This video shows how to load your Beaulieu R16 camera.

Because I didn't connect the light meter I use my Nikon D90 to shoot some exposure references.

Set-up your DSLR camera for an reference photo:
1. Match the aperture on the lenses.
2. Set the same ISO on your camera as the ASA on the film.
3. Set shutter speed (see the table at the right)
4. Set white balance. If your film stock is named T it's tungsten (~3200K), if D its daylight (~6500K).
shutter speed
1/5 sec
1/20 sec
1/62 sec
1/120 sec
1/160 sec

Kodak Vision3 5219 500T outdoor footage
Beaulieu R16, Kodak Vision3 5219 500T
Nikon D90 exposure reference
Nikon D90 - exposure reference

Outdoor test with the same film stock:
Kodak Vision3 5219 500T outdoor footage
Beaulieu R16, Kodak Vision3 5219 500T
Nikon D90 exposure reference
Nikon D90 - exposure reference

Here's some of the test footage:

Check out this other video I did with Vision3 50D!

Buy battery or battery re-celling - http://www.filmmaker8.com/Home.html
New parts - http://www.beaulieu.de
How to re-cell an old battery - http://www.bondy.de/beaulieu/4008battery.html

Thanks for reading!
Do you have a site on this subject? Please email me so we can exchange links!

Place the first comment on this one!

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