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The a-cam SP-16

It is the camera that I use and has become my favourite, it is an incredibly versatile camera and can be used in a wide variety of roles - from low cost entry point to an advanced Super 16 film-making tool for film students and amateur's right through to professionals using it for documentary and drama production. The a-cam was made in Sweden from around 2003-2006, the aim it seems was to make a small light weight Super 16 camera that had all the benefits of professional Super 16 and the ease of Super 8.

It's definitely stylish and easy to hold, I really like the fact that it is so small and that it can shoot sync dialogue with its 'microprocessor-synchronized' speed control. It was originally sold with a very good 'c' mount Kinoptik 9mm lens, while this is a Swedish copy it's a very good lens, typically professional Super 16 cameras are sold without a lens. In some ways it's similar to the amateur 16mm cameras of the 1950's as it's non reflex and takes 100ft of 16mm film, for me the small 100ft run times isn't an issue and I don't think it should for many others either. I know a lot of professionals are used to their 400ft rolls and many do prefer the longer run times, especially when filming dialogue. The main adavantages of the camera is that it's natively Super 16, it's tiny and much lighter new design, with modern mechanics and electronics, most crucially its 'microprocessor-synchronized' makes it ideal for music videos, it also has a range of filming speeds single frame, 6, 10, 12.5, 18, 20, 24, 25, 30, 36, fps, making this a pretty impressive camera.

When it first came out it made a little bit of a splash as a new simple low cost professional Super 16 camera. It was marketed as the smallest Super 16 camera that has ever been built. The parallel viewfinder is a major issue as it makes it difficult to accurately frame and focus and thus it's virtually impossible to use other lenses, especially zooms making the camera's lens inter-changeability cumbersome and slightly pointless. The absence of a reflex viewfinder is probably why most professionals chose to ignore this camera and why many amateurs, students and individuals who want to use smaller 16mm cameras tend to use other cameras.

 

 

Despite the obvious short-comings [of not having a proper viewfinder] the camera is light and easy to carry around, it's noisy [though not as noisy as other MOS cameras], earlier cameras from 2003-2004 tend to be more noisy, but for sound work getting a good directional microphone is essential as is getting a sound barney, I use a tea cosy lined with material from carpet underlay. Loading the camera with film isn't that straight forward as loading a 1950's amateur 16mm camera, despite this I believe it is a very neat camera that can be taken practically anywhere.

In the current market these cameras can be bought for around 1000 to 2000 when sold with the original accessories, especially the very sort after 9mm Kinoptik lens, the value also depends on the model and history. Without the original lens the camera is worth a lot less anywhere between 400-700 again depending on condition and history. If you do buy one then I would suggest you get a reflex viewfinder upgrade for it, look at the technology page on this site to see how I added a refex viewfinder to my a-cam.

16mm film stock is readily available in a wide range of emulsions and types. Kodak is now the main supplier in the UK of colour and black & white film, but you can also try the black & white products from Orwo and Foma, Ferrania is an Italian company who a starting production of a new colour reversal film. Although Fujifilm has now phased out 16mm film, here in the UK the last batches of Fujifilm are still available from a company called Frame 24, Fujifilm is much cheaper than Kodak. Film suppliers, processing and scanning facilitities for 16mm film can be easily tracked down by doing a quick internet search, film can be processed and scanned at home too look at the technology page and do an internet search.

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