[Updated July 2020]

The a-cam SP-16

When I started using 16mm this is the camera that I started off with and it quickly become a favourite, it is an incredibly versatile camera and can be used for simple to advanced Super 16 film-making. It is an ideal 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 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 modern, 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, this is 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, yes it doesn't really have a proper viewfinder, I suppose for many framing with a 9mm isn't an issue. 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], I have discovered that 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.

The a-cam shows that 16mm cameras don't have to be big, bulky and old fashioned, it has been very useful in promoting my workshops and attracting young people to 16mm. At the same time I have also noticed that at my workshops many students don't really like using the a-cam saying it's tricky to load with film, unlike simple amatuer cameras there's no auto threading , all the threading and loop forming is 100% manual which can take about 15 minutes, whereas many older amatuer camereas are much easier to load. Looks aren't everything and while it looks good in many ways this is not a very practical camera.

I think the designers focused on looks and style rather than practicality or functionality and while the camera takes a great images and is fairly reliable there a few design flaws. Everyone talks about the viewfinder, or the lack of it, personally it's a shame that the designers didn't add a reflex viewfinder. Perhaps its biggest flaw is that threading film often takes too long, it's complicated and a lot of film gets wasted during the threading, you have to manually create the loops in a very small space and the camera has one of the most complicated loading patterns I have ever seen in a small 100ft camera; as you have to pass the film across to the take up chamber on the other side of the camera body, [which has its own door] and attach the film to the empty spool. I have never had any shutter sync issues or problems with the [toothed] belts, but I have had issues with the take up, as the take up spool [oddly] runs off another motor

Despite the impracticalities in the current market these cameras can be bought for around 1000 to 3000 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 reflex it yourself or find someone to get a reflex viewfinder upgrade for it.

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