Camera Profiles – Arriflex 16BL

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CinemaTechnic Camera Profiles – Arriflex 16BL

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NOTE: CinemaTechnic does NOT support the Arriflex 16BL.

The Arriflex 16BL cameras are now 55 years old. They should be considered collectibles and not working cameras at this point. Spare parts have been unavailable for over 25 years. Questions about this camera will not be answered. 

This page is being maintained as a resource.

Arriflex 16BL

Arriflex 16BL

  • Predecessor:  Arriflex 16S
  • Successor:      Arriflex 16SR
  • Format:      Standard 16mm
  • Movement:      Claw and registration pin
  • Viewfinder:      Mirror reflex, pivoting, non-orientable
  • Lens Mount:      ARRI Bayonet
  • Drive:      12V DC
  • Speeds:      24 or 25 fps fixed, 5 – 50 fps with variable speed motor
  • Film capacity:      400 ft (120m) magazines
  • Silent operation:     Yes
  • Crystal sync:       Only with aftermarket accessory

Introduced in 1965, the 16 BL is ARRI’s first silent 16mm camera. The 16 BL is essentially a self-blimped Arriflex 16M, (the “BL”  an abbreviation for “Blimped”) which refers to encasing the camera in a wrap-around sound deadening hard case. The ARRI 16S type film transport used in the 16BL was not designed to operate quietly so the blimping was neccessary.

To avoid camera noise escaping through the taking lens, lenses on the 16BL have to be blimped along with the camera body. For this reason it is almost always used with zoom lenses.

The 16BL operates with gear driven 400ft displacement magazines that can only be used on the 16BL

Optical System:

The 16BL uses the same mirror reflex system as the 16S. The 16BL viewfinder is improved over the 16S and allows you to see beyond the framelines of the 16mm aperture. This is very useful for keeping microphone booms and other objects out of the frame. It is the first ARRI 16mm camera with a pivoting viewfinder. The finder is not “orientable”, which means that as you pivot the viewfinder, the image rotates. 

Lens Mount:

The 16BL introduced the ARRI Bayonet lens mount. This lens mount differs from the ARRI Standard lens mount in that it is made of Stainless Steel, and has two “Bayonet Lugs” that lock into specially milled channels in the inside bore of the Bayonet mount. The Bayonet mount is much stronger than the original aluminum ARRI Standard lens mounts and holds much better tolerances for the lens/ camera interface. The Bayonet mount is backwards compatible, for mounting ARRI Standard mount lenses.

Zoom Lenses for the 16BL:

The 16BL came factory equipped with a zoom lens. The following lenses were offered:

Manufacturer | Lens Model/ Design Focal Length | T-Stop 

Most common lenses listed in bold the others are rare

  • Angenieux-Zoom 9.5-95mm T2.8
  • Angenieux-Zoom 12-120mm T2.5
  • Angenieux-Zoom 10-150mm T2.3-3.2
  • Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 12.5-75mm T2.4
  • Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 10-100mm T3.3

Each lens is mounted inside a lens bilmp which couples with the 16BL. All of these lenses were the original non-muticoated versions.

Prime Lenses for the 16BL:

ARRI also made a prime lens blimp for the 16BL. It is not a common accessory and interfacing  lenses lenses with it can be troublesome. Only some older prime lenses, made before 1964 are compatible the 16BL lens blimp. 

Motors and Power:

The 16 BL runs on 12 volts. The motor is mounted inside the blimp, but in a position where it can be removed without extensive disassembly of the camera (as would be required with later ARRI cameras).

The 16BL came equipped with a choice of motors, a DC powered, transistorized governor controlled motor, running at a constant 3000rpm, and an AC powered synchronous motor. 

The 16 BL did not come with crystal speed control from the factory. Various aftermarket crystal sync modifications have been developed to deal with this problem. All are long discontinued.

The Tobin Cinema Systems (TCS) products were the last to be discontinued over 15 years ago. The TXM-9, TXM-19 and TXM-27 were offered as bolt-on crystal speed controllers. The TXM-25 was a replacement motor for the 16BL.

CinemaTechnic does not have ANY TCS products in stock.

16 BL Advantages:

The 16BL is one of the least expensive silent standard 16mm cameras available. It is built with the same quality that ARRI instills in all their cameras. It is compatible with ARRI standard and bayonet mount lenses. The age of these cameras, their drawbacks and the lack of spare parts has contributed to a severe drop in prices for the 16BL.

With the current low cost and many advantages that the ARRI 16SR-I has over the 16BL, there is no reason to buy a 16BL other than as a collectible.

16 BL Disadvantages:

Two words: Lens Blimp. Since the movement was not designed to run silently, a soundproof “blimp” must entirely surround the lens. Otherwise camera noise is transmitted through the lens mount and emits from the front of the lens. The lens blimp complicates your choice of lenses to only those that will work with the blimp. It is difficult to make follow focus units or matte boxes work with the blimp

This means that for most practical purposes, the 16BL is a camera with a “Built in zoom” like most Super-8 cameras (and the Canon Scoopic). I say that because the vast majority of 16BLs in use live with their zoom lenses always attached.

The 16BL is also much larger and heavier than other silent 16mm cameras. The camera and its accessories have a generally clunky feel compared to later ARRI cameras.

Super 16 conversion : The 16BL is NOT suitable for Super 16 conversion.

16BL Items and Accessories for Sale

We have a high quality copy of the ARRI parts catalog for the 16BL, and some original ARRI photos (not copies) from the 16BL manual. Please inquire via email if you are interested in any of these items.

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Last Update: 2020-06-14

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