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Cinema Products CP-16 / CP-16R (reflex)

  • Lens: CP-mount primes, Angenieux 12-120mm, Angenieux 10-150mm zooms
  • Zoom: manual
  • Frame rates: 24/25fps crystal sync, 12.5 - 37fps stepped.
  • Exposure: manual, in-camera light meter
  • Film EI setting: manual, 12-400 ASA
  • Shutter degree: CP-16: 180 half moon, CP-16R: 156/144 bowtie, 170 half moon
  • Viewfinder: Diopter correction / Full ground glass / exposure needle / battery check
  • Sound: yes - 16mm magnetic stripe
  • Extras: mag audio recording / remote socket
  • Batteries: 18 volt CP battery
  • Year of Production: 1970-80's
  • Weight: 15 lbs
  • Value: $1500 eBay 2006



  • Robert Hughes, 7/31/2006:

In the early-to-mid 1970's Cinema Products manufactured and sold thousands of CP16 and CP16R sound sync cameras for news, documentary and some production work. The camera was the standard for news gathering until it was displaced by the use of ENG cameras.

The CP16 mechanism is based upon that of the Auricon movement, and is sometimes referred to as the "ultimate Auricon conversion". Non-pin registered, the gate pressure plate incorporates spring-loaded ball bearings to seat the film perforations, and a curved claw that follows a sine-wave film advance cyle for improved film handling.

The CP16 is non-reflex; a "dog-leg" prism reflex zoom lens provided viewfinder capabilities. The CP16R has a true mirrored shutter reflex viewfinder. Three versions of the CP16R mirror shutter exist: The three flavors of shutters are 156 degree bowtie, 144 degree bowtie, and 170 degree half-moon. According to Derrick Whitehouse , the smearing of highlights in certain conditions with the bowtie shutter is a design issue, not a maintainence issue. The 144 degree shutter is less prone to smearing than 156 degree. Paul Hillman of Visual Products is reputed to have an effective fix for smearing cameras that lowers the shutter angle.

CP16 and CP16R cameras can be converted to Super16; both Whitehouse and Visual Products provide the service. As of mid 2006, either company would provide a S16 conversion including camera overhaul for $2000.


  • Carl Durrenberger, 2/18/2004, www.cinematography.com:

I have only used the CP16R in my limited Reg-16 shooting experience and I like it quite a bit. It is rugged and reliable. Parts are readily available. There are several experienced and excellent service technicians around who can keep them running in top, as-new peformance. The entire system is well-integrated, from battery to crystal motor, to video tap port, to the handgrip, to the excellent and highly adaptable lens mount. I love it.

Okay, so a mattebox and rods can be hard to find. Make your own rods for your Petroff or Chrosziel Follow-focus and use a clamp-on mattebox. Or talk with Jim at VP about having them make one for you. I would assume that it's really not that big of a deal ....

Many people complain that the CP16 is tedious to thread. This may be a valid concern in documentary, run-and-gun shooting scenarios, but it's never been a problem for me when shooting narrative short films. The thing that is cool about the CP is that loading the magazines is a total breeze (and the mags are cheap!) -- and that's the part that must be performed in total darkness (where loading is HARD). The threading through the camera can be done on the set in the light and it's really not that difficult -- just time consuming.

Noise has never been a problem for me. Both my CP's run very quietly -- but they are also kept in good shape.

The famous shutter smear problem afflicts all bowtie-shutter CP16R's, although with varying degrees of intensity depending on the peculiar geometry of any given camera (yes, there were significant manufacturing inconsistencies!). Some bowtie cameras smear the highlights a lot, others smear hardly at all and only under certain focal length & aperture circumstances.

My first CP16R had extremely intense shutter smear, something that is quickly and easily verified with a smear test that any good CP16 technician can perform in minutes. Basically, they check to see if the shutter closes over the gate completely. If it doesn't completely close, then you get light streaming across frames, usually in the upper righthand corner, although the location can shift depending on mechanism timing. This manifests itself as highlight smearing on your footage. It is very irritating.

Luckily, every CP16R with a bowtie shutter can be modified to eliminate this smear artifact by basically extending the shutter blades, closing down the shutter angle from nominal 156-degrees to the Bolex-like 135-degrees. This absolutely eliminates the problem. Paul Hillman at Visual Products is your man and if you buy from VP, I would not even consider shutter smear an issue at all. He will make sure it doesn't happen.

The shutter smear problem was deemed a show-stopper by the BBC in the eighties, causing them to promptly return a huge order of CP16R's that they had just purchased from Cinema Products. This prompted a redesign of the camera to the 170-degree "half moon" shutter that obviated the smear problem (although it made the timing train less robust, from what I gather from Paul Hillman and Ken Hale).

Find out if the Super16 CP that Visual Products is selling is the 135-degree modified shutter model or the later 170-degree "half-moon" model. They will probably charge you less for the modified bowtie configuration than the "half moon," and depending on how concerned you are about interframe strobing (which is more intense the narrower the shutter angle) versus budget, you can make your decision. I shoot with one of each and only I can ever tell a difference, and then only in very specific sorts of situations.

I have never had anyone who has viewed my footage complain about the registration of the CP16. I tend to laugh at people who worry about that too much. You're going to pick up more registration error in telecine, printmaking, and projection than a well-tuned (and threaded) CP16 will ever produce natively in-camera. Just talk to a camera technician to hear about the ridiculous hoops they have to jump through to get an SR to register properly. I think registration is the biggest "red herring" issue that people have with the CP16, or with cameras in general. Keep it maintained and adjusted correctly, use fresh film, and form your loop correctly and you'll be fine. (DO NOT skip the lower rollers as some suggest -- unless you want loop instability!). There are bigger fish to fry, in my opinion.

You can use just about any lens you want on a CP16 without too much trouble. There is an excellent postive-locking CP/Arri-B adapter that you can get that will let you utilize the best Zeiss, Cooke, or HEC Angenieux glass out there. There is also a CP/Nikkor adapter that will let you use the big Nikkor telephotos (such as the 300mm/4 or 2.8) with it for those soft, lo-con, romantic, backlit afternoon walk-in-the-park tryst shots that no character-driven film should be without.

Finally, let's talk about support. Between Whitehouse AV and Paul Hillman at Visual Products, the CP16 is a camera that keeps on running and running. When I talk to Paul, he cites CP's and Aatons as some of the easiest cameras to work on with the easiest parts to find. He loves them!

Paul can add a PL-mount, a video tap (hardwired, wireless, and perhaps even color, if you talk with him about it!), and a speed control port to a CP16 if you need it, too, further expanding its options as a full-featured camera system.

I thought a lot about which camera to buy and in the end, I chose the CP16R. I have not regretted it at all. However, if I were shooting handheld day in and day out, I might have more seriously considered the Aaton or the Eclair ACL or any of the coax-magazine design cameras. But for my style of tripod/dolly-mounted indie narrative filmmaking, the CP16R is my loyal workhorse.

I've owned three CP-16's over the years: a CP-16/A plus two CP-16R's. My last one, purchased from Derrick Whitehouse at Whitehouse AV, was a beauty. It was the latest version with the 170 degree shutter, Angenieux 10-150, orientable VF, power zoom and built-in light meter. I bought it in 1995 with some of the proceeds from covering the first OJ Simpson trial.

The film shot with it looked wonderful but I was never able to make any money with it since none of my clients wanted to pay the cost of film, processing, sound syncing, etc. I eventually sold the camera back to Derrick and it ended up somewhere in the South Pacific.

CP-16R's have a few drawbacks. First, you don't thread them, you stuff them. The movement dates back to the days of Auricons where you shot single-system with mag stripe film. Mag stripe has been out of production for at least 20 years, so single-system is no longer an option, and even if it were, the audio quality left much to be desired. It was okay for news and docs, but that was pretty much it. Another problem is lack of video assist. Video assist devices for the CP are few and far between and only B&W at that. Finally, parts --- especially some of the integrated circuits --- are becoming scarce. Remember, we're talking about a camera that was engineered over thirty years ago.

That said, the cameras are generally pretty much bullet proof. During my early days of shooting local news with CP's I was averaging about 1,000 feet of film a day, five days a week. Like a Timex, they took a licking and kept on ticking.

Would I trade my DVX100a for one today. Absolutely not. The DVX is MUCH cheaper to run, probably even more reliable and you don't have to deal with film, processing and all that stuff. And, honestly, the DVX video at 24p --- to my eyes, at least --- looks better.

Mike Parker www.mp-tv.com

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