Film-camera manufacturing is over one hundred years old, but there are still many avenues of camera design that have not been explored. Despite the fabulous growth of the cinema industry, the film-camera is in no way a "been-there-done-that" sort of thing. These pages presents some of the inventions and designs that have been put to work in the Aaton Super16 A-Minima camera, making it the lightest and most ergonomic reflex camera around. And one whose image quality, let us say beauty, is not only comparable in projection to that of its 35 mm elders, but dramatically superior to images recorded on HDTV cameras (which, it should be noted in passing are four times heavier, expensive to acquire, and power-guzzlers...).
All A-Minima cameras are 'Real-Time' recording equipped, this is a very important issue with a 200' load camera as it saves so much stock that would otherwise be wasted on slates. Be it on documentaries or multi-camera shoots, the film crew moves faster and is more unobtrusive. Real-Time recording also makes post- production a breeze, considerably simplifying sound synchronization in the telecine and editing rooms.
We believe that as we enter the high definition age, the A-Minima is an invaluable tool for those primarily originating for film projection and HD video. Consider these points :
Every design option that could enhance hand-held shooting stability is exploited to the maximum. The viewfinder is oriented 45* toward the camera lens in order to decorrelate the shooting axis from the viewing axis, yielding much better control of image movement and framing on the viewing screen. The camera body is shaped so as to make it easy to hold on to and the magazine is tilted 15* to allow for cheek guiding. All this results in image stability that is better than that of many heavier cameras.
No-changing-bag loading, - thanks to the Aaton patented flexible-flange spools - is an important feature of A-Minima. Special thanks go to Eastman Kodak who have contributed greatly to the workability of the system by manufacturing the spools and providing their full range of rawstocks in A-Minima loads.
With its "distant-eye viewfinder" A-Minima invites the operator to move the camera from eyebrow to arm's length (and back), without worrying about the light that enters the eyepiece! This distant-eye feature is obtained by means of a cone-shaped shutter attached to the reflex mirror (Aaton patent): it prevents the light that enters the eyepiece from being diffused onto the film by the viewing screen. This feature is especially helpful to camera operators who wear glasses, or who take shots in acrobatic positions (e.g. mountaineering).
A special mention should be given to the clarity, brightness and sharpness of the viewing system which, with its generous extra-frame field of view, has nothing to envy to the most sophisticated professional cameras.
The cone-shaped reflex shutter not only allows distant-eye shooting, it also contributes to image crispness: by reducing spill light inside the 'camera obscura', it favours contrast in the fine details. The reason is that film-stocks not being black (but instead beige, pinkish, etc.) reflect about 50% of incident light: part of that light escapes back out the taking lens, some is absorbed by the black walls of the chamber, and the rest bounces onto the viewing screen from whence it is distributed equally over the whole image in the gate, reducing fine detail contrast. With the cone-shaped shutter which hides the viewing screen during exposure, that problem simply disappears.
The A-Minima's film gate is cylindrical, horizontally bowing the film by a few microns as it moves over the gate. Consequently, film positioning during exposure is so stable that there is no need for a rear pressure plate: the film cannot breathe even a micron during exposure, resulting in optimal image crispness.
An important spin-off of this 'no pressure plate' principle is that the A-Minima can be relied upon whatever the weather, whatever the nature of the rawstock, and whatever the film backing or lack thereof (from sticky rem-jet negative to black-and-white still-camera film).
With image quality and definition so enhanced by the technology of both the viewing screen shutter and the curved film gate, we know of some DPs who choose the A-Minima as a complementary camera when their principal photography is done on 35 mm.
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