Last year, the FPP quietly revived an unusual movie film format with a number of quirks: Magazine 16. Since then, we’ve heard from a number of FPP movie film shooters who are thrilled to start shooting on fresh 16mm film in 50 ft magazine format! Intrigued? We hope so, here’s some background on this unique format:
What is Magazine 16?
Magazine 16 is a movie film format released by Kodak around 1935. The concept is fairly simple: 50 feet of double perforated 16mm film is loaded into a light-tight metal magazine which pops (or slides) into the camera and then shot–think of it as a sort of 16mm version of a Super 8 cartridge.
Originally, the price of the magazine included a small deposit when purchased. When the customer finished shooting the magazine, they returned it to their photo retailer who would send it off to Kodak for processing. The small deposit on the magazine was credited towards the cost of processing. Once at the lab, the film inside the magazine was removed and processed–the magazine was sent back to Kodak for cleaning and reloading. It was then repackaged and sent back out to the world to be sold again.
What’s the history of the format?
The format was released in conjunction with a new camera, the Magazine Ciné-Kodak. The February 1936 issue of Ciné-Kodak News features an extensive article about the camera’s features. According to some additional information I found, some of the earliest Magazine 16 cameras made by Kodak was produced by Kodak AG in Germany.
The format enjoyed popularity in the 1940s and was used extensively during the Second World War for aerial and combat filming.
With the introduction of Regular 8mm film and then eventually 8mm Magazines (a similar format to Magazine 16 which the FPP also sells), Magazine 16 began to lose popularity with consumers due to the cost, the limitations of the format (the magazines are loaded with 50 feet of film), and size and weight of the cameras and projection equipment. When Kodak released Super 8 in the 1960s, Magazine 16 was almost completely irrelevant among most movie film consumers.
I was unable to confirm exactly when Kodak discontinued Magazine 16 – the company’s last Magazine 16 camera was the wonderful Cine-Kodak Royal which was manufactured until 1967. The film itself may have been offered by Kodak into the early 1980s, as the format still had commercial applications, especially in the automotive industry for filming in-car crash tests.
How Does Magazine 16 Work?
The Kodak magazines are loaded with double perforated 16mm film – this is a must due to the magazine’s design. Although there have been some attempts to modify the magazines to accept single perforated film, our tests mostly failed. They perform best with double perf film.
The film is wound inside the magazine on a core and then threaded through the mechanism. The magazine is light-tight because the film loaded inside has no daylight spool. If a shooter were to remove the cover of the magazine outside of a darkroom, the film would be completely ruined.
The magazine has a unique shutter-type mechanism which is moved out of the way of the film gate when the magazine is loaded into the camera. This allows the shooter to be able to remove the magazine from the camera without exposing a single frame of the film.
Unlike other movie film formats, Magazine 16 has an active film counter built within it that allows the user to see, in real-time, how much film has been shot.
Can I Reload My Own Magazines
Although Magazine 16 was never intended to allow consumers to be able to reload the magazines at home, they certainly can. Load and unloading must be done in complete darkness and the magazines have to be precisely threaded to work properly. Due to the complexity of the reloading process, most consumers elected (and still do) to simply purchase the magazines preloaded.
What Cameras Take Magazine 16?
Although Kodak introduced the format, a variety of camera manufacturers produced cameras that use the magazines.
Notable models include the Cine-Kodak Royal (pictured above), the Bell & Howell 200, the Revere 16 Magazine, and the Wollensak 91, just to name a few. There was also a line of Soviet 16mm magazine cameras based on the famous Bell & Howell 200 body.
Where Can I Buy Fresh Film? How Does it Work?
Due to the nature of the format (and especially because we need the magazines back so we can reload them with fresh film to offer to the next customer!), all of our 16mm magazines are offered as a process and scan package only. Once you have finished shooting your magazine, simply return it to the FPP where it will be processed, scanned, and the film returned to you. The magazine is then reloaded with fresh film and put back into the store for resale. Think of it as a film library of sorts.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
One of the most important things to know about shooting Magazine 16 in today’s world, is that it does pose some risk. Due to the age of the magazines, the FPP can’t guarantee performance. While we do our best to inspect and test each magazine, there can be failure in the field. Like all of the movie film we sell, there are no refunds offered in the event of a failure.
Keep in Mind
Cost is certainly a factor with this format – 16mm film is already more expensive than say Regular 8mm. Additionally, the magazines need to be loaded and unloaded by hand which adds additional cost.
For some shooters, another con is the fact that the magazines only contain 50 feet of film–many 16mm shooters are used to shooting 100-foot loads on spools.
Finally, as mentioned above, the magazines are usually 50+ years old and can sometimes jam during use.
What Are The Benefits of the Format?
Perhaps the most useful benefit of the format is easy loading. Just like Super 8, the magazine is simply inserted into the camera and you’re ready to shoot! The magazine also has 2 additional features that make it unique: it has a built-in shutter-type mechanism that opens when it is inserted into the camera and automatically closes when the magazine is removed. This means if you decide to shoot some of the film in one camera and decide to shoot the rest in another, you won’t lose a single frame during unloading and reloading.
Secondly, the magazine has a built-in footage counter which means you always know exactly how much film is remaining, regardless if you remove the magazine from the camera. This is something you don’t get on Super 8 or 8mm magazines.
For the home processor, the fact that the magazines contain 50-foot loads makes for easier processing on a Lomo UPB-1A tank since those reels can only fit 50 feet of 16mm film at a time.
The Film Photography Project is dedicated to keeping home movie film alive! Please help support the cause and purchase your movie film, developing and scans from our FPP Movie Film Dept at our On-Line Store!
Owen McCafferty is a native Clevelander who has been shooting analog movie and still film since the age of 12 in 2002. When he’s not out shooting, he works in product development and innovation for a firm in Cleveland.