Introduced in 1965, the 16 BL is ARRI’s first silent 16mm camera. This model was originally designated the 16Q (Q for Quiet), and was renamed before it became available for purchase in early 1965. The 16 BL uses the same film transport movement as the 16 S and 16 M. It is essentially a self-blimped 16M. Because this movement was originally designed for a MOS camera, the entire 16 BL is blimped, hence the “BL” designation. The major difference in the movement is the relocation of the mirror closer to the lens mount, in order to accommodate the location of the ground glass in the forward focal plane (right next to the gate).
The first models of the 16BL were rated by ARRI as having a noise level of 31dB at 3ft. This is slightly louder than the ARRI 16SR-I’s rated noise level of 28dB. The BL operates only with 400ft displacement magazines (very rare 1200ft mags and 400ft shoulder mags exist). The mags were originally designed to be exchangeable between the 16BL and the 16M, although the 16M mags are not sound-insulated. Because of a later design change in production cameras this should be avoided, it can cause damage to the magazine drive gears. Since the 16BL was designed to be used primarily with its blimped zoom lens, and these lenses have rear elements that do not protrude as much as the older prime lenses, ARRI moved the shutter further forward toward the rear element of the lens. This allowed ARRI engineers to move the ground glass near the gate, rather than back into the viewfinder tube as in the ARRI 16S and 16M.
This is the arrangement used on all modern mirror reflex cameras (16mm and 35mm). The 16BL 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. There are two viewfinders, a small standard viewfinder and the “Swan” viewfinder which makes hand holding the 16BL much eaiser. The finders can be removed from the camera and exchanged easily. This feature is not available on 16BL’s before serial No. 50701. ARRI introduced the “Autoclosure” eyepiece on the 16BL. This eyepiece can be set to automatically close a shutter when the operator removes his eye from the eyepiece. It prevents the film from being fogged by light traveling backwards through the viewfinder and backlighting the ground glass.
(Located in Kendall 30)