Birns & Sawyer stops renting film cameras

Legendary equipment house switches to all-digital line

As reports have surfaced that motion picture film cameras are no longer being manufactured, a major Hollywood rental house said has stopped renting film cameras altogether and will auction off its entire 16mm and 35mm inventory on Oct. 19.

“People are not renting film cameras in sufficient numbers to justify retaining the assets,” said William Meurer, owner of Birns & Sawyer, Hollywood’s longest operating motion picture camera rental facility house. “Motion Pictures are no longer being captured on film in sufficient numbers to warrant keeping any film cameras.”

Birns & Sawyer’s inventory includes such digital cinematography cameras as the Arri Alexa, Red Mysterium X, Sony F3, Canon 5D and 7D DSLR, and Panasonic AF100 and P2 camcorders. The company has been a player in the field of motion picture film cameras since 1954. Life magazine still photographer Jack Birns founded the company along with fellow war veteran Cliff Sawyer. The company was instrumental in introducing the German-made Arriflex line of 16mm and 35mm cameras that offered more mobility than U.S.-made Mitchell cameras, which had become cumbersome and outdated. As Motion Picture production expanded, and filmmaking went into more and more practical locations, lighter-designed Arriflex cameras gained in popularity on films such as “Easy Rider,” “Bullit” and others – many of which rented production cameras and lenses from Birns & Sawyer.

In 2000, Birns & Sawyer began providing digital video cameras for filmmakers, including the Sony F-900 and Panasonic Varicam cameras that emulated film’s 24-frame-per-second look. Other manufacturers like Red introduced 35mm format video cameras that were widely accepted by major studios and independent filmmakers. Arriflex ceased building new film cameras in 2010 and is now supplying its digital Alexa camera to over 85% of the situation comedy’s being filmed this fall in Hollywood.

“While cinematographers appreciate the superior recording of images with film, the difference has become so small that the economics of the industry have finally placed the last nail in the coffin of film origination,” said a Birns & Sawyer statement.

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