How to Replicate the Super 16mm Look with Your DSLR

How do you fake the look of 16mm with your DSLR when shooting on film gets too expensive?

I cut my photographic teeth on a Canon 5D Mark II and thought, "Wow, these are really beautiful images." Then, I picked up a film camera for the first time, maybe it was a Minolta, and after processing the film, I finally realized what it meant to fall head over heels in love with something.

Okay, I'm being super overdramatic, but I really did prefer that vintage, grainy look of film—still do—and I would shoot my projects on film if it wasn't so expensive. A single 400' roll of color 16mm film costs somewhere in the ballpark of $120-$200 and about $0.14/ft. to process and $0.16/ft. to digitize, so for just one roll, you're looking at around $240-$320—and that's just for 11 minutes of footage! (You can try to get your paws on some short ends to cut down on costs.)

If you want to capture the look and feel of 16mm film but can't afford the added expense of shooting on it, Simon Cade of DSLRguide shows how he managed to replicate it using his DSLR in the video below.

Despite what Instagram filters might suggest, there's a lot more that goes into creating a vintage film look than just a sweet filter. You have to account for a lot of little characteristics found in film stock and 16mm cameras, like grain, shutter speed, sharpness, aperture, color, and flicker. Cade adjusts his DSLR settings to simulate those of a film camera, but you may not have to do this. According to him, it's primarily about nailing the grain, color, and flicker.

Apart from the technical aspects, you could do like Cade and recreate the whole 16mm film experience and limit yourself to a limited amount of disk space when shooting. Bring only one or two 32GB SD cards so you're forced to be conservative and intentional with what you shoot, because as we all know, shooting on digital gives you so much latitude and freedom when it comes to this. Limiting yourself might actually help you learn a valuable lesson about the beauty of creative restrictions and help compel you to take a much deeper look at how you choose to compose your shots.     

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Nice article. I recently was playing with Sony a6300 and I was curious If I can get also a film look, with some color grading and 16mm film grain.

October 30, 2017 at 2:19AM

Director of photography

Interesting points but I think he misses a few key characteristics from using film stock as a media.
First of all, the stocks: There are and were many different stocks, here he matches the colors with whatever stock he bought. The lastest Kodak Stocks Vision2 and especially Vision3 works a bit like shooting RAW, after digitally scanning it you can pretty much do anything.
Then the Flicker, I mean, he used a Krasnogorsk-3 which is a 30-40 yeah old camera .. it works but it's far from the Aaton A-Minima used in City of God or (coincidentally) in Moonrise Kingdom.
Last but not least: Lenses. Of course the Krasnogorsk-3 zoom lens vignettes and has 0 sharpness. In Moonrise Kingdom, for example, they used Zeiss Superspeeds that are a bit soft wide open but sharp when stopped down, one can mimmick the look using Contax Zeiss lenses which give a similar vibe.

In sum, I'm just pointing out that there's a lot more complexity to film then people usually assume.

October 30, 2017 at 4:50AM, Edited October 30, 4:50AM


Fair analysis

November 2, 2017 at 11:10AM, Edited November 2, 11:10AM

John D. Kim
Director & Editor

Surprised more people haven't tried using the 1" cameras from Sony or Panasonic. 1" = 24mm, so might be better for getting closer to s16mm look.

October 30, 2017 at 7:55AM


Feels like this should be more "How to Replicate the Look of the K-3 Camera." s16mm isn't really used for a vintage effect in most movies.

October 30, 2017 at 1:13PM

Steve Yager

I like using my Bolex to get the 16mm look. It's more fun than pretending. The real drawback to film is the cost as he mentions. $130 for 3 minutes! I'm still sitting on a roll of Bigfoot footage, waiting to afford to develop it. Alright, it's fictional Bigfoot footage but I liked the way that sounded. I normally use a Black Magic Cinema camera and I'm so happy with the image quality and similarities to film that I don't feel a need to add flicker or grain or tweak the image much. I'm going to try FilmConvert software to see what the footage would look like with various film settings (LUTs) applied to it.

October 30, 2017 at 4:01PM

Anton Doiron