The colors in 16mm movies are denser and more concentrated while black and white 16mm seems more ethereal (yet at the same time, rawer and more material). There’s a sense in which 16mm, which is naturally more impressionistic or even pointillist than 35mm, photographs atmosphere. The pronounced film grain makes the image softer and more forgiving—not only of faces but mistakes which, as retakes are limited, cannot but be accepted. (Mismatched shots are practically a given.) Even the most impoverished 16mm production cost a self-financing filmmaker a frightening amount of money. Kenneth Anger once compared himself to a goldsmith fashioning art out precious metals—and, with their supersaturated Kodachrome II colors, his 16mm movies looked like jewels. Had amateur video existed in 1965, it’s likely that Andy Warhol’s greatest cinematic works would have been taped rather than shot. If so, the profligacy of his method would have been meaningless; the screen tests and early talkies would have lacked the presence and gravitas conferred by 16mm.
—J. Hoberman, “Sweet Little 16mm” (May 18, 2012)