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H16 Bolex Questions


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#1 Jon Boguslaw

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 07:47 PM

Hi, I'm new to the forum and film in general.

I was looking at some cameras online and had some general questions about the H16 Bolex.

It shoots regular 16mm, right?
Does it generally come with an internal light meter?
Is it a good beginner camera?

Thanks in advance.
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#2 Mike Rizos

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 08:46 PM

Yep, it shoots regular 16, and can be modified for super 16.

Some later models come with automatic exposure zoom lens. A normal H16 doesn't.

It's a great camera for a begginer.


There is many different Bolex models. Learn the differences before you buy. Search the web, there is a lot of info on Bolex out there. Also search for "Bolex" on this site, and if you can't find the answers, then post questions.
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#3 Hal Smith

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 09:15 PM

It shoots regular 16mm, right?
Does it generally come with an internal light meter?
Is it a good beginner camera?
Thanks in advance.

It's the classic beginner's camera. There are S16 conversions available for the newer models - pricey though.

Clive Tobin's website has some good H16 information:

http://www.tobincine...com/page87.html
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#4 Nick Mulder

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 04:32 PM

Hi, I'm new to the forum and film in general.

I was looking at some cameras online and had some general questions about the H16 Bolex.

It shoots regular 16mm, right?
Does it generally come with an internal light meter?
Is it a good beginner camera?

Thanks in advance.


I love bolexes - (though probably due to only really having been exposed to them and not many other 16mm cameras in the same price range!) - aside from having a body that is well adjusted and running smooth (a 60 year old bolex can easily give you a better picture than a poorly adjusted newer version) the thing that will make the bolex shine is the lens selection ... There are myriad different set-ups and 'systems' for the bolex cameras that aren't easily spotted for a beginner trolling through eBay...

If you find something that you think is in your price range or looks interesting, feel free to PM me or post the link here in this thread and I'll give you my opinion :)
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#5 Jon Boguslaw

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 06:13 PM

Thanks everyone for your help with this. I was looking through the threads, but I couldn't find answers for what I'm sure are very simple questions.

What is the difference between reflex and nonreflex?

And what kinda film does it use? That is, do both sides have sprockets or just one? Is it still readily available from Kodak?

Also, does focusing work the same as with a typical SLR?

Finally, could I get a sound projector but still use silent film on it?

Thanks again for all of your help!

Edited by Jon Boguslaw, 28 January 2007 - 06:16 PM.

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#6 Nick Mulder

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 07:07 PM

What is the difference between reflex and nonreflex?


You have mentioned an SLR in a later question...  SLR stands for 'single lens reflex' - so maybe you can figure out the answer for yourself  :P   but there are a couple of points relevant only to the Bolex range that should be pointed out:  non-reflex model bolexes are either: old or stripped down security camera, science, special purpose style cameras so unless you know they are exactly what you need for whatever reason (larger shutter angle, lack of spring/light weight system etc...) steer clear of them ...  

The reflex models, which range from say a super16 EL down to an RX1 egg-beater have a prism which allows for reflex viewing in which you can see the exactly what is going to film (assuming your camera is well adjusted) - well, not quite exactly what is going to film because you get a continual split from the lens before the shutter - which is different from an SLR stills cam in which you cannot see this due to a mirror flipping up, this system is more like a mirrored shutter system you find in Arri's etc...  The Bolex prism system causes confusion as it takes a small % of light away from the film plane that has to be adjusted for in exposure - it also causes a slight aberration in image clarity in wide/normal focal length lenses (<50mm) so a special range of lenses were developed by Kern...  they are branded 'Switar' but have a RX tag on them - this accounts for the prism optics but not the light loss as some people have said at various sites on the net.

It all sounds like a lot of work huh, but the lenses are superb quality and you can find or calculate your own tables to work out relative exposures for the prism light loss - or remember that with a ~130deg shutter angle you can simply multiply the FPS by 3.25 to get the exposure you should use in a light meter

eg. 24 x 3.25 = 78   (ie. 1/78th of a second)    

(the true film exposure is your FPSx2.7)

easy!

And what kinda film does it use? That is, do both sides have sprockets or just one? Is it still readily available from Kodak?


You dont need both sprockets, but you can use it if you have some old stock to play with...  Super16 Bolexes need single to shoot the whole frame, but again you can actually use double if you are just testing etc...

Also, does focusing work the same as with a typical SLR?


Not quite, (read above) - in some respects even better as you get a constant image, but there are the caveats of the exposure adjustment and lens selection

Finally, could I get a sound projector but still use silent film on it?


Mag or optical:  Yep, just turn down the volume ...

Thanks again for all of your help!


no worries!  B)
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#7 Jon Boguslaw

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 07:42 PM

Wow, the amount of help on this site is incredible. All of the help is GREATLY appreciated.

Would a camera like this be a good idea?
http://cgi.ebay.com/...1QQcmdZViewItem

Do Bolex's generally stay in good shape/even if sold as-is they will probably work?

I remember a site that listed serial number --> product info but I can't find it now. It would be great if someone knew what I was talking about :)

Again, thank you
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#8 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 07:50 PM

"What is the difference between reflex and nonreflex?"

"Also, does focusing work the same as with a typical SLR?"

These two questions are closely related. A reflex Bolex actually is an SLR camera. In other words, light passes through the lens, goes through a prism, bounces off a couple of mirrors and then reaches the viewfinder, allowing you to see exactly what the lens is seeing. Focussing is acheived by rotating the focus ring on the lens until the image on the ground glass looks sufficiently sharp, or alternatively, measuring the distance from the subject with a tape measure and setting this distance on the focus ring. If you are relying on the ground glass in the viewfinder screen for focussing by eye, always focus with the aperture wide open. This will give the shallowest depth of field so that focusing will be most precise and the viewfinder will be at it's brightest as well. After focussing, close down the aperture to the appropriate f stop. You'll notice that the viewfinder image will darken when you close down the aperture.

A non reflex Bolex does not have through the lens viewing - well sort of. With non reflex Bolex cameras in general, what you see is an approximate view of your subject matter. This is more accurate for subjects that are at a fair distance from the camera with a standard or wide angle lens but problems occur if you are filming a subject that is fairly close or if you are using a telephoto lens - it is likely that part of the subject will be cut off by the edge of the frame. There are some non reflex Bolex models that offer temporary through the lens viewing. Basically, these models have a viewing device on the top of the camera that you look through. You then swing the taking lens into the top position and you can compose the image looking through the lens so you can be assured that what you see is what you will get on film. Then you have to remember to swing the lens back into the 'taking position' in order to film. So with this system, you really only have through the lens viewing before filming starts, not during filming.

By the way, although a non reflex and reflex Bolex H16 are almost identical in features and design apart from the viewing system, there is quite a difference in price between the two. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars more for a reflex model.

"And what kinda film does it use? That is, do both sides have sprockets or just one? Is it still readily available from Kodak?"

A Bolex H16 uses ordinary 16mm movie film. It used to be quite common for 16mm film to have two rows of sprocket holes (perforations) - one row on each edge. Single perf film (16mm film with one row of perforations) is now much more common. Both types will work equally well with a Bolex H16 - provided that it has a single set of sprocket teeth. I am not sure but there may be earlier Bolex models that might have two sets of sprocket teeth and these can only use double perf film - and double perf film is not in great demand these days.

16mm film is readily available from Kodak and Fuji. Please note that there are two main types of motion picture film - negative and reversal. Negative film yields a negative image. Reversal film has a positive image, like slide film. With reversal film, you can view the footage on a projector after processing. However, with negative film, in order to view a positive image, you either have to get a lab to make a positive print from the negative or get the neg transferred to video. Not surprisingly, negative film works out to be more expensive because of these extra steps - which ever step you choose.

Television production and movies generally use negative film so there are a wide variety of negative film stocks available from both Kodak and Fuji as this is where the size of the 16mm market is biggest. Reversal film, which is more for student / amateur use, is unfortunately in low demand these days so there is little choice in film stocks in this category. Fuji doesnt even manufacture reversal 16mm films anymore. Kodak have discontinued most of their 16mm reversal films within the last few years. The only Kodak 16mm reversal films that I know of currently are Ektachrome 100D for colour and Plus-X and Tri-X for black & white. Although your selection may be limited, I recommend that you start off with reversal film when first getting into this movie making hobby. For one thing, you don't have to deal with film-to-video transfers or finding labs that make positive prints from negative film. As soon as your reversal film is processed, you can simply run it through your projector to view the results. Additionally, reversal films usually have finer grain than negative films of the same speed - the Ektachrome 100D is particularly fine grained and known to be a very sharp film with strong vibrant colours.

For another recommendation, I think it would be a good idea to get into super 8 first and take up 16mm later down the track. Regardless if you use super 8 or 16mm, the basic principles of cinematography remain the same - frame rates, depth of field, exposure etc. Super 8 is a good training ground for 16mm. With super 8, film stock and processing are usually cheaper and the quality is still quite good, particularly if you get hold of a super 8 camera with a nice sharp lens. Mistakes will be less expensive in super 8 compared to 16mm. So when you later move up to 16mm, there will likely be less mistakes as you have 'learned the ropes' with super 8. The other thing with super 8, the cameras appear to fall into two main categories. There are the simple mostly automatic point and shoot cameras and then there are the auto / manual cameras with a wide selection of features like the Canon 1014. I recommend getting a super 8 camera from the latter category as you will learn more about the craft of cinematography from a manual camera.

"Finally, could I get a sound projector but still use silent film on it?"

Yes.
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#9 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 08:39 PM

"Would a camera like this be a good idea?"

That Bolex on eBay looks like a non reflex model. If you are happy with the limitations of a non reflex model, then it might be one for you (though it could be a hassle at times!) I notice that the ad states that it comes with a Pan Cinor lens. I'm not sure if that is the Pan Cinor lens featured in the photos but if it is, this lens may have a reflex viewfinder of it's own. This will allow you to have continous through the lens viewing with this particular lens.

"Do Bolex's generally stay in good shape/even if sold as-is they will probably work?"

Bolex cameras are robust, durable and well built. Most models are mechanical so electronic problems are usually a non issue. Great thing about a Bolex is that you don't need a battery to operate the camera - you simply 'wind it up' before filming. Though obviously you need a battery for a light meter. Some Bolex models accept an external motor so you have the option of running them on electricity if you want to.
They are very precise and generally reliable, including really old models.

However, that's not to say that Bolexes are completely free of troubles. Occasionally, Bolexes do surface that have problems. With some cameras, the lubrication that was used on them several decades ago has dried up and as a result, some parts have become extremely stiff and rigid and won't budge. And occasionally, there may be other issues as well. Although I have never used a Bolex myself, I do get the impression from Bolex users that they are generally reliable cameras overall. Indeed, Bolexes have a good reputation. They would underdoubtably be the most versatile 16mm movie cameras in their price range (though some Kinor camera users might argue with that.)
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#10 Jon Boguslaw

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 08:49 PM

Thanks, lots of great information from everyone.

I think I'm going to start with super 8 like suggested, but my last question about 16mm is if you have to load reels in complete darkness. I have like working with Kodak Tri-x for 35mm and thought i'd stick with that. Can the 100 speed 16mm be loaded with a safe light?
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#11 Nick Mulder

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 09:19 PM

Can the 100 speed 16mm be loaded with a safe light?


No... panchromatic film (neg or pos) must always be loaded in complete darkness - however, once loaded into the 100' daylight spools that bolex use only the head and tail of a spool is exposed when loading, so you can load even outdoors - but darkness is always best to avoid problems (edge spill etc...)

As for the bolex in the auction - its hard to say what it will go for but, its a classic non-reflex - looks ok from the pics, but as always with eBay - who knows what is lurking in those lenses and mechanics (fungus, rust etc...)

I personally would have some fun with a super8 first or take a punt on a better Bolex (RX4 and above) - Unfortunately most of your questions have answers that will make much more sense once you have a camera ... a bit of a catch22
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#12 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 09:44 PM

"...but my last question about 16mm is if you have to load reels in complete darkness."

I believe that with magazines that generally hold a large capacity of film, these must be loaded in complete darkness. Not all 16mm cameras use these magazines however. Most 16mm cameras accept daylight spools which can be loaded in subdued light. I have loaded Tri-X 200asa 16mm film with daylight spools in my bedroom during the day with lights turned off and the footage turned out fine. A daylight spool typically contains 100 feet of film which lasts for 2 and a half minutes when running at 24 frames per second. The magazine loading cameras usually take 400 feet of film which lasts for 10 minutes at 24fps.

"I have like working with Kodak Tri-x for 35mm and thought i'd stick with that. Can the 100 speed 16mm be loaded with a safe light?"

Hmmm...when you mention 100 asa films, are you referring to Tri-X or 100 asa films in general? I'm not familiar with the version of Tri-X in the 35mm still format but in 16mm, Tri-X is 200asa. There is a Plus-X 100asa film though. And a safe light is not necessary when loading these B&W films if they comes on daylight spools. If you are loading such films into a magazine, there should be no light at all like mentioned before!
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#13 Clive Tobin

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Posted 29 January 2007 - 11:48 PM

... Some Bolex models accept an external motor ...

Actually every clockwork Bolex 16mm made after about 1940 will take an electric motor.

Up until about 1965 they had an 8-frame shaft which exposes 8 frames per turn. This will accept the old Unimotor wild motor whose speed is controlled by the camera's built-in governor.

After about 1966 a single frame shaft was added. This is intended for the MST and ESM motors, as well as others made by other companies such as mine. Our crystal motors for the 1:1 shaft are now discontinued, but we are still selling the TTL Tobin Time Lapse (and animation) motor.

There are still some left of our TXM-26B crystal motor, which drives the 8-frame shaft found on all spring wind Bolex cameras.
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#14 Art Leal

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Posted 09 August 2008 - 03:58 PM

Hi:

I know this post is old, but I am new to 16mm. A friend of mine handed me a Paillard Bolex H-16 that was his grandfather's. He has no idea ow to use it so I inherited it. My question is seems this camera is fully manual, and I'll have to use an exposure meter with it. Is there a limitation or range of working ASA's with these models? In other words, did the manufacturer make it to work with only films within a certain range or ranges of asa? Or is it simply a matter of setting ISO/fps on an external meter.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. This is my first turn at 16mm, and having had done most of my work with Super 8, I'm quite intimidated by this film gauge.
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#15 jacob thomas

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Posted 09 August 2008 - 07:41 PM

Hi:

I know this post is old, but I am new to 16mm. A friend of mine handed me a Paillard Bolex H-16 that was his grandfather's. He has no idea ow to use it so I inherited it. My question is seems this camera is fully manual, and I'll have to use an exposure meter with it. Is there a limitation or range of working ASA's with these models? In other words, did the manufacturer make it to work with only films within a certain range or ranges of asa? Or is it simply a matter of setting ISO/fps on an external meter.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. This is my first turn at 16mm, and having had done most of my work with Super 8, I'm quite intimidated by this film gauge.


This is the great thing about moving from Super 8 to 16mm ? No more ISO/ASA exposure confusion. You just set your external meter to the correct ISO/ASA meter and shoot. Just make sure you know what the shutter angle on your bolex is.

Good luck, I recently made the same transition (S8 to 16mm) and it was so much easier than I had thought and the quality is just amazing comparatively.
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#16 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 12:54 AM

Additionally, reversal films usually have finer grain than negative films of the same speed - the Ektachrome 100D is particularly fine grained and known to be a very sharp film with strong vibrant colours.


Hi Patrick,

Just wanted to mention: Reversal films actually have much larger grain structure than negative films of the same speed.

-Fran
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#17 Art Leal

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 04:48 PM

This is the great thing about moving from Super 8 to 16mm ? No more ISO/ASA exposure confusion. You just set your external meter to the correct ISO/ASA meter and shoot. Just make sure you know what the shutter angle on your bolex is.

Good luck, I recently made the same transition (S8 to 16mm) and it was so much easier than I had thought and the quality is just amazing comparatively.



Jacob:

Thanks for the info. Glad to hear you move to 16mm has been worth it. I'm very excited to get started. Looks like I'll be getting a Krasnogorsk K-3 as well.
From what I've read, the Bolex H16 with my serial number have a 190 degree shutter opening.
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