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Bolex, Arri S, or Bell and Howell HR


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#1 Yvette Hej

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Posted 13 May 2007 - 06:57 PM

I'm debating which camera to get. I know the Arri S is the best out of all three, but I guess I'm asking how does the Bell and Howell HR compare to the Bolex and Arri S because it is the cheapest. Also, I know the Bell and Howell is non-reflex.. is this a major problem. I read that it has six options for focal length, but I'm not exactly sure how this works and what this means. Can someone please help me out? Any infor would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
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#2 Eric Dinger

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Posted 13 May 2007 - 09:28 PM

I own an HR and I don't know what you mean by "six options for focal length", it has a 3 lens turret. The lens mounts are C-mount, so can use any of the hundreds of C-mount lens that were made, even some of the dog leg reflex ones. That may mean that only six different finder lenses were made, but I doubt it.

What are you using the camera's for? That would help us. The Bell & Howell is a tank, it's also very easy to use. There are some accessories for it, but it has a more limited system than either the Arri or the Bolex. On the HR you can use 400ft mags, if you can find them, the mag drive spring, and the motor (the mags are on ebay regurarly, and the guy that sells those, has the spring). But like you said, it doesn't have reflex viewing, it also doesn't back-wind for longer than ~20secs, and only if you have the hand crank handle.
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#3 Tim Carroll

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Posted 13 May 2007 - 09:48 PM

What my fellow Portlander said. If you can tell us what you want to do with the camera, i.e. just play around with 16mm film, shoot a documentary, shoot a music video, shoot a short film, shoot a feature, etc., it would be easier to explain the pros and cons of the cameras.

I don't know the Bell and Howell HR, but I have quite a bit of experience with the Bolex EBM, Rex 5 and SBM, and naturally the Arri S.

-Tim
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#4 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 13 May 2007 - 10:23 PM

Hi Yvette,

I started with a Bell & Howell HR and I still own two of them. I love the camera for travel, but if you really want control the look of your films, the Arri S is the one you want. It is a precision-built, professional camera. Use it once and you'll understand why a bright reflex viewfinder is hard to do without. It allows you to work with much more precision when you frame your subject, and it allows you to use a shallow depth-of-field while still keeping your subject in focus. I also own a Bolex Rex 5, and it is a very nice camera, but its viewfinder is a lot darker than the Arri and it is not quite on the same level mechanically. Still, I'd prefer it to the B&H because of its reflex viewing.

The good news is you can now get an Arriflex S for bargain prices. (Look for the S/B version, the one with the stainless-steel bayonet lens mount.) When I bought my first one five years ago (see attached photos), the body alone was something like $2300 and I had it serviced by Arri Tech Axel Broda at an additional cost of $900. Last month I asked Tim Carroll what he though it was worth in today's market. Apparently, not much more than what I spent to have it serviced!

If you need more information on any of these cameras, search Amazon.com and get a copy of Douglas Underdahl's The 16mm Camera Book.

-Fran

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  • Arri_S_B_1_sm.jpg
  • Arri_S_B_2_sm.jpg

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#5 stephen defilippi

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Posted 13 May 2007 - 10:37 PM

I'm debating which camera to get. I know the Arri S is the best out of all three, but I guess I'm asking how does the Bell and Howell HR compare to the Bolex and Arri S because it is the cheapest. Also, I know the Bell and Howell is non-reflex.. is this a major problem. I read that it has six options for focal length, but I'm not exactly sure how this works and what this means. Can someone please help me out? Any infor would be greatly appreciated, thanks!



Hi, ive got one of each and very much prefer my arri 16 s/b. the filmo is a tank. mine has the 6 options for focal length which is adjustable from the side wheel on the viewer. really all it does is move a different size matt into view showing you the frame. id does NOT have parallex so you have to guess when you move closer than about 5-10 feet from your subject. My filmo runs and runs and runs, i get almost 45 seconds per wind, which is better than the bolex. it also is easier to use hand held then the bolex. i still prefer my arri though, if you can find one in good shape, you wont beat it.
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#6 Tim Carroll

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 12:51 AM

Fran,

Thats a beautiful camera. Would be hard to part with. Mine's got a few more nicks than yours, but I think they are just gorgeous cameras.

Posted Image

And I love the images they make.

Footage shot with an Arri S

Posted Image

-Tim
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#7 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 02:05 AM

Frank, that camera of yours is nuts! Its like a museum piece! I applaud your ability to make it look probably better than it did when those things were built!

Oh and "Yvette", the forum rules require display names to be both first and last with a space in between.
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#8 Yvette Hej

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 07:55 AM

Thanks for all your responses. I've shot with the Arri S and I know it's superb. I want the camera to practice shooting this summer, using various filters, practice lighting different setups, etc. Basically I want to do a bunch of test shoot kind of things.. I just don't want to spend nearly $1,000 on the Arri to do this. Is their a drastic difference in picture quality and is non-reflex aspect of the B&H HR a big inconvenience?
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#9 Tim Carroll

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 09:15 AM

The picture quality will be determined by two things.

The first is the camera being in proper adjustment as far as Flange Focal Distance and ground glass adjustment (which would not effect the B&H as there is no ground glass viewfinder) and picture steadiness (i.e. registration, weave, etc.) and film transport and shutter (so you get even exposure frame to frame).

The second and equally important is the lenses available for the camera. Again, I do not know the B&H but someone mentioned that it takes C-mount lenses. If that is true, there are some good Switars and I am sure others in C-mount. The Bolex can take the Switar lenses as well and I have seen Angenieux lenses available in C-mount. I would say most of the lenses available for the Bolex would work on the B&H, except for probably the RX series of lenses. Now with the Arriflex 16S, you open yourself up to a whole new area of lenses, as these were professional production motion picture cameras. So there is fine glass available from Zeiss, Cooke, and to a somewhat lesser extent Schneider. The lens availability for the ARRI is a different level from the lenses available for the other two cameras.

So I would say that with a properly set up Arriflex 16S and the available lenses, you could get better picture quality than you could from either of the other two cameras. How much better is very subjective. For what you want to do, if it were me I would go with the ARRI because if some of your light set ups and tests come up really well, you could use them in your reel. If you can't swing the money for the ARRI, then my second choice, but quite a bit down, would be the Bolex, and try to get a Rex 5, SBM, EBM or EL as they have the brighter viewfinder. Not sure how practical the B&H would be, especially without a viewfinder.

One last note(rant), I hear folks complaining all the time about how expensive motion picture cameras are. If you bought an Arriflex 16S four years ago, and spent $1000 on the camera, $650 to have it overhauled and set back to original factory specs, and spent $295 each for a set of Cooke Kinetal prime lenses and $500 for a Tobin crystal motor (these were the going rates of each of these items four years ago), you would have spent $3035 for a camera that would then (and can still now) create professional motion picture images. And today, your set up would be worth about $2000 and it would last you for the rest of your life (I know, my Arriflex 16S is over fifty years old and is just hitting its stride). To purchase a DVX-100 four years ago would have cost you more than the $3035. And today that camera is worth less than $1000 (check what they are selling for on eBay (not what people are asking for them, but for what they are actually selling for)) and in five years the DVX-100 is going to be worthless. Motion picture cameras are very complex, precision instruments, and for the prices they are selling at these days, they are phenomenal bargains. End of rant.

-Tim
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#10 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 09:23 AM

Frank, that camera of yours is nuts! Its like a museum piece! I applaud your ability to make it look probably better than it did when those things were built!



Kenny (and Tim),

Thanks for the compliments. That is a great camera and everything on it including the motors has been stripped down, cleaned, lubed and reset to original Arri Factory specs by Axel Broda. I took those photos expecting to put the camera on eBay, but when Tim told me how little it's probably worth, I couldn't stand to part with it. Even as a paperweight, it's worth more to me than 1K.

Funny thing is, that's my beater camera! My "clean" one is an St/B with a 15000-plus serial number. It came from a doctor's estate sale and a few of the items (mags, motors) were still in the original Arri plastic wrappers. Axel Broda worked on it and said it was the cleanest one he's ever seen except for a NOS model someone had him tune-up.

-Fran
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#11 Eric Dinger

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 11:30 AM

Stephen just reminded me what you meant by six focal length options on the filmo. On the older models (I've never seen an hr with one), instead of having a small turret with objective lenses that you switch out, they had a rotating drum with six different size masks. The objective lens version is better than the drum version, but the lenses themselves are a bit hard to find. The newer type of finder also has parallax compensation down to 5 feet.
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#12 Yvette Hej

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 08:22 AM

I'm trying to convince myself to get the b&h, but I really want the ArriS.. so I think I'm going to wait a little more to see if I can get a really good deal on one, ie really lucky. Thanks for all the help!
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