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What exactly is a Bolex 16 Pro?!


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#1 Ray Noori

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 06:06 PM

Some guy had posted an ad in a local online classified for "Two Bolex 16 Pro" cameras. I asked him for more information and picture. He said he didn't know anything about cameras, but he sent me the pictures that I've attached. These look nothing like any Bolex I've seen before! The only thing I could find on them was this little tidbit on Bolex Collector in the FAQ:

"Q: [2.5] Why isn't the Bolex 16 Pro featured on this site?
A: The Bolex 16 Pro was a professional camera designed for television news coverage and studio work. As such, it's a little beyond the scope and purpose of this website (which is mainly to feature cameras designed by Paillard Bolex for the amateur market). That doesn't mean many of the cameras listed here weren't used professionally; indeed, the H models were. "

Anyone know what these cameras are all about? When were they made? Why are they not common? How much are they worth?

As usual, any information would be greatly appreciated!

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#2 Nick Mulder

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 06:41 PM

http://www.google.co...amp;btnG=Search

http://www.cinematog...hlite=bolex pro
:ph34r:
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#3 Ray Noori

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 11:36 PM

Thanks Nick. I went through all the posts you linked me to, as well as a few pages on Google. It's a very interesting camera. I'm still curious as to why it didn't catch on that well, the weight might have been a big factor. Either way, as curious as I am, I don't have $800 to drop on two cameras I don't badly need. I'm fine with my Rex-4 for now! :)
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 12:31 AM

$800 for two? Or are you missing a 0!
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#5 Will Montgomery

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 12:38 AM

Who's selling them? How can I get in touch with them? I've actually been looking for one of these for a while.
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#6 Ray Noori

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 01:11 AM

$800 for two? Or are you missing a 0!


Maybe he was missing a zero in the post for real, that's why I was wondering how much they are actually worth. $4000 a piece though? Isn't that a bit steep?

Who's selling them? How can I get in touch with them? I've actually been looking for one of these for a while.


He's a guy from work, we have a company-wide classified system. You can PM me your e-mail address and I'll pass it on to him if you like?
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#7 David Auner aac

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 01:28 AM

I think I saw an add for these on Ebay too! Or someone else selling two Bolex Pro which might be too much of a coincidence!

Cheers, Dave
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#8 Ray Noori

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 09:02 AM

I think I saw an add for these on Ebay too! Or someone else selling two Bolex Pro which might be too much of a coincidence!

Cheers, Dave


Might be the same guy Dave! I can't find it, do you have a link?
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#9 Glenn Brady

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 09:14 AM

These cameras, with identical pictures and copy, have been offered at eBay.com over the past month by at least three sellers. The seller invariably asks that he/she be contacted directly and that any bids placed without such contact will be cancelled. When a deal seems too good to be true, it generally is.
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#10 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 10:17 AM

I own a Bolex 16 Pro for three years now. It is an incredibly advanced Normal 16 camera that can be best described as a morph between the Panavision Panaflex 16 Elaine and a Beaulieu 4008 ZM II! Yeah, that really sums it up well B) .

Personally, as far as shoulder cameras as concerned (N.B., not handheld cameras!), I would rank it second or third in usability, operability and professional workflow integration after the Aaton XTRprod or Aaton Xtèra, both for feature productions but especially for Direct Cinema or Cinema Vérité documentaries (i would follow up with the Eclair ACL, the Eclair NPR and then the Arriflex 16 SR-series apart from the latest Advanced model which is superior).

It was designed by Bolex in the mid-1960s and built by a subcontractor in Munich. Some claim ? because they only know the "amateurish" Bolex H-series and read 'Munich' ? that is was built at ARRI for Bolex, but this is completely incorrect. If ARRI had been involved, the history of 16mm camera gear would look differently today in many ways.

The Bolex 16 Pro was far ahead of its time and did not succeed for a variety of reasons. Bear in mind that this camera came to the market when ARRI was (as so often in their corporate history) still thinking that the Arriflex 16 St was all you need for 16mm (it took them 6 more years to figure out they are wrong, and quickly came up with the half-cooked first generation Arriflex 16 SR), Aaton was then inexistent, and a certain Jean-Pierre Beauviala was just an engineer who finished working on the Eclair ACL and saw his job endangered by Harry Saltzman's acquistion spree that cost Eclair its existence.

It offers fully manual, semi-automatic and fully automatic operability, the latter with remote control systems that pre-dated some camera-related motion-control aspects by decades. It is self-loading which takes some time to trust upon ("What, now need to thread the film? Naa, that can't work well!") but works well. It has an excellent viewfinder, full rig & rod expandability and has more benign ergonomics than most people credit it with. Re. shoulder wearing, it is more comfortable on the shoulder than the 16 SR and easier to balance than a Eclair 16 NPR. Although it isn't a "cat on the shoulder", it certainly could be referred to as a "golden retriever on the shoulder".

It has two major weaknesses, however: It's viewfinder is not automatically re-adjusting the mask when swivelled, which many cameras then couldn't (few had orientable viewfinders at all) but that looks dated today; and the electronics unit is externally housed with the power suppy, requiring the operator to wear a donkey-weighting electronic control unit with the camera. That is off-putting especially when shoulder-operated on the run (not so on a tripod or any serious head) and I am currently looking into miniaturising this unit to the size of a matchbox that could be attached on-board style to the camera ? technically, it's feasable: just a matter of money.

Why did it not succeed? Many say that it was too complicated to operate, or too expensive, but that wasn't true ? some pro reviewers were critical of the electrification used for 1970, but most reviewers where smitten by the advancement when it was introduced at Photokina. One should not forget: just a few years later, camera operators adopted ENG video U-matic, and THAT was complicated to operate and über-expensive.

The problem was that the Bolex 16 Pro was not successful at carving out a market for itself: CP was mostly in use in the US, and in Europe, the Arriflex 16 St was widely used especially in the German-speaking parts.
Bolex had weak marketing understanding in the broadcast market, and it's name was too assocated with the consumer-targeted H-series. It had no real presence in the US, which really robbed it of that market. In Europe (particularly the UK, oddly enough), Eclair was still the main builder of 16mm cameras, and well established with modern gear that revolutionised how we think about 16mm today in the first place. For France, Beaulieu was about to introduce the Beaulieu News 16 (an utter failure) which put French broadcasting corporations on hold, esp. for potentially buying "foreign gear" ? other than Eclair, of course ? to put it bluntly (those were different times).

The only realistic market entry the Bolex 16 Pro could achieve was in the German-speaking countries, which was then the core market for 16mm cameras in Europe, anyhow. But that market is extremely conservative and also heavily politically-networked, esp. in Germany. To break ARRI's monopoly was virtually a ludicrous idea from Bolex' side, like suggesting to a German manager not to buy Merc but rather Cadillac or Jaguar ? it ain't happening. So the by-then already obsolete design philosophy of the 16 St prevailed until 1975, when a giant turnover was made from the industry to the 16 SR (a design that was also already 10 years behind the technological stand of things, if you look at a mid-1960s Eclair or an early-1970s Aaton!)

So the Bolex 16 Pro had very bad timing and a lack of background sales operation which it required to promote its far-advanced sophistication to the normally conservative and cautious buying clientele it would have to persuade.

Service can be easily obtained at Ruedi Muster in Switzerland here in Europe!
Beware of eBay and sales scams, for which the Bolex 16 Pro is regularly used today!


P.S.: By the way, having recently laid my hands on a 416 ? if you know both cameras, you will see that more than a couple of design ideas from the Bolex 16 Pro can be found in the Arriflex 416... some would say this is adding insult to injury, others revell at the homage. Either way, with the 16 Pro in mind, you see the 416 in different lights :P :) .
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#11 Ray Noori

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 10:26 AM

These cameras, with identical pictures and copy, have been offered at eBay.com over the past month by at least three sellers. The seller invariably asks that he/she be contacted directly and that any bids placed without such contact will be cancelled. When a deal seems too good to be true, it generally is.


Thanks for the heads up Glenn. I suspect that this might very well be another scam. This is the content of the e-mail I received from the guy this morning:

"Like i said before the unit come from UK .If you are 100% interested to buy let me know your full shipping details and i will start the transaction today.You will recive all details about the shipping and payment from the company

Regards,"

A third party company?! It sounds pretty shady. The guy works in the Slough, UK office of my company. His name is Andrew Maison and the e-mail address he used to get back to me is andrewmaison2000@gmail.com. If anyone is still interested you can contact him directly, but I think Glenn is right, this is too good to be true.
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#12 Ray Noori

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 10:31 AM

Michael, thanks for all the information. The background of this particular model is quite fascinating. Now I'm more than curious to actually get my hands on one of these, but it will be difficult to tell the scams from the real deals. :blink:
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#13 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 10:46 AM

Michael, thanks for all the information. The background of this particular model is quite fascinating. Now I'm more than curious to actually get my hands on one of these, but it will be difficult to tell the scams from the real deals. :blink:


Quite true, especially as the pricing is totally AWOL. Some sell for 4000 USD from a serious seller, mine had a price tag of only 400 EUR on it, from someone who had bought it new (!) years ago but rarely used it. He couldn't remember how to operate it with the ECU correclty, and thought it was broken. Hence the ridiculous low price.

Again, if I had to characterise it ? and you can quote me on that ? this "golden-retriever-on-shoulder" Normal 16 shoulder camera is a morph between the Panavision Panaflex 16 Elaine and a Beaulieu 4008 ZM II.

I can recommend it, but also recommend to buy the same-time-period ( :lol: ) "Pumping Iron" book by Arnie to have the appropriate breakfast recipes at hand before handling that camera. If one is used to Xtéras or 416s, the Bolex 16 Pro might come as a surprise.
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#14 Will Montgomery

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 11:48 AM

If you get two, you could have one for each shoulder and rig up a 3D setup. :rolleyes:

It certainly would look impressive if you walked into a wedding gig with these on your shoulders.
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#15 Ray Noori

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 12:56 PM

If you get two, you could have one for each shoulder and rig up a 3D setup. :rolleyes:

It certainly would look impressive if you walked into a wedding gig with these on your shoulders.


I can cancel my gym membership and do squats with those babies on my shoulder! :P
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