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Eclair ACL History/Info needed for website


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#1 Boris Belay

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 01:03 PM

Hi everybody, and happy new year!

OK, this is a big one : I want to build a website dedicated to the ACL, info, specs, details, and history. It's not easy as Eclair has disappeared without leaving much in the way of archives. Plus the publications it put out in the period were quite sketchy... no real manual for the ACLII, for instance.

But I already have a lot of info accumulated : I have been collecting manuals, adverts, tech docs, pictures of cameras and their serial numbers, etc. Still, I want a bit more info so that whatever I put on the site is solid and definitive.

So I would be interested in hearing from anybody who owns an ACL (I would like pix and serial numbers of camera, motor, and viewfinder to date cameras by their serials), or who
has documentation of any kind about the ACL (except for the two pdfs of manuals that everybody already has), especially tech. docs, or sales fliers, or from anybody who has first-hand experience with the Eclair company when it was still active.

You can write back on here, or directly to my personal mail (with pix, for instance) :
eclair.cameras@coditel.net

Thanks!
Boris

Edited by Boris Belay, 07 January 2009 - 01:06 PM.

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#2 Boris Belay

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 01:10 PM

To get the ball rolling (see my last post), I thought I would send on my *preliminary* history of the ACL. If you have any comments, don't hesitate ! -- Boris

The evolution of the ACL is a bit of vexing one to figure out as it has not been well documented, even in Eclair literature. First complication is the French/English double history and different timelines. At leat one thing is simple about the British ACL : it did not evolve beyond the original model except for the addition of the Brit 120m. mag (developped before the French mag), but production extended into the mid-70's, overlapping all the while with the French production. The French camera evolved progressively, and even as improved features were available, the older ones remained as an option (viewfinder, lightmeter, etc.). As far as I can figure it out so far, the history of the French ACL is something like this :

69-70 : Filmaker Jean Rouch is given a pre-production prototype to test during the filming of a 10 part television series and continuously gives feedback to Eclair engineers Coma and Lec?ur. The camera is officially introduced in October 1970 at Photokina 70.
Very early models (prototypes) have a traditional toggle switch to start the camera. No "Eclair" or "Eclair ACL" on front of camera or side of magazine.

Spring 1971 - original model : small base, small motor (MIALA), small Angé viewfinder (with visible split lines), 60m. mag only. The handgrip has no provision for filter holders.
Camera illustrating the 1971 sales brochure has body # 446

1972 - production stops in France for about a year, then starts again under the SOREMEC parent company.
Camera illustrating the 1973 Soremec manual has body # 418, but pictures are probably reprints from 1971 manual.

73/74 - progressive introduction of : a) the French 120m. mag (after the British made their own), b) the optional built-in lightmeter (both announced in sales brochure 7301 and '73 manual), c) the heavy-duty multi-speed motor (first model MIMUL does not have mirror parking feature, silver speed rotary switch) and matching mid-size base (announced in '73 manual as forthcoming, depicted in brochure 7405 and introduced in October 74 according to Parts Manual), d) high-speed modified 60m. magazine roller design, e) the new magazine release protection system (which is not a feature introduced with the ACL II, despite what is said on the Super-16 ACL site), and finaly f) the improved Angénieux VF. The model incorporating all of these improvements is officially known as the Type 1974, but it's what people often call the 1.5 ACL. Sometimes later, the heavy-duty motor is upgraded to the MIVAR model, which includes the mirror-parking function (mirror sign engraved on motor side, black speed switch then black and silver locking switch).
French serials of cameras range in the 1200-1700 or so ; the camera illustrating the 1976 manual has body # 1615 and motor # 1133.

76-78 - Eclair releases the rare "Single System" MOS sound ACL with a larger base needed for the sound electronics (French serials begin at 1700). The (optional) small Angénieux viewfinder changes to a tubular form. The motor is upgraded to be externally synched (model MIPIL with a bevelled plate that protects the inching knob, serial # begin at 2001). Meanwhile, the 'silent' camera gains the large base "for future electronics" to match the base of the MOS model (base is empty and does not have Lemo synch connector in).
The camera illustrating the MOS ACL manual has body # 1700 and motor # 2001.

79-85 - Eclair comes up with the name ACL II for the camera including all of these improvements and a new set of Kinoptik viewfinders (two kinds : the well-known large, orientable kind and also a small, non-orientable one). The large base now houses the Lemo connector for external synching (unfortunately, the Eclair Botex synching box is a very, very rare accessory today) The camera also comes with an on-board battery holder and the magazines have 2-part pressure plates. Strangely, Eclair never printed an ACL II manual, only a 4 page insert that is meant to replace the central pages in the 1976 manual. The insert describes the Kinoptik viewfinder, the large base and its connections, and the new ergonomic grip.
ACL II serial numbers run from about 2300 to 3000 or so. The camera illustrating the US ACLII brochure has body # 2516.
I own an ACL II wth body # 2939, which is the highest that I have encountered so far.

July 1985, production has stopped after bankruptcy of the Soremec/Eclair company, and in April 1986 Aaton buys out the remaining stock, parts and patents. In the mean time, further models based on the ACL had been developped but hardly produced : the famous S-16/reg-16 Panoram (3 or 4 working prototypes built), but also an EX-16 model, which is basically a modernized version of the original ACL concept of a light, minimalist camera (60 m. mags, small Kinoptik VF, unobtrusive motor designed by Aaton). The last ACL IIs produced are basically the same as the 1979 version, with the MOS option still offered, as well as an undocumented time-coding system. The lightmeter remained optional throughout production, so an ACL II does not necessarily have a lightmeter. A factory Super-16 option was also offered at some point in the late 70's, but I have yet to identify any such model. Incredibly enough, internally the camera was changed only in very minimal ways throughout its 15 years history, and despite the ACL's growth from a light, minimal sister-model to the NPR to a full-blown (and much heavier) very versatile production camera -- a testimony to the excellent original design of Coma and Lec?ur !

After the Aaton buy-out, service of existing cameras is left in the hands of the main French service center renamed Epifac/Eclair SCOP (the remains of which are owned by Gérard Gallé of ART & MEDIAS in Argenteuil), while Aaton retained the control over all electronic parts. A new motor (that of the EX-16 ?) and a set of new options (lightmeter, etc) were announced by Aaton, but I don't believe many were delivered, if any at all. Understandably, Aaton chose to concentrate on the production of its own cameras, after the demise of the company that first hired Beauviala to adapt his quartz-controled motors to the Eclair NPR.

Edited by Boris Belay, 07 January 2009 - 01:11 PM.

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#3 Tom Hepburn

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 01:38 PM

Hey Boris,

Sounds like a great site. I've got an ACL II s/n #2947.
Not sure what date that would make it.

I'll send some pictures along in the next few days.

Tom
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#4 Boris Belay

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 06:42 PM

Hey Boris,

Sounds like a great site. I've got an ACL II s/n #2947.
Not sure what date that would make it.

I'll send some pictures along in the next few days.

Tom


Hi Tom,

That makes yours just a few cameras younger than mine, and the latest one I've traced so far, so definitely send those photos, if only for the record. I imagine yours was produced in '84 or '85. Send me the serial on the motor, and on the Kinoptik viewfinder, to see if the serials match mine.

Not sure production ever went past the 3000 unit line, so the first person with a 3000+ serial number gets a bonus present !

Best,
Boris
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#5 David Auner aac

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Posted 16 January 2009 - 02:04 PM

Hi Boris,

did you get my PM?

Cheers, Dave
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