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Bolex vs. Eclair


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#1 Andre Hoven

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 12:22 PM

Hey guys,

I was wondering how the Bolex's compare against the Eclair's... :blink:

Let's say the high end Bolex EBM & EL against the Eclair NPR & ACL??? What camera will make the race and why???

Thank you!!!
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 12:54 PM

Well I'd certainly look towards the Eclairs in terms of ergonomics and the fact that they are substantially quieter than the Bolexes I've dealt with. The only time I'd really look into a Bolex would be the REX series which were wind up for the simple fact that all you'd need to shoot is the camera/film. Great for remote locations (and something I'd've killed for when I was overseas during a nationwide blackout with a video camera!).
I would also venture to say that the eclairs are more serviceable than the bolexes. Now, don't hold me to tht as it's anecdotal evidence inasmuch as I know a few places/people who service Eclair cameras and far less who work on the Bolex.
A lot also depends on what you're using it for, ya know? They'll both produce fine images with good film and good lenses on 'em.
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#3 Ian Cooper

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:20 PM

Hey guys,

I was wondering how the Bolex's compare against the Eclair's... :blink:

Let's say the high end Bolex EBM & EL against the Eclair NPR & ACL??? What camera will make the race and why???

Thank you!!!


The Eclairs are designed as 'silent' shoulder mount cameras with crystal sync. motors (except some of the early NPRs which weren't crystal). They both use a quick-change coaxial magazine, the NPR accepting both daylight spools and up to 400ft daylight loads. The ACL mags will either take 200 or 400ft loads. Handholding the Bolex steady might also not be as easy as the shoulder positioned Eclairs.

The Bolex is not 'silent', I think 'noisy' is a better description, neither is it crystal sync. The basic camera will only accept 100ft daylight spools, although an external magazine (which adds further noise) can allow the use of 400ft loads.

The Eclairs have a mirror shutter which doesn't impact on the image/light path, the Bolex uses a prism to split a percentage of the light off to the viewfinder. This results in a dimmer viewfinder and the well known 'issues' about using short focal length lenses.

The image quality will depend largely on the choice of lens, all three cameras can accept 'C' mount lenses (the Bolex using an adapter from Bolex bayonet-'C' mount).


I suspect the most appropriate camera would vary according to your intended use. A 10minute shot of a 'talking head' would probably be more suited to the Eclair, an adventure film climbing the Eiger might be better suited to the Bolex.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:23 PM

Both the EBM and the EL can by crystal controlled and both offer 400' Magazines. Not sure whether they're prism, but I would suspect they are.
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#5 Josh Hill

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:43 PM

I feel like this is one of the many "Apples to Oranges" situations that come up on the board constantly. I don't know what you're looking for, but usually some industrious young filmmaker thinks they have found the secret to shooting a major sync motion picture on the cheap by using a basically MOS camera which sell for (usually) cheaper than its sync counterpart.

The Bolex was, for many years as I understand it, used for nature photography and the like (though I don't know how, from some of the Bolexes I've heard, it didn't manage to scare away the wildlife). But I don't think it was ever actually made for serious, narrative filmmaking (which generally, though not always, requires dialogue of some kind).

Just taking a shot in the dark, but I think you're going to want to do dialogue before too long if you are serious enough to be looking at your own 16mm kit, and for that I'd suggest an Eclair. There's lots of them on eBay ( http://shop.ebay.com...6...t=0&bkBtn=1 ) and they are generally (though not always) cheaper than a lot of the Bolex auctions with the same options. Hell, the NPR from Visual Products may end up going for under 1000 dollars.

My ACL -- I am biased, after all -- is quiet and light, though I haven't shot from it yet.

What you do need to understand, though, and what many of us growing up (or having grown up on the cusp of) in a digital world forget to realize is that a film camera is just a box. The lenses and the film are what are going to make the biggest difference (though the prism viewfinder leeching light doesn't help). With the same lens and the same film, the images aren't going to be very different at all; it's everything else -- portability, sound, etc. -- that changes with each camera.
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#6 Brian Rose

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 02:40 PM

Having owned both cameras, I can truly say each is suited for different purposes, making a definitive answer difficult.

Pros for the Bolex are:

It is a can go to war with. A windup model frees you from batteries and chargers and all that mess. They're small, economical, portable, great for conditions where you're limited to what you can squeeze into a backpack (If I were to film atop Mount Everest, I'd take a Bolex to do it). They're a since to load, and if you use daylight reels, you don't need a changing bag

The Bolex camera by FAR offers greater image control than nearly every camera: A good RX model Bolex allows you to shoot high or low speed, while the variable shutter enables you to do your own in-camera dissolves and fades. You can mount a crystal motor to one of the axle drives, or use a crank, to get an authentic, "silent film" look. You can even backwind the film for superimpositions and split screens. With a cable release attachment, you can do animation and timelapse work.

This is why so many film schools that still shoot film, do so using the Bolex.

The cons with the Bolex: it is rather notorious for light leaks, through the filter holder, the viewfinder, and even the cover. Make sure you keep a lot of camera tape on you. Also, its prism reflex system means the camera does not perform as well under low-light. The viewfinder is dim as well, and in dark conditions, framing a subject and finding focus is a real b*tch. Make sure you have a tape measure, and that the lens you're using has been collimated. This camera is also the one that has given me the most trouble in terms of misfeeds and jams, so use a good one that's been serviced.

My experience is exclusively with the clockwork models. I've not used the later crystal ones; they seem rarer, and this might be a factor to consider if you use one: can I get this serviced or repaired without having to ship back to Switzerland?

On to the NPR

Pros: it's about the most affordable crystal sync 400 ft camera out there. A good, serviced model is whisper quiest. It's versatile, taking bayonet and c mount lenses (one reason I bought an Eclair was because I could keep all my C-primes from the Bolex). It's rugged, simple to use, and has an excellent variable shutter, that goes in five degree increments from 180. It has a mirror shutter, which means there is no light lost to the viewfinder, as with the Bolex. The viewfinder itself is nice and bright, and changing film mags is a cynch (assuming you have two mags, and an assistant on hand to reload the empty). The NPR's design also enables a fairly simple upgrade to Super 16, which means it costs less as well. The entire camera breaks down into components, meaning it is easy to transport. The viewfinder unscrews, allowing for easy installation of a video tap.

As for the Cons:

The magazines, while easy to switch, are a real challenge to load. You've got to practice, practice, practice, since you'll have to know how to load them blind, in a changing bag. Fortunately, it has some built in features that alert you if it's not feeding properly, so learn to know the sound your camera makes.

The viewfinder, has a rather inferior optical set up, and the image you see will be flipped and skewed, depending on how you orient the viewfinder (Angenieux fixed this by making their own viewfinder you can switch out, but they are rare and expensive).

Also, while the camera is built to be over the shoulder, it is not terribly well balanced, a bit front heavy, and has a woefully inadequate hand grip that is not at all comfortable to use for extended periods. You'd be advised to consider a new handgrip, and some custom shoulder padding, if you plan to tote the camera for a while.

Also, if you opt to get it upgraded to Super 16, be aware you'll lose the ability to use the c-mount, because the realignment necessarily makes the turret mount fixed.

Also, the NPR came with a variety of motors, by different manufacturers, with different features, and varying in quality. Tobin's Crystal motor is the best, but no longer made, so good luck finding one.

As you can see, these cameras have their strengths and weaknesses, as do ALL cameras, even Arris and Pannys. So you're best served by figuring out what you need to do, and under what conditions, and what kind of resources you have to aid you (lighting, etc), and then based on that, you can make an educated choice as to which camera will work best for you.

Hope this helps!

Best,

BR
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#7 flavio filho

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:44 AM

Having owned both cameras, I can truly say each is suited for different purposes, making a definitive answer difficult.

Pros for the Bolex are:
It is a can go to war with...



Jeez, Brian, This is the BEST feedback I ever read in this forum (I'm not here a long time, but anyway). Nice one.
I loved a Eclair footage I watched on Viemo, but I can't find anymore... It was really really great, think maybe because its crystal, not prism...). It was seriously impressive.

I'm buying a Bolex EL, with Kern Verio Zoom lens. And will buy some primes after, and yet, thinking to buy a Beaulieu R16 (so I have a "HANDHELD" option to use when shooting with Bolex is difficult), after all, will convert both to Ultra 16mm...
Anyway, I digress... About this, would you mind to answer a question I posted today here? Think you have the answer I need.
http://www.cinematog...=0

As for this post, I'd have another question: Putting ECLAIR x BEAULIEU R16, which one you guys think would win the race? :P
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#8 Ian Cooper

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 11:34 AM

...As for this post, I'd have another question: Putting ECLAIR x BEAULIEU R16, which one you guys think would win the race? :P



Unless it's a very short race, probably the operator carrying the Beaulieu will win as it's a fraction the weight of the Eclair!
Having said that, the pictures obtained during the race from the shoulder mounted Eclair will probably look better than from the R16 held waving around in mid-air!


Being slightly more serious: I have an R16, and later when the opportunity arose got an NPR as well - so I now have both.

The comparisons remain much the same really: The R16 is much lighter, but unless you fiddle with the external 200ft magazines (which sometimes can have a reputation for not running very smooth) the camera is limited to 100ft internal spools of film.

The R16 does have a mirror shutter - so there's no light loss - and as standard also has a C-Mount.

Like the Bolex, the R16 is rather noisy, and neither does it have a crystal sync motor... having said that, the motor does have electronic speed control with a basic closed loop system to keep the speed steady. If you adjust the speed of the camera whilst looking at the roll-bar on a PAL TV you can get the speed pretty darn close to 25fps, not spot on - but darn close! So for short sequences of dialogue filmed outdoors you probably could get away with it.

Essentially though it's still like comparing a Bolex to an Eclair - two different cameras designed for different markets. If I'm going to be carrying a camera around all day hiking over fields and hills then my first choice would be the R16 on weight and size grounds, otherwise I'll choose the NPR.
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#9 Jean-Louis Seguin

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 01:40 PM

Jeez, Brian, This is the BEST feedback I ever read in this forum (I'm not here a long time, but anyway). Nice one.
I loved a Eclair footage I watched on Viemo, but I can't find anymore... It was really really great, think maybe because its crystal, not prism...). It was seriously impressive.

I'm buying a Bolex EL, with Kern Verio Zoom lens. And will buy some primes after, and yet, thinking to buy a Beaulieu R16 (so I have a "HANDHELD" option to use when shooting with Bolex is difficult), after all, will convert both to Ultra 16mm...
Anyway, I digress... About this, would you mind to answer a question I posted today here? Think you have the answer I need.
http://www.cinematog...=0

As for this post, I'd have another question: Putting ECLAIR x BEAULIEU R16, which one you guys think would win the race? :P



You can forget about converting a Beaulieu R16 to Ultra; can't be done.
Also there is no problem handholding the Bolex; you probably just don't have the right technique. Or get yourself the proper pistol grip if you have one; might help.

Cheers,
Jean-Louis
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#10 John Sprung

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 02:46 PM

Eclair vs. Bolex is sort of like car vs. motorcycle. They may get you to the same place, but in different ways.

The Eclairs are designed for hand held use, they're dogs on a dolly or tripod. Both are on the delicate side, if you really need a camera to go to war -- or to shoot a nature documentary or such -- you'd be much better off with Arri's.




-- J.S.
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#11 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 04:35 PM

Hi Jean-Louis,

I've converted at least 10 Beaulieu 16's to Ultra 16. Touch wood, so far, no complaints.

Cheers, Bernie.
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#12 Jean-Louis Seguin

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 05:57 PM

Hi Jean-Louis,

I've converted at least 10 Beaulieu 16's to Ultra 16. Touch wood, so far, no complaints.

Cheers, Bernie.



Hi Bernie,

Interesting. I stand corrected then.
I never really investigated it in depth but I would not have thought it possible based on my experience in repairing them.
Can you also provide full coverage on the groundglass? This is where I anticipated there would be problems.

Cheers,
Jean-Louis
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#13 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 07:06 PM

You're right Jean-Louis, not full gg coverage. I manage to get a little more width, but really it becomes an experiential exercise. It seems people don't worry too much about this, however. As long as they get more of the great, almighty pixels, they are happy.
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#14 flavio filho

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 08:55 AM

You're right Jean-Louis, not full gg coverage. I manage to get a little more width, but really it becomes an experiential exercise. It seems people don't worry too much about this, however. As long as they get more of the great, almighty pixels, they are happy.



Thanks, Bernie.

Yeah, I was thinking about the same... The Beualieu R16 is a beauty, though...
Still unsure, guys... Should I get 2 Bolex then? Then I wouldn't have much problems? I mean. If I woudl make the conversion, I'd really want to have the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Not ALMOST....

If I do that, I was thinking on getting one Beualieu electric and another Windspring... It could be very handy. to have one, that still could have an electric motor adapted...

Then should I leave the Beaulieu and Eclair for later?

Edited by flavio filho, 24 July 2010 - 08:57 AM.

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#15 flavio filho

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 09:04 AM

Thanks, Bernie.

Yeah, I was thinking about the same... The Beualieu R16 is a beauty, though...
Still unsure, guys... Should I get 2 Bolex then? Then I wouldn't have much problems? I mean. If I woudl make the conversion, I'd really want to have the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Not ALMOST....

If I do that, I was thinking on getting one Beualieu electric and another Windspring... It could be very handy. to have one, that still could have an electric motor adapted...

Then should I leave the Beaulieu and Eclair for later?


I meant.. .GET A BOLEX ELECTRIC AND A WINDSPRING
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#16 Jean-Louis Seguin

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 09:37 AM

You're right Jean-Louis, not full gg coverage. I manage to get a little more width, but really it becomes an experiential exercise. It seems people don't worry too much about this, however. As long as they get more of the great, almighty pixels, they are happy.



I guess you can reframe the image in post-production if necessary.
I'm from the age of the dinosaurs when you had to get the framing right while shooting!

Cheers,
Jean-Louis
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#17 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 03:04 PM

I love ACLs, do not like Bolexes or NPRs. I actually prefer my ACL to my Aaton.


But, as said, if I were going to go to war, needed a crash cam or for climbing Everest, a K3 (or to a lesser degree, a Bolex) would be best suited. For all other purposes I stick to my ACL and LTR cams.
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#18 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 08:32 PM

[quote name='Brian Rose' date='04 March 2010 - 05:40 AM' timestamp='1267645239' post='317570']

The cons with the Bolex: it is rather notorious for light leaks, through the filter holder, the viewfinder, and even the cover. Make sure you keep a lot of camera tape on you.

Are they really that notorious? I've never come across a Bolex that leaked through the lid. They have a light trap much like older Arri magazines, for example, and unless damaged they latch very well.
Any film camera will leak light through the viewfinder if it is not closed - there is a lever on every Bolex viewfinder to shut it down.
The filter slot is definitely a light leak danger, although once a filter holder is in place it should be blocked.
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#19 Simon Wyss

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Posted 27 July 2010 - 12:14 PM

I think an NPR can be compared to a EBM or an EL. Electric motors, crystal control, bayonet.

A spring Paillard-Bolex H 16, although no longer my favourite, is something to itself. The simplest H 16 M is not heavy. It offers same mechanical features like a Rex, 12 through 64 fps, instant and time exposure, rewind, lace-up. Motors may be attached, crystal synch. One can also pimp up the spring drive by removing its stop(s). Better even is an opening in the housing for a rewind key to be attached to the spring core. The first H's in the 1930ies had this.

But the Eclair is noiseless. Better viewfinder, too.
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#20 flavio filho

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Posted 27 July 2010 - 04:20 PM

I think an NPR can be compared to a EBM or an EL. Electric motors, crystal control, bayonet.

A spring Paillard-Bolex H 16, although no longer my favourite, is something to itself. The simplest H 16 M is not heavy. It offers same mechanical features like a Rex, 12 through 64 fps, instant and time exposure, rewind, lace-up. Motors may be attached, crystal synch. One can also pimp up the spring drive by removing its stop(s). Better even is an opening in the housing for a rewind key to be attached to the spring core. The first H's in the 1930ies had this.

But the Eclair is noiseless. Better viewfinder, too.



Thanks the replies, guys.

Yeah, when it comes across different bodies, the opinion vary, a lot.
I heard there's some problem with Bolex cameras... BUT, if you notice, its the most "popular", or should I say... affordable camera bodies.
But they work really nice, especially the best models... EL, the one i'm buying.


Simon... Do you mean a REX Bolex would be a better model than the H16? Actually, the few articles I red about the REX, says they're a very very desirable.

I thought to buy an eclair.. But they are pricey.
To play around a bit, I thought aboutthe beaulieu, that I know its not an Eclair... But it does an awesome job.

Problem is converting to Ultra 16... I mean, I HEARD bernie mentioning something here in the forum about the beaulieu does not reach the FULL conversion to Ultra 16... Or at least I understood that. Do you guys know something about?

Edited by flavio filho, 27 July 2010 - 04:22 PM.

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