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Vario Switar 18-86 f/2.5 questions


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#1 Jeffrey Loewe

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 12:05 PM

Alright so I have a unique opportunity with a job I got at a film company to shoot a decent amount of 16mm footage and not really have to pay for the film. It was like a dream since I've always wanted to shoot film. So I found a good deal on a Bolex H16 Reflex, and it happened to come with the Vario Switar 18-86 f/2.5 lens. It's supposed to be battery powered from what the seller posted and research i've done.

Here is a description he gave about the lens:
Now a word about the lens.

Buy the camera and the lens is free.

The Kern POE lenses are good but they all subject problems with battery compartment corrosion if a cell is left to discharge and the exposure meters tend to go open circuit, it is rare to find a POE zoom with a good working meter.

I have removed the battery box and set up the system so that the exposure can be set manually, I am confident that you will not have any problems, the clear scale and click stops allow easy quick settings.

Optically the lens elements are good and the lens has been focus collimated throughout the full zoom range.

Unfortunately some idiot has used a tool on attempting to unscrew the back locking ring and the soft metal has been damaged. The damage will not stop you using the lens, not stop you fitting and removing it, you just have to remember which way to turn to unscrew, the damage will not ruin any pictures. I am sorry if I had another I would replace it, but no such luck at the moment.


Continuing on so I've had some people where I work look at it and it doesn't seem as if changing the f-stop changes anything in the viewfinder. I'm very new to these kinds of cameras and lenses, but many here shoot super 16mm and have been for awhile and say that you usually notice a difference as you change the f-stop.

Will this lens work? Will not seeing a change and trusting the light meter work correctly?

If needed I can provide a picture or two. Thanks for the help!
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#2 Robert Lewis

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 03:13 PM

I am sorry to say that the detail of the lens you quote in your message is somewhat confusing.

From what you say the lens you have could be a Kern Vario Switar EE (f2.5 18 - 86mm) lens or a Kern Vario Switar OE (f2.5 18 - 86mm) lens. It is not, I believe, a POE lens which is f1.9 16 - 100mm lens.

The EE lens is quite different from the OE lens in that it has a CdS photo-electric cell which is mounted in a long cylinder which is located below the body of the lens. The front ring on this cylinder is turned so that figures reflecting the filming speed and film sensitivity (ASA 10 to 400) may be brought togother for the particular filming conditions required. The battery for the meter is accessed by unscrewing the photo-electric cell housing. There is another shorter cylinder adjacent to the cylinder I refer to above, and this houses the meter itself. This can be set manually by pulling the milled ring towards the front of the lens then turning it to the appropriate setting and then released. You should be able to see the effect of any changed setting through the view finder - as you point towards a bright light the image should dim as you move to smaller apertures. The metering of the lens is not "through the lens".

The OE lens was a development of the EE lens and is a similar looking lens to the EE, but there are significant differences. The filming speed and film sensitivity are controlled using a device mounted on the top of the lens. Also on the EE the range of film sensitivity is from ASA 10 to 400, but the range on the OE is ASA 10 - 200. There is no long cyclinder on the OE. It was replaced by a short cyclinder which houses the meter battery. Perhaps the main difference, however, is that metering of the OE lens is "through the lens".

The Kern Vario Switar POE lens is a f1.9 16 - 100mm zoom lens and is similar in appearance to the OE lens referred to above, but it has a power zoom as well as the greater range.

I am not sure whether either the EE or OE lenses are still serviceable, but both should, in all probability, be capable of operation if the automatic exposure mechanisms are not working. The POE lens is still serviced by Bolex in Switzerland.

It does appear, therefore, that the lens you have is not a POE lens, but is either an EE or OE lens. I say this because you are very specific about the maximum aperture and the range of the zoom, and also you have made no mention about the power zoom found on the POE model. I believe, however, that each type of lens carries a full description of itself.

I have user experience of both the OE lens and the POE lens. I had two OE lens and both worked perfectly and produced excellent images. Presently I have two POE lenses and they are both excellent lenses, working fully. I have no personal experience of the EE lens, although I understand that optically it is very much the same as the OE. It is the metering side of things that is very different from the OE.

I hope this will be helpful to you, but I close by repeating that when operating the exposure control manually you should be able to see a change in the brightness of the image you see through the viewfinder when turning the manual setting whilst pointing the lens at a bright light.
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#3 Jean-Louis Seguin

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 05:29 PM

Simply put. if you don't see the image in the viewfinder go darker when you close down the aperture manually, either the lens is malfunctioning or you are not using it properly.

If you don't have a manual, you can download the manual for the 16-100mm here: http://www.apecity.com/manuals/

On pages 8 and 9 they explain how to manually set the f/stop.

This system is the same for all EE, OE and POE lenses.

Cheers,
Jean-Louis
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