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Can it really be that difficult?


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#1 Julian Fletcher

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 03:53 PM

Hi,

I know that the Bolex sub-forum may be the best place for this, but there does not seem to be much activity there at the moment, and I am on the point of throwing the towel in on 16mm.........so I am counting on you guys to help me and show me the light!!

 

A few years ago I invested in a nearly new Bolex factory made Super 16 H16. To be honest, I find it an incredible pain in the ar*e to use. I mean seriously painful, which frustrates myself and my family.

 

What I know is hampering me -

a) I know I should be using Switar RX lenses, but the cost of these on UK ebay is extreme to say the least, for what looks like something you would class as dusty old junk really. Very old rusty examples going for hundreds of pounds. Sorry, just can't bring myself to invest. So I've been using Nikon and Zeiss 35mm SLR lenses. I use longer than 50mm so I am free of the prism effect, and normally around f8, but obviously often means I have to stand miles back from my subject and focusing is a very delicate affair.

B) Still using 100ft loads, as cannot locate a motor for my 400ft magazine. To be honest, this is a minor issue.

 

BUT My main problem -

Is around the focusing and viewfinder. I mean, its seriously dark and really hard to see whats going on. I have to focus with the lens wide open by eye (no focusing aid like I'm used to on my Nikon SLR cameras), and then once stopped down and/or a filter attached (say an ND) - its almost impossible (no it IS impossible) to see out of, and use. Every shot has to be composed first, and locked off on tripod - before stopping down etc, which then means the viewfinder image is so so dark all I can shoot is what I have pre-composed. Forget panning, and forget using it handheld following the kids around etc. I am getting OK results, but the process and blood, sweat and tears with much swearing and frustration - which is all starting to feel just too much.

 

So, this is a real plea for help

* Am I doing something fundamentally wrong here?

* I got the Bolex from a very respected UK Bolex expert and I am sure he would have not sold me a dud. So I don't think the camera is the problem.

* Is using the 35mm lenses with a Nikon to C mount adaptor the main issue here? (I doubt it as the viewfinder is dark anyway).

 

It just seems amazing to me for such a popular camera, the effort and pain seems massive.

 

Thoughts? Am thinking about ditching it for a used SR2 or SR3. Will I experience the same grief?

 

Cheers

Julian


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#2 Chris Millar

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 04:20 PM

Is certainly sub-optimal in that regard, but not all shots use ND and a closed iris.

As a solution I've seen an operator resort to using an eye patch to keep his viewing eye adjusted for the dark...
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#3 Heikki Repo

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 05:02 PM

Some of the Bolex are rather notorious for having really dark viewfinders. Part of the problem is the way the camera is built -- the prism diverts part of the light to the vf but it's certainly less than if the vf was built around some different concept.

 

As SR2 and SR3 have mirror they do not have this same problem. Mind you though that the image flickers thus making it harder to focus, not to mention that the cost of the PL-mount lenses is going to bankrupt you... If you are just shooting home movies you could just buy an Eclair ACL or NPR -- both of which are lighter than SRs, take c-mount lenses and were used a lot in the documentary scene. Sure, even with ACL when iris is closed down the image becomes darker and I usually like to focus iris wide open. But just add a switar 10mm and home movie shooting becomes easy as you can set the focus to infinity --- which begins from 3 meters...

 

Another option is to have the Bolex ground glass Laserbrightened: http://super16inc.com/page3.html

 

Anyway, there is a good reason why cinetape, follow focus and focus pullers exist in the professional scene. :)


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#4 Chris Elardo

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 07:58 PM

Hi Julian,

 

I've felt your angst using the H16! On my last project, I had to follow a kite dancing in the air and it was very difficult. Dealing with a mere approx. 25% of the light actually making it through the viewfinder takes a lot of practice and scenes must be choreographed and well rehearsed a lot of times before you pull the trigger. One thing that helped me was using the viewfinder on the side of the camera. When set to the proper distance it can give a very accurate framing of what the lens is seeing. Also, since preset prime lenses are very expensive, why not try the 16-100mm POE zoom? If you shoot it at around 25mm or higher you shouldn't have any vignetting and opening the lens to full aperature for focusing is a snap since all you do is push in the power button halfway and it automatically opens the lens. Just let go of the button and it automaticaly snaps down to the proper f-stop for filming. Also, I would highly recommend purchasing the Bolex shoulder brace for anything not on a tripod. This item is an absolute Godsend when using an H16 because it frees both of your hands. You can manipulate the lens and other controls much quicker and easier because the shoulder brace hugs your body very securely. I wouldn't part with mine for anything! I use the shoulder brace and POE lens for anything that is spontaneous and/or unpredictable- such as children playing, animals, etc. Filters can be put in front of the POE lens so that the iris automatically adjusts for the difference. You can usually get this lens at an excellent price.

 

If you must have Switar presets, have you tried purchasing them in the U.S.? I occasionally see these at pretty good prices on e-bay here and I bought two of mine that way. My 75mm preset was purchased from PROCAM, the Bolex dealer for North America here in Arizona. I'm not sure what the exchange rate is for pound vs dollar, but I believe this would work in your favor.

 

I'll say once again, using the Bolex viewfinder is a pain but if you practice you can get great results. Once I put my eye to that viewfinder and adjust the lens I never pull away until I stop the shot. I know that sounds rudimentary but you have to let your eye adjust to the low light and if you keep pulling away from the eyecup it really ruins this and quickly becomes a serious b*tch. Hope this helps-


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#5 Nicholas Kovats

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 08:27 PM

Julian,

 

Which Bolex viewfinder do you have? 6x, 10x?  The 13x version is excellent. Greater magnification, contrast and brightness.  


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#6 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 08:50 PM

Your eye/nervous system can normalise to the dim image quite easily. I have shot with a dim Bolex, happy as a clam. Use slow film outdoors. The NDs etc have no effect on the viewing system. If the sun is bright you can wear heavy dark glasses when not shooting. And wear a hat that shades your eyes, the front of your glasses.

You have to discern between the physical limitation and the irritation due to familiarity with better viewing systems.

If you really don't like it or can't adapt, have less than normally sensitive eyes etc, then get a camera with a brighter VF. later Bolex? Bealieu R16?
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#7 Chris Millar

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 02:06 AM

Your eye/nervous system can normalise to the dim image quite easily. I have shot with a dim Bolex, happy as a clam. Use slow film outdoors. The NDs etc have no effect on the viewing system.

If you really don't like it or can't adapt, have less than normally sensitive eyes etc, then get a camera with a brighter VF. later Bolex? Bealieu R16?

 

The filter for all the models I've used sits in front of the prism:

 

$_35.JPG

 

This picture is RX4/RX5 turret - but I know it is also the case for the SB/SBM and EL as I have super-16 versions of the SB and EL (suspect EBM also, although I've never touched one). As far as I knew the only Bolex made super-16 factory originals were SBM and EL (again, could easily be mistaken, maybe RX5? ... but at least they'll all be 'later model' 13x finders).

 

Anyhoo, yeah unfortunately the filter makes a bit of a poo in this regard, but at least you're more likely to notice it and not make the mistake of leaving it in when you weren't exposing for it.

 

Eye patch ( B))  try it  ;)


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#8 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 02:55 AM

 

...The NDs etc have no effect on the viewing system...

 
The reason I say that is...Whatever stop ND goes in, we open up the iris that much. Well normally or commonly anyway. Then again, thinking of the original post, he's working a lot with an open iris untill he shoots, so if an ND goes in he will blame the dark on that.

The routine of using the open iris untill the camera runs will not enable much normalisation of the eye.
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#9 Chris Millar

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 06:49 AM

 
 The reason I say that is...Whatever stop ND goes in, we open up the iris that much. 

Very true, I used them so often for long exposures in time lapse that I lost sight of the usual context :)

 

(By stopping down and stacking ND's I could achieve the effect of a 180deg shutter for much longer frame periods - and the usual long exposure subjects called for deep DOF anyhoo)


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#10 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 09:23 AM

With other 16mm cameras becoming so cheap these days, I don’t see a reason why not to just go with something like an SR, LTR , or even NPR. If you want compactness, an Arri 16S will be great for that, not to mention you can get Schneider primes pretty affordably. 

 

I’ve been seeing SRII and SRIII systems on ebay with lenses for around $3k...not terribly high considering you get a professional-level camera. 


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#11 steve waschka

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 10:17 PM

im assuming since you have a super 16 bolex it has the most modern viewfinder. It may be dirty. The top of the prism, the periscope prism, The output of that to the viewfinder and the multiple groups in the viewfinder, if all dirty, stack up to a problem of both focus and brightness. Also you have to pull the lens and set the viewfinder focus to the ground glass first.

 

Though I can remember having to get used to film viewfinders. There was a time if I wasnt on a beach with a towel over me, I was convinced I couldnt see out. Remember with any through the lens motion camera you have to view all your exposure choices dim or light. An SLR only closes the iris to shoot. So you have to push a button to preview your exposure. A lot of the switars had a neat feature that allowed you to throw a lever and open the iris to focus and push it back to shoot. Now adays I'd just be likely to forget to move it back and overexpose everything. You'll get used to it.

 

If your viewfinders cleanliness is suspect and If your good with jewelers screwdrivers and precision lens cleaning and q-tip bending, I'd look into that viewfinder. But if your not confident Id stay out of there. Some cameras the adhesive to the prisms dries out and they are easy to remove. The others you better bend your qtips and leave them in place. You chip any of that stuff and you'll be ticked.

 

Finally on the glass... I do the same. Ive got switars, and som berthiots, and angenieuxs, canontv16s, adpaters for 35mm pentax, canon, nikon, mamiya 645s. Its a bit of trial and error if you buy anything but reflex bolex lenses. My best observation for non-reflex is if the rear glass is larger with a bigger sweet spot the aberration thru the prism is lessened. But if your not willing to buy 2 or three non reflexes to get one that works well you prob should just save and buy switars. I dont have a POE zoom. Ill bet that would solve your problem. I had an M-5 with the latest Angenieux 12-120. That lens was awesome. Although I had essentially the same lens on an ARRI BL and it wasnt so awesome. So its never a given.

 

Just keep shooting. Try not to wreck too much film or tick off the family. Good luck.


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#12 steve waschka

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 10:25 PM

Oh and the birns and sawyer or blue star chamois eye cups help.


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#13 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 24 September 2014 - 01:54 AM

I've done a lot of Bolex shooting and ya know, as everyone else said above, these are the issues with the design. I always used wider lenses and stopped the camera down almost all the way, practically eliminating the focusing issues (though making it very difficult to see through the viewfinder). I did a whole ton of "home movie" shooting with the camera using black and white reversal stock and it worked well. My camera had a built-in spot meter and I'd simply follow the meter and adjust the exposure accordingly. Its a great little camera and sure it has little problems, but I think the key is to understand them and adapt your shooting style to go around them. If you want longer lens shots with greater depth of field in darker conditions, the camera may not be the right one for you. 

 

My favorite camera is the Arri SR. I had the snap on back battery kit and it too had a built-in meter. I'd throw over my shoulder with a strap, go out and shoot, mostly reversal, but it worked just like a video camera with no audio. I had a nice cheap-ass zoom lens which was falling apart. Shoot like ENG, zoom into the subject, get focus, zoom out and roll film. Its a great "working" camera, allows the cinematographer to be focused on shot composition rather then the technicalities of the shoot itself. I figured out how to "wear" an extra magazine on my back with a little net backpack thing and 800ft of film was always enough for a day of screwing around with the camera. When I shot more serious things, I'd borrow better glass, follow focus kit and matte box. However, those were all ancillary, great for "serious" filmmaking, but not necessary for shooting fun stuff for myself. 

 

As a side note the Arri's mirrored shutter does work better with focus, its a lot brighter, but when you stop down, it still makes the viewfinder darker. You get use to this and use the zoom-in focus tricks. 


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#14 Nicholas Kovats

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Posted 24 September 2014 - 08:06 AM

Julian,

 

Are you going to identify your your specific H16 model? i.e. Rex4/5/SBM/EBM/EL? Type of viewfinder? 6x, 10x, 13x?  Specifics help us help you. 


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