for an upcoming project, I am looking for a good, vintage 16mm camera. By vintage, I would preferably mean pre-1945. But I am unsure of my options, as I haven't read myself up on 16mm cameras from this era. The best option right now seems to be the Bell & Howell Filmo, but I would really love to have a reflex camera and use an Angineux zoom I have. What other options are there?
If all else fail, I might just get a Bolex H16 Reflex, even though it is from the 1950s.
What mount does your Angenieux zoom lens require? I think that will determine which cameras you should be looking at.
You might have focusing issues with an RX H16 Bolex on the wide end of your zoom, I think the Switar RX lenses would be best for those cameras.
Not sure you will find a pre-1945 reflex 16mm camera, but I could be wrong about that. I think if a reflex viewfinder is important, than maybe an Arri S or S/B would be a good option. Unless you need to record sync sound...
Yes, my Angineux is a C-mount lens. I should add that I don't have any problems buying more lenses for whichever camera I end up with. And yes, I have problems finding any reflex camera pre-45. It was still very new then. But are there other "pro-level" 16mm cameras from the era without reflex?
Bolex cameras are the two models that were made by the Bol Co. of Geneva in the twenties.
We better speak of Paillard-Bolex products to avoid confusion and because the manufacturer was E. Paillard & Cie. They bought Bol and the Bolex trade mark in 1930.
Basically, the original H-16 model of 1935 continued to be made until 1969. Its designation changed from H-16 to H-16 S (for Standard) in 1963. It offers a rackover framing and focusing system since 1936, I use the present tense because if one ordered an H-16 S from Bolex International today they would assemble it from stock parts. This is the most open and in its latest form the most versatile model with options for different electric motors, manual work, and a C-mounts turret. The idea behind the H-16 was speed. Film is quickly loaded, the spring can be wound fast by the long handle, one of three lenses is instantly brought into taking position. The Beaulieu Reflex 16 is more compact and of lighter weight but doesn’t have the auto-thread mechanism nor a disconnection of the spring.
The only other H cameras are the H-16 M (marine) with a single lens front and the Reflex models featuring a hinged double-prism block in front of the shutter. These are the H-16 RX 1 through 5 variants, the SB (spring, bajonet), the SBM (spring, bajonet, magazine), the EBM (electric drive, bajonet, magazine), and the EL (electronic). SB, SBM, EBM, and EL were made by Bolex International, in the possession of Eumig, Vienna, from January 1st, 1970 to 1982. The Paillard familiy enterprise collapsed after 155 years, I believe due to the inability of the direction to grasp the essence of filmmaking.
The asymmetric reflex prism block opposes precise focusing with short conjugates, i. e. in the macro field. With the H-8 Reflex the paths of light through glass towards the frosted surface and towards the film are like 5 to 2. The closer the object to the lens, the falser focusing gets. The finder light remains in glass, the exposing light leaves the glass, too. There are more Paillard-Bolex problems. The H cameras belong to the middle section, somewhere above consumer boxes and somewhere below professional gear.
By the way, there has been a 16mm camera that offered direct viewing of the image on the film stock. Who knows the name?
Thanks for the many good comments here. Thanks for the quick introduction on the Bolex - explains it better than any place I've read so far! The Bolex is definitely a camera worth looking into. But I also like what I see in the Kodak Cine Special - only drawback is it's proprietary lens mount. But I see packages coming with many lenses - how are the lenses on the Cine Special?
Some good lenses from Kodak’s Hawk Eye Works, some less
In 1948 a new line of Cine-Ektars appeared with the 1 inch, f/1.4 as flagship. That is a lens with rare-earth glass, super-hard coating as Kodak stated at the time (“Luminized”) and good correction. The longer focal lengths are nice, too. Wide angles are not so hot. There are adapters for S-mount lenses on C-mount cameras and vice versa. From the standpoint of focal range you will be well off with Kodak.
My CKS runs for 1,600 frames or one minute and six seconds at 24 fps. 165 degrees shutter opening angle
I also want to thank for this short Bolex introduction.
I learned some new things. I did not know so much about the older Bolex models.
I only have some newer models: H-16 RX 4 SB, H-16 RX 5 SBM, H-16 RX 5 SBM Super 16 (unfortunately the viewfinder shows not exactly the same what is exposed) and a H-16 RX 4 EBM with an underwater housing.
The c-mount is a very good thing, because there are so many optics you can use, also with some adapter.
I know the problem of the 2R.
Unfortunately you have to order 20 400ft rolls of Kodak Vision 3 500T 7219.
But many persons need some 100ft in daylight spool for the old cameras (and also some 50ft for the old Kodak models; I have there also one).
Ok, the 400ft rolls are also needed for some highspeed cameras like a Redlake, but you need it on a 400ft spool and you cannot get this anymore. I am searching for some empty spools or for a plug-in coil (Steckspule), but they are rare.
Maybe they will make 2R 100ft daylight spools in the future again.
They also started last year again with the 200ft roll for 35mm with Kodak Vision 3 500T 5219.
If someone needs some 2R, maybe we can make a omnibus order at Kodak Europe. Making some Wind-Downs on 100ft daylight spools is not the problem.
I’d like to add something. The initial question is Best vintage 16mm camera?
The best used camera can only be the best maintained one. A scratched gate can be very unpleasant. Paillard sold an accessory, the prismatic focuser whose glass prism sits directly on the aperture plate with its matte surface. Many people are not aware of that glass is harder than steel, it chips easily and can cause ridges in the metal, especially when uneven. I don’t understand why there wasn’t a frosted plastic part in front of the prism. Gelatine begins to build up on the tiniest burrs or grooves and that is never good. To sum it up, the surfaces on which the film runs should be baffled, polished mirrorlike. Motion-picture films are very lightly waxed (not all).
A trained technician can do that, it’s a lapping job with jeweler’s rouge. The same mechanician takes care of everything else, too. That costs money. Let me express my gratitude towards all the customers who have given me cameras for a check or an overhaul. I give a two years warranty on my work. Every penny is well invested in a known camera. Therefore I always describe exactly what I find and give the owner the possibility to decide what should be done and what not. Computers and the internet are wonderful tools for this, quick and at almost no cost. I think there have never been better times to buy used gear cheaply and to restore it or sometimes even improve it at honest prices.
There are grotesque offers around, reflex viewfinder cameras for less money than amateur boxes that are a little rarer. One thing is certain: you get more camera when it’s got a spring drive mechanism. There has been a hand crank accessory to the Arriflex 16, it contains planetary gears but otherwise that camera is worthless without an electric motor and electric energy. Since the original bayonet is not the best technical solution, above all for macro work just beyond a lens’ close end, a different lens mount camera can prove much more valuable.
For reference only, I went through a story the other day with an eBay seller from Germany. He offered an H-8 with one photo. I asked for more pictures, he sent me some. Dark and small. Still, I could see that parts were missing that put the value to almost zero. When I pointed it out he continued to praise the camera as so beautiful and TOP. What came out also was that the first photo was from the ad by which he acquired the camera. So he had stolen an image and lied about the state of the product. His asking is not astronomic but still too high. One would have to purchase the missing lever from Bolex International and mount the turret spring and lever correctly. An overhaul is necessary as well, later better photos show that the old light seal around the main plate inside was never broken. Knowledge is power.
Thanks for the information everyone. I think I've got my mind settled on a Kodak Cine Special. It seems like a cool camera (look are important!) with all functions I would need. I also like that even the shutter is variable. Although 180 would be preferable, 165 will be interesting. Too bad there's no 400' magazine, but 100' on 16mm is 5-ish minutes after all.
Mister Wyss, if I get my hands on one. Are you able, and willing to, look over it for a CLA?
"By the way, there has been a 16mm camera that offered direct viewing of the image on the film stock. Who knows the name?"
That would be the Zeiss Ikon Movikon 16 from the 30s, the only camera of that era to rival the Cine Kodak Special in professional features.
I have one, it's probably my favourite collection piece, next to a gorgeous Filmo 75.
It used custom mount Zeiss lenses coupled with a range-finder (the only 16mm movie camera I know of to do so), and had features like a variable shutter, automatic parallax correction in the viewfinder, self-timer and the above-mentioned direct-focussing window onto the gate.
The only drawback is that it has the pulldown claw on the wrong side, and so requires double-perf film.
Overhauling a Movikon 16 these days, folks, a washer and springs orgy. These cameras seem to consist of twice as many parts as a Paillard-Bolex H-16. I have to keep the strictest order, else I’d be lost in chaos.
The gear train is well made, there are some interesting details with it. As much as I understand it now the Movikon 16 began as a simple but rugged camera, 16 fps, no rewind, C-mount thread bush, peep-through finder. When Bell & Howell published the existence of their precision Range Finger as they called it, an accessory to the Filmo 70-D, in August 1933 Zeiss-Ikon added the Entfernungsmesser, distance meter, in 1934 or so. At the same time a parallax correction was adapted, working more or less dependably down to about 1,5 m or five feet, a bayonet mount, more speeds, single-frame release, and a self-timer.
What I don’t understand at all is the meaning of the P on the counter disc. Does anybody know?
Not quite the same, but this old Bell and Howell magazine camera sorta offers direct viewing of the film plane (though not on the film itself) via an accessory magazine with a built-in site (is that called a "boresite"?)
This image is from an auction of somebody's old homebrew setup. The tinkerer had mounted a light bar under the front of the camera which seemed to focus light via two mirrors on either side of the lens. Not sure what it was for, but apparently it required a lot of light in a tiny area.