Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Congratulations new film camera owner! Here are a few hints and suggestions for using your Bolex camera:

1) Film cameras make some noise. It's all the gears, pulldown claw, mechanical regulator, etc. This is normal.  Wind the spring motor after each shot. Do not force the wind handle. Practice using a roll of out-of-date film. Establish maximum run time. Spring may lost some of its strength and may actually run with a shorter filming time than normal. This will ensure the motor will run at consistent speed.

Failure to do this may result in the motor reaching the end of it's wind before the shot ends. This will cause the film to be exposed slower than normal which will result in the finished film playing faster than normal. H8s and H16s "tick" every so often. This is normal. The "ticking" can be turned off with a lever inside the film case. See manual.

2) Later 8mm Bolex cameras have built-in light meters. Most have a calibration adjustment screw. See the manual for your model. In film production due to the costs involved, accurate light measurement is a must. Consider using another, separate light meter, such as a Sekonic L-398 (about $179.00) or similar.

Light meters are cheap enough to purchase used on eBay. Metering should be done slightly below the chin of the key person in a shot with the meter light dome pointing towards the lens of the camera. There are other ways, however, this will work fine for most filming projects.

3) Film and film processing/transfer to video, etc, is expensive compared to video. Before shooting a large project, consider shooting a "test" roll of film. After processing you can compare what you wanted to what you got. This may save you a lot of money.

4) Film cameras are lubricated on a regular basis. Consult your manual for recommendations. Bolex says it's cameras should be maintenanced every year. A 1-3 year interval is more common. Cameras that have been stored or used under dusty conditions may require more frequent maintenance. 

Cameras stored for 5+ years definitely need to be overhauled as the grease and oil are long dried up and probably have affected operation. Rough winding of the spring motor is caused by lack of lubrication.

5) DO NOT store the camera or transport in a hot/dusty location. Film cameras tend to pick up dust as they use both oil and grease in their operating mechanisms.

6) Bolex cameras are covered with English leather. You can clean them with "Lexol" brand cleaner and leather conditioner.

7) Metal edges and Declic handles can be polished "like new" with any fine polishing compound,. We recommended, "Bluemagic" brand. Any automotive supply store.

8) Do not touch the lens glass with your fingers. The oil and acid on the human hand will etch into the glass if left long enough. Clean with lens paper or denatured alcohol. Never use canned air on a lens. It may blow dust into the lens mechanism.

9) Avoid using canned air to clean the inner compartment of the camera. Blown air may actually cause dirt and dust to get inside of inner case where the motor gears are exposed. Use soft lint free cloth or Kim-Wipes.

10)  When the project filming is finished, remove the film take-up spool after running the camera with the lens caps on. This will wind the exposed film onto to the take-up reel and prevent fogging. Remove the film reels in a dark area or use changing bag. See Bolex manual. Depress the run button until the spring in fully unwound. This is good operating practice. The purpose of running the motor down is to relieve the tension on the spring motor. For long periods of storage the spring should always be run down.

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