Saturday, December 22, 2012


I have 6.5mm Elgeet and a wide adapter for 5.5mm. Can I use these together?

Yes. The difference between the 2 lenses (5.5 and 6.5mm) is minimal. Wide angle lenses on 8mm Bolex camera are typically:  5.5mm, 6.5mm, 7mm, & 8mm. Normal angle is 12.5mm or 13mm and telephoto is approximately 36mm to 38mm also sometimes shown as 1 1/2". Normal lens angle is about 2x narrower that wide angle. Telephoto angle is about 2x narrower than normal. This is of course, a rough approximation. See a better explanation (more complicated - but with diagrams) here:

Distance to the subject and the field of view are to be considered when choosing a lens. Different angle lenses present different views or distortions or compressing of the view. One can first choose the angle - wide, normal, telephoto and then consider the distance. Sometimes the distance is the primary factor to be considered first.  There is some confusion when using zoom lenses where the picture appears to 'grow" as the camera lens is zoom from wide to telephoto.

The are actually several things happening with a zoom lens: 1) The lens angle narrows as the zoom moves from wide to telephoto, and 2) magnification of the image makes the picture appear larger. What is actually happening is that angle is being 'traded" for distance. 

Say you choose a wide angle prime lens for a group shot. You then adjust the camera distance until all the people fit in the viewfinder. You can get close to the subject which is usually best for lighting. Closer also will net a sharper, better picture.

Using a telephoto lens to do the same shot, you WILL have to back up until the group fits. The distance added will cause the light hitting the film (or sensor in a digital camera) to 'fall off. The lower light will usually require a lower relative f/stop than the wide angle F/8 instead of f/11.  There are other considerations. 

What the shot 'looks like' when done is a consideration. The feeling that it gives to the viewer. Lots of stuff. And a lot of it is subjective - your choice (camera operator).  A wide angle, extreme close-up shot of a face will make the face look distorted. A long lens on the same face will need to move back and will 'flatten' facial features (portrait) . In motion pictures, long lenses seem to 'expand time' for moving shot. A car in the distance will appear to take longer to come into the camera's close proximity. Forever it takes to 'get to the camera'. Then all of a sudden, it whips by.

Zoom have their place where you have enough light to be able to trade distance for light. In better cameras, you don't even need to be close to get that picture. Zoom to it. Prime lens' require more camera movement to get to the right position for filming. Sometimes, only the zoom will work. Choices made determine the effect of the lens on the film. 

I know there is fixed focus Pizar lenses for Bolex which should do the job, but how sharp are they when you use them up close, but within the depth of field?  Do they have that telltale "not critically sharp" look?

The fixed focus Pizar are sharp enough at any distance for 8mm film,  but are not designed for extreme close up shooting. The depth of field is infinite on the far end and limited to some fixed distance up close. On a Switar f/1.5. It focuses from about 16" (close) to infinity at f/22 (beyond 60 feet or so). With everything sharp. 

A problem is with the extremely small iris openings such as f/22, any lenses can suffer from diffraction. Diffraction can be seen as unwanted light spots. One type of spot in the lens flare. Diffraction and flare can be controlled with lens shade (hoods) and/or lens coating, or sometimes by just changing the camera angle. At extremely small openings, and depending on the lens used, the fix is to open the iris (small f stop) and uses a neutral density (ND) filter to control the light.

The limiting factor of sharpness with 8mm or any film, is the film grain versus the width of the film. 8mm film stock is cut from 16mm, which is in turn cut from standard 35mm stock. With 3 cameras shooting the same film stock and at the same time, on the same subject, with the same light,  and adjusted for lens differences, the 35mm would have the best perceived resolution and the 8mm the worst resolution. It's the film grain that make the quality suffer as the film image gets smaller.

Look at any 8mm footage. Grainy. Look at the 35mm footage of the same subject. Much nicer. Remember, also that you are generally much closer to projected 8mm footage than 35mm footage. 8mm footage projected in a theater setting would be very bad. Coupled with the projected image, the 8mm will also lose some sharpness from the projection process. Remember, 8mm camera equipment was designed and sold for the "home market". The lost cost of 8mm equipment was achieved by cutting "corners".

Another limiting factor for lens sharpness is there is usually an f-stop area that has the best sharpness for that lens. And it usually NOT at the extreme ends of the lens. The lowest or highest f-stops. F/2.8 typically do best starting a f/4 going to f/8 or so. F22 on the same lens will always have less sharpness. All this varies with the manufacturer and the design, number of lens elements, technology, etc, of the lens. The more money you spend - then better the sharpness. Switars are better than Yvars for Bolex, but both work well with 8mm.

Some of the cost cutting involved with 8mm lenses was the use of lower quality glass, with imperfections in the glass that  tended to be ignored in the really cheap lenses. The imperfections generally didn't show in the final projection and so were tolerable. Projector lenses are even worse. I have a Keystone 8mm projector. You can remove and hold to the Keystone's projector lens to the light and see extremely small air bubbles in the glass! Doesn't affect the projected image at all. Fortunately, camera lenses are better made.

Bolex sold two basic series of lenses: Yvar (cheap), and Switar (more money = better made). The Switars generally had lower f stop ratings (pass more light). Example: f/1.9 Vs f/2.8. At that time, the 1940s to 1965 or so, film was 25 or 40 ASA. You need a fast lens for indoors? F/1.8 or f/1.9 was common. Kern-Paillard and even made a f/.9 lens. An F/1.0 lens would pass 100% of the light thru the lens. The f/.9 lenses are quite rare and typically sell today for about $500 or so on ebay. No loss of light. In fact, the .9 lens GAIN light like a magnifying glass.

I also know they have these lenses that allow reflex operation on a non-reflex camera. Do these work on the C8 or regular H8 or is the lens to film plane distance different or the lens mount not D-Mount? What is available that would work in place of my 5.5mm C8/H8 lens?

Reflex lenses made for D-mount work well. What you get is an accurate view of what you are filming. The reflex mechanism sends the light of the picture via a mirror when the camera's shutter is close. Typical shutter angle is about 180 degrees, so half the time you are filming, you can see the image. The other half of the time, the image is 'hitting' the film. They sell on ebay for $25 and up. Sometimes you see them on a C8 or B8. I seen them on D8Ls, also. Som Berthiot made lenses to convert  non-reflex Bolex models to reflex operation. There were some made by the Japanese, also.

Here's a link to a Som Berthiot at

Any reflex lens made for a D-Mount with work on the C8. The Pan Cinor 40R is probably the best lens for the C8. There is a focus diopter for getting sharp pictures for 'bad' eyes (like a binocular), and it uses a "split focus" system. You just turn the focus dial until the 2 split images match up. 

Was there ever made a 6.5mm viewfinder adapter for Bolexs?

Yes, 6.5 Bolex diopters were made. Quite rare now. However, the 5.5 will work for any wide angle lens, since the diopter is just used to "correct' the view as seen by the operator. You just allow slightly less 'room' at the left/right edge of the view to compensate for the difference in the  2 diopter values. The diopters view angle of 5.5 will result in a slightly wider view of finished film when used on a on a 6.5 lens, and even more wide on 7, or 8mm lenses.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Fresh film is available from many sources. Try links here first:

I recommend buying the film stock from a seller who also does the processing. There are several suppliers in the above links. You can typically get a discount when purchasing both together. Ask about transfer services if you plan to show the film on TV and not on a film projector. Ask about quantity prices. You should get discount buying multiple rolls.

Store film where its cool and dry, or put in a sealed ZIPLOCK baggie and store in the refrigerator. Here's a link to what Kodak has to say about storage:

If you need a projector, eBay is the place. Most projectors were used very little and then stored. Pretty much the same as cameras have been. The thing you need to look out for is 1) does the bulb work? If the projector needs a bulb, chances are its still available. $20-$25 is typical.  2) Does the projector have the power cord?

These seem to get lost. And its not an "off the shelf item". Anybody handy can usually adapt a power cord or rewire the camera. They are pretty basic. And  3) Does it work? Sometimes people just say, "Dunno if'n it works. If it doesn't? Well, send it back" :( 

Really, one can turn the thing on and if the reels turn and the bulb lights up, it probably works ok. Whenever I see "Dunno...", I always think about the D8L I bought way back when. The seller said, "It's museum quality". Worst camera I ever bought. Rust everywhere. Parts is was... :(

I have 2x  8mm projectors. A Bell & Howell 400 Model 122 (sold in the 1940s) and a Keystone. Both work fine and have pretty much the same controls. The B&H is the better of the two. The projecting lens on the B&H is very nice. The lens on the Keystone has some air bubbles in the glass. Doesn't seem to make a difference, though.

If you haven't used a projector before, remember this rule: ALWAYS start the film rolling before the light is switch switched on.

Some projectors have a "fail safe" system. A rotary switch runs the film feed when turned to the 1st position and then the lamp comes on when the switch is turned to the 2nd position. If not done in this fashion, the heat from the lamp and a few seconds of film not moving in the projectors gate will burn a hole in the film stock :(

Shipping will be high as the projectors usually are quite heavy. 10-20 pounds. You'll need take-up reels, also. A 7" reel is common. Ebay again. Try to get a reel(s) with their corresponding storage cans. 7" reels hold 400'.

Film is returned from the developers on a 3" reel - about 50' and 3 minutes or so depending on the original filming speed. So unless you like rewinding 3" reels every 3 minutes, putting all the 'like stuff' on a single reel is the way to go. Be sure to accurately mark all reels. Nothing more aggravating than seeing Uncle Fred when you were expecting the grandkids birthday party.

Editing for film usually involves cutting out the garbage and bad shots and making some kind of movie. Might be a narrative - or just what happened, or it could be edited into a story. To edit 8mm film you'll need a "flatbed". Yeah, they are cheap. Shipping's higher because of the weight. If your searching eBay , use this link to search for 8mm editors:

Be sure to get a 8mm editor and NOT a Super 8 editor. Different size film, sprocket holes, etc. Again, these also have lamps so make sure the lamp is good or expect to spend $10-25 for another. These do not have a motor to move the film. All done by hand with hand cranks. You will need a single edged razor bland or film cutter, and film cement, and possibly some leader material. The leader is all white and serves only to allow the film projector to be running BEFORE the film you want to see shows. Else you would miss something.

Link to film leader material:

Link to film cement:

All projectors have a speed control. Use it to adjust the motion in film when running to what "looks normal". The projectors lens is focusable. You can project against a painted wall, a white sheet or use a film screen.

Projectors manuals are available online. Some free. Try a Google search:

           film projector manuals

"...Popcorn is optional..."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


This post explains how to compensate for Kodak Ektachrome 100D and the Bolex P1 Metering system.

Kodak's suggested neutral density filters are general suggestions for this type of film used in a "daylight" situation to help avoid overexposure.

From the Kodak page they suggest using a .3 (1 stop) or a .6 (2 stops) ND filter to avoid overexposure. You could also drop a stop by rotating the iris. For example if the iris is set to f/5.6, and the needle centered, you could move it to f/8. That will give you a 1 stop decrease in light. The needle will show underexposed - ignore it.

If you instead used a .3 (1 stop) filter in the lens holder of the P1, the metering system will just see 1 stop less light and you would still center the needle. This would put the camera exposure back to what it thinks is 'normal'. And it would be still be one stop overexposed for the Ektachrome 100D film you are using. Keep in mind, this compensation as recommended by Kodak is ONLY for Ektachrome 100D film. Other films may or may not need compensation.

Keep written records of what works best. ASA, film speeds, compensation, subject lighting, overall lighting conditions, etc, before and after shooting. 

Another situation is a "back light" scene where a strong light behind the subject affects the overall meter's setting. It 'reads' all light in the scene which 'skews' the overall metering values towards underexposing the backlit subject. Although the needle in center, the meter is 'lying to you' about the correct setting. 

To fix a back lit scene, you would adjust the needle for that excessive light and the resultant developed film would be exposed correctly. Back light in any 8mm cameras typically calls for decreasing the iris to a larger number (smaller iris opening) by about 1/2 to 2 stops depending on the strength of the back light. 

Three ways to correct:

     1) Add more light on the subject(s) then recompose the shot
     2) Close the iris 1-2 stops (guess)
     3) Get close to subject, fill the screen with the subject,  and then set the (meter). Back up and      
         shoot the  footage. Do NOT readjust metering once set.

See here:

For more information, search Google for these terms:  

     backlight compensation

If the needle centered at F/5.6, for a typical backlight situation, one would move the P1 camera iris lever half way (or more - depending on conditions) from f/5.6 to f/8. The needle would read underexposed by one stop, however, the subject would be exposed more correctly. The background light would be a stop less, too. Remember, you always (usually) want to set the exposure for the subject. Backlit situations set the iris for what is behind the subject. What is really needed is spot metering.

Unfortunately spot meting is not used on the Bolex camera. Bolex diverts all the light from the picture as seen by the lens. Under most condition this gives a good average of the light in the scene that the camera is shooting. But unfortunately does not allow for backlight conditions.

One way around this is to meter the subject with a separate light meter such as a Sekonic L-398. 

Here's a link to its manual:

Unfortunately, these also while doing a great job (and at a low cost) for how they are intended to be used, the L398 cannot do spot metering :(

You can use a spot meter to meter off the face value from a distance or just guess the iris compensation based on experience.

Sekonic L398 Meters on eBay:

Regardless of what meter you use, using a meter can get better footage than guessing. I like the L398 as it has FPS (cine), ISO , aperture, and  EV settings. Just dial in numbers and take a reading. Easy to use, no batteries, inexpensive (used).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


All film cameras operate essentially the same. What works on one usually works with all. The setting of the ASA speeds, shutter angle, f-stops, etc, is the same with the Bolex 8mm series as it is for most all other 8mm, 16mm, 35mm,  and 70mm film cameras. Good thing, too. Lots of information freely available online and published.

The ASC  "American Cinematographers Manual" is the standard. There are actually 2 manuals now. The film and the newer video manual. You'll want the film:

I looked. There are a few there. Both new and used. These used to typically sell for $5-$10 used, but have become somewhat scarce in the last few years. 

See also amazon:

The manuals are updated every couple of years or so. The manuals typically cover the cameras used in that previous period. The 5th edition even covers Bolex 16mm cameras!

These are the topics from the index of the "American Cinematographers Manual", 5th edition, 626 pages, 1980:

Cameras 65mm
Cameras 35mm
Cameras 16mm
Film Stock
Exposure Filter
Miscellaneous equipment
Lab Procedures
Special Effects Photography
Special Techniques.

No 8mm material, but a lot of charts, graphs, and picture of old film equipment, etc, but still very much useful for the 8mm cinematographer. 


Film not running consistently? Film jams up in gate? Film tears at sprocket hole? Film runs a foot or two and then the camera stops? Could be a couple of things. Try this:

1) Fully wind the camera and prepare to shoot film normally. If you can, use old, damaged or expendable film stock. Worst case, use good film and perform work described below in a dark room to preserve the film. Press run (film) button so the camera runs and hold the button until it jams.

2) Stop filming.

3) Place the camera flat on a table or in palm of hand with door upward.

4) Open door all the way. 


5) Lift camera still holding flat with open case pointing up. With one hand, reach under the camera and press the run button.

6) Look at BOTTOM (take-up) reel. Is it turning?

            Yes = Is top reel turning also? Should be.
            NO = film is jammed in gate. Most likely claw is not engaging
                      sprocket holes but is in between holes. 

Goto #7.

If everything is okay and camera continues to run indefinitely, goto #10.

7) TOUCH NOTHING - Look at film coming from pressure pad and going to take-up reel. The film will rub against the suede roller. Which, by the way, does NOT roll or rotate with film direction towards the take-up spool. It's there so the film can be back wound using the back wind key to make a dissolve or in non-back wind models, its there to supply 'drag' for the take-up reel.

A) With a finger, try to rotate the take-up reel clockwise. It should not turn more than a little bit. If it doesn't turn, the film is most likely in the reel slot. If it continues to turn and turn and turn, most likely the film has popped out of the reel slot. 

If the film pops out of the slot, the next time the claw tries to engage, the upper spring roller may pull the film backwards a small amount. Now the claw cannot engage. If the film has popped out of the reel, make sure you have at least 1-2 turns on the take-up reel. I usually cut a "vee" shaped on the end of the film to make it easier to insert into the slot. If the film slot slippage isn't the problem, goto B.

B) Remove both reels of film from camera. Close the pressure pad, run the camera. Lower spindle must be turning. Pinch the lower spindle with your thumb and forefinger. Spindle should stop with light pressure. If not, that is, the spindle requires a good grip to stop it, the spindle may be partially or wholly seized up and it need to be maintenanced or replaced. 

A partially or fully seized spindle can tear the film sprocket holes as the overrunning clutch in not working properly. The overrunning clutch supplies the drag in proper proportion to pull the film onto the take-up reel and at the same time, NOT damage the film's sprocket holes from excessive pull. If the spindle is ok, goto 8.

8) Put camera on table fix the jam problem. Reload the camera if necessary. Wind the camera's motor. This time, leave the door OPEN and facing upward. Reach under as before and press run button. The film should advance. Let it run at least 15-20 seconds.

            a) Note take-up reel. It should be turning clockwise.
            b) Note supply reel. It should be turning clockwise.
            c) Note upper spring roller where film coming off of supply reel
     makes bend over top of the gate area. The spring roller should
     be going up and down or in and out depending on your view.
     But it should be moving...

9) If it looks like the film is moving through the gate okay, stop filming. Wind the camera. Put door down towards the camera reels. DO NOT turn the lock on center of camera film door. Leave it unlocked. Press run button. You should hear the same filming sound as the film moving normally through the gate.

10) Stop filming and lock the door. Wind camera and press run. If film still jams now, suspect film door damage or that the door is out of alignment.


Because all of our cameras have been rebuilt. 

Consider the cost of an eBay camera at $25 to $75+. It  will typically be in non-serviceable condition. Okay to collect or put on the shelf, but not good for filming. Most of the cameras bought off of eBay will have something wrong with them. All will need to be serviced. After 35 to 50 years of sitting in a closet, the grease and oil will have dried up. That means total disassembly, cleaning and rebuilding.

If you buy an eBay camera, the chance of getting one with all the major assemblies in working order are slim. Usually one of the following will be present:

Fungus in lens or viewfinder
Dirt or rust in viewfinder
Broken spring motor
Light meter inoperative
Battery leakage damaging something
Spring Motor left wound- now unusable
Grease so hard the gears won't turn
Speed regulator faulty
Parts missing
Previous owner tried to "fix" the camera
Leather bindings loose or missing
Plastic dials cracked or missing
No single framing
Film unable to pass through gate
Lightmeter inaccurate
Speed control not working properly
Enter problem here_____________________

If additional parts are necessary in order to fix the first camera, a second camera will have to be purchased. No new parts for these 50+ year old Swiss cameras. Cross your fingers that the second camera doesn't have the same problems as the first. 

Disassemble both. Select the good parts. Clean, lube and replaced all damaged parts. Recalibrate light meter, etc. Clean case and polish. Add all the money you just spent. Don't forget 2x postage, insurance, etc. Multiply the total hours spent to learn and do the work. Add that to the camera parts. What's the camera worth now? $200, $500 – more?

Oh, I almost forgot. Be sure to add the tools, manuals and skills necessary to do the work. The learning curve isn't very long.  Of course, you'll make some mistakes. Loose some parts. Get frustrated.

Maybe that camera at Bolexrepair was a good deal after all!



I did some single frame shots. Then I went back to doing normal filming. After about 5 seconds, the camera stopped. I can wind the camera, but the film only runs a few seconds before the same problem appears. What's wrong?


Sound like the film has lost its registration. The claw is unable to register into the film so the camera stops running. Fix is to remove and reinstall the film to reset the "loop". Do this in the dark of a closet or inside a changing bag and you can continue to use the film as it will not have been exposed. Done with the film exposed to light will "fog" the film. See below, also.


How do I change film in daylight if the entire roll has not been shot?


Use a changing bag. A changing bag is a dark (usually black) cloth (or plastic) bag sufficient in size to hold both the camera and the film. It's construction design makes it "light tight". The camera and film are put into the bag and the operator (film changer) inserts his hands. Sometimes there is a drawstring to pull, that eliminates any light from entering. Film can then be installed or removed without fogging the film. Exposed film is returned to the canister it was originally supplied in. Here's some links to bag sellers:

You can also find others by searching for " film changing bag" at


I seem to be having problems getting my P1 Bolex to focus. Focus is okay for close subject, but when I zoom out (telephoto), the focus changes. How do I do both?


Using Zoom lever, zoom out to the farthest telephoto point past subject. Open camera iris all the way (smallest number or f=1.9). This lets in the most light to make focussing easier. Focus using split image on subject or horizontal or vertical line near subject. Now readjust eyepiece (diopter) for sharpest view. If necessary, repeat focussing and viewfinder adjustment. Focus is now set. Diopter is set. Use zoom lever to reframe subject. Adjust iris for correct light. Shoot film.


I can't seem to find fresh film. Any suggestions?


 Most sellers also do or can have done, your film developing. Some can transfer to Mini-DV or any other video format for editing, at the same time. Ask.


I can't find a replacement battery for my P-1's light meter. The original Mallory RM450 (mercury cell) is no longer manufactured. What can I do?


There are several "fixes". The least intrusive is to use a "WEIN CELL (MRB400)" and a spacer to take up the difference in length. The WEIN cell (1.35-1.4 VDC)  is the correct voltage, last about a year and does not requires any internal modifications to the camera. It is quite a bit shorter so a spacer is required. Depending on which is inserted first, the spacer(s) should be insulated. Some kits use flat washers as spacers. Out kit uses a double insulated aluminum "slug" style spacer which goes in first. Then WEIN cell is inserted with the PLUS (+) sign showing. Then the screw in cap is put in place. No other modifications or recalibration is necessary.


On my Bolex Reflex P-1  there appears to be dust or black speck in my viewfinder. Will this cause any problems?


If the dust or black speck is in the viewfinder, it will not show on the film. The Bolex viewfinder shows an image that is reflected off of the light that passes through the lens onto the film. Small amounts of fine dust on the primary front lens will not be shown either. You should clean or at least check the lens to see if it is clean before every shot. The viewfinder diopter is removable. Turn counter clockwise to unscrew. Don't loose any of the thin spacers that may be there. These spacers adjust the initial range of diopter focus. You can clean both the front and back elements of the diopter using a Q-tip or lens paper. Remove dust or contaminants carefully. Viewfinder lens elements are not coated, but like all glass, can be scratched. After cleaning, reinstall using same spacers. Tighten using the outer part of the diopter with the rubber eyepiece removed.


What is fogging?


Fogging is a condition whereby light contaminates unexposed film causing the film to have a "foggy appearance". This can happen when changing film rolls in sunlight or otherwise exposing the film to unnecessary light. Use a changing bag or at least, change film in a shaded area and run at least a few feet of film before shooting.


I think I overwound my Bolex camera. What is overwinding and how does it happen?


Bolex cameras are powered by a spring motor. The spring motor has a small set of gears that "turn limit" the total amount of turns the spring motor can be wound. This is about 11 ½  full turns for the 8 mm Bolexs. If too much (excessive) force is applied once the turn limit has been reached, the gears will "jump" one over the other. The camera will wind but only a small amount. It will then only run several seconds. The fix is to remove the spring motor and reset the gears to their proper relationship with the internal spring of the motor. If the camera has been left overwound for several years, the spring will be damaged beyond repair.


Bolex 8 mm cameras were very popular during the 1950s through the 1970's. That make the typical case about 45+ years old. Leather is a very durable material, but only if case maintenance is performed on a regular basis. Most cameras cases have been stored for very long lengths of time and not in good condition.

The first damage usually occurs at the attach points for the two strap ends. Flexing the most, one or both ends will break. By this time, no treatment will return the leather strap portion back to normal use. It's too dried out. The case itself is usually in better condition, even without regular maintenance as the exposed (inside)  part of the case does not dry out as quick.

To clean and recondition a Bolex cases, gently clean any dirt or grime on the case with leather cleaner. We at use LEXOL brand cleaner. LEXOL is pH balanced for leather and helps the leather to remain flexible. Follow the instructions on the cleaner. Then treat the leather with LEXOL Leather conditioner.

The condition will soften the leather and prevent cracking. Lexol products are available at most larger hardware stores. Any leather cleaner and/or conditioner can be use, such as "saddle soap", etc. Lexol is about $7.00 per 7 oz bottle for either the cleaner or conditioner. Lexol is the accepted standard for cleaning and preserving leather.

Use a small, stiff bristle brush to loosen any caked on dirt inside the case and either vacuum or blow out with compressed air. Sometime the inside "lid" of the case (hold filters) will come unglued.

You can use any common "white glue", such as "Elmer's"  or rubber cement ( we use "Pliobond" brand) to re-attached the inside top lid. If you use rubber cement, coat both inside of the case and the back side of the lid with glue. Allow to dry tacky. Press both pieces together. With a minute or so and then pry the two apart. Then assemble one last time and put pressure on the lid to hold in place until the glue sets. New leather straps can be attached to the existing leather band which is usually still on the case. Be sure to use rivets or other mechanical fastener to attach the strap to the case. I have seen glued straps. Not a good idea.

bolex leather cases.doc



Note the orientation of the small copper backwind roller spring. It's located on the very bottom end of the cover (as installed). On the other end is the film tension roller. Note its orientation. I suggest a small, hand drawn diagram if you are not sure of how the orientation of these two parts are installed. Install with the film pressure plate removed. Before attempting to install, push the lever (in the center of the cover) towards the gate (lens) of the camera (as installed). This will place the index pin of the pressure plate release in the correct position and make installation possible.

Insert with copper spring end (left side) first. Then center to mounting screw hole, while holding the film tension roller between right thumb and forefinger. I can do it first time usually, but anybody not familiar (no experience) will usually loose (fall off the cover) either or both the small copper backwind roller spring and the film tension roller. Then they won't know which way to install, etc. A diagram really helps. It’s a 3 step process:

1) install small copper backwind roller spring

2) center screw over hole

3) install film tension roller and move end of same into small hole in top plate. The cover supports one end, the hole in the cover plate supports the other.

When the cover is in place, the backwind spring will engage the backwind roller 'teeth", and the bottom end (tip) of the film tension roller will be in it corresponding hole. Some cameras have a plastic spacer on the tip. You can use a very small amount of grease to hold the spacer in place.

Now insert lid latch button and screw. The lid latch button sometimes has a 'lip', so there is an "upper and a lower" side. This lip compensates for the door closing clearance. It is not found on every camera. If the door will not lock or is loose, remove the screw and flip the button upside down. If this doesn't help, the problem is usually with the cover not being centered.  You can actually 'feel' a click when the cover pops into place. Don't force anything.

Check that the small copper backwind roller spring does indeed work by trying to roll the bottom roller back and forth. It should go only one direction, indicating the spring is doing its job. Check the film tension roller. You should be able to push it towards the front of the camera and it should pop back on its own. If not, the spring supplying tension has slipped. Remove the cover, reset the spring (use diagram now!)  and start over.


Ektachrome 100ASA 4x faster than the 25ASA film shot in Bolex's B8SL. So, some adaptation is necessary. This particular Kodak film is rated at 100 ASA. Your camera is set up for 10-25 ASA film. The shutter is fixed. Because it's fixed, there is no "half-shutter" option.

Later Bolex 8mm cameras do have a variable shutter, and can do a half or even less shutter. Closing the shutter has the effect of cutting the amount of light entering the camera by reducing the shutter angle. 

Shutter angle is the time as expressed in either:

1) degrees of angle and 

2) fractions of a second when computed with the Frame Per Seconds (FPS) setting of the camera.

To use a 4x faster film (25 ASA compared to 100 ASA) you need to cut the light in half, two times, or 2 stops. 100 cut in half is 50 ASA, 50 ASA cut in half is 25 ASA.

You can do this by several ways:

1) Using a neutral filter (ND) to cut two stops. Referring to the ND CHART located here:


It says that a .6 ND filter will cut two stops. You will need a screw-in type filter holder compatible with the thread of the lens used. Camera stores sell these. Although, they made need it to order it for the Bolex lens'. You may or may not also need and adapter ring to adapter the thread sizes.

Sometimes the lens threads are not the right size and use of a step-up ring/adapter is common. Avoid using two or more filters. Although a .3 ND (1 stop) and another .3 ND (1 stop) do add up to a .6 ND (2 stops), the use of multiple filters can sometimes introduce artifacts. Especially if the camera points towards a strong light source.
2) Close the lens f-stop by 2 stops from what the manual tells you to do. This effectively compensates the 100 ASA film to act as 25 ASA as its now not getting enough light (2 stops less). This is what John Schwind recommends. Unfortunately not all Bolex 8mm lens are capable of stopping down to f-22.

3) Calculating the actual f-stop required with a light meter.

To calculate the actual f-stop required for any film requires using 1) shutter angle, 2) film FPS (speed) and 3) the film's ASA number. Once the f-stop is calculated for that particular films ASA number, you need only dial it in on the lens.

From the tag located on the Bolex's body, and referring to the "American Cinematographer Manual", 4th edition, I calculated (estimated) the shutter angle for the camera running at 16 FPS, to be 170 degrees or 1/35th of a second. We'll use this "ballpark" setting of 135 degrees for filming at 16-18 FPS.

I'm indoors. Using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe L-398 light meter, I set the ASA to 100. Then I put dome of light meter under chin of subject after the indoor lighting is set. Then press and release the meter 'read' button. The meter shows the incident light reading falling on the subject face.  I might check a couple of other places in the scene where there might be more light in the background than on the subject. If there is 2 people, I would check them both. The light reading of the subject is the reading I'll use.

This is one way to take a meter reading. Hollywood cinematographers use this method commonly. Then, I turn the meter's EV/F-stop "dial ring" until the pointer points the incident light value. In this case, it's about 40.

I look at the "cine scale" and read the f-stop opposite the shutter angle which is expressed in fractions of a second. I know the angle is 1/35 of a second. I see the numbers: 1/30th and 1/60. I figure the value is under the "0" of the 30 (slightly to right of the 30 mark). 

Opposite that 1/35th value (guessed!) I see the f-stop scale. It says about F-2.0. I try to set f-2.0 on the camera lens. I see that the lens I'm using only goes down to f-2.5. Not enough light. Solution: add more light(s). A half stops worth. Since this is film, I could probably get away with using the f-2.0 setting anyhow. Picture will be slightly (1/2 stop darker) than "normal". Whatever "normal" is.  Keep track of finished footage. If consistently darker than you like, adjust f-stop slightly more open than calculated (more light).

Let's say I'm outdoors. I press the button, the needles jumps off the scale. Oops. Too much light outside. I insert the "high slide" that comes with the meter. The high slide cuts the light to a corresponding scale on the meter. I do the reading as before. The reading is about 140 with the high slide inserted. So, I read opposite the RED colored pointer (high slide pointer).

It says to use f-19 (best guess) for the f-stop setting. This lens goes to f-16. I need to reduce the light by 3 more stops. Looking in my kit bag, I locate a .9ND. That's 3 f-stops reduction. I screw it in and set the f-stop on the lens to f-16 which is the top limit of that particular lens.

There are other considerations. Lenses themselves are usually "little liars". They might say "I'm a f-2.5" on the lens barrel but they might test out to be f-2.9. .4 of a stop darker. And at the other end, the F-16 might actually be something else.

You might put a #85 filter on top of the ND to convert type A film to outdoor. The #85 filter handout says "cuts light by 2/3 of a stop".   2/3 rds of a stop plus .4 equals about 1 full stop. So knowing this, I might add one stop to the lens opening it up to f-16. And another adjustment is I may have used this film type before and it actually looks the best when shot through the Bolex if I set it to 1/2 stop more closed than what is calculated.

When the film is developed, it usually done on batches. If done towards the "end" of the chemical run, the film may be underexposed. Sometime you can ask the developer to wait until he changes chemical and then run you stuff at that time. Or your could pay extra and have you stuff given preference immediately. Ask you friendly developer for advice. Work with them. Ask them what you can do to bright down the processing charges and make their life easier. This is a common practice with film students.

Film has a high latitude for light. 1/2 to 1 full stop either way is typically considered, "ballpark". Not so with inexpensive digital video cameras where you only have a 5 stop range. Go one stop over the limit and the picture is blown out. No detail in the light areas. Go one stop to low and no detail in the dark areas. With film, if you keep records of how a particular film and light meter/camera combination looks when finished and what you did to get it that way, you can alter the final finished product by adjusting the f-stops one way or the other.

Or you can just slap a .9 ND and use the 100 ASA film! Keep a written record of how everything turns out. Adjust f-stops accordingly. If you film is consistently too dark, opening up 1 stop on that lens.










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Thursday, August 23, 2012


The Bolex P1 is easy to use. First, load the film. See the Bolex manual for the exact procedure. It's pretty simple - you can do it in subdued daylight (outdoors), indoors or under a jacket, film change bag, etc. The film reels have solid sides so the film will not be exposed. Close the film door. See the latch/lock? Look closely. 

See the single dot (above) and the double dot (below) the lock knob? Flip the lock D-ring so the 2 dot mark is covered up. Later, if you forget, you can reference the dot to tell which half or the reel you are shooting. Single dot = first half of film reel. Double dots showing? You have flipped reel once and are on second and last half of film reel. PS: 'Overt' means open and 'Ferme' means closed (locked).

Set the ASA number from the film you are using onto ASA Dial. Pull lock tab out on the ASA dial with a fingernail, rotate the dial until the FPS (frames per second) number you will be shooting aligns with the ASA speed. Example: if you are shooting at 18 FPS at ASA 100, align the 18 FPS (red color) to 100 ASA number. Push lock toward center of ASA dial to lock dial.

Set shutter to 'open'. The shutter lever should be parallel to the ground and a little silver colored 'half-moon' (open shutter) lines up with the center of the release selector. The release selector selects: run (down position), single frame (center position), and camera motor locked (up)  position.

Wind camera motor until it stops. 22 & 1/2 turns or 11 full turns (approximately) to full wind. Do not force wind the camera wind handle once you feel the 'clunk' and the wind end.  Door closed? D-ring set? Cover the lens with the dust cover. Press the RUN button. Burn a few seconds of film. This is because the beginning of the reel may have been exposed to light when loading film and you don't want the beginning of your epic to start with red/yellow blurs and flashes. Go ahead, 'waste' 3 seconds.

Remove the dust cap. Aim camera at subject, need to zoom in or out? Move zoom stick forward or backwards to 'frame" subject. If you can't frame the way you want, physically move your body closer or farther away from subject.

Once framing is done, adjust the focus with the focus ring located at extreme end of lens. Turn either way until the 'little screen' in the viewfinder, with the diagonal line, matches up with both sides of the 'split focus'. When the two side 'match up', the picture will no longer be 'split' and it will be in focus.  If the view always appears blurry, adjust the diopter on the eyepiece. 

There's a diopter (focus adjustment) just like on the right lens of a pair of decent binoculars. Focus again. Recheck the diopter as necessary. After you get it set, note the number on the diopter. That is your diopter setting for the eye you are using. Check focus again - all ok?

SET IRIS (diaphragm)
Turn the iris lever until the needle centers. Camera is already wound so you just press the run button on the Declic handle or button on the bottom of the shutter housing, to film. Hold the camera steady. If you move or pan too fast, people will get 'seasick' when watching :)  Rule is to 'go slow'. 

Make sure you keep the camera vertical. Look for vertical objects in the viewfinder such as trees, poles, fences, doors, edges of buildings, power lines,  etc, so you can shoot with the camera vertically. If you make a mistake, tell 'em you were being creative.

You should always fully wind after each shot. Keep the individual shots short. 5-15 seconds or so. Plan on putting the shots together in or out of order when editing the film. If you don't plan on editing the film, make a written shot list or at least think about what you want to shoot and why. Make the film 'tell a story". 

You can shoot longer shots, but remember that the spring motor will film no more than 4 feet at a time (takes about 23 seconds to go through 4 feet at 24 FPS) on a full wind. The little round counter on the back of the camera is the counting footage from reset (zero). You can tell how many feet are left on the reel. At 25 feet (end of reel), the camera will start 'clicking' every second or so. 

This is the camera telling you that you have hit the end of the 25 feet on the reel (no film left). Flip the first if on the first half of the reel or load another reel of fresh film. Each time you flip the pressure plate lever to change the film, the counter will reset to zero.

After filming on one side (25 feet), open the film door, flip the film from top to bottom, replace it the same as it originally went in (film's dull side or emulsion side of the film stock towards front of camera). You can tell when the first 25 feet is finished by 1) looking at the counter on the back of the camera body or, 2) you will notice the motor speed changes slightly, or 3) the clicking noise. 

It is possible for the motor to continue filming when NO film is passing the gate. You may think you are filming, but nothing will be recorded as the film has reached the end of its 25 foot limit. Check the counter frequently to prevent this from happening. Running the motor without film passing the gate will not cause the camera or film any harm, but you will not capture the moment :(

If the film has come off the supply reel (top reel) during the first half to second half change, thread the film leader back into the take-up reel. Winds a turn or so to hold the film in the reel. Failure to this properly may allow the film end to slip out of the take-up reel and you'll shoot what you think is another 25 feet of film only to find when you open the door that the film has not been loaded properly. 

Reset the film into the take-up reel and try again. Close the film door. Flip D-ring to cover the single dot. Your on the second half of the reel now. Shoot until the film is exhausted. The film has now run through the camera twice and is now back on the original fresh film's (not 100% exposed) reel.

Filming is done. Package the film in the can it came in and mail it to a film developer. Never send in the Bolex metal reel. Usually the film reel holding the exposed film is returned to you. Typically, the film is transferred to a 3" plastic projection reel. And the 'can" is tossed. Ask for the can to be returned if you want it back. 

Time to play film: 1) Load on a 8mm projector and view on against a white wall, sheet, projection screen, or 2) have it transferred to DVD or other format for use with a DVD/CD-ROM/MPEG/Blu-Ray, etc, to play on your TV or computer. 8mm film is MOS - no sound. However, if you want sound, use a small portable recorder like this:

to record live audio. Remember, with audio, the closer the recorders' microphone(s) are; the better the audio.  If the film is transferred to a digital format, audio can be added using any number of video editing programs. 

Here are a few:


ADOBE PREMIERE!493964%2Cn%3A541966%2Ck%3Aadobe+premiere+elements+10

Both of these programs are around $100.00. Both have an upgrade path to professional version. I recommend starting with either of these and progressing if you need more features. The pro versions of the program are $400-$600.00 each.

All this (except for the audio part), and the editing programs is found in the Bolex P1 Owners Manual. We include a copy on CD-ROM with the camera service/repair. Occasionally the original paper manuals show up on eBay. They sell for $5 to $15.00 depending on the condition. There are people on eBay who have scanned PDF copies to sell and there are those who have reprinted the paper manual.