Saturday, June 7, 2014


Customer writes to BolexRepair saying they just shot a roll of film and had it developed. Its all black. Why? And can we fix the problem? Yes, we can fix the problem (if there is one) and do we work on a B8L cameras. Here's our reply:

We do work on Bolex 8mm cameras such as your B8L. All Bolex cameras should be checked every year or two. Bolex recommends that the camera be cleaned, lubricated and adjusted on a yearly basis. 
This is called a "CLA". Most likely the camera has not be checked for 40 - 50 years. A lot of these cameras were sold and after a few years, retired to the closet or were replaced by camcorders. In any event, cameras can and do stop running for no apparent reason if not in serviceable condition. For more information, click on link:

It can be one of several things:

1) Old film. Was the film fresh? If not fresh, the most obvious answer is that the film was the problem. When I see film that's marked: "Best used by Feb 1987" or whatever, I know it's "out of date". No good. Customers sometime ask, "Is it any good?" My reply:
     "No. Even if it was stored in a refrigerator for 27 years, it will still be degraded. Some people like to argue film is film and its good forever. No, not really..."

2) The iris was not set properly. The B8L uses a it's onboard light meter to calculate the iris opening. Keep in mind that the iris opening suggested by the camera's meter is for ASA 25 or ASA 40 film. Both are no longer available.

ASA 100 is available. If you use ASA 100 film, the meter will STILL assume its 25-40 and all film will be overexposed by about 1.5 to 2 stops. The fix is to select proper calculated ASA and then close iris by 1 to 2 stops. The exact amount will depend on light available. 

A better option is to use a light meter made specifically for cinema (motion picture) cameras, such as the Sekonic L-398. The film's ASA, metered light, shutter angle and FPS are pre-calculated by the meter to give the iris opening as an lens F-stop. Just dial-in the calculated number on the lens.
Given the cost of film and developing, this is the safest option. Used L-398 meters can be found on eBay for $75 and up. Click this link to download the manual:

3) The film was processed incorrectly. Not very likely, but it does happen. Because 8mm processing uses chemicals, exposed film is typically saved until there is enough film footage to process economically. Maybe a week or two (or more). Then the chemicals are mixed fresh and ALL the processing is completed.
The chemicals once used don't stay fresh for very long and must be discarded. Not sure? Ask the people processing the film:

     A) What is their policy regarding processing chemicals, 
     B) Are the chemicals fresh?, 
     C) Do they send the processing out to an outside vendor? 
     D) Do they process in-house?
I recommend buying fresh film and if possible, have the seller do the processing. Not everybody sells AND also does processing. See the link below for film sources and processing:


4) If the film failed to go through the camera, it will not be exposed. When developed, the film will develop as black.

If you are not sure which service is necessary or if the camera even needs to be serviced, we will evaluate your camera for a flat fee of $45.00 (includes return shipping and insurance, USA, only) and notify you of the camera's condition and any cost for repairs.  

The $45.00 fee also applies to any work to be done. In the event that no work is done beyond the initial evaluation, we will return the camera postpaid and insured along with a written estimate of the camera's condition and a recommendation of any work necessary to return the camera to operating condition.

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