Tuesday, July 4, 2017


Need an 8mm camera? I suggest a Bolex 8mm camera series as follows:  D8L, P1, D8LA, P2 or P3.  In that order. I recommend staying away from: B8 (2 lens), C8 (1 lens), neither has a light meter. Also L8, 155, 160 series, K1, K2, P4. These camera are much more complicated and very expensive to repair. Avoid B8SL or C8SL – controls are minimized for non-photography oriented people (beginners).
More information here on all Bolex models:


Bolex D8L and P1 are the most popular and both have very good resale value. A used Bolex D8L, D8LA, or P1 in typical for its age, and in good running order (or not) , with lenses and a metering system working normally, is worth $75 - $100+ on eBay depending on accessories and lenses. Switar lenses are top of the line Bolex and can raise the price significantly. A Switar 0.9 lens, alone, sells used for $350-$500 on eBay.

Because most Bolex 8mm cameras are 50+ years old, a minimum service of a CLA (Clean-Lubricate-Adjust) or EXCLA (Extended Clean-Lubricate-Adjust) should be performed. Bolex recommends a CLA every year – see Bolex manual. You can get by with less. 2-5 years is typical for a CLA. An EXCLA is required ONLY when camera has sat in the closet for 35+ years or has motor damage or other problem necessitating a teardown. 


Service is a judgment call as most Bolex owners do NOT know the maintenance history of the camera they possess. However, the camera may have been maintained by the previous owner and is in good working order and is ready to shoot film. This would be an exception to the rule. Most camera owners don’t know if the camera can or cannot shoot film. Especially so if they have never shot film.

“Got it at a yard sale – don’t know the condition.”

This is a common statement on most eBay cameras. Most Bolex 8mm cameras are obtained at eBay, Goodwill, St. Vincent De Paul, yard sale, or elsewhere. If the condition is unknown or not stated outright up front, assume the camera will need maintenance and possible an overhaul (more $$$). Adjust the buying price accordingly.

If you are new to film cameras, you will learn quickly why to avoid the “mediocre –** SL series” or “too complex - the “K” series, ”. Why? Repair and maintenance costs. Do NOT go cheap. The **SL series has minimal controls. Easy to use. You’ll outgrow that on the 2nd reel of film stock.

All cameras should have a working meter. If not, you can use an external meter such as  Sekonic L-398x series. This meter has NO batteries, does reflective or incident light metering, is accurate, has a Frame Per Second (FPS) and shutter angle dial adjustment. Both of which are ABSOLUTELY necessary for movie film cameras.

A manual for the L-396 can be downloaded here: 


These meter, and meters like it, can be found used or eBay for $25 and up. New L-398A meters are about $218.00 at bhphotovideo.com.  Given the cost of film stock and processing, a good metering system is a must. 


The metering system on ALL Bolex 8mm cameras does NOT allow for backlight conditions. Backlight exists when the light BEHIND the subject is brighter than the light in FRONT of the subject.

Example: You light for the subject face. The camera “sees” all the light. Including the subjects face and from behind and around the subject. It gives an average reading turn out to be about 1 to 2 stops to much light. You will set the camera according. Film will be appear to be exposed 1-2 stops too dark for the face.  You remember the face. It’s the subject. Light for the subject.

I know, you might be saying “it should be the other way around”. No. Your setting the light value based of the light that the meters see. And it sees everything. Then it tells you to set for the brightest light seem. But your subject’s face is in the “shaded area” of the light. Hence, the light the camera sees will be LESS than needed to see and light the subject’s face properly. Their face will be 1-2 stops darker than optimal. How do you get around this?

Bolex cameras DO NOT allow for backlight. No backlight button or lever or button to push. It’s up to you to recognize a backlight condition and manually compensate. It’s easy. Bright light behind subject? Close iris 1-2  stops. Bright light from the side? ½ - 1 stops. It’s a judgment call. Experiment.

If you planning to shoot a lot of footage, the 1st reel of film should be for testing. Shoot backlight, shoot normal, shoot low light. Keep records. You can use a sheet of cardboard with f-stops, distance, location of sun, printed on it etc. Go outdoors. Have the subject hold the cardboard it in front of them when you shoot 10 seconds of footage. Change the cardboard information. Shoot with sun behind you and in front of you.

When you review the developed film on a projector, you will be able to tell the difference (visually) that the location of the sun makes in setting of the f-stop. Remember that backlight conditions can exist wherever there is light and that includes indoors. Especially when you use extra lighting. 

Use the local library to check out books on motion picture film making. That is what you are doing. When you are asked about what you are doing, you say: “I am making a motion picture”. And, you are. You are a now, officially, a filmmaker. Can’t find any library books? Look on eBay. For a few bucks you can get all the information you’ll need to learn moviemaking. Here’s a few links:






Whatever you search for, select “lowest price” from the eBay put-down at the top of the page. This will bring up the older, less costly books that nobody wants. And it’s just the “stuff” you’re looking for but the seller doesn’t know that.


Good Luck!


No comments:

Post a Comment