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Switar lens on an NPR


Stuart Mills
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Hello all.

 

I am doing some research into a reletively inexpensive camera and lens combination to shoot a low budget short with. The optimum so far seems to be an eclair NPR, as it can be crystal locked, is fairly quiet, takes 400' rolls of film and is easily converted to super 16mm. I was thinking about a Bolex EBM for a while but the viewfinders seem a little impractical and they are really noisy. (I have tried shooting a sound synch drama with a Bolex REX4 before and I had make an elaborate sound-proof housing for it!)

 

Getting to the point of the question. I still want to use Switar primes, as they seemed to be fairly sharp on my old Bolex (which unfortunately I have since sold) and they are fairly cheap to buy. However, what I want to know is, do I use Switars designed for use on the non reflex Bolex cameras or the reflex ones if I buy an NPR? I have heard that the depth of focus is different in the RX ones to account for the light splitting prism. I am guessing that the C mounting on the NPR is set for a standard depth of focus and I would have to use older non-RX Switars. Am I right to think that? And can anyone tell me if there is any difference in quality between non-RX and RX Switars? Do the RX ones have better coatings or something?

 

Regards, Stuart Mills

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I am guessing that the C mounting on the NPR is set for a standard depth of focus and I would have to use older non-RX Switars.

On the NPR's that I remember from 30 years ago, the C mount was set in the standard position. It was somewhat inconvenient to use because it had to be recessed back in a sort of dish in the front of the turret. But at this point, you'd really want to test it first. An RX modification should be fairly easy to do.

 

I'm amazed that working NPR's still exist. They were falling apart pieces of junk 30 years ago. Be sure to get the good grip tape, not duct tape. When you put a mag on the camera, start about 8" of tape on the side, horizontally. Pull the tape as tight as you can around the top (non-shooting) position of the turret, and tape it down tight for another 8" on the other side of the mag. This was SOP for NPR's in the old days.

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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The "C" mount portion of the NPR is recessed quite a bit as John stated. But nothing that will cause any real difficulties. An RX lens from the later Bolex cameras should work fine. But the focal scale on the lens barrel will be off a little bit. The RX lenses were calibrated to compensate for the focal shift within the Bolex viewfinder prism. Since the NPR uses a mirror shutter instead of a prism, the lenses will be focused at a different plane. I guess it would probably be possible to have the lenses altered. Or the turret mount shimmed up to compensate for the difference. But if your trying to save money you could probably just spend a little time and mark new scales on each lens yourself. Not the most elegant solution, but it would probably get you through your production fine.

I don't have much experience with other NPRs, but mine is built like a tank, and I have a hard time seeing anything falling off or malfunctioning on it. It's definitely quiet, and smooth running. If you are only going to use "C" mount primes you should look at the Eclair ACL cameras. They run around the same price range, and have just as many conversion options. The adjustable shutter in the NPR is really nice though.

If only a smaller motor was readily available.....

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NPR's as I remember them had a push button magazine release on the right side that turned out not to be strong enough, so they added that chromed "afterthought latch" under the carrying handle just above the front of the mag. It was held on by four screws that were always coming loose, and from time to time you had to turn the turret 90 degrees to get at the screw heads and tighten them.

 

The turret itself didn't lock down too well, and would wobble up and down. The official Eclair mount used for the 12 - 120 zoom was a push and turn thing that was always quite loose. A friend of mine was doing a zoom in and tilt down once, and had the lens fall out.

 

The rubber coupling on the bottom of the camera was supposed to grip a rounded chrome disk on the motor's shaft. These would shrink and slip with age.

 

And there were those strange sheet metal front covers for the mags that were supposed to clip on....

 

Oh, yeah, and that tripod adapter called CIFIX. The holes in the bottom were always stripping out. I used to drill them out bigger and put in steel inserts, also adding a new one farther forward to balance with a zoom.

 

Have things changed since the mid '70's?

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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Maybe I picked up a good one? It's definitely an older model. The mags lock on solid even if I don't use the handle latch. And it fortunately came with an Arri bayo mount for the lens, so I don't have to mess with the odd CA-1 mount. Those mag covers are pretty rediculous though.

It's far from a great camera by todays standards, but when compared to other available cameras for begining students, its a really good set up. After all of the downsides, you still end up with a quiet, sync camera with quickchange mags, for a very low price. Along with the option of different lens mount configurations. A super 16 conversion is less the $1,500, and If you really want you can add a video assist for $1200. It's kind of like detailing a Yugo, but could certainly be a better alternative to renting constantly, or shelling out way more cash for a beat down SR. The only other cameras to consider in this particular situation would be a 16BL, an ACL, or a CP16R. They certainly have their individual downfalls. So it's really a matter of which of these evils will be less problematic for each individual situation. My set up cost probably half of what most people would spend on a mini DV camera to make their student films. Granted operating costs are a lot higher. But at least it opens the door to film.

 

This would be the first time I've heard someone talk about taping the mags onto the NPR. I 've heard that the ACLs were notorious with that problem though.

 

Ryan

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Thanks.

 

I've used an Arri BL, it was comletely silent, and really well built, but I found it quite difficult to look through, as I am left eyed and I haven't seen any Super 16 ones. It sounds like buying an Eclair can be a bit of a gamble! I heard that the build quality was better on the older ones though, that were built in France. The thing that does slightly concern me is the rubber coupling to the motors. So I suppose the rubber just perishes with age. Are there any replacements available?

 

Recallibrating the lenses. Is that just a matter of unscrewing the focus ring and moving it round a bit?

 

Stuart

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I think all of the cameras in this range are probably a gamble. Their all around thirty years old, and it's hard to say what happened to them over those years. The ACLs are newer then the NPR, and a lot of people go for those as a cheap camera. I've heard quite a bit about problems with the older English manufactured components for the earlier ACLs. The older motors tend to burn up fairly often as well. If you get one of them, it would definitely be worth finding a new motor. The little rubber coupling for the NPR isn't that bad. If you have an old stretched out one, you can fix it with a piece of heatshrink tubing pretty cheap. But I'm pretty sure you can find "new" ones still. Optical Electro House in California has quite a bit of stuff for all Eclairs. They also do conversions, and general maintenence. I think there are one or two places on the East Coast as well. There is a website with a bunch of good info on the NPRs, I don't know the address, but if you google it, you could find it as the "unofficial Eclair NPR website" or something like that. My next suggestion would be the BL, but If that didn't work for you then I don't know. I've never checked my NPR viewfinder for my left eye, but they are supposed to work fine.

I don't have any experience with the CP cameras, so I don't know if they are a more reliable alternative. I'm sure there are a few people on this board that use them.

I'm not particularly fond of any of these cameras, but I'm in the same position as you, so it was just a matter of making the most out of what you can get.

I don't know what would be involved in readjusting an old C mount lens scale. I'm sure it's not an easy task. I'm not sure who you would find that would be up for the job either. It might take a few phone calls to some lens techs....

 

Ryan

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