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How to test Bolex H16


Duane Miller
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I have my late father's Bolex H16 with Pan Cinor 70 zoom lens.  He shot news footage for a local TV station many years ago.  All of his cameras were well cared for and the Bolex is no exception, with no signs of wear -- it is a beautiful piece.  I feel obligated to move the camera on in its history to someone who will use and appreciate it.  I can explain the physical condition easily with pictures but I am not familiar with the camera and I am looking for help on how to better explain the operational condition.  Are there any tests that can be conducted to test the camera operation? I have the manual and a roll of 16mm developed film it that helps.  Possibly a new owner would plan on having it cleaned and adjusted anyway, and no testing is needed. 

Appreciate any advice, thank you.  Duane in Omaha.

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Duane, no tests needed. If you please, indicate the serial number here. That will allow us to tell the year of manufacture. You can look up the camera’s age yourself on Michael Tisdale’s website Bolex Collector. In addition you may sting the black mastix seal around the main plate in the film chamber with a needle. If it’s hard, the camera has never been serviced.

Presumably that is the case, so you better don’t run the mechanism at all. A cleaning and fresh lubricants are needed there. A camera technician can do an overhaul as well as Bolex International does. They are in Yverdon.

If you’d tell something about the lenses with the camera, a value could be found for the equipment. Ever so often good prices are payed by people who appreciate the quality of vintage lenses, depending to some extent on the actual types. The Switar 25 mm are goodies. Maybe you have a Switar 10 mm there, a 100 or a 150 Yvar. Any accessory such as the rackover device or a compendium is sought, too.

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Simon, thanks for the reply.  The serial number is 186297.  I believe only one lens, a Berthoit 1:2.4 f=17,5 to 70 zoom Pan Cinor.  I'm not sure if he has more devices, there are some more boxes to go though. Thanks again.

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I think it would be fine to wind up and run the mechanism to check that it works. As a seller I don’t think you need to send the camera off to get serviced. Particularly if you send it to Bolex Switzerland, you will pay more than the camera can sell for. Leave that to a buyer.

Some checks you can do to get a basic sense of the condition:

Fully wind and run the camera all the way down with the lid off and the speed dial set to 24 (no higher). Note how it sounds, whether it seems to slow down at the end considerably or just a bit (which is normal).

Check that the run plunger does not stick when depressed.

Check that the take-up spindle (the bottom one in the chamber) turns smoothly as the camera runs. If it turns sluggishly or intermittently the camera definitely needs a service.

Check the surface of the glass prism behind the middle lens port (you can unscrew the lens to check it). 

Check the lens for fungus (spider webs or tendrils visible on the glass surfaces), and whether the focus and iris rings turn ok. 

Check for any signs of corrosion. 

Note it all along with plenty of photos and put it on ebay or your selling site of choice.

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