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Bolex H16 - Debris and obstructions in the viewfinder

Raaf Sundquist

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I just acquired a Bolex H16 Rex 4.

When I look through the viewfinder I see some noticeable debris in the middle and one large upward pointing arrow shape in the lower left corner - it covers about 20% of the height of the view. I tried pointing towards light and swinging the prism out to see if this was on the prism alone. It's not, I can see the shape already in place as the prism comes back into view - so it's not on the prism.

Does this mean the obstruction or debris will affect shooting? I fear it will since it's independent of the prism.

Thank you!



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Ok, while the arrow is now gone I am still seeing some debris/obstructions in the viewfinder that does not appear to be on the prism.

The debris does not move or spin when adjusting the diopter.

Do you think this will show up on film? I am fine if it's just in the viewfinder.

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Make sure the reflex prism is clean. You can clean the back of it by flipping it out and using a soft, dry brush or lens cleaning tissue with isopropyl alcohol/lens cleaner.

On the top of the prism is the ground glass, blow off any dust with a bulb blower or a soft dry brush. Be very careful cleaning it with lens tissue, as the ground glass surface is easily damaged.

If you don't have a manual download one from here:



Most of the dust or debris you see in the viewfinder will be either on the ground glass or on the optics just above it (which are hard to access). The other area that tends to make dust specks visible is the eyepiece diopter, but it sounds like you've ruled that out.

No specks you see in the viewfinder should appear on the film.  The back surface of the prism is not visible through the viewfinder, but large specks or smudges on that surface may degrade the film image, as it is fairly close to the film plane. 

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Thank you very much. I wasn't getting that the ground glass was on TOP of the prism. I've repeatedly read this, but kept interpreting this as one side or the other, not the actual top. Duh. So now I've correctly identified the ground glass and cleaned it. That made a huge difference and all but cleaned up the smaller debris.

Leaving only...the larger dark spots show here:


One thing to note is that when I ever so slightly move my head to left and right I can see these obstructions moving left to right in FRONT of the rest image in the viewfinder as if they are much nearer. So even though these obstructions don't move when I turn the diopter, does this mean these are most likely in the viewfinder?

I'd love to get rid of these but if I knew they weren't going to appear on film I'd just hold my nose and call it "character."

Just trying to get everything solid before I put my first roll through.

Thanks again for your help.

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Make sure you focus the eyepiece on the ground glass grain (essential for proper eye focusing) and the specks should fade somewhat. If you have released the eyepiece lock and jiggled the eyepiece while looking through it and the specks don’t move, then the most likely place for them to be is on the optics just above the ground glass, or the rhomboid prism above that, but these are harder to access. It won’t affect your film. 

If you give the camera to a Bolex specialist for a service (which I would recommend if you just bought it from eBay or something and it hasn’t been used in years) they should be able to clean the viewfinder properly for you. 

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