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Bell and Howell 2709 35mm

Fergus O'Doherty

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If you've worked with a Bell and Howell 2709 35mm please post what you know. I will hopefully be filming with mine this year. I need lenses though, I have a Cooke Speed Panchro 50mm, and a couple of Goertz Hypar f3.5's. That's all I have. So I will test with what I have. My plan is to test color and b&w. I want to run some short ends through it, I have a 200ft mag. I would like to run sound film through it at some point but am happy to just do silent for now to get some test results. I have a motor with it but I have heard from Dave Dechant that when he ran one hand cranked, when the film was processed you couldn't tell it was coming from a hand cranked camera.

I have a Mitchell matte box and some filters, round and 3x3. I know there is a kit of behind the lens filters available which I will probably get. I have an Akeley gyro and a mitchell pan and tilt friction head. I have short and tall sticks, also a hi hat. I am waiting on the rack over block which is being machined. Hum what else.... I have a Filmo 16mm and I want to make a short with the tests from both camera's. I have one of those 4H ( think that is it) portable sound recorders, the digital one. I was going to blimp the camera with a blanket 'cause I know it's a noisy movement... and record on the hand held, then I was going to process the silent film, have it converted to digital and edit it dubbing in the audio from the 4H. Neither of the camera's have sound syn. I am going to invest in something which has sound syn in the near future, like an arri, fries or something ( 35mm) but for getting some tests done for now I think what I have here will work. If anyone has any advice. I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

Oh one other thing, I was on the 'Lincoln' film set and we used 35mm. So I know the finished product is fine for widescreen right? Once all this is edited in to a master ( is that the right term) it can still be reformatted for different screens as needed right. I'm asking this because I not filming for anything as large as IMAX or full theater. comments appreciated fergusnod@yahoo.com and xcuse typo's

Edited by Fergus O'Doherty
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Some people shot a silent film on a 2709 not long ago, some info here:


Some of those who were involved are regular posters on CML where you might get more responses:



I think you can forget about sound recording, even if you have a compatible sync speed motor it's a very noisy camera, blankets wouldn't be enough. They used to put cameras like this in a sound-proof booth back in the day!

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Thank you for the reply. I am thinking of trying to make a soundproof blimp just for this camera but also storyboard the particular scenes carefully so that whatever I shoot with this camera is dubover/ subtitles ... something like that. I keep hearing this is such a steady camera I'm almost compelled to test it as much as possible to see how much it can be used. I'm just going to use multiple short ends in the 200ft magazine and test it as much as possible. Just an example....if the camera is noisy... you could film a piece of machinery which has a similar sound and blend both sounds together...that's just an example. Now I know the two butterfly shutters make noise when they rotate past each other. But what if I experiment making two plastic shutters or two metal shutters coated in Teflon paint. The plastic ones might not last as long as metal ones... but you never know until you try right. Also sound deadening is much more advanced than it was back in the day... so I'm going to try a few different things. My primary goal is to film test as many ideas as possible because even though todays electronic cameras have a lot of impact on how you can shoot a film, there are lots of things you can do with lighting the set, filtering a matte box and manipulating the development process, it's really more about skill and artform ( and I don't mean to take anything away from digital). Every time I look at a digitally filmed / edited production I can almost immediately identify it as digital. Another thing about the camera. You can slide mattes in behind the lens, there are also filters that can slide between the lens and film. There's a slot in the camera loading door for them. I don't know if all 35mm film camera's have that.... but there are a few companies that sell them ( mattes and filters) and I know of one set available on the market. So I can test this also. I am probably going to take a full year to test it. Anyway I look forward to anyone who has anything to contribute. Thank you again. PS If the silent you mentioned was The Canyon.....Adam Wilt and Art Adams ...yes I saw that... it's great documentary footage showing how some of it was done. ( 'xcuse any typo's... and I just see it was The Canyon))

Edited by Fergus O'Doherty
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  • 3 weeks later...

Fergus, do keep in mind that your raw stock needs to have the Bell & Howell (BH.1866") or N(egative) type perforation as it’s named with the international raw film cutting and perforating standard ISO 491. Yes, the shuttle gate assembly being intact, the cameras are capable of a repeated accuracy of 30 millionths of an inch in two directions. That is the precision of the punched holes forms.


If you’re looking for a film that has a fantastic resolving power, I can provide you with Gigabitfilm. That panchromatic stock has an exposure index of 40 ISO to daylight, has negative perforation, 0.1866" pitch, a colourless polyester base, an incorporated anti-halo protection, and anti-static treatment. Processed with its original chemistry, available from Gigabitfilm, Ltd in Germany, you get overwhelming images, technically.


Besides that I’m congratulating you on the camera. The 2709 model links you directly to the 19th century. In one respect this is still a leader, there hasn’t been a more compact 35-mm. movie camera with a four-lens turret until today.

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Thank you Simon. I am close to doing a scratch test. I've had a local Public TV station express interest in covering some of the procedure for archive and as part of an ' Underground Art' segment on their Portal. I took some video through the viewing optic last night as I was cranking the camera over...it shows flickering, The only frame counter I have is one mounted to an animation motor that I got with the camera so I am trying to figure out whether to buy a Veeder Root counter online and get an adapter made for it. So that has to be figured out. I have run it with the motor before but not full bore. So I want to be pretty careful at first. I also have a Mitchell matte box and have a huge selection of filters. I've been checking them and between the lens selection I'm adding and the matte box and filters I should have a really good setup. I have short and tall sticks, a high hat, a friction head and an Akeley Gyro for fast pans and with the inching gears in it I should have some really cool potential. I also have 200, 400 and 1000 foot mags. Cheers for the info and contact.

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  • 4 years later...

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