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James Jeffrey Cotter

Bell & Howell 70DR Sales Surge

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I check Ebay constantly for bargains for my Arri but I also check out all other 16mm and 35mm equipment. Recently I have seen a surge in sales of old B&H 70DR's with and without lenses and for very high prices in comparison to Bolex as a compatible wind and go camera. They are selling at $250 body only and higher with any kind of c-mount lens.


I never would consider Bolex as being of lower quality then BH in fact I think it is far better yet Bolex H16's are going un-sold at $90 and $120. Did some movie star use one in a movie or something? I remember when Clint Eastwood came out with Dirty Harry sales of .44 Magnums went through the roof to folks that would never use one and probably were not capable of using one. Is this the same kind of thing? Anyone know something about this phenomena?

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A quick look at the completed listings for B&H 70DRs doesn't show that, most are going for around $100 for a body with one lens:



The only time they sell for more than a few hundred is when there are sought-after lenses involved, like Angenieux primes or particular Cookes (or others). Certain C-mount lenses have been fetching crazy prices for a while now. The cheapest option is often to buy a whole camera with lenses attached.


As far as quality goes, Filmos are probably more durable and "professionally made" than Bolexes, but being non-reflex and rather basic they're not as well-regarded or popular. The original design from the 20s was really only superficially altered in subsequent models over the following decades, and comes from a time when Bell & Howell were also making professional 35mm studio cameras. By contrast, Paillard Bolex were amateur (perhaps becoming semi-pro) camera makers - albeit of the highest quality in that domain - but they consistently modernized their cameras with newer features. Late model Bolexes will generally fetch more than earlier non-reflex ones, but again these days it's the lenses that add real value.

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I was looking at the numbers anecdotally not as account or mathematician so I just made a guestimate, however the link you provided has an actual average sale price of $207 for 17 cameras totaling $3520 in sales.


I do appreciate the history and personal opinion you offered regarding BH vs Bolex. I have a frank and admitted bias for Bolex and therefore can't understand why one would buy a BH when a Bolex is available. The purchase of a camera to get a lens makes sense in todays environment but paying more for a camera and a lens, many times a lot more, instead of a just buying the lens baffles me.

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eBay is a weird place, you sometimes see something that sold for $100 one day inexplicably go for $300 the next. The best way to get a sense of actual value is to look at sold listings over a period of time. If you look at what C-mount lenses are selling for:


you can see that Switars often go for 2 to 300 per lens, or that certain Angeneuxs can fetch in excess of $600. In that context getting 3 of these sort of lenses for $500 plus a camera is a steal.


Try a search for Kinoptiks, or Dallmeyers, or Meyer Kino Plasmats.. it's astonishing what people will pay for these old bits of glass!

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Thanks for the idea I checked that out and some Russian stuff too there is some lenses that I don't see how they will ever sell, and some guy that had stuff priced obscenely high, I figured he was doing loan fraud and claiming it was inventory value as an asset.

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