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Patrick Cooper

Bell and Howell 16mm Filmo questions

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I'm interested in getting hold of a Bell and Howell 16mm Filmo (possibly a 70 series camera) and running some film through it. I have shot with a K3 before so this time, I'll have to get used to operating without a reflex viewfinder. I do note that some models come with a "critical focuser" which would allow direct focusing through the taking lens when it's swung out to the side. I do realise that you would only be seeing a small portion of the image through this port. I'm assuming this would be the most accurate way of achieving focus - handy when focusing at close distances with large apertures I gather. In practise, how easy is to focus through this thing? I guess different individuals would have different experiences and preferences. Just hoping for a bright clear image. I'm guessing there wouldn't be any ground glass. 

I know that some models have a bunch of viewfinder lenses that have matching or corresponding focal lengths to the taking lenses on the turret. I'm hoping there's a 25mm and 50mm viewfinder lens available because I plan to use my Canon FD 24mm and 50mm lenses with a C mount to FD adapter. I may or may not be able to focus on infinity but I would mainly be focusing on closer subjects anyway. 

Ive also heard there's an accessory known as a "focusing alignment gauge" which fits between the camera and tripod, allowing you to shift the camera from one position to another. Parallax correction I assume. How often does this accessory turn up on eBay?

A few people on this forum have commented that these cameras can produce flicker. That's one turn off for me. How common is this issue? Ive seen a number of clips on youtube shot with Bell and Howell 70 series cameras and I didn't notice any flicker in them. Someone mentioned that the HR model is less likely to have flicker but I checked out the price of a HR on eBay and it's going for around $1000. For me, I think part of the appeal of Bell and Howell Filmos is that generally, they can be picked up for super low prices. If spending $1000 on a 16mm camera, I think it would make more sense to buy a more advanced camera like a Bolex H16 reflex or an early model Arriflex. 

Also, is there a socket for a cable release? I'd prefer one when filming from a tripod.

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Posted (edited)

I have been shooting with an old 2R Filmo 70E (picture of camera below) lately and have been really impressed with the results. I'm using another old piece of gear - a Pan-Cinor 17-85 with the sidefinder, so reflex viewing is provided by that. It's not a great lens, inherently soft, but it can give you a nice look in the right conditions. This is a piece I shot recently about my mom:

 

2020-03-15 21.31.43.jpg

Edited by Webster C

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Flicker would have to do with incompatible mains light frequency and camera speed. At constant light you have no flicker. The Bell & Howell Co. was founded, by the way, with the goal to remove unsteadiness and flicker from the flicks.

The critical focusing happens on a ground prism, you see a 15 times magnified circular central section of what the lens delivers. The eyepiece can be adjusted, it’s screwed in.

There is an alignment gauge on ebay from time to time. Do buy one, they make it possible to frame and focus down to an inch in front of the lens. Victor and Paillard-Bolex had a critical focusing system, too. No known rackover for Victor

My suggestion is to look for a younger Filmo-70, a DL/DE/DR or HR. The DE has a rewind button on the upper spool spindle. Cleaned, lubricated, and adjusted the B. & H. Filmo 70s are first-class motion picture film cameras with a bright side finder.

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Webster, nice footage and I enjoyed the nature closeups and your mother's commentary. Yes, I have known about that Pan Cinor lens with reflex viewfinder for quite some time but never seen one in real life. I heard that Angenieux also had a lens with a reflex viewfinder. There seems to be 10 - 120mm and 12 - 120mm versions of it.

Simon, good to hear that the critical focuser has 15x magnification. This sounds very usable.

Thanks for the recommendations for the younger models. I guess these ones all take single perf film. What kind of oils would be recommended for lubrication?

And would there generally be a socket for a cable release for regular filming? Actually, I just googled to see if these cameras also offer single frame shooting but didn't come across any information that suggested that was the case. Not really an issue because I could use other cameras for time lapse and stop motion animation. 

 

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Yeah, I forgot that. And no, Filmo 70s don’t have a cable release thread or attachment. A single-frame release existed as an accessory, you may see it on images in the web, it’s got the appearance of shiny cylinder on top of the release button. One of the weak points of that camera. But you can expose single frames perfectly by briefly tapping the button.

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Thankyou for the additional information. Would you have any tips on filming with the Bell and Howell on a tripod without transferring vibrations and unnecessary movement to the camera? I don't suppose there's a running lock like on some super 8 cameras where it continues to run by itself until you stop it? To be honest, I'm not sure if that's possible on a mechanical camera. I guess one could attach a clamp around the camera with one end on the filming button. Tighten to start filming and loosen to stop. Though that would be awkward. 

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A medium weight wooden tripod will do the job, I like the Australian Universal a lot, Miller, Ceco, there are many. Yes, from model 70-D on you can lock the release by a push-in knob on the side.

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6 hours ago, Simon Wyss said:

Yes, from model 70-D on you can lock the release by a push-in knob on the side.

Ah good to hear. I guess you push the same knob again to unlock the release? With my Canon 1014E super 8 camera, I used to have a remote release but that's no longer in my possession. These days, I use the running lock which allows me to have both hands off the camera while it's filming. 

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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, Patrick Cooper said:

I guess you push the same knob again to unlock the release? 

Or pull perhaps.

And just to confirm, the DL, DE, DR and HR all have that ability to lock the release? I'm not really familiar with the chronological order of the models. I'm just assuming that the highly advanced HR would be one of the last models produced.

Edited by Patrick Cooper

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On 3/19/2020 at 10:27 PM, Simon Wyss said:

lock the release by a push-in knob on the side.

Perpendicular to the release button axis

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Posted (edited)

You pull the lock out with your fingernail. It's a tiny little button that seems like an afterthought on B&H's part. Don't worry about vibrating the Filmo from depressing the shutter button with your finger, it has enough mass that it won't matter as long as your camera is in good condition and everything is properly lubed. 

For 1R cameras, the DE was first, then DL, then DR. The HL came out shortly after the DL and has the ability to mount a 400ft magazine. It has a motor fitting as well. The HR was concurrent with the DR. The difference between the DL and DR is largely in the turret. The DR has a geared turret to automatically select the correct viewfinder objective matching the taking lens. DE and DL both have to be selected by the user. The HR was also made for the military, called the KRM. Both of these models have a little shutter stabilizer. The door of the HR and KRM are special doors as well, as they have a spacer between the door and the viewfinder to allow for composition with the magazine on.  

The film alignment gauge is used for precision focusing and composition. The tiny 15x focusing aid can be used only on a tripod and the alignment gauge accounts for errors of parallax between the gauge, the taking lens and the viewfinder. It's really very necessary if you want to do some close-up work. 

A while back I asked Simon about hanging a reflex 12-120 Angenieux off the front of a Filmo and he recommended against it. I already have a reflex 17-68 and found only through my own experience that he was right, in that the Filmo is a much better camera for shooting small fixed focal lengths off of, not big zooms. That also goes for hanging an SLR lens off the turret. One thing you'll find is that only some adapters for 35mm-C mount will fit on the Filmo due to the turret retaining nut. Many of the adapters won't mount flush and you won't get the lens to seat to infinity or even sit still. The only Filmo I would put a zoom lens or adapted 35mm still lens on would be a 70E as it has no turret and the front plate is very strong in comparison. The 70E doesn't have a port for rewind as the later models do. I haven't used my 400ft mag yet and don't really feel like I want to either. It's just a piece I've collected and will keep in case I have the desire to shoot that much. 

I really like using the 70DL or 70 DR on a good monopod. It's a really portable way to have a nice kit to walk around with and get some good stable shots.

Phil Forrest

Edited by Philip Forrest

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Philip, thanks for the recommendation for the 70E for using adapted lenses. I was looking forward to using a turret camera though I see that may not work out with my plans. I do notice some people have used 35mm still lenses with adaptors on Bolex H16s though I guess those cameras employ a different design with their turrets. Would the 70E have matching viewfinder objectives for 25mm and 50mm lenses? I do plan on mounting a Canon FD 24mm and Canon FD 50mm lens with a C mount to FD adapter. I was also curious if the 70E runs at 64fps? I did read that some Filmo models only have a top speed of 32fps. And I'm assuming that a lot of the Filmo models can use single perf and double perf film. 

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The E of 70-E stands for economy. Therefore the finder is equippable with push-on masks only. It runs up to 64 fps. Single-row and double-row sprocket drums were optional from model DA on, August 1930.

Model DLC has a well graspable release lock.

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You could possibly switch the film door from a 70DE/DL to work on the 70E to give you the different finders but you're looking at more expense and the possibility of the door not fitting. Each door was fit to each body as they all should have matching #s. I doubt putting a heavy lens on a Bolex would be good either. Another problem is that with the really fat adapters, you can't fit more than one lens on the turret often. I had this problem and gave up wanting to fit any SLR lenses to a Filmo. I have a Kodak Cine-Anastigmat 50mm f/1.6 which is amazing but even that is too wide to fit on the turret with any other lenses beside a tiny 1" TTH Cooke Kinic I have. And that 50mm lens is a motion picture lens, so it's slightly smaller  and still won't fit (made for Cine-Kodaks like the K, K100, and the Special which had no or larger turrets with angled flanges to fit their lens line.) I only mentioned the E because it is probably the only one that you could confidently hang a larger reflex zoom off of.

Another thing is that the E is a 2R camera that needs to be converted to run 1R film. If you were here in the states, I'd say borrow one of my Filmos to really try it out before you jump in. I'm just a hobbyist who likes to shoot and repair any broken camera I can get my hands on, so I don't have any professional film MP experience. 

Phil Forrest

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7 hours ago, Simon Wyss said:

The E of 70-E stands for economy. Therefore the finder is equippable with push-on masks only.

I don't think I'd mind masks as long as I can get approximate fields of view for my 24mm and 50mm lenses.

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5 hours ago, Philip Forrest said:

I doubt putting a heavy lens on a Bolex would be good either.

My 35mm format lenses are pretty light weight. I do have a 50mm f1.4 which is a bit on the heavy side. I hope I can use my 50mm f1.8 which is ultra light but unfortunately, I can't use all aperture settings with a Canon FD to M4/3 adapter. No such issues with the FD lenses with the older style mount like the 50mm f1.4. 

It would great to use something like an Angenieux 12 - 120mm with reflex finder but perhaps that might be too ambitious on a Bolex non reflex.

5 hours ago, Philip Forrest said:

Another thing is that the E is a 2R camera that needs to be converted to run 1R film.

Darn. Just when I thought I'd found the ideal camera. There's always something. Out of curiosity, how much would such a conversion cost roughly? I guess that would involve removing one set of sprockets and polishing the worked-on area.

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One side toothed sprocket rollers are readily available from Magna-Tech Electronics. A technician would simply swap and adjust.

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Posted (edited)

The shuttle in the E is also for 2R. It needs to be either replaced with one from a later camera or modified. 

I like the 70E, don't get me wrong, but why not try a later Filmo with a turret and the ability to hand crank / rewind? The only reason I have my 70E is because I got it from goodwill for $14. I really bought it because it had a Cooke Kinic on the front. The camera was all gummed up from years of non-use and had to be overhauled. By the time you find a 70E (which are way less common than the later DE/DL/DR), have it overhauled and modified for 1R, you're looking close to the price of an older reflex Bolex, but you still have the most basic of Filmos besides the 70A (the 70A is just pure fun by the way).

C mount lenses aren't very expensive and you don't have to worry about your SLR/C adapter being off at infinity so you'll get better focus since SLR lens scales are not printed for fine focus but for DOF calculation. They usually don't have the finer gradation of distances that cine lenses do. Plus, you can get much wider if you want, easily down to 10mm. You may like your 24mm Canon, but unless it is the f/1.4L, it won't be any better than many of the very commonly available 1" and 25mm C-mount lenses out there. My slowest 1" lens (not counting the lens of the 70A) is f/1.9 and my fastest is f/.95.

A Filmo with an SLR lens hanging off the front is a somewhat ungainly beast, whereas with 3 different focal lengths, they are very portable and pretty easy to use once you get the hang of it. 

Phil Forrest

Edited by Philip Forrest

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2 hours ago, Philip Forrest said:

C mount lenses aren't very expensive and you don't have to worry about your SLR/C adapter being off at infinity

For curiosity's sake, I had a look at prices for a 75mm Switar on eBay and that was way over what I wanted to spend. Haven't checked out other C mount lens prices lately. Though I actually have in the distant past and got the impression that prices had gone up in recent years - largely due to demand from people adapting them to digital cameras. A large attraction of using 35mm format lenses was to reduce costs and get to use my own set of nice lenses when I need longer focal lengths. Yes of course if I wanted a wide angle, I'd have to use a dedicated C mount lens but I was thinking that the 35mm format lenses would save me from having to buy longer lenses (accepting the limitations of course like lack of infinity focus.) By the way, Ive seen some nice looking footage shot with Minolta lenses adapted to a Bolex H16. 

A Bolex could be another option. I remember years ago (before eBay was around) when you could pick up a non-reflex Bolex H16 for really cheap - around $200. I regret not getting one back then. And there was a huge gap in price between the non-reflex and reflex models. With the few glances Ive had on eBay recently, I see that prices for non-reflex Bolexes have gone up. And in some cases, there's not much of price gap between the non-reflex and reflex models on that infamous auction site. 

I do admit though that it would be really cool to use one of the later model Bell & Howell Filmos like a DL or DR etc. I always thought it would be fun to use a movie camera with a turret. Yea definitely worth considering if I could get some quality C mount lenses at affordable prices. Other than Switar non-RX lenses, would there be any other C mount lenses that you'd recommend for quality optics?

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C mount Cooke lenses are really good but climbing in price. The Combat line from Bell and Howell was made by Taylor Hobson so there is Cooke lineage there. Angenieux lenses are superb and came stock with the later DR/HR/KRM. Wollensak Raptars are really good. From my still photo work (I've been a still photographer for over 25 years) I love the look of Schneider lenses. The Xenon and Xenar lenses are awesome. I would trade my set of Angenieux (10/1.8, 25/.95, R17-68/2.2) and Cine-Ektars for a fast set of 10/25/50mm Schneider in C mount. One other limitation of SLR lenses is click stop aperture that can be really variable due to the auto-diaphragm linkage. Those lenses may not be able to replicate a stop from shot to shot even though they may get close. Just another thing to think about. If you can't find a Filmo locally, hit me up when this pandemic winds down. 

Phil Forrest

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the lens suggestions. Yea I notice Angenieux lenses lenses seem to be a popular choice on 16mm C mount cameras. And I'm sure Schneider lenses would be really nice considering that they also have a good reputation with their large format lenses on 4 x 5 view cameras etc. Actually, there's a youtube vid shot with a Beaulieu super 8 camera and the footage is beautifully sharp. Some of the best super 8 Ive seen. Can't recall though whether the lens that exposed that super 8 footage was a Schneider or an Angenieux (would have been one or the other.) Ah yes and I had forgot about Cooke lenses - they seem to have a good reputation too.

Out of curiosity, I guess it would be easier to use 35mm still format lenses on a Bolex H16? I have seen a few youtube videos where this has been done and the footage is great. I'm guessing that the design of the turret on a Bolex doesn't interfere with the adapters.

 

Edited by Patrick Cooper

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11 hours ago, Philip Forrest said:

One other limitation of SLR lenses is click stop aperture that can be really variable due to the auto-diaphragm linkage. Those lenses may not be able to replicate a stop from shot to shot even though they may get close.

With the adapters that I use to mount old SLR lenses to my digital M4/3 cameras, the aperture blades remain in a fixed position at whatever f stop setting I select. In other words - they don't open and close by themselves. It's completely 100% manual. And I prefer it this way because there's no tiny variations in exposure or anything like that. So I can happily use these old film lenses to shoot digital video and time lapse and not worry about flicker. And the same should apply when adapting these lenses to a motion picture film camera. 

By the way, I once came across a Bell and Howell Filmo 16mm camera at a camera market a number of years ago. Gosh, this one looked like it had been through a war zone. Like it had been through hell. It was battered and pretty rough. Would have been interesting to know it's life history. 

Thanks for the offer. I'll see what else comes up over here but I think these things might be a little rare over here. I'm not even sure if they run the camera markets in my state anymore. I'll have to check once the pandemic begins to subside.

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Speaking of war zones, this is the auction photo of a camera that I acquired awhile back. Filmo 70B (not sure about that letter designation) "Superspeed" camera - 128fps on a spring wind or a motor. The original owner fancied himself a wildlife photographer I guess, spent a lot of money on the camera and then painted the whole thing with a cammo pattern! That's an Angenieux 15-150 on there, to stabilize it there are extra pins in the mount and a turret lock screw in one of the three lens ports. I have run one roll of film through it and the image was very stable, though the lens is pretty much scrap (needs a new prism). 

originalAuctionPhoto.01.jpg

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Webster, that's an awesome looking Bell and Howell camera. That one looks like it's had a pretty rough life too. I like the camo artwork! I'm sure you could have a lot of fun running this thing at 128fps. Yea wildlife on the run would look amazing at that frame rate. I once saw some film footage on The Leyland Brothers (old Australian TV series) of a kangaroo hopping along parallel to the camera in the outback. It was probably shot at about 64fps or 70fps. It looked really dreamy.

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Ive looked at more C mount lenses on eBay. Some of the prices are quite reasonable. However, I finding that the longer focal lengths are insanely expensive. If I bought a set of lenses, I'd be paying just about as much for a Bolex H16 with reflex viewfinder. I think I'm tempted more and more to get a non reflex Bolex or another 16mm C mount camera and use my SLR lenses with an adapter. Sure I may not be able to focus on infinity but a lot of the subject matter I plan on filming won't be all that far away. 

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