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Paul Crisp

Bell & Howell Filmosonic Problems

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Hi everyone.

I’m new to shooting Super 8 and just bought a fully tested and working Bell & Howell Filmosonic XL 1235. I loaded the batteries in and everything seemed to be working fine. All of a sudden, the motor stopped and the cue light stayed on. The auto zoom buttons don’t seem to do anything apart from make a strange internal motor noise. In the view finder the only thing that now comes on is the under/over exposure red light, as opposed to everything else that should appear. There’s no manual with this camera so I can’t check what ways the batteries are supposed to go in (although I would hope it’d be pretty obvious). It just seems strange that the camera now isn’t functioning. It seems odd that the cue light stays on constantly but the main motor now doesn’t respond. Does this sound like a problem anyone has faced before? 
 

Cheers,

 

Paul

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Young man, these things are 42 years old at the least. Do you expect a compact cassette recorder to function as it did such a long time ago? You’re probably about to experience an almost endless line of failures from the zoom motor stuck in its rotten grease to the lens’ zoom or diaphragm group to dismiss service to the take-up clutch binding. As a film equipment tech I will under no circumstances take over a commission for fitting such plastic graves. Among My Souvenirs  . . .

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I think you can safely assume it'll need a complete strip-down and overhaul.

What Simon is trying to tell you is that these things were consumer grade to begin with and as such fixing them can be a bit tricky. It's not built like a higher-end camera, with metal parts and screws. It's built out of bits of plastic and glue, wherever possible, with a minimum of metal parts.

In short it's going to need some love and even then you may find that parts availability makes life hard.

Look for someone to help you, or get out your screwdriver set and dive in - but carefully, oh so carefully!

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9 hours ago, Paul Crisp said:

There’s no manual with this camera so I can’t check what ways the batteries are supposed to go in (although I would hope it’d be pretty obvious). It just seems strange that the camera now isn’t functioning. 

I don’t know how different the 1235 model is from the 1230, but here is the 1230 manual:

http://www.mondofoto.com/manuals/bell+howell+1230-filmosonic-xl/target1.html

The battery compartment has a battery sleeve which shows where the batteries go, I imagine B&H would have kept that system for other cameras in the Filmosonic series, but perhaps yours is missing. I’m not sure you would get any response if the batteries weren’t correctly inserted, but it’s worth checking.

As others have said, these are fairly old consumer products. Sometimes they may function briefly before they fail, due to parts being brittle, grease dried up, belts desiccated, corrosion etc. Generally they are not worth repairing, as parts are not available and most super 8 cams were never really designed to be regularly maintained. Few technicians are willing to work on them. If you’re handy you can try to fault find the issue yourself, but it’s rarely easy to repair these things. It could be corrosion from old batteries, too much resistance from a stiff mechanism, electrical component failure, deformed switch springs, etc. This model is a sound camera, which means it has extra components and more complexity (and since there is no sound film anymore it’s not a feature you need).

Some brands last better than others, search the Super 8 archives here for recommendations, and maybe try another camera. It’s unfortunately part and parcel of playing with old consumer grade tech.

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8 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

What Simon is trying to tell you is

something in the open and direct European way. Actually it’s the expression of respect and esteem, I take Paul seriously and therefore tell him the truth as it is. Heap of plastic, throw-away product, no spare parts left anywhere. I hate Super-8.

Have a look at Double-Eight cameras. Most of them are well serviceable.

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In all fairness there are some Super 8 cameras that were all metal construction. My Elmo Super 110 is an all metal camera and operates like new. It's also one of the quietest cameras I own. Yes regular 8 cameras are definitely constructed to last but there are some stand out Super 8 cams. The Elmo Super 110 I own also takes very steady images with hardly any sways from side to side. The Bolex 18-5L Super I use probably also helps with steadiness when projecting these movies. Also of all the cameras I own I've never had a cart jam in the Elmo.  

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For certain. There are the Leicina Super and Special, Nalcom FTL, LOGMAR, Paillard-Bolex 150, 155, 160, some Canon, Beaulieu, and more.

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15 hours ago, Shane C Collins said:

My Elmo Super 110 is an all metal camera and operates like new. It's also one of the quietest cameras I own. 

I picked up a Super 110 (cheap!) after someone recommended it and it's a fantastic camera, I'm surprised they don't get mentioned more often. 

Simon, are all Europeans known for being open and direct? Surely not the British, right? I mean, when a Brit says the lovely-sounding phrase, "With all due respect"; he's about to lob a huge insult at you. 

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Well, perhaps half of them. The British who tend to express themselves through understatement are especially difficult to classify. I could limit myself to I am direct but then what about Italians and Greeks? Never got insulted by English. They are simply too playful, that horde of gamblers and musicians. I love them for leaving the EU.

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6 hours ago, Webster C said:

I picked up a Super 110 (cheap!) after someone recommended it and it's a fantastic camera, I'm surprised they don't get mentioned more often. 

Simon, are all Europeans known for being open and direct? Surely not the British, right? I mean, when a Brit says the lovely-sounding phrase, "With all due respect"; he's about to lob a huge insult at you. 

They are definitely underrated cameras! I'm not sure why they don't get mentioned more often. It may be because they were only around for about 5 years. That whole Elmo Super Series cameras were all built to the same high standards at the time. I am always surprised how quiet and smooth these 110's run. They never skip a beat!  

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