BOLEX 8mm FAQ
Can I Do My Own Overhaul?
Read this tutorial.
JUST BOUGHT A BOLEX 8MM CAMERA?
Congratulations new film camera owner! Here are a few hints and suggestions for using your Bolex camera:
1) Film cameras make noise. It's all the gears, pull down claw, mechanical regulator, etc. This is normal. 11 and a 1/2 full turns from fully wound down to fully wound up. Fully wound up, you will hear and feel a "clunk" at the end of the wind. This is the 'overwind mechanism' telling you to stop winding. Contrary to Bolex saying you cannot overwind the motor, with enough force, you can actually twist the knob past the limit gears and overwind the camera.
Do not force the wind handle past 11 ½ full turns. I wind the camera in half-turn increments. From fully wound down, I wind quickly until I get a 1/2 turn count of 19 or 20, then I very slowly continue winding to the stop (clunk). You'll feel it.
Bolex recommends, as does every other spring motor manufacturer, to fully wind the spring motor after each and every shot. This will ensure that the motor runs at consistent speed. A typical shot can take 5-7 seconds. Sometimes longer or shorter. All cameras can run slightly slower at the end of wind. Some older cameras spring motors may run slightly slower than others when reaching the end of the wind.
Plan ahead with your shots to make a coherent story. Make short shots and assemble later, in editing, into longer segments to make a scene to tell a story. Bolex cameras at 24 FPS can do about 19-21 seconds maximum before stopping for rewind, and about 31-33 seconds at 18 FPS.
This is typical for most older cameras. A small amount of slowing down is to be expected for all 50+ year old camera motors. Failure to rewind after each shot may result in the motor reaching the end of it's wind before the shot ends.
This will result in the film being exposed somewhat slower than normal which will then result in the finished film playing somewhat faster than normal. Even worse, a 'clunk' when you are half way through a shot signals the end of film in the camera. See Bolex Owners manual for more information.
2) Most Bolex cameras have a built-in light meter with a calibration adjustment screw. See the manual for your camera model. In film production due to the costs involved, accurate light measurement is a must.
Even if you Bolex light meter is absolutely accurate, consider using a separate light meter such as a Sekonic L-398 (about $30.00+, used on eBay) or similar. This is especially useful if you can are going to plan your shots and need to accurately read the light falling on the subject and adjust the lighting accordingly. Keep in mind that even with a "perfect" light meter, you will STILL have to allow for strong light behind the subject being filmed.
This strong light has a name It's called "backlight. Backlighting can fool the camera's meter by reading ALL light that the meter "sees." The meters in all 8mm Bolex cameras "reads" the total light as seen by the lens. I may or may not be exactly what the viewfinder is showing. It does an average and then reports it with its light meter needle. You set the camera's lenses’ f-stop based on this information.
The actual f-stop will probable be a little off. Up to a half-stop or so. Modern cameras can adjust for backlighting. The backlight control when used reads a little low. About a half stop or so. You set the f-stop and the footage is shot slightly brighter than normal.
Older Bolex 8mm Film cameras must be adjusted manually for strong backlighting conditions. Darker skin requires the iris to be opened up a 1/4 to 1/2 stop. Strong light like the sun setting on the horizon needs to be allowed for.
The best bet here is to us a direct reading external meter in either 1) Incident or 2) reflective mode or both. This is how Hollywood does it. They meter's multiple points of interest in the scene such as main actors, background light incident light, etc. The take an average typically giving preference in the estimate of the final f-stop based on the most important elements in the scene.
Many excellent meters sell at way under $100.00. Incident metering should be done with the meter held slightly below the chin (incident) of the key person in the shot with the meter's light dome pointing towards the lens of the camera. There are other ways, however this will work fine for most filming projects.
3) Costs of film and processing are expensive when compared to video tape or digital media. Before shooting a large project, consider shooting a "test" roll of film. After processing, you can compare what "you wanted" to "what you got". Be sure to make notes of the test scenes and what was shot and under what conditions: back light (if any), strong sunlight, indoors, f-stops, etc.
Write down all FPS and f-stop numbers, meter readings, film ISO, etc. Compare the developed reel with what you expected. You may find that the camera and/or you metering results need to be "tweaked". Adjust accordingly. This can save you a lot of time and money.
4) Film cameras should be inspected, cleaned and lubricated on a regular basis. Consult your manual for recommendations. Bolex recommends a 1 year CLA cleaning and lubrication interval. A 2-3 year interval is more common. Cameras that have been stored or used under dusty conditions will require a more frequent maintenance interval.
5) Do NOT store the camera in a hot and/or dusty location. Film cameras tend to 'pick up dust' as they use both oil and grease in their operating mechanisms. Film stock degrades from excessive heat. Store unused film in a refrigerator or at least in a cool, dark place like a closet.
6) Bolex cameras are covered with "Moroccan leather."" You can clean them with "Lexol" brand cleaner and "Lexol" brand leather conditioner. Lexol is sold at car parts stores as well as ACE hardware and at Amazon.com.
Clean and treat leather yearly. Once the leather completely dries out the strength of leather is gone forever. This is most important if you are using a Bolex English leather case and the straps are over 50+ years and you are carry the case by the strap. Expect it to snap. Same situation with the Bolex leather hand straps.
7) Metal camera body edges and Declic handles can be polished "like new" with any fine metal polishing compound. We recommend "Bluemagic" brand. It's used for aluminum and magnesium car wheels. You can find it at hardware and automotive stores.
8) Avoid touching the lens glass with your finger tips. The natural oils and acids on the human hand will etch into the glass if left on long enough. Clean with lens paper, Kim wipes, with or without denatured alcohol. Never use canned air on a lens. It can actually blow dust into the lens mechanism. A small amount of dust inside the lens body will NOT show on the finished footage. The dust is "out of focus" compared to the image "recorded" on film.
9) Avoid using canned air to clean the inner compartment of the camera. Blown air may actually cause dirt and dust to get inside of inner case where the motor gears are exposed. Use soft, lint free cloth or "Kim-Wipes" (tm). If you are doing your own maintenance, use "clock oil" for lubricating oil. We use "NYOIL" brand, synthetic oil. You can find it on Amazon.com.
Avoid oils such as "3-in-1" or "sewing machine oil" as they tend to "gum up" after a while. WD-40 is not an oil. It's a solvent. Never oil the outside edges of the winding mechanism. It will seep into the edges of the leather coverings and will loosen up the rubber cement and the cement will never stick to that covering again. No oil on the covers, ever!
10) When the project is finished, you can run the camera's motor with the lens caps on until the end of the film supply. This will wind all the film onto to the take-up reel.
Remember to leave a "tail" or
small amount of unexposed film on the end of the take up reel before removing
or flipping the reels around when going from 1st to 2nd side. If you don't,
light hitting the already exposed footage may damage (overexpose) the last
shot. You won't have this problem if you use a film changing bag.
The purpose of running the motor down is to relieve the tension on the spring motor. For long periods of storage the spring should always be run down. This applies to ALL spring wound motors.
Original Bolex light meter batteries are no longer for sale as they contained mercury. There are several replacement batteries available. As batteries are a different sizes, a custom made adapter is necessary. The BolexRepair "BATTERY REPLACEMENT KIT" has the proper length spacer. Abbreviated instructions follow:
DO NOT INSERT BATTERY FIRST!
Its only purpose is to take up the difference in length between the original and replacement batteries.
DO NOT INSERT BATTERY FIRST!
What does matter is that the battery itself be put in with the (+) sign on the battery visible. Or in other words, with the positive side (+) outward. The screw-in cover will touch the bottom of the battery and make contact on the plus side of the battery. See the BOLEX manual for the procedure to use the light meter.
When finished filming for the day, you can leave the battery in place. It will last for approximately 1-2 years under normal use. Replacement batteries are available from:
Cost of a replacement battery is approximately $3-5.00 plus postage. Try local stores also. You'll pay tax, but save on postage.
I did some single frame shots. Then I went back to doing normal filming. After a few seconds, the camera stopped. I can wind the camera, but the film only runs a few seconds before the same problem appears. What's wrong?
Sound like the film has lost its registration. The claw is unable to register into the film (pull down) so the camera stops running. The fix is to remove and reinstall the film to reset the "loop".
Do this in the dark of a closet or inside a changing bag and you can continue to use the film as it will not have been exposed.
The above process done with the film exposed to light will "fog" (expose to light) the film. If the camera has not been used in a very long time (5 years or longer), a service (CLA or ExCLA) may be necessary as the take-up spindle may be seized or sticking.
Another situation is that the film leader (beginning of film) has slipped away from the slot in the take-up reel. You'll have to re-thread. Then press the run button and run a few seconds of film through the camera. Do this with you hand placed over the lens to 'black" the leader. This will pull fresh, unexposed film to the gate. Start filming again.
How do I change film in bright daylight if the entire roll has not been shot?
Use a changing bag. A changing bag is a dark (usually black) cloth (or plastic) bag sufficient in size to hold both the camera and the film. It's construction design makes it "light tight". The camera and film are put into the bag and the operator (film changer) inserts her/his hands. In a pinch, you can use a dark jacket.
Sometimes there is a drawstring to pull, that eliminates any light from entering. Film can then be installed or removed without fogging the film. Exposed film is returned to the canister it was originally supplied in. Here's some links to bag sellers:
I seem to be having problems getting my P1 Bolex to focus. Focus is okay for a close subject, but when I zoom out (telephoto), the focus changes. How do I do both?
ANSWER: Using Zoom lever, zoom out to the farthest telephoto point just past the subject. Open camera iris all the way (smallest number or f=1.9). This lets in the most light to make focusing easier and focusing sharp (shallow depth of field). Focus using P-1's viewfinder's "split image" on the subject or horizontal or vertical lines near subject. Now readjust eyepiece (diopter) for sharpest view.
If necessary, repeat focusing and eyepiece (diopter) adjustment. The focus is now set. The diopter is set. Use zoom lever to reframe subject. Adjust iris for correct light. Shoot film. Refocus when subject distance or lighting angle(s) changes.
I can't seem to find fresh film. Any suggestions?
Yes. For 8mm film stock sellers, see our links page:
Also, there are other film manufacturers, both here and overseas who sell 8mm film stock. Check the links page.
I can't find a replacement battery for my P-1's light meter. The original Mallory RM450 (mercury cell) is no longer manufactured. What can I do?
There are several "fixes". The least intrusive is to use a replacement battery of the same voltage and a spacer to take up the difference in length. The battery lasts about a 1-2 years and does not requires any internal modifications to the camera. It is quite a bit shorter so a spacer is required. The spacer which is inserted first should be insulated.
Some kits use flat washers as spacers. Out Battery Replacement Kit uses a double insulated aluminum "slug" spacer which goes in first. Then battery is inserted with the PLUS (+) sign showing. Then the cap is screwed in. No other modifications or recalibration is necessary.
See kit here:
On my Bolex Reflex P-1 there appears to be dust or black speck in my viewfinder. Will this cause any problems?
If the dust or black speck is in the reflex part of the viewfinder, it will not show on the film. The Bolex viewfinder shows an image that is reflected from the light that passes through the lens onto the film. Small amounts of fine dust on the primary front lens will not be shown either.
You should clean or at least check the lens before filming. When changing film rolls, be sure to check the film gate for dirt, hairs or other 'crud".
The viewfinder diopter is removable. Turn counter-clockwise to unscrew. Don't loose any of the thin spacers that may be there. These spacers set the initial range of diopter focus. You can clean both the front and back elements of the diopter using a Q-tip or lens paper. Remove dust or contaminants carefully. Don't use compressed air. Do not immerse the diopter in cleaning solutions. Use denatured alcohol or other liquid lens cleaner.
Viewfinder lens elements are not coated, but like all glass lenses, they can be scratched. After cleaning, re-install the diopter using the same spacers. Tighten using the outer part of the diopter with the rubber eyepiece removed.
What is fogging?
Fogging is a condition whereby light contaminates exposed or unexposed film causing the developed film to have a "foggy appearance". This can happen when changing film rolls in sunlight or otherwise exposing the film to unnecessary light. Use a changing bag or at least, change film in a shaded area and run at least a foot or two of film before shooting.
I think I overwound my Bolex camera. What is over winding and how does it happen?
Bolex cameras are powered by a coiled, flat spring motor. The spring motor has a small set of "gears" that "turn limit" the total amount of turns the spring motor can be wound. This is about 11 a 1 1/2 full turns for the 8mm Bolexs. If too much (excessive) force is applied once the turn limit has been reached, one the gears can "jump" over the other.
The camera will wind but only a small amount. It will then only run several seconds, if at all. The fix is to remove the spring motor and reset the gears to their proper relationship with the internal spring of the motor. Resetting the gears will not fix any damaged caused by the camera being overwound.
If the camera has been left overwound for several years, the spring may take on a "bend" or "set" and be damaged beyond repair. The "set" will appear as a 1) loud noise, 2) thump or 3) loud click while the camera is running. It may only jump once.
Som Berthiot 8-40 (5x) Zoom Lens Front Element is coated to:
When cleaning, be sure not to damaged the lens coating. Never use compressed air to clean. This may actually force dirt in.
DUST IN LENS
A small amount of dust, a few specks or so will not normally cause any problems. Clean with lens paper, Kim wipes or other lens cleaning tools. Be careful not to damage lens coating with harsh chemicals! Dust near the outer edge of the large, front objective lens will not cause any problems. If using a wet solution, put solution on the paper first. NOT directly on the lens.
Lens fungus can appear as "spider web" like black, wispy threads or as a "mold-like" growth. Color can be dark to light. Some fungus is easily cleaned. Advanced fungus damage usually cannot be fixed. Do not confuse fungus with the lens cement used to hold lens elements in place.
Lens cement will be found only on extreme edges of lens. Cement will sometimes discolor over time. A very small amount of fungus anywhere on the lens will usually not cause any filming problems. Fungus spots on the outer edges of any element typically will not cause any problems.
With the reflex lens removed from the camera body, looking through the opposite (camera side) of the Som Berthiot lens, you will see what appears to be two round black "dots". These "dots" are normal and are not a problem. They are part of the reflex mechanism and do not show when filming or when view normally through the viewfinder.
Bolex eyepieces can get very dirty. The eyepiece itself can be unscrewed (counterclockwise) and cleaned. On reflex models, be careful not to loose the adjustment spacer rings. There are usually 1-3 rings used to align the eyepiece for the "split focus".
Clean the eyepiece as you would clean a camera lens. Do not used compressed air to clean. This may force dirt in between the elements of the diopter. DO NOT flood the assembly with a liquid cleaning solution. Re-install the diopter assembly and check the diopter marks. They should be the same as before. If not, you have not put all the spacer rings back in or the eyepiece in not tightened correctly.
RUBBER EYEPIECE FOR BOLEX
Most Bolex reflex cameras are 30-50+ years old. The rubber eyepiece (aka: eye guard, eye cup, etc) is one of the first things to go. The purpose of the eyepiece is to keep extraneous light from enter into the reflex path and affecting film quality. New eyepieces are available. Occasionally on eBay, you'll find a used and new ones for sale. Check this link:
Be sure to ask if it will fit you camera model before buying. Ask about the diameter (hole) of the mounting on of the cup. Some non-Bolex cups can be adapted to Bolex cameras. Rubber stretches.
New ones are available from several sources:
LOCAL CAMERA STORES
Don't forget GOOGLE search.
DO I REALLY NEED AN EYEPIECE?
Try this test. With the sun or strong artificial light, anywhere except directly in front or in back of you, pick a subject and get a meter reading. The do the same reading again, except this time 'shade' the side of your face with the flat of you hand.
Example: using your right eye to set the f/stop, shade the right side of face next to the diopter while holding camera with left-hand. Any meter difference? Yes, No? The difference, if any, is the extraneous light leaking into the camera's viewfinder and subsequently affecting the meter reading.
If there is no change in the experiment, you probably do not need a rubber shade for your camera. Some diopters effectively shade themselves if the optics are far enough in.
BOLEX LEATHER CASES
Bolex 8 mm cameras were very popular during the 1950s through the 1970's. That make the typical case about 45+ years old. Leather is a very durable material, but only if case maintenance is performed on a regular basis. Most cameras cases have been stored for very long lengths of time and are not in very good condition.
The first damage usually occurs at the attach points for the two strap ends. Flexing the most, one or both ends will break. By this time, no treatment will return the leather strap portion back to normal use.
It's too dried out. The case itself is usually in better condition, even without regular maintenance as the exposed (inside) part of the case does not dry out as quick.
To clean and recondition a Bolex cases, gently clean any dirt or grime on the case with leather cleaner. We at Bolexrepair.com use LEXOL brand cleaner. LEXOL is pH balanced for leather and helps the leather to remain flexible. Follow the instructions on the cleaner. Then treat the leather with LEXOL Leather conditioner.
The condition will soften the leather and prevent cracking. Lexol products are available at most larger hardware stores and Amazon.com. Any leather cleaner and/or conditioner can be use, such as "saddle soap", etc. Lexol is about $7.00 per 7 oz bottle for either the cleaner or conditioner. Lexol is the accepted standard for cleaning and preserving all leather products.
Use a small, stiff bristle brush to loosen any caked on dirt inside the case and either vacuum or blow out with compressed air. Sometime the inside "lid" of the case (hold filters) will come unglued.
You can use any common "white glue", such as "Elmer's" or rubber cement. We like to use clear silicone sealer to re-attached the inside top lid. If you use rubber cement, coat both inside of the case and the back side of the lid with glue. Allow to dry tacky. Press both pieces together. With a minute or so and then pry the two apart, wait a minute. Then assemble one last time and put pressure on the lid to hold in place until the glue sets.
New leather straps can be attached to the existing leather band which is usually still on the case. Be sure to use rivets or other mechanical fastener to attach the strap to the case. I have seen glued straps. Not a good idea.
Even if the carrying straps look good, don't rely on them to carry the weight of the camera and accessories. Better to use the original case to hold the camera when not in use, and to use a newer, better (safer) camera case for work.