I’m not sure what caused me to buy a motion picture camera. I saw it on eBay and just snagged it. I had no idea if they still made film for it, but it was advertised as working. I guess in the worst case scenario I had something interesting to put on the shelf.
This is a Bolex Paillard B8SL Double 8mm movie camera. Also called a Standard 8, or Regular 8 camera. As far as Bolex cameras go, this is about as simple as they made them. One film speed, one shutter speed, fixed focus prime lens. Not a bad starting point. It’s spring wound so the motor needs no battery. This does limit scenes to about 30 seconds, though. The only thing battery powered on the camera is the meter, but it’s not much use anyway. More on that later.
I got the camera out of it’s box and wound it. The shutter whirred and the motor hummed. It did work. Suddenly, I needed to find film for it. Turns out Foma makes a 100 ISO black and white reversal. You load it by taking a reel of film, and threading it in to the take up reel, then threading through the film gate. You shoot the reel until it is used up. Then you reverse it and repeat the process. I had to look up a video to learn how to load it, but thankfully there are quite a few on the web.
I loaded it and was set to go! Or I thought I was. Shutter speeds on the movie side of things are a different animal. I understand the still camera shutter and f stop drill, but movie cameras require math.
Specifically, this formula must be solved: Exposure time = (frames per second X 360) / (shutter angle in degrees). The math isn’t that hard, but I knew neither the frames per second of the film speed of the camera nor the shutter angle to start with. Eventually I realized most 8mm clockwork cameras shoot at 18 frames per second. The shutter angle was something I had to hunt down on the internet.There’s surprisingly little information on older clockwork cameras as opposed to the newer Super 8 cameras. Eventually, I found two different values. The first turned out to be wrong. The second was right on the money, though.
At any rate, the built in light meter would have helped, but it takes a mercury battery I didn’t have and topped out at ISO 40. I found out that my Sekonic L-308S light meter had a cine setting, and everything from there was smooth sailing.
The film had to be sent out for development and telecine. I can recommend the troops over at Yale Film and Video, they had an excellent turnaround time, and good communication. I’ll include some results here.
This is what happens when you flip the roll of Double 8 and don’t cap the lens on one side, then shoot on the other side- accidental solarization. I didn’t add sound to this one.
Finally, a properly exposed shot. Framing was a little off due to lack of parallax correction in the viewfinder, but it’s at least a good result. I like the atmosphere. There’s no sound here, either.
So what’s next with this format? Well, the Film Photography Podcast has started to sell Double 8 Film. So far, they have their own 50 ISO black and white reversal, a 50 ISO color negative, and a tungsten balanced 500 ISO for indoors. I can’t wait to get my hands on these films. I’ve also purchased a Zeika 6mm f1.9 wide angle and a Kinotel 1.5 inch f1.9 varible focus length lens to supplement the Kern-Pallard Yvar 13mm f1.9 standard length lens. These D mount lenses are plentiful and cheap. In the future, I may either move up to an H8 camera, or bite the bullet and move to an H16. Those are more expensive, but are professional rigs with far more lens and film options.
Honestly, watching my first roll’s telecine was striking. It was like seeing photography for the first time again. It’s very exciting.