Filmmaking With Vintage Film Gear | Advice Needed

by James M. Williams Jr.
(Alaska USA)

My Dad's Super 8MM Bolex Reflex P-1

My Dad's Super 8MM Bolex Reflex P-1

I received a collection of my late father's cameras from my eldest brother when I went to Juneau for my youngest sister's funeral.

After returning to Anchorage I went through the box of cameras. The box has several old vintage and potential collector's item cameras, including some vey old SLR cameras with separate Eye View Finders "EVF." There are also several old 8MM and Super 8MM home movie cameras for filming. I examined them very closely and there are only 2 that actually sort of work. One is an 8MM, which there is no film. The other is a "Super 8MM "Bolex Reflex P-1" camera. The cameras are very dirty, from a combination of poor storage in a garage and later, in a basement with no heat.

After working on the Super 8MM Cine camera, I finally got it working again. The spring was badly dried and rusted and the gears were very gummed. The actuator button was jammed and clogged with dirt and aluminum oxide. After cleaning the camera extensively with WD-40, then carefully removing the grime and dirt from the gears, I re-oiled and packed fresh grease in the gear system in the gear housing. I have yet to dismantle the lens and clean it as well.

Having said all this, the camera is now operating smoothly and quietly. The telephoto lens, although dirty, has an incredible focal lens reach and the telephoto zoom is so smooth and soft to use. The lens is equipped with a built in range finer also known as a "Split Image Focus" ensuring that I will always have super crisp and clear focus.

I am excited about this because film is still available and I can actually begin using the camera to shoot with. Granted, it's going to be an expensive adventure for sure. The cost of the film alone is $16.50 per 25foot roll. However, the roll is actually 50 feet, in that only half of it is exposed at a time, then flipped to film and expose the other half. At that rate, and including the developing and processing charge at $45.00 per roll, I will be extremely limited to how much filming I can do.

However, I still want to give it a try. I got the camera clean and working beautifully and quietly. I would love to do some actual filming with the camera now that it's working. Before I take out for a test filming, I'll take it to a camera repair shop to have the lens dismantled and professionally cleaned. It's a gorgeous film camera and is well worth the time and effort I put into revitalizing and restoring it. I've gone as far as I can on my own, but know absolutely nothing about the lens, so I'll leave it to the experts.

If anyone has any advise, I'd appreciate any suggestions...

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May 10, 2013
update NEW
by: James Williams

Some great news! Just submitted an update here:

Vintage Film Gear | Video vs Film

Apr 25, 2013
It Broke... NEW
by: James Williams

I was writing an email to Faith when I heard a sound coming from the living room. When I investigated the sound, I couldn't figure out what it was. Well... I picked up my vintage Bolex P1 Super 8MM movie camera and looked it over. When I picked it up it made a noise that I knew shouldn't be there.

Even though I ran the projector until all the energy was spent from the spring, there was still a little bit of tension that is always present and was set by the manufacturing company. The spring actually looked good after I cleaned all the rust and corrosion off from it. However, it sat in a garage, then in an unheated basement for years and I guess the rust took its toll on the spring. The retaining foot tab on the spring snapped and broke off, thereby rendering the camera to a beautiful and useful machine, to nothing more than a decorative conversation piece, or a nice looking prop.

Either way, I am heartbroken at the loss of the camera. I was hoping that I could use it to do some actual filming with it and to try my hand at real filmmaking verses video and/or digital film work. The most heartbreaking aspect is that the camera had belonged to my late Dad. He had taken it apart in an effort to get it running. He bought it from a pawn/thrift store for his vintage camera collection. However he loved using super 8 cameras and was hoping to get this one running again. Sadly he passed away before it became a reality.

So now, I'm without a camera to film with. I still have an 8MM that works great, but no companies produce or make film for it, so it too is relegated to a show piece even though it still works perfectly.

I'm looking on Ebay and other online sources to see if I can find a camera to buy at a reasonable price. If anyone knows where I could acquire one that isn't too expensive, but still works, I hope that you'll share the information with me. Please email me with any suggestions at; I'd appreciate hearing from you.

And as ever and always, Thank you Faith, for all your hard work in your website, and for your generosity with sharing your hard won knowledge, insight and inspiration...

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