A friend in town messaged me recently asking if I would be at all interested in an old movie camera. My response was, as you might expect, heck yes. I never turn down a camera of any kind.
She dropped it by our newspaper office this week. I showed it to a coworker who immediately asked, “is that a video camera?”
In a way, yes, it is a video camera, or what would have been the equivalent of a video camera in 1940.
The camera is the Bell and Howell Filmo Autoload motion picture camera, and this little camera was full of surprises.
Firstly, it is a 16mm camera. Almost all the film cameras used by hobbyists throughout the 20th century were 8mm cameras. 16mm tended to be much more expensive, somewhat higher in image quality, and were mostly used by news camera people for theatrical newsreels and, in the second half of the century, television camera operators.
Secondly, it is surprisingly heavy. Despite being the size of a clutch purse, it weighs nearly as much as a modern laptop computer. I’m not sure who in the hobby would lug around such an instrument, but I guess its weight is a reminder of how well-built stuff was when they still made it out of brass and steel.
Thirdly, it used a 16mm film cassette. I’ve literally never even seen such a product, and even if I had one, I’d likely never find a place to have such film processed. I guess I could sent it off in one of those “memory boxes” I see on social media once in a while. You know the ones – pack up all of your film, prints, video cassettes, audio cassettes, and a myriad of other analog media – and have it transferred to digital in one form or another. But they don’t say they will process motion picture film, just that they will transfer it to digital.
As I prowled around the internet looking for information about this camera, I found a video that told me in the happiest, phonisest voice, that it was, “a magic picture that moves and talks that now comes to your screen at your command.”
So I’ll have fun playing with this beautifully-made relic. I might even use it as a prop in a photo session!