Before we discuss the advantages & disadvantages of owning each individual model of camera Bolex produced, taking in all the equipment you can use with it plus all the associated differences between models it is best to explain the three major developmental changes that have occurred throughout the range since its introduction in 1935. These changes have stayed with each subsequent new model and are discussed below in the order in which they occur on the actual cameras themselves.
These are :-
Introduction of Reflex viewing through the taking lens
A Reflex camera for those who don't know is a camera where you see in the viewfinder exactly what you are actually photographing. This is something that everyone nowadays takes for granted in all modern camera designs. However this was more difficult to achieve on motion picture cameras, especially on those made for the amateur market which had to be affordable to the average man on the street to buy. Even professionals shooting feature films on 35mm as late as 1964 were still using non-reflex cameras. Stanley Kubrick no less made Dr Strangelove entirely using non-reflex cameras. Bolex achieved a Reflex camera design as early as 1956. However Reflex Viewing is accomplished differently in Bolex cameras than others due to the use of a beam splitting prism which directs 20% of the light incident on the lens towards the viewfinder leaving 80% for the film.
Introduction of a Flat Base
The flat base was introduced in 1963 for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which was that the camera could now be put down and not topple over! The flat base also allowed Bolex to include three tripod mounting bushes instead of just one. Two 3/8 inch (European Mounting) and one 1/4 inch (Kodak Mounting) bushes for European and American standard tripod mounting. These enabled the camera's centre of gravity to be moved around when attaching long lenses, matte boxes etc to it. The new flat base also allowed Bolex to introduce a decorative front plate held in place by two screws which if unscrewed could fit a matte box or a support arm for a heavy lens. All Round base cameras can have the advantages of not toppling over and the use of a matte box by fitting a Bolex flat base converter.
Changed lens mount from C Mount to Bayonet Mount
It was decided by Bolex in 1970 that the introduction of a camera with a single, sturdier lens mount would not be a bad idea. This was instigated mainly due to the ever increasing size of zoom lenses available at the time which needed extra support to be fixed to the smaller C lens mount H16's. The success of the H16M camera which had only one C type lens mount rather than the turret H16 cameras allowing three lenses to be attached to the camera at the same time must also of been a factor in the move over to having only one lens mount. The new stronger lens mount turned out to be of a bayonet fitting and the first camera it appeared on was the Bolex H16 SB & SBM. It is strong enough to enable the carrying of the camera using only the lens.
On this page is a menu with an list of all the cameras made by Bolex in the 16mm format in chronological order.