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A Bolex H16 REX-5 spring-wound clockwork 16 mm camera

Bolex is a trade mark registered October 1924 for Charles Haccius and Jacques Bogopolsky. The actual company Bolex International S. A. of Yverdon is a Swiss manufacturer of motion picture cameras, the most notable products of which are in the 16 mm and Super 16 mm formats. A first company Bol was founded by Haccius and Bogopolsky (a. k. a. Bolsey or Bolsky) in 1925 and Bolex is derived from Bogopolsky′s name. He had previously designed cameras for Alpa of Ballaigues. In 1923 he presented the Cinégraphe Bol at the Geneva fair, a reversible apparatus for taking, printing, and projecting pictures on 35-mm. film.

Paillard-Bolex cameras were much used for nature films, documentaries and by the avant garde, and are still favoured by many animators. While some later models are electrically powered, the majority of those manufactured since the 1930s use a spring-wound clockwork power system. The 16 mm spring-wound Bolex is a popular introductory camera in film schools.

Bolex International no longer serially manufactures its cameras, but does produce 16mm and Super 16 cameras for customers on special order.


In 1927 Jacques Bogopolsky imagined a camera for the 16mm format (Bolex Auto-Cine A,B,C), and created the Bolex society with the help of Charles Haccius, a businessman from Geneva. Charles Haccius invested 250’000 Swiss francs in the company. The society did not produce any cameras, however. The Auto Ciné A and B were produced by Longines in Saint-Imier and the projector by Stoppani in Bern. As of 1929, the company Longines no longer wished to produce the cameras.

Bolex was bought by Paillard & Cie for 350’000 Swiss francs and Jacques Bogopolsky was hired as consulting engineer for five years. Soon Paillard realized that the cameras and projectors were not in fact the exceptional products promised by their partners.

In 1932 Marc Renaud, a young engineer, inspired by the products of Paillard and assisted by Professor Julliard, began development of the Paillard H16 camera.

In 1935 the H-16 camera was put on the market, the 9.5mm version followed in 1936 and the Double-8mm version in 1938. The H-16 was highly successful. Paillard-Bolex introduced the L-8 for the market of pocket 8mm film cameras. With the postwar boom in home movie making, Paillard-Bolex continued to develop its 8mm and 16mm ranges with the H-16 increasingly adopted by professional film makers. The company also made a successful range of high-end movie projectors for all amateur film making gauges.

In 1952, during the golden era of 3D film, Bolex offered the Bolex Stereo: a 3D stereo kit for their H-16 camera and model G projectors. A number of technical changes was made to the H cameras in 1954, above all an entirely different claw drive together with a laterally inverted film gate and a 170 degrees opening angle shutter. In 1956 the first H-16 reflex viewfinder model was brought out. In reaction to the upcoming use of heavier varifocal or zoom lenses and the bigger synchronous electric motors attached to the body Paillard gave it a big rectangular base with three tapped bushings replacing the original single-tap “button” base in 1963 and soon afterwards a protruding 1-to-1 shaft for the ESM motor. A saddle for a 400-ft. film magazine finally allowed the H-16 to be used like professional synch-sound cameras.

In 1965 Kodak introduced the Super 8mm format.[1] Paillard Bolex were slow to introduce a Super 8 camera although they quickly modified the 18-5 Auto 8mm projector for Super 8 as the 18-5 L. At about this time (1966) the Bolex 16 Pro Camera was introduced to compete with the Arriflex 16 BL camera, as a technically advanced professional camera more suited for television use than the H-16. Nevertheless the H-16 Standard camera was made until the last days of 1969. The H-16 and H-8 standard models afford the rackover critical focusing feature that had been first introduced with the Bell & Howell Standard camera in 1912.

Effective January 1st, 1970 Paillard sold the Bolex division to Eumig of Vienna.[2] In 1971 Eumig rationalised the Super 8 range and Super 8 equipment production in Switzerland was discontinued. The Bolex product brand was retained while being manufactured in Eumig or Chinon factories. The H-16 cameras were still made in Switzerland.

In 1981 Eumig went into liquidation and Bolex was bought by a management team which set up Bolex International in 1982.[2] Today, a workshop in Switzerland continues to repair 16mm and Super 16 film cameras. They can also convert Bolex H16 reflex models to Super 16mm.

Digital Bolex D16[edit]

In 2012, Cinemeridian, Inc. licensed the named Bolex from Bolex International to create a digital Super 16mm cinema camera called the Digital Bolex D16.[3][4] Digital Bolex announced their collaboration with Bolex via the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform on March 12, 2012 at the SXSW Film Festival where they had a trade show booth.[5]

Bolex Cameras and Projectors, Selected List[edit]

Swiss made with the year of introduction except for the Italian Silma made SM8

  • Auto Cine (1925)
  • Auto Cine B (1926)
  • H-16 (1935)
  • H-9 (1936)
  • Model G Projectors (1936)
  • H-8 (1938)
  • L-8 (1940)
  • M8 and M8R Projectors (1949)
  • B-8 (1953)
  • C-8 (1954)
  • H-16 Reflex (1956)
  • D-8L (1959)
  • S221 Projector (1960)
  • P1 (1961)
  • 18-5 Projector (1961)
  • K1 (1963)
  • H-16 RX-5 (1966)
  • Bolex 16 Pro (1966)
  • 150 Super (1967)
  • SM8 Projector (made by Silma) (1967)
  • S321 Projector (1968)
  • 7.5 Macrozoom (1969)
  • H-16 SB, SBM (1970)
  • H-16 EBM (1971)
  • H-16 EL (1975)

The technical aspects of the Bolex[edit]

The camera′s capacity is 100 ft. A 400-ft magazine (on the Rex 5 - or converted Rex 3 or 4) can be attached to the top of the camera. From the beginning it offered automatic film threading, a clutch for disengaging the drive spring in order to crank the film by hand forward and backwards unlimited, and a cut-off turret disc that is not wider than the camera body in center position. Stepless speed control was available between 8 and 64 frames per second. Early cameras have a 190 degrees opening angle shutter. A few years after their introduction the H cameras could be equipped with an accurate single-frame counter. That accessory was incorporated into all H camera models since 1946.

As with a still reflex camera, the Bolex RX has a viewfinder, which allows the filmmaker to view what he or she is filming. This specific viewfinder is made up of a double prism that deflects 20 percent of the light going through the lens into the viewfinder.

The Paillard-Bolex H-16 usually has a turret for three C-mount lenses. Often, the camera was provided with a 16mm Switar or Yvar, a 25mm Switar or Yvar and the third lens was often a 75mm Yvar or 50mm Switar. It should be noted that only lenses with the designation "RX" in 50 mm or less can be used on the RX models. RX corrected lenses were also manufactured by Schneider, Berthiot, Angénieux, and Rodenstock. The single lens port H-16 M(arine) was made in conjunction with the first underwater housing. A second, later marine housing was made for the electric drive models.

Some people had their H-16 camera converted to Super 16. This format is highly suited to telecine conversion, as Super 16 is close to the 16:9 electronic image format. Some conversions were more successful than others. Bolex (latterly) did offer a factory Super 16mm camera. This has the appropriate markings in the viewfinder and the film gate is machined and polished to professional standards.

Bolex did have a foray into purely professional cameras with the Bolex Pro 16. Again, they decided against a registration pin for mechanical simplicity, to keep the camera as quiet as possible for sync-sound filming. This camera was only offered with 400 ft magazine capacity.


Directors David Lynch, Jonas Mekas, Terry Gilliam, Will Vinton, Maya Deren, and Spike Lee all began their careers shooting on Paillard-Bolex Cameras[citation needed], and the Paillard-Bolex has developed a cult following as the result of being used for decades as a beginner camera in film schools worldwide.[citation needed]

There are currently two documentaries in production about the history of the Bolex camera. Beyond The Bolex, a biographical film about Bolex founder Jacques Bogopolsky (later anglicized to Bolsey), is directed by his great-grand daughter Alyssa Bolsey, and features an in-depth look at the original notes, schematics, prototypes, and fotoage.[6] A second product is being undertaken by Swiss director Alexandre Favre.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Super 8 mm Film History". Kodak. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b R. James Breiding (10 January 2013). Swiss Made: The Untold Story Behind Switzerland′s Success. Profile Books. pp. 385–. ISBN 1-84765-809-1.
  3. ^ Kif. "Old-School 16mm Moviemaking Goes Digital". Wired. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  4. ^ Sonja Schenk; Ben Long (1 January 2014). The Digital Filmmaking Handbook. Course Technology. pp. 157–. ISBN 978-1-305-25906-5.
  5. ^ Hardy, Robert. "First Impressions of the Digital Bolex from SXSW, and a Short Documentary About the Camera". No Film School. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  6. ^ Jones, Mark. "The BOLEX Goes Digital & Becomes A Documentary". Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  7. ^ "July Meeting". LA 3D Club. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  • Bolex History: Cameras, Projectors etc. by Andrew Alden. Published by A2 Time Based Graphics (April 1998) ISBN 0-9533075-0-6
  • Thomas Perret, Roland Cosandey: Paillard Bolex Boolsky. Yverdon, 2013. ISBN 978-2-8283-0044-9

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