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Coordinates: 46°27′19″N 6°23′24″E / 46.45535°N 6.390115°E / 46.45535; 6.390115

Bolex International SA
IndustryCamera Manufacturing
Area served
Key people
Hugo Diaz (Administrator)
ProductsMotion Picture Camera
Usine Bol, Geneva, Switzerland

Bolex International S. A. is a Swiss manufacturer of motion picture cameras based in Yverdon located in Canton of Vaud. The most notable products of which are in the 16 mm and Super 16 mm formats. Originally Bol, the company was founded by Charles Haccius and Jacques Bogopolsky (a.k.a. Bolsey or Boolsky) in 1925. Bolex is derived from Bogopolsky′s name. In 1923 he presented the Cinégraphe Bol at the Geneva fair, a reversible apparatus for taking, printing, and projecting pictures on 35 mm. film. He later designed a camera for Alpa of Ballaigues in the late 1930s.

Paillard-Bolex cameras were much used by adventurers, artists, as well as nature films, documentaries, and are still favoured by many animators. Over the years, notable Bolex users and owners include: Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Andy Warhol, Peter Jackson, Jonas Mekas, Jean-Luc Godard, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, James Dean, David Lynch, Marilyn Monroe, Edmund Hillary, and Mahatma Gandhi[1]

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.


Early history[edit]

In 1927, Jacques Bogopolsky imagined a camera for the 16 mm 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 [de] 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, and after two years Jacque Bogopolsky was no longer welcome in Sainte-Croix.

The traditional version of the story tended to present the situation rather simply: Bolex is the name of a brand produced by the Paillard company, a brand represented mainly by a camera that was invented by Jacques Boolsky (another of Jacques Bogopolsky's names). In fact, the alleged inventor of the Bolex did not invent anything about the camera, which as early as 1935 would become known under this name. With the patents sold by Boolsky proving unusable and the machines defective, Paillard had to start from scratch to invent a Bolex which had only kept the name of Boolsky's "invention". The Bolex as we know it is the invention of the engineers at Paillard.[2]

In 1932, Marc Renaud, a young engineer, inspired by the products of Paillard and assisted by Professor Ernest Juillard,[who?] began development of the Paillard H 16 camera.

In 1935, the H 16 camera was put on the market, the 9.5 mm 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 8 mm film cameras. With the postwar boom in home movie making, Paillard-Bolex continued to develop its 8 mm and 16 mm ranges with the H16 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 H16 camera and model G projectors. Several technical changes were 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 H16 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 afterward 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 8 mm format.[3] Paillard Bolex was slow to introduce a Super 8 camera although they quickly modified the 18-5 Auto 8 mm 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 H16. 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. In 1971, Bolex released an even more affordable option: the Bolex 280 Macrozoom Super 8. The new model featured wide-range manual zoom and the ability to focus at close distances. It shot at 2 filming speeds, 18 and 24 fps, and was able to expose single frames. Unlike the classic mechanical Bolex Cameras, the 280 Macrozoom needed 5 1.5 volt batteries to operate.[4]

Company restructuring[edit]

Effective January 1, 1970 Paillard sold the Bolex division to Eumig of Vienna.[5] In 1971, Eumig rationalized 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 H16 cameras were still made in Switzerland.

Recent development[edit]

In 1981, Eumig went into liquidation and Bolex was bought by René Ueter who set up Bolex International in 1982.[5] Bolex International no longer serially manufactures its cameras, but does repair 16 mm and Super 16 cameras for customers on special order.

Motto and slogan[edit]

Perfection through Precision.

Since 1814, the House of Paillard has lived by this proud slogan.

"Bolex cameras, projectors, and accessories are all proud products of the same superlative Swiss precision craftsmanship."[6]

"Around the world, Bolex has earned an unequalled reputation as the maker of professional-quality equipment for the amateur movie-maker."[6]


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

Many directors began their careers shooting on Paillard-Bolex Cameras, including Ridley Scott, David Lynch, Jonas Mekas, Peter Jackson,[7][8] Terry Gilliam, Will Vinton, Maya Deren, and Spike Lee. It results as a development of a cult of using Paillard-Bolex for decades for beginner's camera in film schools worldwide.[9]

The Bolex cameras remain a strong status as an icon into cinema and intemporal beautiful objects as itself. Its production helps to give Swiss Made its reputation of quality,[10] additionally of watchmaking.

It has been used in various advertising as a symbol. In 2015, it appeared in an Omega ad with George Clooney.[11] Another time in 2015 various Bolex models, including P2/8 mm and Super Zoom/8 mm, appeared in a famous campaign for Chanel eyewear with Kristen Stewart[12][13]

Recently in May 2019, actor Chris Hemsworth posed with one H 16 on social media.[14][15][16][17]

H 16[edit]

"The Bolex H 16 camera played a central role in the work of many avant-garde filmmakers from the 1940s through to the 1970s because of its precision and lightweight, robustness and range of facilities, and the high quality of its optics, especially the zoom lenses, and its simple operation, which made possible an infinite combination of creative cinematographic choices."[18]

"The Bolex H 16 is probably the camera which most influenced a generation of experimental and documentary/ethnographic filmmakers."[18]

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 they are 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. 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.

Notable models: cameras and projectors[edit]

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

Jacques Bogopolsky and Charles Haccius[edit]

Models produced by Longines

  • Auto Cine (1925)
  • Auto Cine B (1926)
  • Auto Cine C (not released)

Paillard Bolex[edit]

  • H 16 (1935)
  • H 9 (1936)
  • Model G Projectors (1936)
  • H 8S (1936)
  • L 8 (1942)
  • M8 and M8R Projectors (1949)
  • B 8 (1952)
  • C 8 (1958)
  • B 8L (1952)
  • H 16 Reflex (1956)
  • D 8L (1958)
  • S221 Projector (1960)
  • P1 (1961)
  • 18-5 Projector (1961)
  • C 8SL (1961)
  • D 8LA (1961)
  • P2 (1961)
  • K1 (1962)
  • H 8RX (1963)
  • P3 (1963)
  • S1 (1964)
  • K2 (1964)
  • P4 (1965)
  • H 16 RX-5 (1966)
  • Bolex 16 Pro (1966)
  • 150 Super (1966)
  • SM8 Projector (made by Silma) (1967)
  • S321 Projector (1968)
  • 7.5 Macrozoom (1969)
  • H 16 SB, SBM (1970)
  • 155 Macro-zoom (1970)
  • 160 Macro-zoom (1970)
  • H 16 EBM (1971)
  • H 16 EL (1975)

Bolex Eumig[edit]

  • 660 Macro-zoom (1976)
  • 680 Macro-zoom (1978)

Notable patrons and owners[edit]


  • Andy Warhol, American artist, film director, and producer[1][19]
  • Jean Cocteau, French poet, playwright, novelist, designer, filmmaker, visual artist and critic[20]
  • Fernand Léger, French painter, sculptor, and filmmaker[21]
  • Hans Richter (artist), German painter, graphic artist, avant-gardist, film-experimenter and producer.[18]
  • Robert Breer, American experimental filmmaker, painter, and sculptor[22][23]
  • Paul Sharits, visual artist, best known for his work in experimental, or avant-garde filmmaking, particularly what became known as the structural film movement[24]

Filmmakers and realisators[edit]


  • Marlene Dietrich, German-American actress and singer[53]
  • James Dean, American actor[54]
  • Marilyn Monroe, American actress, model, and singer. Famous for playing comedic "blonde bombshell" characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and early 1960s and was emblematic of the era's changing attitudes towards sexuality.[55][56][57]


  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist and pioneering aviator. He became a laureate of several of France's highest literary awards and also won the United States National Book Award.[53]
  • Mahatma Gandhi, Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist[53]


  • Edmund Hillary, New Zealand mountaineer, explorer, and philanthropist. On May 29, 1953, Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest.[58]
  • Jacques Piccard, Swiss oceanographer and engineer, known for having developed underwater submarines for studying ocean currents.[58]
  • Haroun Tazieff, Polish, Belgian and French volcanologist and geologist. He was a famous cinematographer of volcanic eruptions and lava flows, and the author of several books on volcanoes.[59]
  • Thor Heyerdahl, Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer with a background in zoology, botany and geography. Heyerdahl is notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, in which he sailed 8,000 km across the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands.[60]


There are two documentaries 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 of Bolex A and B cameras[61] A second product that is currently in production, is being undertaken by Swiss director Alexandre Favre.[62] Bolex was used exclusively to film Teeny Little Super Guy for Sesame Street in 1982.

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.[63][64] 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.[65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Andy Warhol Made Hundreds of Movies During His Career. Here Are the 9 That Changed Film History". 7 November 2018.
  2. ^ Turquety, Benoit. "Compte rendu Thomas Perret, Roland Cosandey, Paillard Bolex Boolsky, Yverdon-les-Bains, La Thièle, 2013" (PDF). Decadrages.
  3. ^ "Super 8 mm Film History". Kodak. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  4. ^ [New on the market: New bolex super-8 camera. (1971). The British Journal of Photography (Archive : 1860-2005), 118(5796), 740. "New on the market: New Bolex Super-8 Camera"]. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  5. ^ a b R. James Breiding (10 January 2013). Swiss Made: The Untold Story Behind Switzerland′s Success. Profile Books. pp. 385–. ISBN 978-1-84765-809-8.
  6. ^ a b "Bolex Collector | Ephemera | Bolex Swiss-Precision Movie Equipment".
  7. ^ Leotta, Alfio (17 December 2015). Peter Jackson. ISBN 9781623560966.
  8. ^ "- YouTube". YouTube.
  9. ^ "APS Bolex 16mm Reflex Operating Guide - Help Wiki".
  10. ^ James Breiding, R. (10 January 2013). Swiss Made: The Untold Story Behind Switzerland's Success. ISBN 978-1847658098.
  11. ^ "Amateur Cinema (Media) Studies Network » Bolex 8mm camera, George Clooney and Einstein".
  12. ^ "KRISTEN STEWART for CHANEL EYEWEAR Spring Summer 2015 ADV Campaign". YouTube.
  13. ^ "Kristen Stewart Models Chanel Eyewear Spring 2015". 8 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Image may contain: One or more people | Chris hemsworth, Chris hemsworth hair, Chris hemsworth thor".
  15. ^ "Chris Hemsworth /🌟 on Instagram: "Chris for @gqspain ❤ . . . . . . . . #chrishemsworth #thor #tomholland #spiderman #avengersendgame #ironman #thorragnarok #avengers #avengersinfinitywar #sebastianstan #chrisevans #chrispratt #marvel #marvelcomics #marveluniverse #photoshoot #scarlettjohansson #robertdowneyjr #scarletwitch #elizabetholsen #gainpost #followme #actor #men #model #followback #mcu"".
  16. ^[bare URL image file]
  17. ^ "Chris Hemsworth is the superhero, the man and the father we would all like to be". 14 June 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d Fullerton, John; Widding, Astrid Söderbergh (22 June 2000). Moving Images: From Edison to the Webcam. ISBN 9780861969173.
  19. ^ a b c d "Paillard - Bolex: Il ne reste que le mythe".
  20. ^ MacKenzie, Scott (26 March 2014). Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures: A Critical Anthology. ISBN 9780520957411.
  21. ^ Eagan, Daniel (January 2010). America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry. ISBN 9780826429773.
  22. ^ "CC50 | Canyon Cinema".
  23. ^ "Robert Breer, films".
  24. ^ Fullerton, John; Widding, Astrid Söderbergh (22 June 2000). Moving Images: From Edison to the Webcam. ISBN 9780861969173.
  25. ^ "What Can We Learn from Peter Jackson's DIY Approach to 'Bad Taste'? $20 Steadicams Totally Work!". 15 December 2013.
  26. ^ "Watch Steven Spielberg's Debut: Two Films He Directed as a Teenager | Open Culture".
  27. ^ Isenberg, Noah (9 January 2017). "The Making of Steven Spielberg". The New Republic.
  28. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Boy and Bicycle (1965)".
  29. ^ a b "Bolex, la caméra qui a changé le cinéma". Le Temps. 28 January 2018.
  30. ^ "Retro active: Why film-makers are getting stuck in the past". 26 August 2019.
  31. ^ "Why the Bolex is the World's Most Beloved Camera". 10 December 2018.
  32. ^ "'I was very angry' – the last interview with Jonas Mekas, godfather of avant garde film". 24 January 2019.
  33. ^ "Jonas Mekas – My trusty Bolex cameras (82/135)". YouTube.
  34. ^ "Interview: Bruce Baillie".
  35. ^ Fullerton, John; Widding, Astrid Söderbergh (22 June 2000). Moving Images: From Edison to the Webcam. ISBN 9780861969173.
  36. ^ "INTERVIEW: True Independents; Brakhage and Dorsky Hash Out the Realities of Poetic Cinema". 30 April 2001.
  37. ^ Fullerton, John; Widding, Astrid Söderbergh (22 June 2000). Moving Images: From Edison to the Webcam. ISBN 9780861969173.
  38. ^ "Maya Deren: Seven films that guarantee her legend".
  39. ^ Schlemowitz, Joel (10 May 2019). Experimental Filmmaking and the Motion Picture Camera: An Introductory Guide for Artists and Filmmakers. ISBN 9780429997037.
  40. ^ Schlemowitz, Joel (10 May 2019). Experimental Filmmaking and the Motion Picture Camera: An Introductory Guide for Artists and Filmmakers. ISBN 9780429997037.
  41. ^ "Marie Menken - The Film-Makers' Cooperative".
  42. ^ Fullerton, John; Widding, Astrid Söderbergh (22 June 2000). Moving Images: From Edison to the Webcam. ISBN 9780861969173.
  43. ^ a b "Towards the Temenos: The experimental cinema of Gregory Markopoulos and Robert Beavers at the 60th TIFF". 10 September 2019.
  44. ^ "GALAXIE | Metrograph".
  45. ^ "Big Joy: The Legacy of James Broughton". 26 May 2013.
  46. ^ Schlemowitz, Joel (10 May 2019). Experimental Filmmaking and the Motion Picture Camera: An Introductory Guide for Artists and Filmmakers. ISBN 9780429997037.
  47. ^ Smith, Ian Haydn (3 September 2019). Cult Filmmakers: 50 Movie Mavericks You Need to Know. ISBN 9780711240278.
  48. ^ Mirvish, Dan (12 August 2016). The Cheerful Subversive's Guide to Independent Filmmaking: From Preproduction to Festivals and Distribution. ISBN 9781317289876.
  49. ^ "Terry Gilliam - "I Would Go Out with My Bolex Camera Every Weekend" | BAFTA Guru".
  50. ^ "How the Father of Claymation Lost His Company". 9 May 2014.
  51. ^ Lee, Spike (2002). Spike Lee: Interviews. ISBN 9781578064700.
  52. ^ "Sir David Attenborough explores our collection for new BBC programme".
  53. ^ a b c "Camera exhibition focuses on Bolex".
  54. ^ "James Dean with His Bolex Camera on the Set of "Giant" in Marfa, Texas in 1955". October 2018.
  55. ^ "SWISS Magazine March 2016 - HONG KONG".
  56. ^ "The Untold Story Behind an Iconic Marilyn Monroe Moment". Vanity Fair. 13 January 2017.
  57. ^ Stapinski, Helene (13 January 2017). "The Lost Footage of Marilyn Monroe". The New York Times.
  58. ^ a b[bare URL PDF]
  59. ^ "Paillard-Bolex - nur der Mythos ist geblieben - SWI".
  60. ^ Grant, Barry Keith; Hillier, Jim (7 October 2017). 100 Documentary Films. ISBN 9781844575510.
  61. ^ Jones, Mark. "The BOLEX Goes Digital & Becomes A Documentary". Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  62. ^ "July Meeting". LA 3D Club. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  63. ^ Kif. "Old-School 16mm Moviemaking Goes Digital". Wired. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  64. ^ Sonja Schenk; Ben Long (1 January 2014). The Digital Filmmaking Handbook. Course Technology. pp. 157–. ISBN 978-1-305-25906-5.
  65. ^ Hardy, Robert (20 March 2013). "First Impressions of the Digital Bolex from SXSW, and a Short Documentary About the Camera". No Film School. Retrieved 29 December 2015.


  • 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

External links[edit]