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JOURNEY INTO MOTION PICTURE CAMERAS: BELL AND HOWELL 2709 CAMERA (1911)

  • Published on: 10 Apr, 2017
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  • Views: 177

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The shift in a way from films as animated photographs to films as stories or narratives began to take place about the turn of the century. Cinema cameras, techniques, projection, filming speed all began to get standardized one by one for standard exhibition in theatres.

Motion picture Cameras were continued to get better by progress in manufacturing contributed towards art of cinematography.

The most used studio camera in the world just before World War I was the Pathe until Bell & Howell introduced the 2709 motion picture cameras in 1911 and it changed everything.

Donald J. Bell worked as a projectionist in theatres. He met Albert S. Howell at the Crary Machine works, where many parts for projectors were manufactured.
Bell’s experience as a movie projectionist contacts in the movie industry and Howell’s knowledge on mechanical applications. The two decided to start their own business incorporated with a capitalization of $5,000 in February 1907.

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Bell & Howell Company entered the business of manufacturing and repairing machines.In 1908, Bell & Howell refined the Kinodrome projector, the film perforator, the camera and continuous printer, all for the 35mm film width.

 

They designed the first all metal cameras, when Bell and Howell learnt that their camera was damaged by termites. Earlier, the company manufactured entirely of wood and leather motion picture cameras.

 

Bell & Howell 2709, from the beginning, has boasted the steadiest camera movement ever made.

It was an Engineering excellence. A camera featured with dual pins to register images by placing one pin on the right side and other pin on the left side of each frame as it is exposed. One pin holds the film steady top to bottom and the other holds the film steady right to left.

 

This camera had lots of first of its kind unique features like,

  • The first motion picture camera system to be built with a body machined from cast aluminium,
  • A rack over system that allowed for precise viewing and for critical focus,
  • A four lens turret,
  • Register pins that held the film completely steady and in a precise position.

 

Camera had twin magazine compartment for 400 feet film. Later it had a 1000 feet film magazine.

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Bell and Howel 2709 earlier had hand cranked cameras.  However precise the cameraman operates, it did not produce consistent camera frame rate that led to action moving too slowly or moving rapidly.

 

With the introduction of synchronised motor into Bell and Howel 2709 ventured as most modern camera available of that period.

Earlier the price of this camera was felt expensive that it was affordable only for few big studios of the silent era.

Charlie Chaplin filmed with 2709 and made it popular and in 1920’s.  Bell and Howell 2709 camera had high orders and nearly 150 cameras were sold.

The great film like 1st version Benhur (1923) was filmed using this camera. Even today it has demand as Vintage product.

Technical specifications

  • Brand:Bell & Howell
  • Bundled Items: Gear Head, Wooden Legs, Wooden Spreader, Crank,, Magazine,, 4 B&L Baltar Lenses, Wooden Spreader, Case, Manual, Tripod
  • Model:2709
  • Focus Type: Manual
  • Series: Iconic 35mm Cine Camera
  • Features: Hand Cranked/ motor sync
  • Type: Through the lens critical focus
  • Film Format:35mm Cine

Author/Cinematographer

CJ Rajkumar

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