Bell and Howell Foton camera

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by david_shackelford, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. I have acquired a B&H Foton, still in pretty decent shape. It was my father in laws bought when new. The only mechanical issue I can find is that the shutterspeed dial will not budge, I cannot pull the pin/knob out and rotate it. I'm wondering if this might be remedied with a good cleaning? I will run some film through it if I can remedy this issue. In the event that it needs cleaning, can a modern camera store handle it? There are minor cosmetic issues, the leather on the body has began to release in two spots. There was still a roll of film in the camera and I shot that film and finished the roll so I could rewind and maybe process it. This camera is listed as a double frame, and i think that is what could also be called a half frame?? Is this true? and if so, how will this affect the processing? I'd assume that the standard drugstore photolab may not be able to print it.
    1. the 1st rule of old cameras is "Don't force it"
    2. Unfortunately, the life-time guarantee is probably no longer good
    3. "double-frame" is 24x36mm (standard 35mm still camera), don't try to figure it out, just accept it. "single" frame is "half-frame" and so on. It all makes sense if you look at it 4th dimensionally.
    The Foton may be the best camera ever made in the USA - certainly they were aspiring to compete with Leica and Contax. It deserves proper repair.

    The history can be found on Wikipedia and elsewhere on the web, but here is the "reduced" price ad from 1949. It was just too expensive for the post-war economy.
    Nov, 1949​
    I am sincerely envious, by the way.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  2. That makes sense. They did have the little dial camera later on which was actually half frames and probably some other formats also, so I guess they needed to begin to differentiate. Do you think that the shutter speed selector could be freed up by cleaning?
  3. I also have his 16 mm Movie camera, it's a B&H also , I'm pretty sure.
  4. 4th dimensionally>
    When 35mm film was first made it was for motion pictures which were 18x24mm single frame. Some of the early still cameras trying to cash in on the cheap ends of movie film decided to make a "double-frame" of 36x24.
    Time passes - people forget about the old motion picture format and think of double frame as full frame.
    Then the small format goes back to single frame (more or less), which is now called half-frame.
    Then film .....

    I'm sure that a good cleaning would probably free up most of the functions, but this one may deserve a full repair/adjustment given its rarity and quality. It's probably basically sound, which makes it all the more worth careful treatment. You don't want one of those C&A jobs where some ignorant jerk soaks it with 3-in-1 oil.
  5. I did use a drop of clock oil on a fine tip paint brush right around that dial, but it had no effect. The grime has surely built up in those gears...last time it was used was anywhere from 20-25 years ago I'm guessing.If film canisters had a date on them I could tell for sure by the one in the camera.
  6. Lucky man, David, that's a fascinating and highly collectible camera. I 'm sorry I can't offer any advice regarding the shutter setting, but your treatment so far seem to be in the right direction. There's a great page on the Foton here:

    Bell & Howell Foton Camera

    The photographs of the camera appear to show the knob in the "out" position. Could this possibly be the default position, and indicate that the knob has to be depressed inwards to allow movement of the speed setting dial? Just a thought...
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  7. Perhaps your Foton would be better left as it is for it's "antique, collectable" value, meaning that the camera is so rare, genuine collectors prefer them in their original state. So you, being the fortunate owner, can now think as a collector does and take good care of the camera in such a way as not to hinder it's collectable value. This often means doing nothing to it other than keeping it in a dry environment and out of harms way, which includes of course, shonky repairers, but even reputable repairers can leave a noticeable mark or two that collectors will ultimately notice

    There are three benign things you can do that will not necessarily spoil the camera or reduce it's value:

    1) Use some craft glue only, to stick down the peeling leatherette, but only if it's accessible to do so

    2) Let a *few* drops of WD40 seep in around the speed dial and button for a day or two. If the dial doesn't work after that, don't go further with it, except to try warming it a bit

    3) Coat the camera with Renaissance Wax. A 200ml can is not that expensive and can be used on all your cameras

    You could also keep an eye open for any accessories. The very rare 100mm lens would in my opinion be worth twice the collectors price of the camera, but you never know
  8. It is for sale, but thought it more desireable if it is functional
    . I will develop the roll that was in it just to see what is on it.
  9. Those things are indestructible.

    Does it take a 100 foot spool or a 50 foot magazine?
  10. looks like a magazine..
  11. It will sell better if it hasn't had home repair.
    NEVER use WD-40, it has bad stuff in it to break rust, it can do damage to fine machinery.
    Most people over oil their old cameras, thus doing more harm to them.
  12. In that case you are pretty much SOL. The magazines can be reloaded, but my father's experience was that loading your own was inviting a jam. (he worked for a TV station and got all of his 16mm film for free)

    There are a couple of You-tube how to videos if you want to give it a try. They do not look like fun.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018

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