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News And Topical Cameras

( Originally Published 1924 )

HERETOFORE we have considered only those cameras which are purely or primarily for amateur use, but there are also many cameras on the market which, while intended for the news cameraman are very suitable for the amateur who desires a some-what more professional instrument. There are many of these on the market, and a large percentage of those offered are worthless. I shall endeavor to describe the principal dependable types easily obtainable on the American market.

There is a small, inexpensive camera on the market known as the Home De Franne. This camera is emphatically not a camera for the cinematographer who intends to make a business of news work, but for the amateur who wants a small outfit, capable of fair work, yet one which uses standard film, it is very good. The camera measures 9 1/2 x 3 7/8 inches, and weighs six and three-quarter pounds. The camera is offered with either f 6 or f 3.5 lens, the f 3.5 being worth the extra amount charged for it. The camera may also be equipped with an outside focusing prism for ten dollars extra. The camera is covered with leather and takes one hundred foot spools of daylight loading film which is packed like the Pathescope daylight loading film described in the last chapter. An ingenious design makes it possible to attach the reel to the camera movement and lens and thus the one mechanism embodies both camera and projector. This is thoroughly practical, as the intermittent is of the Geneva star type. The outfit, which consists of camera, projector, tripod and screen is sold as a unit, for one hundred dollars, which price includes the f 3.5 lens.

For some reason, the German cameras have gained supremacy over our own in the field of inexpensive news models. The Ertel De Franne is an example of this. This camera measures 4 7/8 x 11 3/4 x 11 3/8 and weighs 12 1/2 pounds. It is furnished in natural wood finish, mahogany or oak, and has a capacity of two hundred feet of film. I examined one of these cameras a short time ago and was surprised at the fine quality of materials and workmanship which was displayed, for the camera with pam and tilt tripod sells for one hundred fifty dollars. The gears are helical cut from phosphor bronze and the entire mechanism is fastened to the bottom of the camera, on a one-piece 'casting. The shutter is machined from a heavy sheet of metal and acts as a balance wheel, as in the most expensive cameras manufactured. The intermittent is of the harmonic cam and shuttle type, which is also a feature -usually found only in strictly professional grade cameras. The design is such that vibration, the bug-bear of the news-man is practically overcome. The film magazines are round and of aluminum, and refilling is very simple. The magazines are separate units, the emptied retort serving as a take-up magazine. Direct focusing is accomplished by means of a tube running through the camera and stopped with a spring door. The lens, working at f 3.1 and of 50 mm. (2 inch) focus, is mounted in a spiral focusing mount. Both focusing and diaphragm are actuated by rods ex-tending from the side of the camera through a slot along whose edges are marked scales for distance and stop, thus both adjustments are easily and delicately made with no necessity of going to the front of the camera. The movement is arranged for forward, re-verse and single crank work. In fact, every kind of work may be done which may be done with the professional camera, except for the automatic fade, and as the diaphragm is actuated by a rod moving through an arc of about 75, a little practice will enable the operator to produce hand fades which will serve every purpose. The camera is also provided with an iconograph finder, and as there are a series of peep holes in the sight bar, the finder is an accurate range finder, the exact field at various distances being shown. With careful work and a few accessories which can be easily made at home, any work which is done in the large studios may be easily duplicated with this fine little instrument.

The least expensive American news camera with which I am familiar is the little two hundred foot model furnished by the makers of the well-known Wilart Professional camera. This Wilart News model is of metal construction and very compact. As in the case of the highest grade professional cameras, the camera mechanism is a single unit with double, outside magazines. The camera alone measures 6 x 6 1/4 x 7, and the lens mount adds two inches to the length, making it nine inches over all. The weight is 872 pounds. The magazines increase the height to 1172 inches and the length to 14 inches. The magazines weigh 3 1/2 pounds each. By removing the magazines the camera may be carried in an ordinary handbag. The mechanism is operated from a master gear running on the same shaft with the single sprocket feed mechanism, and the intermittent is of the Geneva star type. The camera is equipped with a reflecting direct focusing tube and has a sure-shot finder mounted on top. The take-up is actuated forward and reverse by spring belt. The aperture plate and film channel is easily removable for cleaning and the pressure plate designed for perfect contact with aperture plate. A single crank shaft is provided. A film register is also provided.

This camera is capable of turning out high-class news film and will find a wide sale among news men. This camera is also furnished in a high speed model although the two types are not interchangeable.

There are probably few of my readers who have not seen the Universal motion picture camera. It represents the highest type of news camera yet produced. his made in two models and may be purchased with all refinements including lens turret and automatic dissolve mechanism.

The camera is of metal construction, and being grounded through the crank and operator, static is practically eliminated. The entire mechanism is mounted on a single casting, reducing vibration to a minimum. The actual framework is of hardwood, but the doors, front plate and bed are of aluminum alloy. The camera will stand unlimited abuse without injuring its capacity to turn out high grade film. This camera has been used successfully in all parts of the world from the tropics to the arctic regions. It has stood up in sweltering tropical jungles and in waterless deserts. It has been used by such men as Rainey, Holmes, Johnson and other travelers and explorers.

The camera is made to take either 200 or 400 feet of film, depending upon the model. It may be fitted with all of the trick "effects," and a turret accommodating three lenses at one time. The later models are regularly supplied with automatic dissolves and a masking slot is provided. The movement is forward and re-verse without changing belts or other adjustments. Merely turn the crank backward. A single crank shaft is also provided. The movement is the highly perfected harmonic cam and shuttle movement used in the highest grade professional cameras. It is provided with indicators which register the film footage used and the number of individual turns, a feature in-valuable in trick work. It is focused by a prism opening through the side of the door. In short, I do not hesitate to say, speaking from experience with this as well as with the most expensive cameras made, that in the hands of a careful workman this camera will pro-duce film, in every way comparable with that produced by the most expensive cameras available, and all effects used in motion pictures today can be duplicated with absolute fidelity. It is, perhaps, an injustice to list the Universal with the news cameras, for it is really a professional or studio grade instrument. However, most of the work in studios is done with more expensive cameras and these will be considered by themselves.

Another very good type of camera is the Ernemann models "A" and "C." These cameras are very compact, yet they have the straight line film travel. They are made in capacities of 100 and 200 feet. They are fitted with a high grade anastigmat lens working at a maximum aperture of f 3.1. The cameras are finished in natural wood, and present a very neat appearance. They are fully good enough for all usual news work and are very easily carried owing to their small size. A light weight tripod with both panorama and tilt head is furnished making this an outfit very suitable to the man to whom weight and bulk is an objection.

There are other models which serve the news man well. The principal points which should appear in the news camera are: Portability, a lens with at least a maximum opening of f 3.5, a film capacity of at least one hundred feet, both visual and scale focusing and a view finder which is fairly accurate. A tripod with both movements should be used, and one with an extension which will, when necessary raise the camera above the heads of the crowd which is almost always present when any event of news interest is taking place.

A news camera must have a good intermittent and a good gate. That is, the film must at all times be held firmly in the focal plane so that the focus is at all times as sharp as possible, and the movement of the film must be most accurate so that there will be no jumping on the screen.

For the man who proposes to engage seriously in the news field, I cannot too strongly recommend that the best camera possible be purchased. Many purchasers of news film ask the name of the camera used in making the film, and, of course, preference is given to the film made with the better camera, for the screen quality of the film will most probably be better than the film made with the inferior camera.

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