The $12 Dollar Bolex Video Assist

The first thing I noticed when I got my Bolex H-16 Rex 5 was that I simply couldn’t be bothered; to hold that thing to my eye that is. You see, the Bolex is heavy. Much heavier than any of my digital camera and for good reason. It’s a robust, mechanical beast. However, to my delight, the only reason you really need to look in the viewfinder for a film camera is for framing. A handheld meter takes care of exposure while a handy dandy tape measure makes focusing a breeze (I know, easier said than done). But you need to get your eye up to that viewfinder for framing. I might even say you can use the viewfinder to also make sure your lighting in terms of shadows and highlights is about where you’d like it to be but that would be just a quick check.

So since I couldn’t be bothered, I decided to see if I could buy a video assist for my Bolex. A video assist is basically a video camera held up to the viewfinder so you can view what the camera is seeing on a video screen. Well, I only found one place selling a video assist for my Bolex and it was a staggering $750. Say what?! That’s more than I paid for the camera!

It was time for a little DIY action. Every DIY (Very few indeed) basically pointed to a little CCTV camera with a 3-8mm C mount lens. I took to eBay and bought a few but either the cameras were too big to be hanging off the back of the Bolex or I just couldn’t quite get them to focus on the inside of the viewfinder.

I’d purchased two really cheap surveillance cameras and for some reason couldn’t get them to work but I would imagine I didn’t try hard because here I am over a month later about to tell you that those cameras were the solution! And how much were they? $7.84 plus $3.50 for shipping. That’s just under $12 for a video assist!

Tonight I decided to try one of the camera’s again on my second Bolex with the 13x viewfinder. It worked easily. Zoomed in all the way, it’s not edge to edge on the 13x. I’ll try the 10x at a later time.

There are four cool things about this camera. 1. It’s super light weight. I was able to hold this camera in place with a single piece of gaffer tape. 2. The lens is recessed so it fit perfectly over the raised view finder edge with the eyecup removed. There are no light leeks and it helps with stability when the camera is held on with the tape. How to keep the camera on the eye piece was a big concern of mine. This solution really made my day. 3. It has some kind of automatic gain going on so it makes the Bolex viewfinder a lot brighter than it ever would be to the naked eye. 4. Did I mention it was cheap cheap cheap?! They are so cheap, I bought five of them.

I powered mine with a Bescor 12v Battery pack and I have a RCA to BNC cable that I used to hook it up to my TV (the camera has BNC connectors). I have order BNC to BNC cables so I can hook it up to my JVC production monitor though (I love that thing).

Get the camera from here as long as they have them: BOARD CAMERA SECURITY CAMERA WALL MOUNT CCD CCTV COLOR SURVEILLANCE 3.5-8MM ZOOM

There you have it. The $12 Bolex Video Assist. Check out the photos. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Well I’d ordered another camera before I tried the camera listed above. The new camera came today and turned out to be an even better camera for a video assist. It’s very clear and would be ideal for a video assist for the Bolex. It’s not edge to edge but it’s still perfect for framing shots. It’s also much larger than the other camera so mounting it will be a challenge. It is actually really light in comparison to other cameras this size. This camera was still cheap at only $24.95 with FREE shipping!

GVI Video Plus 540TVL Color CCTV Camera w/ 3-8mm Auto-Iris Lens AIB-2130

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