Bell & Howell 16mm Filmo – Eyemo Camera

The Filmo camera series started with the 1923 Filmo 70, beginning a series of models built on the same basic body that was to continued for more than half a century. It was based on Bell & Howell’s brilliantly designed 1917 prototype for a 17.5mm camera intended for amateur use. When invited (along with Victor) into Kodak’s 16mm plans in 1920, the company was quick to see the advantages and immediately set about redesigning the 17.5mm camera for 16mm film.

The Filmo 70 was the first spring motor-driven 16mm camera. In 1925 the Eyemo, a hand-held 35mm camera based on the design of the Filmo 70 was offered. It was also spring driven, but could be hand-cranked as well. Bell & Howell introduced the first 16mm turret camera with its Model C in 1927. A beautifully ornate and much more compact 16mm camera, the Filmo 75, marketed primarily as a “watch-thin” ladies’ camera, was offered in 1928, followed in 1931 by a nearly identical counterpart designated as the Filmo Field Camera, offered initially in a plain covering, but also available with the ornate decorations of the Model 75, and in that form indistinguishable from the earlier version except for the nameplate.

When Kodak introduced 8mm film in 1932, Bell & Howell was slow to take up the new format, and when it did so, it was not in the form of the Kodak standard. The first 8mm Filmo was offered in 1935 as a single-8 camera, the Filmo 127-A. However, single-8 did not appeal to the market as well as double-8, so the design was modified for double-8 as the 134-A in 1936. Production of Filmos around this body type continued into the 1950s. During WW2, the military was at first not interested in the small 16mm format, since 35mm was standard for everything, so it was not until the 1930’s that the more compact size of camera and film began to draw attention to efficiencies in size and cost that worked in favor of the cameraman and the government’s pocket book.

Built as tough as the Sherman Tanks it would be used to film during WWII, the B&H 70 was one of the most rugged, well designed and thoroughly dependable 16mm motion picture cameras ever built. Weighing in at six pounds sans lenses, it was one solid mass of steel and magnesium with hardly a plastic part other than the speed dial and footage indicator. The simplistic beauty of the camera was its ability to just run and run. A Filmo that has been locked away for five or ten or more years can be taken out of storage and, after a few drops of oil, put right back into service. In fact, at one time Bell & Howell sold their Filmo’s with a lifetime warranty against failure!

Thank you to Michael Cleveland for his imput. (

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