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52Rolls2017 · Roll 22 · Bolsey B2
Dates ??? - Dates ??? published 7.15.17

  • Bolsey B2
  • Wollensak Antistigmat 44mm 3.2
  • Fuji Superia 400 (fresh)

Acquisition
Saint Vincent De Paul thrift store had this guy for sale for quite a while at a high price for a thrift store.  I thought it was long gone, but I dropped in one day to find this guy hanging around, and with a price drop! Bought it.

History and features
Made from 1949 to 1956 in ‘Murica, and designed by Jacques Bolsey whose claim to fame seemed to be making cinema cameras in the 20’s.

The Bolsey is a tiny 35mm Rangefinder/Viewfinder camera with a shutter from B to 200 (old scale), aperture from 3.2 to 22, double exposure prevention, a shutter release thread, and a tripod socket.  There’s also a fancy old school depth of field calculator on the back.  Something of note … The outer ring of the calculator has some of the films of the day inscribed in it.  Here’s a list;  Tungsten Ansco Color,Day Lit Ansco Color, Pan X, BLANK, Plus X, Supreme, Super XX, Ultra Speed Pan, Type A Kodachrome, and Day Lit Kodachrome.

Appearance
The Bolsey is a chubby little 35mm rangefinder with polished aluminum trim, and black leatherette.  The model number ‘Model B2’ is engraved on the front.

The company name is engraved with red paint on the shutter, and ensconced with lightning bolts!  The shutter, and lens combo look like they were lifted from a 4x5 field camera lens/shutter assembly, and grafted onto the front of this guy.  Likewise the shutter release is on the lens barrel, as well as the release thread, focus lever, shutter lever, and aperture lever.

There is a little red dot logo on the top with the company name ‘Bolsey’.  Also on top are two complementary knobs for Wind (film advance), and Rewind.  The rewind knob is engraved ‘Rewind’, and has an arrow for the direction to turn.  The wind knob is engraved with a fitting life lesson, ‘Lift Slightly and Wind’, it also has a directional arrow.

Usage
Loading the film in the bolsey is pretty easy, move the lever on the bottom to the ‘Open’ position, and the entire chubby back comes off.  Looking at the back the film chamber is on the left, and takeup is on the right like a modern film camera.  Tuck the leader under the tab on the takeup spool, and put the back back on and swing the locking lever to lock the back into place.  Unloading is pretty simple just wind the rewind knob until the film goes back into the cannister.

The Bolsey has two separate windows for the rangefinder and for the viewfinder.  The viewfinder is on the left, use it for framing only.  The rangefinder is on the right, use its split image to focus the camera.  This two window design is found on many old school rangefinders.  These windows are ‘tiny’, however, the split image in the rangefinder window is actually very useable.  The focusing in my example seems pretty accurate.  There is also a focusing scale (in feet) around the lens barrel that is pretty easy to read.  I wish though that the viewfinder window was slightly larger.  It’s useable but ‘tiny’.

The settings for shutter, and aperture are on the top of the lens barrel, and the bottom of the lens barrel respectively.  They are simple stepless levers with a pointer to a simple engraving to show the setting.  The aperture and shutter are independent of each other.

Next up; ‘Lift Slightly and Wind!’.  Cocking the shutter and film advance are coupled in this camera.  ‘Lift slightly and Wind’, and you will both cock the shutter, and advance the film to the next frame.  Click the picture, and the shutter can’t be tripped easily again until you ‘Lift Slightly and Wind’, for a double exposure prevention.  It would also be possible to push the shutter release pin back into the camera and double expose manually.  It’s a pretty good setup for an older camera like this.

A collar around the base of the film advance wind knob has a rotating film counter.  My counter may be broken as it is very easy to hit by accident and reset to a different number or the counter on the bolsey is just shitty like many older cameras.  Not sure.

This lens on the Bolsey is good, and doesn’t seem to have too much in the way of optical shenanigans.  The Bolsey also has some interesting color rendering.  My example of this camera has a slightly sticky shutter.  On top of that the old school shutter scale doesn’t help, so I ended up with a lot of shaky frames.  In all it’s a fun camera to use and I’m looking forward to shooting it again.  One last thing, always remember to;  Lift Slightly and Wind.

PROS

  • Rangefinder
  • Quiet shutter
  • Unique color rendering

CONS

  • ‘Tiny’ viewfinder
  • Oddball film counter