Noiseless Portable Reflex (NPR) Eclair 16mm camera: David Telfer, ABC cine cameraman

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Accession Number AWM2019.1183.1
Collection type Technology
Object type Optical equipment
Physical description Alloy, Glass, Steel
Maker Eclair Company
Place made France
Date made c 1973
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975
Description

The Éclair Noiseless Portable Reflex (NPR) is a steel-bodied cine camera with a vertical revolving two position lens mount and a co-axial film magazine mounted behind the vertical lens. It runs on battery power.

The lens fitted are a short focal lens (Angenieux / Paris F.10 1:1.8; serial 1247717) which uses a standard C mount (a basic screw mount) and mounts an aluminium pressure lens cap. The larger lens is mounted on a Camerette CA-1 lens mount, which uses a two-prong brass flange smaller than the standard bayonet fitting. This mount was developed specifically for the Éclair and mounts an Angénieux/Paris F.12 12-120 mm Zoom (10 x 12B) serial 1378987. It is fitted with a Tiffen professional wide angle lens shade serial #9.

The rotating lens mount is released by turning the locking nut between the lenses to the right, pulling out the mount to release the two internal pins; turning and relocking it.
Behind the lens tower is a metal carrying handle. A co-axial magazine release button and locking slide appears below the carrying handle. The 400 foot magazine is loaded from the right hand side - there are remnants of masking tape on this side - apparently the access door had a fault where the lips around the magazine weren't enough to hold the magazine in place - hence the regular use of masking tape. The magazine is marked "ED136" and 'ECLIAR 16/ MADE IN FRANCE'. There is a release button and a release slide on the each back side of the magazine. The top of the magazine bears four small arcing windows showing the amount of film left or used - the foremost is labelled 'FEET / SPOOL LOADS / BOBINE METAL / METRES' while the rear one reads "FEET / CORE LOADS / ROLEAU / METRES'. Engraved on the underneath of the magazine is 'ABC TV/4426'. On the left hand side of the magazine is a plastic disc (which, like a whiteboard can be used by the cameraman to identify shots) with an identifying gold letter sticker 'A'; this helped distinguish between magazines. Usually three were carried on assignments, the others being labelled 'B' and 'C' .

On the right hand side of the camera case is a shaped thumbgrip handle; and behind this, a shrouded four-pin Cannon socket for carrying the power from the battery to the motor drive.

Releasing the magazine reveals a cone shaped magazine drive shaft from the motor; this engages with the magazine when it is fitted.

The left hand side of the camera carries a Kinoptic viewfinder, first issued with this camera in 1963. It provides reflex viewing, but although it is described as a rotating (but not orientable) viewfinder, the mechanism is rather clunky and involved releasing locking screws. The Kinoptic was replaced in 1969 by an Angenieux viewfinder which was 100% brighter than the Kinoptic - really useful when shooting with available light; and was orientable. The Kinoptic viewfinder was still available in 1973. The donor started that the only part of the camera which is plastic is the shutter which warped in the Vietnamese heat and thus he couldn't get a reliable closeup.

The Eclair 15 is powered by an Éclair Beala motor, (one of over thirteen produced to accompany this camera) developed in France specifically for this camera. The motor is notable for its rubber mountings giving a (relatively) silent operation. It works in conjunction with the first portable crystal sync sound recording system developed for the Eclair NPR (the CP-16 uses the same sound technology); with the introduction of crystal sync, the cameraperson was now completely free of the cable linking the camera to the sound recorder. There are a number of crystal sync controls on this unt. The motor was linked to a battery supply.

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History / Summary

This camera was used by David Telfer while in Vietnam in 1973 filming for the ABC. The resulting documentary, 'The Children of Qui Nhon', won three international awards in 1974, including the Prix Jeunesse at the Cannes Film Festival.

Released in 1963, the Eclair NPR 16mm camera was the first 16mm camera built from the ground up to be noiseless. It was taken up enthusiastically by a variety a film-makers (including John-Luc Godard), news broadcasters and television producers, because of its noiseless feature, its easy-to- load film magazines, its lightness and its balance. The balance was enhanced by the rear-mounting of the magazine. It was the first portable crystal sync sound recording system developed for the Eclair NPR (the CP-16 uses the same sound technology); the footage was always perfectly in synch with the sound as a result.