JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

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cwstratn

JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by cwstratn » Fri Nov 01, 2019 12:44 pm

I'm new to this forum and I just purchased a Mitchell NC, I think its a Mitchell NC,, from Seawood Photo in San Rafael, CA. I need help. Seawood Photo says it is a 1939 Mitchell NC, and yes it really looks just like the photos they put up on-line. But, it has the "acorn" plate on the camera body that simply has the numbers "397" with no model number below like the BNC serial number you show on this website. Also, the critical focus tube that you use when the camera is racked-over also has an acorn badge with the number "397" on it, but again, no model number. So, I wonder if this thing is even an NC at all, or some other Mitchell product. If I understand your NC serial number chart correctly, a serial number this high should have been manufactured around 1946 or 1947, so I'm confused as to why Seawood Photo was saying it was a 1939 Mitchell NC.

It has all of the accessories it should have including the side finder, matte box, follow focus mechanism, and four beautiful Baltar lenses. With the three included motors, this had to be someone's serious working camera!

Can anyone help me understand why the "acorn" serial number plate doesn't carry any model number on it like the BNC plate? Was that common on the NC models? Everything on this camera has Mitchell acorn plates all over it. It even came with a heavy-duty Mitchell set of legs. Can anyone help me to find out more about when this camera was manufactured or who might have owned or used it? Thanks so much!

mediaed
Posts: 93
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:53 pm

Re: JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by mediaed » Sat Nov 02, 2019 6:43 am

Chris,

Why is this a duplicate?

As we have already explained with data and pictures in the Seawood photos post above, this is simply not an NC.

It is a very nice 1940 US Navy chronograph camera.

It was misrepresented by the seller even when advised the listing was wrong. We own copies of the original Mitchell factory purchasing/shipping records for nearly every camera they made. Those are facts.

The accessories make it well worth the price -especially when you consider the lenses alone have been skyrocketing in value the past few years.

ED.

cwstratn

Re: JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by cwstratn » Sat Nov 02, 2019 9:14 am

Ed,

I hate to keep bugging you for information, but what the heck was a US Navy chronograph camera and what was it used for? I know that through all the years Mitchell was in business, they sold all kinds of cameras and accessories to the U.S. Government. (usually white in color?) I'm thinking the word "chronograph" has something to do with time, but the camera I own seems to be outfitted and ready for "normal" film production. With follow focus, side director's viewfinder, four Baltar lenses, three motors and a set of Mitchell sticks, you would think it was ready for "production" shooting.

You're correct about the lenses! I believe the price I paid was less than the lenses alone would cost, if I could find them anywhere! I almost never see Baltars for sale and when I do they're usually listed by that guy in Miami at ridiculous prices for old beat up merchandise. I feel so fortunate to have these lenses.

As for the camera, I'll register it with you today.

By the way, I referred to a "side director's viewfinder". The only reason I used the word "director's viewfinder" is because I've seen it used on the internet. But, isn't it properly called a "parallax viewfinder"? I'm thinking people are calling it a "director's viewfinder" because they've seen old photos from the 1940's with directors like Orson Welles with the finder removed from the camera and it being used to walk around the set and determine camera angles or lens choices to set up the shot. Is that true or is the correct nomenclature actually "director's finder"? I'd be interested in knowing.

Best of luck in the future with this site. Its great idea and should be very helpful to people like me who own a Mitchell, but know nothing about it or to people who just love the old Mitchell cameras and want to know more about them. Thanks again for putting up with all of my questions.

Chris

marop
Posts: 77
Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by marop » Sat Nov 02, 2019 9:48 am

Chris,

I’m sure Ed will expand in this question but I’ll chip in a bit. The US military had white cameras but also black cameras. The first camera I bought, the military camera, was a smooth black. I’m told the white pained cameras filmed nuclear tests and should be avoided as they probably have some radiation still. The military, Navy, etc. used cameras for documenting many of the various tests they would conduct and probably activities, training, etc. they also would make training films as well.

I’m curious if your camera has a matching number on the cranking side of the camera, the high speed gear box. My GC had that as well and it matched the number of the main camera. I was told that was rare to have it matching, but I don’t know that. That of course could be useful since it would be the slow motion recording of any tests.

Your movement looks like one of the gears may be phenolic?

Mark

mediaed
Posts: 93
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:53 pm

Re: JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by mediaed » Sat Nov 02, 2019 10:33 am

Chris,

The Navy in particular purchased a number of cameras just before and right after our involvement in WW2. They are labeled that way on the sales sheets. My best guess is that these were used in high speed motion analysis of various weapons and systems. Possibly with multiple angles at the same time so the result would be a frame by frame record comparison. For the most part Navy cameras were a glossy white enamel nearly impervious to weather (and easy to repaint.) The same is true of the latter AEC and NASA cameras.

It would appear these type of cameras were equipped with heavy duty bearings (making them quite noisy) and a gearbox to give either a higher speed to the motor or even hand cranked. They would certainly be OK for MOS but would require a blimp or long lens outside for sound.

Since all these cameras sold to the military were modifications of a basic design, they certainly could be outfitted as a normal camera setup. There is nothing to indicate if the camera was not added to by a user/collector after the wartime use was over or that anytime in the past 60+ years the “system” was not pieced together to its present configuration to make it more appealing. It is quite amazing this camera was not stripped down to the basics with a Nikon mount replacing the front turret or that the serial numbers are all the same.

Over 70% of the entire Mitchell Standards made were never Hollywood cameras to begin with. It is estimated to that no more than half of those produced from the 1940’s on survived were depleted by parts swaps. Of those, a goodly number were surpluses into the animation industry. I have personally worked on 4 cameras where I have managed to replace the conversions with original turrets and even the L base. These are somewhat unkindly referred to as “parts” or “frankencameras.” But, they look the part. Their production dates on those cameras ranged from the 1930’s to the 1960’s and the parts were still pretty much interchangeable.

Hope that is of some help. No matter the provenance, these are still very precise mechanisms the likes of which we will never see made again.

Thanks for your participation in our quest.

ED.

mediaed
Posts: 93
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:53 pm

Re: JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by mediaed » Sat Nov 02, 2019 10:49 am

Chris,

I just had occasion to look up the last E-Bay listing for this camera dated Sept.21 and note that the listing that did not mention it being an NC. My experiences with the original listing ended over 6 months ago. Apparently the listing was changed sometime after that last effort.
So, apologies to Seawood and wonder where you bought that mentioned it as an NC.

ED.

mediaed
Posts: 93
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:53 pm

Re: JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by mediaed » Sat Nov 02, 2019 3:32 pm

Chris,

The sidefinder info was overlooked in the mix.

Orson drove Tolland nuts by arbitrarily removing what is properly referred to as a "side finder" from the camera because it takes some time to setup the correct relationship and focus characteristics of the thing on a camera to match what is being shot. The ingenious cam arrangement for moving distance was not perfect and needs some finesse in setup.
The solution was to just buy another one but they were not cheap. The term parallax was never used in the motionpicture field it was really a still camera thing.

It became so popular an option that some studios made what became "directors finders" to keep the real thing on the camera. Soon speciality makers took over that market to greater and lesser success. That simple solution evolving today to the ones that now take the lenses off the cameras....another violence to setup.

cwstratn

Re: JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by cwstratn » Sat Nov 02, 2019 5:35 pm

Ed, I just looked at the listing I received just before I purchased the camera and Seawood Photo listed it as" Early Production Mitchell Cine Camera manufactured in 1939" so I guess they listened to some of the advice you gave them. They told me that at some point "someone" from Industrial Light and Magic stopped by with some old film that had been exposed to X-rays. I guess they loaded the camera and ran it, perhaps thinking the camera was an NC, the guy may have told Seawood Photo that it was. Just a guess on my part though. Seawood Photo also told me that the guy from ILM brought a diagram of the threading path with him which they photocopied and promised to give to me. Now, they say they've lost the photocopy! The camera is still has the film loaded in it, but I've not attempted to run it. I need time to study and understand the camera. I don't want to damage anything!

Thanks again for all the help and info.

Chris

cwstratn

Re: JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by cwstratn » Sun Nov 03, 2019 1:53 pm

Ed,

On your advice, I just removed the lens at the 12:00 o'clock position and looked into the area behind it and indeed, it also has the number "397" engraved there, the same number that is on the "acorn plate" on the outside of the camera near the crank handle. Also, I opened the camera door exposing the film movement mechanism and sure enough on an area near the film gate are the engraved numbers "397." Now, it seems that I have one more place to look to be certain I have a "complete camera." Apparently, that's on the "L" base but I don't believe I have the strength to remove the camera body from the "L" base. (I'm 75 years old and not in the best of health) So, is there any way I can locate the number on the "L" base with it still attached to the camera body? I've shot close-up photos of both engraved numbers, if you need them for your records. Thanks again for your help!

Chris

mediaed
Posts: 93
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:53 pm

Re: JUST PURCHASED A MITCHELL NC???

Post by mediaed » Sun Nov 03, 2019 4:06 pm

Chris,

Congrats! You have done it! Yours is a complete unit. Is the motor door badged the same also? A bonus.
The number behind the lens position is the number for the L base. No need to remove the camera from the base. Very few cameras have any numbers inside the L base housing which would require dismantling the unit and not worth any need or the effort.

But, for your information only, if your camera racks over properly, pushing in the rackover button and racking in the same motion past the viewing position slot will rack the body off (if there is an external stop on the motor side, it can be moved out of the way.) Early Standards did not have a stop and it was a hazard that camera operators did sometimes find the camera on the ground with the wrong move. GC specs mandated stops.
Best with the magazine off due to the added weight. The camera off the rails weights about 25 lbs.
When putting the camera back, you may need to do some trial and error to engage the rack gears so the T handle is flat in the shooting position. Otherwise you risk bending the rackover shaft when sitting the camera down off the tripod.

Best.

ED.

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