BELL & HOWELL UNIVERSAL FINDER
Bell & Howell Company, Chicago, Illinois Mid-to-late 1920's
Universal Finder for the Bell & Howell 2709 professional motion picture camera.
The Universal Finder is an improved version of Bell & Howell's original spyglass-style viewfinder that utilized lenses individually matched to the 2709's taking lenses. This new finder incorporated a 4" common finder objective lens with a magnifier, having individually cut mattes, matched as to field for each of the focal length photographic lenses being used on the camera. The result was a larger and more distinct field of view.
The Universal Finder shown here has Bell & Howell's familiar logo shield marked "Pat. App'd For", indicating that something of its design was covered by a patent application. Like other Bell & Howell logo shields up to about WW2, it contains a space for its serial number, although this finder doesn't have one. This applied for patent hasn't been located yet, but in all likelihood if one was granted, it would have had Albert S. Howell's name on it.
Although both Donald Bell and Albert Howell built and repaired motion picture machines prior to the introduction of their 2709, Bell would eventually handle sales and administration, with Howell being responsible for technical development. I haven't confirmed the total number of patents issued to Howell, but they are said to number about 150. All of Howell's patents that I've located, were either assigned to Donald J. Bell or to the Bell & Howell Company of Chicago, Illinois.
Because the finder rendered an inverted image, it was difficult to work with. With the introduction of Mitchell's Erect Image View Finder that incorporated a prism, this reversed the condition resulting in an erect image. Although both Mitchell and Bell & Howell continued to offer inverted image view finders into the late 1920's (Bell & Howell) and mid-1930's (Mitchell), Mitchell's Erect Image View Finder became the popular standard, even among Bell & Howell cameramen. Aside from the Mitchell, other aftermarket finders were available, some of which utilized an external flip-up mirror mounted at the rear. When placed at a 45-degree angle and viewed from the top, the mirror reversed the inverted image.
Other Mitchell components such as their matte boxes which were more versatile, would also find their way on to 2709's. As a result, most Bell & Howell Universal Finders were discarded or set aside, and very few have survived.
Compared with most Mitchell view finders which are seen rather frequently today, Bell & Howell's Universal Finder is almost impossible to find.
From Bell & Howell's Standard Cinematographic Camera Attachment and Accessories catalog, February 1, 1926
From the American Cinematographer, November,1924
From the American Cinematographer, January,1926
Bell & Howell 2709 equipped with a Universal Finder From Bell & Howell's Standard Cinematographic Camera Attachment and Accessories catalog, February 1, 1926
Crank side of the Bell & Howell 2709 From Bell & Howell's Standard Cinematographic Camera Attachment and Accessories catalog, February 1, 1926