James's Camera Collection: Bell and Howell Perpetua

Bell & Howell Perpetua (Model 393)
Bell and Howell 393 Perpetua
Format: 8mm
Transport: Spring-wind
Exposure: Automatic (selenium cell)
Approx. date of manufacture: 1958
Approx. original price: $159.95

This is a Model 393 Perpetua. B&H didn't bother to put a designation on it anywhere, other than Electric-Eye, which was their trade name for their automatic metering system. Danke to Reinhard Stabentheiner of Austria for identifying it!

There's another Perpetua (I don't know the model number) which is virtually identical except that it is a single lens rather than a turret model.

Nice camera, though. Besides the automatic eye, it's got the three-lens turret, a behind-the-lens filter slot, and mutliple film speeds (10-40 fps).

click for larger imageAdvertisements make it look unusually large, in my opinion. It's actually someone small; about the size of a thick paperback book, but definitely a lot heavier.

In the late 1950s, manufacturers began integrating light meters onto their cameras. The early ones had selenium cells, which generated their own electricity from sunlight and didn't need batteries. The next step was to connect the meter to a continuously-adjustable diaphram, and you suddenly had automatic exposure. This was the future.

Revere and Bell & Howell both had systems: Revere's was the Eye-Matic, B&H was Electric Eye. Revere banked on their system being better and lost. In just a couple years Revere disappeared.

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