Vintage 1947 Bell & Howell 8mm Magazine Model 172 8mm Movie Camera w/2 Lenses

  • $29.97

Vintage 1947 Bell & Howell 8mm Magazine Model 172 8mm Movie Camera w/2  Comat  f3.5 1.5" & f2.3 1/2" inch Lenses  

Brown leather-ette covered metal body with two lenses which are both interchangeable B&H Comat 1/2 in.  The telephoto is an f/3.5 and the normal lens is an f/2.5. There are also two interchangeable eye-level small screw-in lenses for the viewfinder  for each of the filming lens.  Overall, it makes for a cool look as all four lenses have screw-in slots in front of the camera.  Spring motor  Speed setting for 16 to 64 frames per second for slow or fast motion filming Sun Dial is built into the side of camera to make it simple for figuring the right lens settings for conditions. Comes with a hand strap.  Advertising for the camera stated: “We believe that if a picture is worth the film, it is worth a B&H camera”.  Accordingly, if a vintage American movie camera is worth having, why is it not worth a B&H camera?

Approx. Dimensions: 4-7/8" T (wo Strap attached) x 5-1/4" W x 2-1/8" D

Approx. Weight: 2 lbs, 7 ozs 

Sold as is. No warranty. No Returns.

CONDITION NOTE: Used: The camera is in good condition given its age. The inside shutter works well at all speeds. The inside film loading area is in good condition. Not tested by filming and then developing the film but everything appears to work. The lens optics appear clean and clear with no scratches, chips, streaks, fungus, fog or haze that I can see (see pictures). The movie camera winds well. The stretched and glued leather that covers the metal body has contracted exposing metal and glue along its edges (can probably be re-glued). Included in our listing is a recent photo from a Chicago museum of this model camera. The same leather contraction is visible in a museum piece demonstrating the care equally given to our camera. Overall, for a 70 year old camera, the leather is in wonderful condition and really does not distract that much from the movie camera’s character. The camera does not come with its original box, original packaging, or any instruction manual. The camera will be carefully packed and insured for safe shipping. See detailed high resolution (zoom-able) pictures to know what you are purchasing.

EARLY HISTORY: BELL & HOWELL COMPANY (B&H) - One of the Giants of the Theater Motion Picture Business

Along with Eastman Kodak, Bell & Howell Co. (B&H) was one of the two biggest photographic manufac-turing and innovating companies of the world during most of the 20th Century.  B&H is not only known for its cameras and projectors but for micro film equipment, mailing machines and many other prod-ucts and including the motion picture business.

Movie projectionist, Donald Bell and projector inventor, Albert Howell were camera and projector re-pair specialist.  They were in the ground floor of the early stages of the motion picture business in Chi-cago.  They formed their company in 1907.  Three years later, they made their first camera using wood and leather.  On an expedition to Africa, one of their cameras was heavily damaged by termites and mildew, and so they began redesigning using steel.  Cameras at the time were hand cranked resulting in jumping motion on the screen.  

To make things worse, the movie people were shooting in many different sizes and perforations of film requiring multiple kinds of projectors.  In 1912, the same year that movie production moved to California, B&H invented and introduced “the design 2709” motion picture camera.  Their design quick-ly gained the reputation as “the most precision film mechanism” for the next 47 years!  The camera’s resolved the flickering issue and used only their 35MM perforated film only.  This standardization made it possible to watch a movie now in any city.  It was used for the first time in California. B&H quickly stopped repairing any equipment not using this new standard. Charlie Chapin fell in love with the camera.  For the next seven years, nearly 100% of the camera equipment used to make motion theater motion pictures was made by B&H.  

Just as a note, the Cairo Camera Shop was a dealer for the Bell & Howell amateur camera division.  It was probably the owner’s favorite camera company.  Frank Cairo would often drive the 53 miles to B&H in Skokie, IL to pick up equipment and leave equipment for repair. Then, it was onto Revere and other companies in nearby Chicago.


An amazing find for vintage camera & projector enthusiasts! The cameras are part of many items acquired from the Cairo Camera Shop.  Please check often as many become available in the near future.

BACKSTORY:  Frank G Cairo, Owner of the Cairo Camera Shop  

Frank Cairo moved from the Bronx, New York to Kenosha, WI in 1943.  The next year, after getting married, he acquired the neighborhood grocery store next door and made it into Cairo Camera Shop.  He operated the store for over fifty years until his death in 1997.

He loved cameras, projectors, movie stars and movies and was the photographer for the local auto workers union. He began collecting 8, 16 and 35mm films.  Eventually, Cairo Home Movies became the largest private film collection in Southern Wisconsin.  In addition to renting films and projectors, one could rent him to show movies from his library at parties and events. In the summers, he had free outdoor movie nights for neighborhood kids. If you would like to see a 5 minute video about Frank Cairo and his camera shop as told by his son, see: