Recently, I was contacted by my friend and fellow vintage camera enthusiast Michael Geiger, who had recently acquired Mitchell Standard #125. This camera, like Mitchell 46, had been abused in its previous life. Mitchell 125 was hacked into an animation camera, and whoever did the conversion, removed and discarded most of the original shutter control mechanism. They chose to drive the dissolve shutter with a sector gear and motor. This left the back of the camera looking mangled and missing a lot of the parts that made up one of the key features of the early Mitchell Standard, the automatic fade-in and fade-out controls. Michael asked if I could restore this portion of his camera. Unfortunately, I didn’t have all of the necessary parts to do that. The early fade/dissolve mechanism was an extremely complicated mixture of rack gears, pinions, and levers that adjust the variable shutter angle as the camera is running. The original system lost popularity because many cameramen complained that the shutter would lose its position from time to time. This early shutter control mechanism was replaced with a more refined design.
Since the early shutter control units became obsolete so early on in the life of the Mitchell Standard, those units are almost impossible to find. The next best thing was to make some stand-in parts that let the camera look complete. I had the correct knurled knob that locks the shutter in position. I also had two control buttons that came from an early Mitchell BNC remote control device that looked very similar to the stock fade-in and fade-out buttons. A number of parts were missing, including the two bezels that surround the fade-in/fade-out buttons, the lever arm that operates the shutter position, the needle indicator that shows the shutter angle, the glass cover plate, and the bezel that holds the glass cover plate in place. If I couldn’t restore the mechanism completely, I wanted to make it at least look correct.
So I began by removing the sector gear and threading the drive-shaft that the previous owner had installed. Now the proper knurled knob could be threaded onto the back of the camera where it belonged, and also lock the variable shutter in place. The next step was to decide what to do with the fade-in/fade-out buttons. In an effort to make the look and feel of the camera as correct as possible, I machined new bezels for the fade-in/fade-out buttons so that they could be spring loaded and at least give the impression that they still work. Happy with this section, I made a fill-in shutter control lever that unfortunately doesn’t operate because so many internal pieces are missing. I also machined a new shutter position needle. There wasn’t enough time for me to make the replacement cover glass or bezel to hold it in place, but Michael thinks he will be able to make those two parts himself. The camera now looks reasonably complete, with the shutter locked in the full open position. It is certainly in shooting condition, just without the automatic dissolve features or the ability to adjust the variable shutter.