A ¾ view of Mitchell BNC rackover camera #357 with insets of the Mitchell serial number badge and an inventory tag from 20th Century Fox.

Restoring Mitchell BNC Rackover #357

A friend and fellow collector called me and asked about the Mitchell BNC rackover camera that I just acquired (serial #357). So this is the first of the collection I decided to take a look at. Surprisingly, this camera is in remarkably good condition. The camera turns over smoothly, there is little or no rust or corrosion, the variable shutter works smoothly, the upholstery is in very nice condition, and both counters work properly. I only noticed two problems: The rackover was not stopping the camera in the proper position. And the viewfinder magnifying control was not working.

Four views of the process of rackover the Mitchell BNC camera out of its blimp for repair.

Based on the overall condition of the camera, it seemed that the easiest way to go about diagnosing and fixing these problems was to rack the camera out of the blimp. I removed the magazine riser block and racked the camera out of the blimp. With the camera removed, I noticed that the L-base register pin had some debris in it and the register pin was stuck in the down position. That was easy to clear, re-lubricate, and get working again. While the camera was out of the blimp, I cleaned the rack gears, cleaned and polished the dovetails, inspected all the controls on the camera, cleaned all the cover glasses on the camera and the inside face of the blimp, and then put the camera back in the blimp.

Four views of the Mitchell BNC camera out of its blimp for cleaning, and a closeup of the L-base with the repaired rackover locking pin.

The viewfinder magnification control was missing two parts; the drive pin on the handle that comes through the blimp, and the disc that is attached to the drive shaft that moves the optics in the viewfinder. I drew up a rough sketch of what the disc needed to look like and went about machining a replacement. I also dug through old Mitchell parts, found the correct pin for the blimp control lever, and installed it. Everything seems to be working correctly at this point. I then serviced the movement and drive components of the camera.

Four views of the Mitchell BNC camera during the servicing and lubrication process.

Now, my biggest remaining question is what motor to pair the camera with. None of the motors that came in this collection are period correct for this camera. I am thinking about putting a 110V AC sync motor on the camera, as that would be the most correct of what I have. I’m just trying to source the proper blimp housing for that motor. I also had a blast sorting through the parts that came with this collection. More to come!

Three views of the process of repairing the viewfinder magnification control, showing the missing disc, the drawing of the part for machining, and the new disc installed, plus a shot of the Mitchell parts included in the collection we recently acquired.