Grahame N's Web Pages


PATHÉSCOPE'S LAST GASP -

THE "PRINCE" CINE CAMERA
& "PRINCESS" CINE PROJECTOR

from Grahame Newnham B.Sc.


The Pathé franchise in the UK was Pathéscope Ltd, who had been marketing the 9.5mm home movie system since about 1923. Whilst the 1930s saw 9.5mm as the premier amateur film gauge, the war years meant that 9.5mm lost much ground to the American Kodak 8mm format (now referred to as standard 8mm by the way).

Whilst the French Pathé parent company marketed 9.5mm as an upmarket, hence expensive format; in the UK Pathéscope soon discovered that the UK selling point was low prices - with the little "Ace" cine projector getting many children hooked on movies and hence 9.5mm. (including myself!).

By the mid 1950s sales of 9.5mm equipment had begun to fall - I guess this may have caused a little friction between the French parent company and Pathéscope in the UK. A British business man (a Mr J.W. Ratzer?) bought out the French interest in the company and by 1957 or so, Pathéscope (Great Britain) Ltd had been formed.  This new company, although still an agent for the French Pathé company, were now totally UK owned. One of their aims was to manufacture more products in the UK and soon an updated version of the "Gem" cine projector appeared, both in 9.5mm and 8mm versions - known as the Mk.9 and Mk.8 respectively.

By early 1959, a new 9.5mm cine camera and projector were announced.  Although obviously designed for 9.5mm movies, an additional gimmick was added - that of using the camera to take still pictures (well colour transparencies).  I think this may have been partly prompted by a 9.5mm enthusiast - a Mr Macey who had been the manager of Wallace Heaton's film library.  From the early 1950s Mr Macey had been experimenting with stills taken on 9.5mm film.  Initially just black and white photos - some printed up as small prints, others as slides, and later using colour 9.5mm film.  He had been in touch with Pathéscope about his experiments to the extent that the managing director Mr  B. Joslin sent him a new "Princess" projector as a gift for his help.

9.5mm Pathescope Prince cine camera

Anyhow, the new 9.5mm Pathéscope "Prince" cinecamera was a redesign of the French National 11 and British assembled "H" cine cameras.  It was manufactured for Pathéscope (Great Britain) Ltd by Smiths (makers of clocks and automotive instruments etc.) at their factory in Cheltenham.   Like the previous National 11 and "H" designs it was clockwork driven, took the standard "H" chargers (which contained up to 28 feet of cine film), was fitted with an optical view finder and had an interchangeable lens mount - the Pathé "H" screw mount (also later used as the standard 8mm "D" mount with different lens to  film distance). It was normally supplied with a fixed focus f2.8 Colortar lens of around 23mm focal length which stopped down to f22 and accepted the standard Pathéscope 19mm screw thread filters.  The release button was marked for Cine and Snap Shot.  The filming speed was governor controlled at 16 frames per second. The nice long stainless steel film gate could be opened fully for cleaning. External fitments were chrome plated. I think this is a great little camera, even today - especially if used with an f1.9 focussing lens, although it is a bit heavy for its size (because the camera body is a mazak type casting).  Fitted with a black nylon wriststrap, it was supplied with a neat matching black nylon zip case.  There was talk of a small zoom lens, a lens incorporating a light meter and flash synchronisation for later cameras.  Thousands were manufactured - rather less actually sold by Pathéscope.  The marketing mentioned - "take over 1000 still pictures for under a pound" - it would take rather a long time to use up a whole charger of film like this though!


The Brtish made 9.5mm Pathéscope "Prince" cinecamera in its original box

The Pathéscope "Prince" cine camera was launched in 1959 at a bargain price of £17-17sh - about the cheapest cine camera in any gauge.  However when Kodak UK rather cynically reduced the price of their 8mm Brownie cine camera to a similar price, Pathéscope dropped the price of the "Prince" 9.5mm cine camera to £16-16sh.  Not a bad price for not a bad cine camera. Typical serial numbers: Pathescope original exposure plate models: L:044637 ; 00199, 00405, 00539, 01688; 02688 (my own!); "bankrupt stock" models: 00408, 01209; 02120; 02210, 02246; 03438; - that first number looks a little odd!!

9.5mm Pathescope Princess cine projector

The matching Pathéscope "Princess   9.5mm projector was a different matter!  Brought down to the simplest of designs - it was basically a picture head on legs with spool arms attached.  The design used the "Son" / "Gem" lens and film gate design, with the film movement system - the claw, cam and shutter - taken from the simple Pathéscope "Ace" projector. Although only fitted with a 25 watt projection lamp (about the maximum brilliance to avoid burning the film - but read on ...), it gives a decent  small picture (2.3 foot candles on a 3 foot wide screen on stills and 1.3 foot candles with the shutter running), improved if a better,  larger aperture lens is fitted.  (Try the 25mm f1.9 coated Increlite lens intended for Bell & Howell standard 8mm machines - it is the correct 22mm diameter mount but some machining of the lands inside the lens mount will be required).  The lamp, a tiny 22 volt 25 watt effort, with a Pathe "T" base, physically similar to the much lower wattage bulb used in the original Pathé Baby projector, was type number PR1, but long since obsolete.  I suppose a modern  quartz iodine lamp type M/30  6 volt 20 watts could be used with a new lamp base and of course a suitable transformer.  The "Princess" projector took up to 400ft spools, but had no feed or take-up sprockets, there just being a pair of sprung rollers above and below the film gate which  Pathéscope referred to as 'floating action'.  It did have a picture framing adjustment though - quite a luxury for such a low priced machine.

A transformer was wired in the mains lead to supply the 22 volts for the lamp, whilst the motor - an asynchronous induction type, fed from the 230 volts mains supply, ran the projector at about 17 frames/second.  On a safety note, the machine was not earthed, probably illegal even in those days.  It is reasonably easy to run a three core cable to the transformer, earth the mains transformer and carry the earth forwards to the projector using one of the 22 volt lamp leads. 


Pathéscope "Princess" ready to run - yes it actually does!

However there was a major problem when people began using the "Princess" projector - although it would show a still colour  picture for a minute or so without film damage -  black and white still pictures soon began to buckle and burn!  The adverts were quickly changed to add the word "colour" to the mention of "can project cine or still pictures at will".  Incidentally, as there was no method of actually automatically stopping at any still pictures it was really impossible to mix still and cine on one reel.  I think Pathéscope suggested taking one or two blank frames  before a batch of stills. (The later Super 8mm Agfa family outfit used the same idea, but marked the still pictures optically and the projector/viewer automatically stopped at each still picture  - electronic notched titles!)


Frontplate of the Pathéscope "Princess" - Colotar lens and Gem type mount - that lever rhs is for framing!

Although only priced at £14-14sh. motorised and £11-11sh. hand turned (£2 extra for a Dallmeyer lens) - sales of the 9.5mm Pathéscope "Princess" projector were rather low - possibly just a thousand or so.  Only sold in the UK they seemed to have fetched high prices (up to £400!) on the e-bay internet auction web-site recently. It is possible there had been plans to market the "Princess" projector in 8mm and 16mm versions.  Typical serial numbers: RP-95-485, RP-95-715; RP-95-1224, RP-95-1508, RP-95-2084. (The 95 prefix suggests maybe they were thinking of an 8mm version?)

The "Prince" / "Princess" outfit was subject to an extensive six page review in the October 1959 issue of Amatuer Cine World magazine, with a double page advert from Pathéscope and one page adverts from Smiths and various cine dealers.  The camera was recommended as excellent value for money and the projector performance was considered outstanding for its low price.

With poor sales in general and with an outstanding debenture loan unpaid, Pathéscope (Great Britain) Ltd went into receivership around summer 1960.  By 1961 a new company Pathéscope (London) Ltd had risen from the ashes.  Actually owned by Great Universal Stores (they wanted the name to use on other photographic equipment in their mail order catalogues), the new company continued to advertise and distribute 9.5mm (and 8mm / 16mm) cine equipment in the UK until around 1964 when they announced they would no longer be selling 9.5mm filmstock or equipment.

Whilst all the "Princess" projectors had been sold, there were many hundreds (maybe thousands) of the Pathéscope 9.5mm "Prince" cine cameras still in the warehouse.  These were later sold off, minus the Pathéscope nameplate at bargain prices.  Later new Japanese made f2.8 Kaydon lenses were made for the camera and even later in the 1970s or so, 9.5mm dealer Ted Smith arranged for decent f3.5 Som Berthiot lenses to be manufactured for the remaining cameras. 

The "Prince" cine cameras generally work well even today, although the clockwork mechanism does bump a little as the spring runs right down!  The "Princess" projector is an interesting novelty, but maybe best kept as a future valuable antique curio, rather than used to show those long lost family films! 

(based on a talk and demonstration given at the Wimborne 9.5mm Mini-Festival 2011)
(updated from an article published in the Group 9.5 magazine No. 149 Spring 2012)

gln/PrincePrincess/21Oct2011 @Grahame L. Newnham MMX1


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Created 26April2013 ....... Last updated: 19 October 2015 ....... 95gearpat1prince.htm ...... Grahame Newnham's web pages
11Jan2015 - extra Prince photos added / 15Oct2015 - Princess photo added / 19Oct2015 - Princess frontplate photo addded