ERCSAM - A Brief History
by Grahame L. Newnham B.Sc.
In France before the war, Robert Mascre was well known in the cine world. His shop Mascre in the L'Oise area of France, sold most cine items and had a large film library. Monsieur Mascre obviously had a soft spot for 9.5mm as the film libraries in this gauge were massive. He had edited together many of the early Pathe-Baby features which had been released as multiple 60ft cassettes and filmed running titles for these releases. In addition many of the titles issued on 9.5mm overseas (UK, Germany etc) had titles refilmed in French. Even today collectors puzzle over some of the titles in the Mascre 9.5mm film hire catalogue as it appears they even printed up 9.5mm films themselves.
Just before the second war Robert Mascre started to make 9.5mm cine projectors. During the Nazi occupation he busied himself with designing an improved cine projector and a 9.5mm cine camera. In 1946 a new company was formed in Paris - Ercsam (just the name Mascre reversed) initially with premises at 63 Avenue Philippe Auguste. The 9.5mm cine camera was launched as the Camex B. This took a special Camex film charger, had speeds of 8, 16, 24, 32, plus single frame and continuous run. The long running motor was claimed to run 8 metres of film at one wind. A focussing 20mm Berthiot lens was fitted as standard but in a Camex bayonet mount which allowed for wide ange and telephoto lenses to be offered (the viewfinder had aditional pivoted optics for 10mm and 50mm lenses).
During the 1950s later improved models of the 9.5mm Camex camera appeared including a simple version with fixed filming speed and others with backwind. The later 9.5mm models used a slightly larger film charger (these do not fit the earlier cameras - beware!). The simplest of these cameras - was the Camex O.S. model. The film charger for this model was for 9 metres / 30 feet of filmstock.
9.5mm Ercsam OS cine camera
The G.S. model had variable filming speeds, single frame, continuous run facility and backwind, with a viewfinder with parallax correction and adjustable for tele & wide angle lenses; whilst the V.U. model added a universal viewfinder. (An HS model seems to have been the GS with chrome finish). All had a disk shutter giving a shutter speed of 1/32 sec at 16 frames/second filming speed. They were supplied with focussing Som Berthiot lenses (f1.9 20mm standard and f3.5 50mm telephoto) in the special Camex bayonet mount - incidentally this bayonet mount is not the same as Pathe used on the Webo "A" 9.5mm cine camera. . (These Camex cine cameras were also supplied in standard 8mm versions).
9.5mm Ercsam Camex cine camera, model GS - 1950s
The special Ercsam 9.5mm film chargers for these cameras were quite ingenious - to remove from the camera the charger is twisted backwards then lifted out. The rear film gate presser plate is incorporated in the film charger. The lid of the later S12 type film charger is in two parts - for loading, first the lever on the side of the charger is slid upwards to close off the space between top and bottom sections and both lid pieces removed. Then in the dark the roll of camera film is placed in the top chamber with film threaded out towards the film gate presser pad. Once the top section cover is replaced, the film can be attached to the take-up dog and threaded into the lower take-up section of the cassette in dim lighting. Once the lower cover is replaced, the lever on the side of the charger is slid downwards to allow film overlap between top and bottom compartments, specially when the longer Camex reloads were used. This newer S12 Ercsam charger (rather like an overgrown 'P' type but incorporating the rear gate presser plate), would take the normal 30ft / 9 metre reload, but would also accept a special 12 metre film length. The original S9 charger (30ft / 9 metre only) had the back half molded in bakelite and top & bottom film compartments were separate - no sliding lever or twin covers.
By now, Ercsam were trading from a central Paris address at 221 Rue Lafayette.
Ercsam Minor 9.5mm projector - late 1940s -early 1950s
Around 1950 there appear to have been four Ercsam cine projectors: - the Minor, a simple cast machine with side-by-side spool layout, sprocket feed and take-up, 400ft spool capacity, single switch for lamp and motor, a 100watt pre-focus A1/4 mains voltage lamp and Ercsam labelled 40mm lens - earlier models of the Minor were just for 110volt supply, later models were modified with an extra internal dropper resistance for the motor and a 110/220volt selector plug. (The model I have is a later one with voltage selector and extra internal motor dropper resistance, yet it has a number 23 inside the lamphouse cover? Maybe a later owner modification but it looks quite professional. Threading is very weird and an absolute nightmare! The film runs from the feed spool over one guide roller, then to the feed sprocket, a massive free loop of film over the projector and through the gate, then another large offset free loop to the take-up sprocket and onto the take-up spool. Once I had mastered this threading - it is almost impossible to slide the film onto the fixed guide roller sprockets - the thing did run and gave a decent steady picture - no framing adjustment that I can spot though - it now goes on the shelf for display only!! Motor belt just smaller than that for a Lux - I have never seen this model before and it turned up locally - someone must have brought it back from France, years ago. - gln Dec2014)
Ercsam Valix 9.5mm projector - 1950?
The Valix, a simple pressed steel conventional design, taking pre-focus lamps up to 400 watts; the Senior M50 - a more substantial design using castings, taking pre-focus lamps up to 400 watts (upgraded to the M60 a year or two later); and the Major - this took lamps up to 750 watts, and featured reverse run and stills. All were normally supplied with an f1.5 35mm Berthiot projection lens. As these machines were designed for use on 110 volts, an external transformer or resistance was required for use on 220/240 volts. Many of these Ercsam cine cameras and projectors were also available in 8mm. (Some of the projectors featured interchangeable mechanisms).
Ercsam M50 9.5mm projector - 1948-1951?
Ercsam M60 9.5mm 500watt projector 1952?
In the mid. and late nineteen fifties a new range of cine projectors was introduced under the name Malex. The Malex Record launched in 1953 sported a 500 watt lamp, and took 400ft spools. By 1958 it had been upgraded to the Malex Record M1000 and was fitted with a 1000 watt lamp. By now low voltage lamps were appearing and new models appeared as the Malex Super 100, fitted with a 12 volt 100 watt lamp and the Malex Club 100 fitted with a 12 volt 100 watt reflector type lamp. The Malex projector range was also available in 8mm and 16mm models.
Ercsam Malex Club - 1958 on ..
Sadly the only Ercsam products advertised in the UK were a few of the 8mm versions, the later 8mm Camex reflex cine camera being advertised widely in the UK during the 1950's. This camera still closely resembled the earlier models, but featured full reflex viewing by means of a mirror shutter.
In 1949 the Ercsam company had moved to 221 Rue La Fayette where it remained even until 1962 when Ercsam had merged with Pathe (amateur movie division) and Cineric to become EPC (Ercsam/Pathe/Cineric), with Robert Mascre as director. But in 1967 the company had been taken over by C.G.A.M. and within a year the amateur division was closed - the Ercsam name was no more.
9.5 Auto-Camex 1970
However the name Camex survived a little longer. In 1969 a French flash gun company Formosa Flash based at 64 Boulevard Magenta in Paris, resumed production of the 8mm Auto Camex reflex camera. A 9.5mm version was soon advertised and imported into the UK by Ted Smith in 1970. This featured battery drive using the Webo M14 50ft magazines and was fitted with a Som Berthiot f3.8 17-85mm zoom lens. Few examples were sold in the UK as the price was around £200.
For UK collectors, 9.5mm items with the Ercsam or Malex brand name are a useful and rare find.
G9Erscam/gln/23.06.03 ........... ©2003 - G.L. Newnham
The orignal article (minus most of the photos) originally appeared in the UK Group 9.5 magazine in 2003.
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Last updated: 16 December 2015
11Feb2012 Decent photo of Camex GS camera added, extra text / 15Dec2015 - Photo of OS camera & film charger added
27July2013 Note about bayonet lens added. / 01Dec2014 photo & extra details of the Minor aded