Bell and Howell Electric Eye 

Bell and Howell Electric Eye 

The Bell and Howell Electric Eye (introduced in 1959) has the distinction of being one of the first cameras to feature automatic exposure. It does this by a most ingenious mechanism. A Selenium (probably!) cell operates much like any classic light meter, but rather than driving a needle, it moves a finely balanced leaf of metal (the red stripes are visible inside the lens), which reduces the aperture. Insufficient light is signaled by the red flag in the huge viewfinder. Selecting either fast or slow film simply places a filter over the sensor.

This particular model is the “wide”, which seems to be the most common. It works pretty well, being one of the more advanced 127 cameras. It includes a double exposure lock, and a “peg and screw” flash accessory.

Kent Nunamaker is our resident expert on this camera, and he passed in the following info:

On the top left of the viewfinder is a rocker switch. Pushing it forward brings up a red dot; this sets the meter for slower films like Kodachrome, Ektachrome, and Kodacolor which in those days would have been ASA 25 – 32. Pushing the switch back brings up a white dot which sets it for faster films like Super Anscochrome and Verichrome Pan, ASA 64 – 80.

Now, if you lift up the nameplate on the front of the camera, you'll find a manual override normally used for flash but can be used for manual exposures. However, I think if the light is bright (sunlight) the meter may still control the aperture. When the symbol EIE lines up with the yellow arrows, the camera is fully automatic. When you slide the thingie to the left, 'til the red arrow lines up with the red 13, that should be f/8. Number 6= f/11. And number 3= f/16. The numbers in between should be half stops. We estimate that the shutter is between 1/50th and 1/100th.

If you'd like to use filters, I've found the same 31.5mm series V or series VI push on filter adapter that fits my Diana lens, if tweaked a little, will push into the ring around the lens. Lots of older camera stores still have series filters and adapters laying around in drawers, and will probably be very happy to sell them at almost any price. I hope this gives some ideas to anyone lucky enough to have one of these neat cameras.


  • Film Type: 127 Roll Film (twelve 4cm x 4cm exposures per roll)
  • Lens: Unknown focal length (probably around ~60mm), aperture range f/8 – f/45, 2 elements, coated
  • Focus: Fixed Focus (~7 feet to Infinity)
  • Type: Brilliant Viewfinder
  • Shutter: Single Speed Metal Blade
  • Speeds: Approximately 1/50th sec
  • Exposure Meter: Selenium cell automatic exposure with manual override
  • Battery: None
  • Weight: 613 grams
  • Manual:

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Used and new camera providers – RW Jemmett Photography Business Directory Film Processing and Supplies

The Bell and Howell Electric Eye 127 –

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