Alpa Reflex Cameras from Switzerland

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The History of the Alpa Reflex Camera
The Beginning
Jacques Bogopolsky aka Bolsky aka Boolsky aka Bolsey

History of the Bolex Camera
from Australian Cinematographer
by Gerry Liedtke

The story of the Alpa Cameras starts with a Ukrainian engineer and designer named Jacques Bogopolsky, based in Geneva, who developed a 35mm cine camera aimed at the growing amateur cine market. The design was patented in 1924 as the BOL-Cinegraphe.

However as the popularity of sub standard film gauges took favour, Jacques produced a 16mm camera, the Auto Cine camera. This was the first product sold under the Bolex name.

In 1930 Jacques sold the business to Paillard, of Switzerland, which was founded in 1814 by Moises Paillard making musical box movements. At the end of the nineteenth century the Paillard family joined the Thorens family by marriage and started producing phonographs, gramophones, clockwork motors and typewriters.

Following the amalgamation of the Bol company with Paillard they moved to the St. Croix base of Paillard in Switzerland to form Bolex-Paillard, where the designs of Jacques continued to be produced and developed.

Jacques later left to join the Pignons company in Switzerland and develop a series of high quality 35mm still cameras including the Bolsey Reflex and the Bolca 1, which became the Alpa camera. He died in 1962.

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TheCinégraphe Bol with lens could
also be used as a projector

The following is an extract from

Tops and Flops - a short history of ALPA

In 1933, Pignons SA first made contact with the technical designer Jacques Bogopolsky, who also called himself Bolsky or Boolsky or Bolsey at times.

Born in the Ukraine under the name of Bogopolsky, he studied medicine in Geneva and in 1924 opened a company there, Bol SA, to market his 35mm movie camera Cinématographe Bol and later his 16mm Bolex. To this day Bolex is a world-famous name in 8mm and 16mm motion picture cameras.

Jacques Bolsky designed his first camera in 1923, the Cinegraph Bol. It was a 35mm camera, for still or motion picture photography, that could also be used as a projector.

In 1927 he introduced a movie camera called the Bolec. It later became the Bolex, and the rights to the design was sold to Paillard in 1931.

The Bolca was his next design, which later evolved into the Bolsey Reflex. In 1939 the rights to this design was sold to Pigeons S.A., and it became the Alpa. By the time this had happened, Bolsky had left his native Switzerland, and had immigrated to the United States, and had changed his name to Bolsey. he felt it was time to design a camera that was of high quality, yet was affordable to the general public.

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In 1930 Paillard SA of Ste-Croix took over Bol/Bolex SA and appointed Bolsky engineering consultant to the newly-created department Ciné-Bolex. Ten years later Bolsky exchanged Europe for the USA, leaving the ALPA forerunners (developed since 1933) to Pignons SA.

In the USA, Bolsky had some success with the movie and photo cameras of his Bolsey Corp. of America, New York. The very first Bolsey cameras were manufactured by Pignons SA, but soon newly developed designs appeared under the Bolsey name, manufactured by the Obex Corp. of Long Island, NY.

On 1st of June 1956 this company also took over the marketing of Bolsey Corp. products. Jacques Bolsey died suddenly in the USA on January 20, 1962, at the age of 66.

The Bolsey line of cameras were born. It started with the Model B. Many other models followed. But the economy slowed, and the pressure from inexpensive imports was too much for Bolsey's company to withstand.

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In 1956 he sold everything to the Wittenauer Watch Co. He had also sold the design for the low end model that was slated to become the Model A to LaBelle. They sold it under the name LaBelle Pal.

Bolsey wasn't done yet. He went back to movie cameras, and designed one of the smallest 8mm movie cameras, which could also take stills. The Bolsey 8 was doomed by the change of the market to Super 8. Jacques Bolsey died in 1962.


Jürgen Lossau
Atoll Medien, Hamburg, 2000
(with extensive Biografy of Boolsky)

Max Abegg:
Wie es zur Weltmarke Bolex kam
Film&Foto, Jan 1973

Siegbert Fischer
Jacques Bogopolsky
der Mann, der Bolex, Alpa und Bolsey enwickelte
Cabinett 14/1998

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