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Debrie Sept

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The Debrie Sept is a French spring-driven camera, taken 18×24mm exposures on 35mm film. It can be used for still pictures as well as for cine sequences. It can also be transformed into a movie projector or enlarger by adding a lamp house.

Origin Edit

The camera originated as the F.A.C.T. Autocinephot made by the Italian company F.A.I.T. and distributed by Giuseppe Tartara in the late 1910s; then was modified as the Sept, initially offered by the same company around 1920.[1] It is said that 150 examples of the original Autocinephot were made.[2] The design of the Sept was then sold to the French company André Debrie, which produced it from 1922 or 1923 to 1927.[3] The Debrie Sept met some success in the United States, and was one of the first 35mm still cameras produced in some quantity. It was initially priced at $225, this was soon dropped to $150, then $100.[4] The price in France was FF2,100 in 1923 with a Roussel lens, and FF2,550 with a Zeiss Tessar.[5] The name Sept ("seven" in French) was perhaps an allusion to the seven functions of the camera: still camera, sequential camera, cine camera, still projector, cine projector, enlarger and cine transfer machine.[6]

Features Edit

The Sept takes perforated 35mm film in reloadable cassettes. Film was sold in five-metre rolls, allowing to take 250 exposures in 18×24mm format.[7] The outfit pictured in this page includes a leather case which can contain the camera with four additional cassettes, allowing to carry a total of five rolls, for an impressive total of 1,250 exposures.

The film runs vertically and the internals are closer to a cine camera than to a regular still camera. The main door is hinged to the right and is locked by a latch at the front. It has two keys used to open and close the film cassettes. The indications OUVERT and FERMÉ respectively mean "Open" and "Closed".

The back has an exposure counter at the bottom and an opening panel in the middle, used to attach a light source, transforming the camera into an enlarger or film projector. There is a waist-level brilliant finder at the top, whose front element comes out to act as an eye-level finder in combination with a pivoting eyepiece on the rear.

The camera can be used as a cine transfer machine as well. The light source is attached to the back and the lens is covered, then the negatives are fed through two slits at the top and bottom, protected by sliding panels. They are then transferred onto unexposed film loaded in the camera itself, thus obtaining positives for cine projection.

The motor housing is removable and is coupled to the main body by a square key. At least two types exist: the early one is square and the late one, introduced in 1925, is rounded.[8] The main release is placed at the top, and the camera cannot function without it. On the side, there is a large key, turned clockwise to wind the spring motor, and a knob with three positions: C for Cinéma or Continu (continuous shooting), P for Pose (Bulb setting) and I for Instantané (Instant setting, about 1/60).[9] The main release is shaped so as to stay in place when pushed down and outwards; the camera will run as long as it is held down when the knob is in "C" position.

The 50/3.5 lens is mounted on a focusing helical. The reported lenses are the Roussel Stylor, Berthiot Stellor, Krauss or Zeiss Tessar, Optis Anastigmat and Huet Anastigmat.[10]

Various engravings are found on the front plate. The example pictured in this page has SOCIÉTÉ FRANÇAISE SEPT PARIS at the top and CONSTRUIT PAR LES ÉTABLISSEMENTS ANDRÉ DEBRIE PARIS at the bottom, together with the serial number, a large 7 SEPT logo and the mention MADE IN FRANCE. The serial number consists of one letter and five digits, and the last four digits are engraved on the inner side of the motor housing on this particular example.

Notes Edit

  1. Malavolti, p.260.
  2. Malavolti, p.260; this page at
  3. 1923–7: McKeown, p.244, and this page at Lothrop, A Century of Cameras, says 1922.
  4. Lothrop, A Century of Cameras.
  5. Advertisement reproduced here at Photoptic.
  6. This is suggested in this page at Photoptic and in this page of the Greek Film + Foto Technik Museum.
  7. 250 exposures: McKeown, p.244; this page at
  8. McKeown, p.244. See also this page at Photoptic. Introduced in 1925: Lothrop, A Century of Cameras.
  9. 1/60 speed: this page at Subclub.
  10. Roussel Stylor pictured this page at Photoptic. Huet Anastigmat pictured in this page and here at Photoptic. Optis Anastigmat reported in Lothrop, A Century of Cameras. Berthiot Stellor and Krauss Tessar reported in this page at Zeiss Tessar listed in the advertisement reproduced here at Photoptic.

Bibliography Edit

Links Edit

In English:

In French:

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