The Bell & Howell/ Canon Dial 35

In 1963 Bell & Howell created the Dial 35 camera, and had them manufactured by their new partner Canon in Japan. It had several variations including the Dial 35-2 in 1969, which is the model I have.

Bell & Howell came into partnership with Canon in 1961. After many years of creating motion picture cameras they decided to start creating still cameras. The Dial 35 is one of these, and the many variations will have either of their names on the logo or both.

It was a camera that looked like a phone and worked like a clock. Most of you probably don’t know what a rotary phone is, but in the 19th century up into the late 20th phones had what was called a finger wheel. This was the dial on the phone laid out in a circle. You would hold down each number consecutively in the phone number you were dialing, and rotate the wheel around towards the finger stop.

The Dial 35 doesn’t have a rotating finger wheel. It is only cosmetically designed to look like a rotary phone. I am not exactly sure why they chose this design. I wasn’t able to find much info when researching this camera.

Rotary Phone
Rotary Phone
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

The Ins and Outs

The Canon Dial 35 is a half frame camera that gives 72 pictures on 35mm film. It has automatic film advance from a clockwork spring motor located inside the grip of the camera. This grip gets wound up like a toy from that era. This allows you to keep taking pictures until it needs to be wound up once again after each set of 20 pictures. On the film counter the numbers 20 and 40 are set in red so you know it’s time to wind it up again. If the film stops advancing before you reach one of these numbers, it is till safe to rewind the motor if needed. There is even a screw mount located on the bottom of the grip for a tripod.

Picture from the Manual

The ISO numbers are laid out along the circle around the SE 28mm f2.8 Canon lens. The ISO numbers on the original Dial 35 ranges in sets of numbers from 8 to 500. The Dial 35-2 goes from 10-16 up to 640-1000.

The Dial 35 Canon Lens and ISO dial
The ISO dial and Lens

The camera is shutter priority, so you can manually set your shutter speed, which is located on the outside of the lens barrel from 1/30th of a second up to 1/250th. The camera then chooses the aperture for you. It has a needle matching CdS meter with an electric eye located around the lens. The meter reading is in the viewfinder with a distance indicator on the lefthand side. It zone focuses so you would have to guess the distance of your subject and then match the needle up to a picture of a mountain indicating a far away object beyond 15 feet, a blue snapshot symbol for 8-15 feet, and an outline of a human head to indicate 2.5-5 feet away.

The bottom of the field-of-view frame has the aperture numbers laid out with the red zones on the left and right letting you know that you are going to over or under expose and need to adjust your shutter speed. The frame in the viewfinder also has parallax correction marks to use when taking pictures up close.

Dial 35 Viewfinder features from the manual
Picture from the manual

The aperture control can be overridden by pulling out and turning the aperture knob located underneath the viewfinder window. You would also pull this out to turn off the meter when the camera is not in use so as not to waste your battery.

The original battery used was the 1.3 volt mercury battery that would need to be replaced with a modern equivalent. I use the Wein Cell batteries on Amazon.

The inside of the Dial 35
The inside of the Dial 35

There is a hot shoe mount and a PC socket located on the right side of the camera. You could buy a flash cube adapter to use in low light with the meter knob pulled out. The camera syncs with the flash cubes at 1/30th of a second and electronic flash through all speeds.

dial 35 flash cube attachment
Picture from the manual

The left side has a rewind button labeled with the letter R in white. To rewind the film you would first fully wind the motor, push down and turn the button to line up the white dots holding it there, and then the motor would automatically rewind. When it stops, continue to hold down the R button as you manually continue to turn the motor and rewind the film yourself until the counter says S.

The case for the camera looks a little like a coffin, but is a fun design allowing the strap of the camera to hang out for easy carrying.

The Dial 35 camera inside its case
Dial 35 inside its case

My Experience

I first saw this camera on a vintage camera Facebook page many years ago and I loved the way it looked. I have an affinity for all things from the 1960’s, so the design of the camera appealed to me. Back then I wasn’t shooting with my collection of vintage cameras because film wasn’t as readily available as it is becoming today. I had intended to purchase one for display in my cabinet. For some reason that I can’t remember, it may have been price, I never bought one. Now that I am shooting film in my cameras I decided to revisit this camera.

I found one on Ebay for a very cheap price because the seller wasn’t sure if it would work or not. I took a risk because if it didn’t work I wouldn’t mind just having it on display. I was really happy when I got it and figured out how to make it work.

Upon first inspection, I was aggravated by the zone focusing. I have always hated these types of cameras ever since I had a horrible experience with a Kodak Pony 135. I will have to tell that story in another blog post. Surprisingly though, this camera is very easy to navigate and over time I have gotten better at guessing distances.

The lens is surprisingly sharp when you get the distance correct, and I was very happy to discover it takes nice pictures indoors without a flash.

Christmas 2019 This was from a project I was working on called They’re All Angels.

Holding the camera is easy because of the motorized grip. It has some weight to it. It isn’t plastic and cheap despite being an unconventional camera. The viewfinder is nice and bright. Pictures can be taken in landscape or portrait style by turning the camera sideways.

avocado tree
succulents
Picture taken in low light in a bathroom

Conclusion

This camera isn’t one you would use for serious photography. It is a fun camera used more for the experience than for the photos taken with it. Don’t get me wrong though, I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the photos I have been able to get with this camera. I would recommend giving it a try, and even trying it out with your kids. They would probably get a kick out of it as well.Let me know in the comments if you have ever used this camera and what you think of it.

I will continue to use this camera especially when I am stuck indoors and need a camera that can take handheld shots in lowlight. I had good experiences in this scenario using Lomography 800 film and other 400 speed films.

Be sure to check out my other vintage camera reviews, and if you’d like to see more of my photography, please follow my instagram or Facebook.

Photography and Mental Health

A lot of people have asked the question, “Can getting into photography as a hobby help mental health issues?” The short answer: yes.

I have written before about my struggle with anxiety and depression as well as my constant fight with Crohn’s Disease, which all go hand in hand. I also mentioned how much film photography has helped me regarding my health issues. Check out those posts here.

My Story

My entire life I have suffered from severe anxiety. As a little girl, I would literally puke in school every morning. You can imagine I had no friends after that. Teachers didn’t seem to know what was wrong and they weren’t telling my parents this was happening. They only embarrassed and humiliated me in front of the class. Due to this ignorance, I wasn’t even aware of the name of what I was experiencing until I was an adult. The only name I could put to what I was feeling was nauseas, because my mom told me the feeling I was having before I threw up was nausea. So little five year old Aly usually just repeated “I’m nauseas” over and over to people through tears because I had no idea what was wrong with me.

Once I was an adult and in therapy, it was seemingly so simple. I had severe anxiety that comes with being from a broken home, among other things. I had many fears that grew from those years of untreated anxiety that still haunt me as an adult. It has come and gone through out my life, depending on what I am going through at the time.

The anxiety hit an all time high in 2010 when I was diagnosed with, what doctors called, a severe case of Fistulized Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. This rise in nervousness was mainly due to the horrific experiences I had leading up to my diagnosis and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from them.

I had a burst appendix for two weeks without realizing it. The doctors later told me they had no idea how I survived that. After two surgeries and a two month hospital stay, I returned home half the human I was when I went in, both physically and mentally. I weighed 120 pounds when I went in to the emergency room and came home a whopping 80 pounds. I didn’t recognize myself when I walked into my bathroom and looked in the mirror.

I quickly started having nightmares. I couldn’t sleep in my room anymore because it reminded me of the long nights spent laying sick and near death that lead up to my stay in the hospital.

I slept on the couch in the living room with pillows piled under me, because my body was so bony it was painful to sleep without cushions. I had to wear children’s clothing, and I ended up back in the hospital not long after.

Smells such as saline or rubbing alcohol still transport me back to the hospital bed and rough textured sheets remind me of the ones I slept on for two months in the hospital. These triggers got so bad at one point, that in 2017 I was going to physical therapy at a rehab located in a wing off the emergency room and the smells alone triggered me into panic so bad I couldn’t go back there. I even had to change hotel rooms on vacation one time, because the front door and lighting triggered my memory of that hospital stay.

Soon, these panic attacks culminated into a fear that I would have them anywhere, and I didn’t want to leave home. I still struggle with agoraphobia.

I have always actively sought out help from mental health facilities, but unfortunately when you are on the state funded insurance I have to be on with disability, access to quality healthcare, let alone mental healthcare, is non existent, at least where I live. I would sit in crowded offices for hours just to be yelled at and treated like an addict for needing anxiety meds. I was being judged by a juror before they even spent time enough to know anything about me.

Sitting in these tiny waiting rooms with so many people only made my panic attacks worse, and soon going to doctors appointments became another fear I couldn’t conquer.

On top of the horrible experiences with psychologists, the therapists I had to choose from left me at square one. They often would spend the appointment telling me their problems. Then I found a place that actually had therapists come to your home for sessions. I loved that but didn’t love that every single one I had would just disappear. They would all one day not show up for an appointment. Then I’d call the office and find out they quit and no one bothered to tell me. This happened four separate times. No wonder so many feel there is no where to turn sometimes.

I didn’t know what to do or where to turn for help. It was my own private hell waking up, and the first thing I’d think about was what doctors appointment I had to fear that day. Every night before bed I couldn’t sleep until exhaustion took over and I finally passed out. Even medication wasn’t helping. I tried self help books like Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway I used an app called Dare where a man with an accent spoke to me in a calm voice. These things helped for a minute, up until my next doctors appointment, or my next stint in a hospital.

It wasn’t until this last hospital stay in the summer of 2019 for a Crohn’s flare up that something positive finally came from all the suffering I have been experiencing.

After two weeks of extremely high doses of steroids, the doctors were beginning to really worry that they weren’t going to be able to get this flare under control. It really scared me. I had many different Gastroenterologists on my case, and none of them were communicating with each other, so they were all giving me differing opinions on my state and what I should do about it. As always I had to take my health into my own hands and make my own decisions.

Eventually, the steroids started working and I went home, but not before it took its toll on my body and my mind. I have mentioned in past blogs that when I came home I quickly found out my legs were weakened significantly by the strong steroids and the two weeks straight that I spent in that hospital bed. The pain I had any time I tried to walk, even to the bathroom, was so intense that I had to get a commode to put by my bed, and I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without needing help getting back.

A Turning Point

As I lay in my bed during those days I worried I’d never walk again. Doctors couldn’t give me any real answers, and still haven’t, as to what is really going on with my body. Could it be the Crohn’s, the steroids, or both? I only get the look of uncertainty from every doctor I’ve seen. You can imagine the amount of anxiety this uncertainty gives me.

In the beginning, the prednisone kept me up until late into the night and woke me up at sunrise every morning. I decided to start taking advantage of the energy it gave me by getting up and walking at first just out the front door, and take pictures of the sunrise with my digital camera.

As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time on social media during my time in bed. I joined a vintage camera collectors page on Facebook and everyday the pictures posted on there of the cameras cheered me up and kept my mind preoccupied. I decided to start looking at my collection again, and see if there were any I could shoot film with.

First, I purchased an Argus C3 because it was one I had always wanted to have in my collection. I even learned how to take it apart and clean it up. I decided to make a video of it and even started a YouTube channel. I never thought I would ever do this, but I really want to help people the way this hobby had been helping me. Two friends of mine Tabbie and Vicky, encouraged me to start the channel and I am glad they did. I can still remember how happy I felt after I finished that first video. It felt like an accomplishment. I was so weak and tired and in pain at the time, that I collapsed in bed afterwards, but it started something for me that I will continue to do as long as it continues to help myself and others.

My Argus C3 Matchmatic

Then I saw IT. The camera that would start it all. On the Vintage Camera Facebook page I started seeing many posts about the beautiful Nikon F modular system of cameras. It was love at first sight. If you go back to July of 2019 on my Instagram pictures, you will see this love unfolding when I got my first Nikon F camera from eBay. My arms were still very weak from the hospital, especially my right arm that had the IV’s in them for two weeks keeping my arm immovable at times. So it was difficult to even lift the camera to my eye, but I didn’t care.

You can see in those pictures that I lay in bed just playing with the camera and reading about it online. I started to drown myself in film photography and cameras and it gave me something to live for. It gave me a reason to get up and push my legs and push through the pain. I was still so anxious, but this time it was a good anxiety. I was anxious to get outside and shoot some film with my, new to me, vintage camera.

Pic I took of my first Nikon F while stuck in bed

At first, I would have Kelsey walk me out the front door where I’d take two or three pictures of the flowers there before my shins would tighten up and the pain would become unbearable, and she’d have to help me back to my bed.

I looked forward to these two minutes every morning.
The rest of the day I spent researching more about film and different cameras while I lay in bed waiting for doctors to get back to me about what to do next. I had no idea if I should be forcing myself to walk through the pain. At this point, they weren’t sure if I had necrosis in my hip or shin splints because of my symptoms. I started having horrendous spasms in my hips and knees so bad that my doctor’s medical assistant told me to go to the ER. I couldn’t bare the thought of going back there though, so I dealt with the pain until I could get in to see my doctor using a wheelchair, and had some tests done to rule out anything serious that could be happening.

Once those tests were done, and serious things were ruled out, the doctor put in for physical therapy. My insurance gave me a very hard time, but months later I did recently get approved. In the meantime, I continued to get up every morning and go out in my yard to take pictures. Little by little, it strengthened my arms and my legs enough to where I can at least walk without assistance around the house. I talk more about this in my video about the Canon TX. I still need a wheel chair in some instances when a lot of walking is involved, but progress is progress.

I started bringing a camera with me anytime I left the house. It has been like having a support animal. My mind is occupied on what pictures I can take from the car window on the way to my appointments. Check out my article on how I shoot street photography from my car. This has helped me tremendously with my anxiety leading up to appointments and even during them.

Taken outside of the doctors office

Turn Your Broken Heart into Art

The UK based website NoPanic.org says, “Taking up a hobby is a great way to ease anxiety or stress. It gives you something enjoyable to focus on, at the same time taking your mind off anything negative that you may be experiencing. Pleasurable pastimes can be a good way to calm down an overactive mind, alleviate anxiety and lower panic symptoms.”

I totally agree with this. Of course, there is so much more to staying mentally healthy, and I am not a doctor, but this has proven to be one tool that has helped me immensely when all other things had been failing. I highly recommend if you are thinking about getting into photography as a way to help your anxiety and depression, give it a try. Start small and do not put a lot of pressure on yourself. Especially being on social media like instagram, it can start to get overwhelming when you jump into the film photography community; it can be overwhelming for someone who is already suffering from anxiety. Wanting to be noticed on there and feelings of inadequacy can creep in, but there is also a great many people who are going through the same things and who understand, because they’re most likely using photography as some sort of an outlet as well.

Me with my Canon TX

Use your camera as a mask, a buffer to look through when you’re scared of a situation. It can feel like a protection in some instances. In the end, photography is a welcome distraction from all the thoughts that inevitably race through the mind of an anxious person.

Carrie Fisher, well known in a galaxy far, far away as well as for her fight with depression and bipolar disorder, once said, “take your broken heart and turn it into art.” Really, any creative outlet can serve this purpose. In the past, I have used drawing as a way to express myself. That is why the arts are so important. Find one that feels like an outlet for you and do it everyday.

My Drawing of a Mandalorian from Star Wars. The colors and strokes I used with the pastels show that I was feeling something and releasing something when I drew it.
My drawing of a lion in 2016. You can tell by the strokes I used in his mane that I was feeling something when I drew this.

So why film photography? With a digital camera you get that instant gratification. You see the picture right away, but then that’s it. It’s like taking a drug for pain. It numbs you for a short period of time, but then you’re usually right back where you started, with the same pain you began with. For someone with an exhausted, anxious mind, having to stop and think about your metering, your film choice, and making each shot count is, in my opinion, much more valuable. The distraction lasts all the way through the process of waiting for your film to come back and going through your scans. It can even go further with editing and posting to social media, all while you start over and do it again shooting another roll in the meantime.

Film isn’t for everyone. If there is something else you enjoy doing, do it. I lost my brother in law last year when he took his own life. The one year anniversary is in two days. I remember when he was so ensconced in his hobby of building his truck and racing at a local track. It kept him going until he hurt his hand and couldn’t do it anymore. The medical system failed him. The stigma put on mental health failed him. Of course, when you’re grieving you can find a myriad of things to blame. In the end, it’s never just one thing. Depression and anxiety are complicated. They are serious. Never forget they are common, and they are manageable. You just have to invest in yourself. You are worth the investment. Invest time to talk to someone, to journal, to pick up a camera and forget about everything else for a few hours.

I know it’s exhausting. I know when you’re anxious or depressed it feels like a dark cloud following you overhead, putting pressure on your shoulders zapping you of all your energy, but you are worth the energy.

Check out the Too Tired Project on Instagram. They offer a place for those suffering with depression to submit your work and to express yourself creatively.

Let me know in the comments how you express yourself creatively to release some of your anxious thoughts and deal with your depression and anxiety. I am always looking for ways to cope.

If you are feeling hopeless or need someone to talk to please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline. YOU ARE WORTH THE ENERGY. You never know how many lives would be affected if you weren’t in them.