The Mercury was fun to shoot, if a bit different. Focus is by scale only. Aperture is varied on the front of the lens. There is a depth of field scale on the front of the ‘parking meter’ bump, and a complicated manual exposure scale on the back of the camera. (I ignored it and used the Sunny 16 rule.)
Shutter speed is changed by adjusting a knob on the front of the camera, and a similar knob is used to wind the film and set the shutter.
The only control on the top plate is the shutter release.
In use, the rotary shutter design gives no audible feedback about speed. 1/1000 takes just as long and sounds the same as 1/15. It feels odd. There is also no way to verify film advance.
And there is the problem.
When I unloaded to develop it felt like the film had not been advancing correctly, and the developing tank confirmed my fears. Blank.
Better luck next time.
(Coming up: either the Nikon L35 or Olympus Stylus. I haven’t decided yet.)
I can’t remember when I first heard about the Univex Mercury, but I immediately knew I wanted one. Introduced in 1938 by the Universal Camera Company of New York, the Mercury was intended to compete with high-end German cameras of the time. It was the first American camera to achieve a shutter speed of 1/1000 by virtue of its interesting rotary shutter.
The shutter consists of two disks which rotate together at a fixed speed. Each disk has a hole, and adjusting the shutter speed setting adjusts the amount of overlap of the disks. Thus, the ‘window’ to the film opens for a shorter or longer time. The rotary shutter is responsible for the bulge on top of the body and for the nickname ‘parking meter.’ This design also limits the camera to half-frame exposures.
The Mercury was also reportedly the first camera with a synchronized hot shoe for flash, but I don’t have the flash attachment for mine.
Later Mercury II versions used standard 35mm film cartridges; my original version uses proprietary film which is no longer available. Fortunately you can load and unload unspooled film in the darkroom.
I’ve been carrying the Mercury for a couple of weeks, and the film is in the tank right now. Hopefully I will have scans soon.
eBay – Mercurys aren’t currently very expensive, but you should hold out for the Mercury II unless you have access to a darkroom
Well, the N8000 wasn’t a complete failure.
By that I mean it made images, and even decent ones.
As a 3D camera, I’m not impressed. The amount of time needed to make a decent animation is more than I’m willing to spend. Perhaps better software could save it.
As a camera in general, the 3D ‘function’ compromises its usefulness. It’s large and cumbersome, with limited controls. On my example there is a problem with the film advance causing it to alternately skip exposures and then to double expose. I expected to find ripped sprocket holes when the film returned from the lab, but I didn’t.
I left the images in half-frame diptychs as they came from the scanner. If you look closely near the edges you can see how the 3D effect was achieved.
Back on the shelf with it. I can’t say I’d recommend buying one.
For this week I’ve trotted out a curiosity. The Nishika N8000 is a stereo camera from the early 1990’s. It uses fixed focus lenses to take 4 simultaneous half-frame exposures on 35mm film. It was originally intended to use lenticular printing to create 3D images which could be seen with the naked eye. (Think of those bookmarks with jumping kittens or galloping horses which appear to move when you tilt them.)
The idea never caught on, and the technology is largely dead. The camera still takes stereo exposures though, which I will attempt to stitch together into GIFs. Even if I don’t succeed, the resulting images should be interesting.
The camera has one fixed shutter speed and a switch on the front for 3 different apertures. An LED in the viewfinder lights if flash is needed. There is no built in flash, but there is a hot shoe. Everything is designed to work with 100 ASA film only.
I didn’t read the instructions this morning, so I’ve loaded a roll of 200 ASA color. I’m taking it to a muster tomorrow, but the weather is supposed to be gray. I’m sure I can compensate with the aperture switch.
Camera-wiki is a bit thin on information, but you can follow the links to see its cousins the N9000 and the Nimslo 3D
They’re usually available on eBay.
The Chaika II is a handy little camera. It easily fit in my pocket and took decent images. The half-frame format would be nice for a travelogue, as you can fit up to 72 images on one roll of film. In this case, I was impatient so I spooled a short roll of HP5 and carried it for only a few days.
I had a better time with the scale focus than usual; my shots were actually in focus. A maximum shutter speed of 1/250 and 400ASA film meant I was usually shooting with minimum aperture and high depth of field. Part way through the roll the film advance began to skip, producing a few interesting double exposures. Strangely, the problem cleared after a few frames.
Once I reached the end of the roll, I hit a snag. The camera has no rewind crank. A bit of study revealed that the film type indicator on the bottom of the camera doubles as a rewind wheel. It’s not obvious, but it works.
The half frame images confuse my scanner. In most cases I let the machine scan them as pairs. The resulting diptychs are often cooler than the individual images.
Ilford HP5+/Rodinal 1+100 stand developed 60 minutes
Produced sometime between 1967 and 1972, this pocket sized Russian camera shoots half-frame images on standard 35mm film. It has shutter speeds up to 1/250 and a 2.8/28mm fixed lens with scale focus. Interestingly, it has a flash sync port but no accessory shoe for mounting a flash. Mine is an export version with Roman lettering and the words “Made in USSR” embossed on the back.
I wasn’t really thinking when I loaded it with HP5, as the 400 ASA may prove too fast for the shutter.
Soviet Cams is a nice reference for, well, Soviet camera information.
They show up regularly on eBay for reasonable prices, but do be careful. Sellers will often post the body only without any lens.
Shooting with the Pen EES2 was not as fun as I had hoped. I haven't worked with it enough to trust the selenium/automatic combination. I could trust an uncoupled selenium meter because I can compare its readings to my opinion. With this camera however, I never know exactly what it's doing.
The size and weight are nice though. With more practice, I think I could come to like it.
The results were unfortunately a failure. Even with the twin miracles of film scanning and photo manipulation, I was unable to salvage any presentable images. I have captured nice shots in the past with this camera, so I believe the problem was with my flea market film. I will put the camera back on the shelf for another day, and I'll shoot a test roll of the film in a known camera.
In the interim, here are a few good shots from the Olympus Pen EES2 from earlier this year.
Channel Marker, Salisbury Beach Reservation
Shot on in-date,cold stored Ilford HP5+.
For this week's camera, we swing the pendulum from medium format to sub-miniature. The Olympus Pen EES-2 is a half-frame camera from 1968-1971. It uses regular 35mm film, but it produces a 24x18mm image instead of the usual 24×36. This makes it a great camera for traveling, as you can fit up to 72 images on one roll.
The EES-2 uses a 30mm f2.8 lens which is roughly equivalent to 45mm on a full-frame camera. It's a viewfinder camera with a guess focus system. The lens barrel has four pictographs ranging from portrait to landscape with a positive notch at each. Exposure is automatically controlled using a selenium cell mounted circumferentially around the lens. Exposures from f2.8 to f22 may also be manually selected with what I believe is a 1/40 shutter speed. Automatic shutter speeds are 1/40 or 1/200. It has both a hot shoe and a flash sync socket.
The Pen series of cameras was designed to be small and light for everyday use. While it is a nice size, I don't find it appreciably smaller than a lot of my other cameras. If fact, it is both larger and heavier than my Olympus 35RC rangefinder.
I'm using mystery film this week. I found a pair of bulk loaders with film for $10 at a flea market last weekend. The right thing would be to run a test roll, but instead I've loaded a short roll in the Pen. I don't have the patience for a full roll of 48 or 72 shots. I've discovered in the darkroom that the film appears to be good Kodak Tri-X 400. As I don't know how old it is, I've rated it at 320ASA. We'll know soon.
Olympus Pen series at Camera-Wiki
Manual from Mike Butkus
Oly Pen EE-series on eBay.