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