F. and S. Marriott 140 Newbegin, Hornsea, England, HU18 1PB

May 2010. Stephanie died peacefully on 19th April after a short stay in hospital. She had been suffering from acute cervical cancer. Fred will continue to run the business to the best of his ability. The web site is slowly getting under control again as he tries to take over some of Stephanie's responsibilities, and learns some of the mysteries of Dreamweaver.

Pieces An on-line look at cameras etc. by Stephanie Marriott

Introduction

Univex Mercury

Univex AF cameras

Straight-8 Cine Cameras

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June 1999

Introduction. In the October 1998 'Pieces' I referred to the small number of well-known names involved in both still and cine equipment manufacture. The Universal Camera Corporation is a good example of a lesser-known company - at least, it is less well-known in Europe, although I suspect quite well-known in the US - which both had cameras made and, later, manufactured cameras themselves. They introduced some interesting cameras, both still and cine, but they also broadened access to photography, especially in the early years of the company, by making many of their cameras reasonably priced, to appeal to a mass-market.

The Universal Camera Company was started in 1932, by two businessmen with no previous photographic business experience. Otto Githens and Jacob Shapiro were in their thirties when they got together to start a company, having met while both were working on the financial side of the taxicab business, one in loans, the other in insurance.

The business went bankrupt in 1952, and was bought out. It continued trading, under new ownership, until the early 1960s. In 1964, 12 years after filing for bankruptcy, the proceedings officially ended.

During the lifetime of the company, they made far more cameras than I can list here. I can only recommend, to anyone interested in the subject, that you try to get a copy of The Univex Story by Cynthia A. Repinski (publ. Centennial Photo Services, 1991, ISBN 0-931838-17-7)

The Univex Mercury Cameras: Probably the best-known of the Univex cameras, the Mercury has a distinctive appearance, due to the housing for the rotary focal plane shutter which extends above the top plate like a halo. This shutter is similar to that found on a cine camera. It has a 1/10 second rotation, and varying shutter speeds are obtained by changing the size of a slot in the shutter. It is reputed to be extremely accurate and reliable. The cameras use 35 mm. film, but wound onto a special spool, not in a cassette. Film leader is required to prevent fogging.

The Mercury Model CC, now usually called the Model 1, was introduced in 1938. When originally introduced, it had a 35 mm. f/3.5 Wollensack Tricor lens, and cost $25. Other verions have aWollensack f/2.7 Tricor lens or a Wollensack f/2 Hexar lens. The rotating focal plane shutter gives speeds from 1/20 second up to 1/1000 second, but a special version was produced for a very short time with a top speed of 1/1500 second. With the f/2 Hexar lens, this version cost $65 in 1939, and the limited production (about 3,000 are believed to have been made) means that this now a rare camera (unlike the standard model, which is fairly common in the US, although not so common in Europe).

The Model CX, also called the Model II, was introduced after the Second World War, when Univex returned to camera production. It is very similar to the Mercury I, but uses the standard 35 mm. cassette, and it was supplied with Universal-made, coated f/2.7 or f/3.5 lenses. It takes 65 exposures on a 36-exposure 35 mm. film. When introduced, at the end of 1945, the camera cost about $65. It sold well, world-wide, and is now common, especially in the US.

The Univex AF cameras. If the Mercury cameras are memorable for their rotary shutters, the AF cameras were remarkable for their price; in 1935, when the camera was introduced, it cost $1.It is a simple, folding camera, made of cast aluminium and finished in enamel. There was a choice of five colours - black, grey, brown, light green and light blue. The light green and light blue are now rare, as are some of the special models with promotional faceplates. The shutter allows for snapshots and time exposures. The AF required a special Univex film, designated #00, giving 6 exposures.

The AF-2 has a black finish, with red and silver front plate, and a few minor changes to the design. It was sold with a "Karry Kase" for $1.

The AF-3 has a better lens, and a silver-finish front plate; in 1935, it cost $2.50, inlcuding a "Karry Kase".

The AF-4 looks identical to the AF-3, except for small changes to the front plate. It came out about 1937, and it was sold without a case, at $1.95.

The final model, the Minicam AF-5, has an Ilex 60 mm. Achromar lens, a wire frame-finder and an optical viewfinder and an eye-catching antique bronze finish. The camera sold for $3.50, and the ever-ready case was an extra $1. Note that some AF-5 cameras are identified as "Minicam" and others are not.

Production of all AF cameras appears to have ceased in about 1939.

Univex straight-8 cine cameras. The original range of 8 mm. cine cameras produced by Univex all took a non-standard, single run, 8 mm. film on a special film spool. Geveart contracted to make the film, usually called either 'single-8' or 'straight-8'. I prefer the term 'straight-8', as there is then no risk of confusion with the much later, completely different and unrelated Japanese Single-8 system.

The first of these low-cost cine cameras was the A-8, introduced in 1936 and sold for $9.95. This is a simple, clockwork, single speed (16 f.p.s) camera, with an interchangeable lens mount. The camera was supplied with an Ilex Univar f/5.6 lens. It has an open-frame finder, but an optical viewfinder was available as an accessory.

The B-8 is similar to the A-8, but with the frame finder replaced by an optical viewfinder. The black finish of the A-8 is superseded by a bronze enamel finish. The B-8 was launched in 1939, when it cost $9.95.

However, the C-8, introduced in about 1938, had a built-in optical viewfinder, rather than the clumsy-looking tubular finder of the B-8. It cost ,with f/5.6 lens, only $12.50.

Also launched in 1939 was the C-8 Turret model, which is like the C-8, but with a three-lens rotating turret, and viewfinder masks which automatically come into play when the taking lens changes. It was supplied with a Univar f/4.5 lens, at $25 or with a Univar f/3.5 lens at $29.95 - both prices are those applicable in 1939.

 
Note: I like to give price information in both sterling and American dollars. However, this information is not always available to me, in which case I use whichever I can get. I do not convert from one currency to the other; market conditions vary and camera prices were often very different in the U.S.A. and Britain, so conversion would not give an accurate picture.

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