|March 31, 2013||Posted by Photo GearHead under Cool Gear Auctions|
The Universal Camera Corporation was founded in 1932 by partners Otto W. Githens and Jacob J. Shapiro in New York city. Its initial base of operations was located at 521 South Avenue in New York and later moved to 23 West Road. The Universal Camera Company was best known for its production of both still and cine cameras and projectors, as well as binoculars and various military instruments. Most of their cameras were released under the “Univex” brand name. The company became insolvent in 1952, but, somehow, it didn’t actually cease operations until twelve years later in 1964.
Within the Universal/Univex line of interesting cameras was the Univex Mercury II. Launched in 1945 as an update to the earlier Univex Mercury, the Mercury II added many features that were lacking in its Mercury I predecessor — the Mercury I having originally been designed more than a decade earlier. The Mercury II was a range-finder type camera that shot 35mm film and achieved a possible 65 exposures on a single roll of 35mm film by half-sizing the images and placing two 18×18mm exposures onto a single 35mm film frame. (Mucho econimical, Poncho! Mucho economical!) It featured aluminum/magnesium alloy construction, galilean optical view-finder, a rotary metal focal plane shutter capable of speeds ranging from 1/20th of a second to 1/1000th of a second, and with added shutter settings for “T” (time) and “B” (bulb). It also featured interchangeable lenses.
So, you’ve never heard of the Univex/Universal Camera Company? Well, that’s not really all that surprising. It seems that there’s no shortage of people who apparently haven’t. However, Universal’s contributions to camera technology were, in fact, invaluable to photography. Believe it or not, the flash hot-shoe was a Univex first — as was the optical viewfinder! They also would have been the very first company to ever release an SLR camera as well, but their experiments with an SLR design proved problematic and they abandoned the concept before bringing any SLR type of camera to market, and took their designs in another direction.
The auction today for a Univex Mercury II has a starting price of $75.00. Is that a good price? Well… who knows? The seller appears silent in terms of the camera’s functionality, and its overall condition. And, of course, such things can have a drastic impact on the value of the camera — although, judging by the images that the seller has made available, the camera does appear to be in good condition, even if functionality can’t be determined.
I couldn’t find any information on going prices for the Mercury II CX, but it seems that the Mercury I CC model is currently selling for upwards of $350.00 USD for a specimen in top condition and working order. For a model in average-ish condition, the Mercury I still seems to regularly fetch around twice the seller’s opening price for the Mercury II CX. Now, as to how the Mercury II stacks up to its predecessor in terms of value is unknown to this writer. However, it should be noted that the Mercury II is the, currently, more usable camera — as, the Mercury I used Univex/Universal manufactured film in a non-standard size. The Mercury II, however, uses standard 35mm film.
The auction for this Universal / Univex Mercury II CX model camera is set to expire on April 7th. There are no bids as of the time of this writing. The sale can be viewed by following this link.
Other interesting Mercury II tidbits:
• Some images taken with a Univex Mercury II, plus commentary, can be viewd at this website located at The Living Image Vintage Camera Museum.
• An on-line manual in .PDF format for the Univex Mercury II can be found at this web page at Butkus.Org.