Mercury II – 57/99

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United States 1946 – Compact – 35 mm – Rare.

Often called the “hunchback” for obvious reasons, the Mercury was first released in 1938 by the Universal Camera Group (also known as Univex). Univex then suspended their camera-making operations during World War II to manufacture binoculars for the armed forces. The Mercury II went into production in 1946 when operations were restarted.

Cast from a heavy aluminum/magnesium alloy (that unfortunately does not retain luster) and covered with leather, the Mercury II is a half-frame 35 mm camera offering 65 exposures per standard film. It was not only unlike anything Univex had offered before, it was actually a revolutionary achievement. Specifically it included a unique rotary shutter (responsible for the circular protrusion on top of the camera) that enabled extremely accurate speeds up to 1/1000th of a second. Additionally, the Mercury was the first camera to have internal flash synchronization triggered by direct contact with the foot of the flash unit, known today as the hot shoe.

This uniquely recognizable design was made even more peculiar by the fact that both the sides of the “hunch” were covered with tables on depth of focus, and a complex 3 level rotary matching table to calculate exposure time covered most of the back panel. At first sight the Mercury is probably one of the most verbose cameras ever made.

The most sought after version is the Mercury CC-1500 that was released pre-war and claimed a shutter speed of 1/1500 to beat the Leitz and Zeiss that advertised 1/1250 at the time. The Mercury CC-1500 was produced in less that 3000 copies.

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