I’ve restored this cute little Japanese half-frame 35mm camera with a metering conversion from selenium to CdS, and the addition of adjustable focus. Here’s the story. My collection includes different cameras for different purposes or moods. Sometimes it’s great to slow the process down, and agonise over the precise technical details of every shot. Other …
The late 1950s saw a brief peak in the popularity of cameras taking twelve 4×4 cm images on 127 film. They offered better-than-35mm quality without the bulk of a 6×6 medium format camera. The USP of the 4×4 size was the option to shoot transparencies as SuperSlides, which could be projected using most 35mm slide projectors. Tourist attractions would sell pre-shot SuperSlides as mementos, which drove a market for consumer-level cameras in the same format.
Universal Camera Corporation launched their Univex Mercury CC model in 1938, along with their proprietary #200 series films. It’s basically 35mm film, but on an open roll. The manual shows it having paper backing on the ends only, a bit like 220 film, to protect it from light while loading. Trouble is, the backing paper is perforated, which rather defeats the object.
The camera is often described as ‘half frame’ but that’s not strictly true. The image size is 25x19mm in portrait format, so it will just touch the perforations on both sides of 35mm film. Each frame winds the film on by 4.5 perforations, more than half of the 8 perforations for a full 35mm frame. The frame counter goes up to 36.
Throughout lockdown, I’ve looked at my camera display cupboard every day. The fact that I can see my collection easily from my home desk is one of the perks of WFH. The Purma Special looks particularly pretty sitting there, and I’ve often wondered if it can be a serious picture-taking machine in 2021. As the government restrictions began to ease, I planned to find out.
I’ve designed and 3D printed some film holders that work well with cut strips, and the models are free to download on Thingiverse.
It can be a faff to digitise your negatives with a DSLR and get good results. The negatives need to be held flat, but many people report getting ‘Newton’s rings’ interference patterns when they’re just weighted down directly onto a lightbox. Then there’s the light source itself — it’s hard to get a completely even area of pure white light.