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Univex Mercury II or Universal Mercury CX or Universal Mercury II
Old 07-28-2011   #1
pinkarmy
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Univex Mercury II or Universal Mercury CX or Universal Mercury II

may be it's just me:
i have a thing for "ugly" thing.
that happened before -- thing i found "ugly" at first just haunted me and i would eventually love it later.
(perhaps "ugly" is not the correct word, "characteristic" is more like it.)

i am talking about the Mercury II.
i read about it in every article on half frame cameras collection --and more often, articles on "the ugliest cameras on earth etc".



it looks like a kitschy prop from a low budget sci-fi cult movie.
people call it from "parking meter" (right here in RFF i think) to "mickey mouse", hardly a compliment.

that said, i can't help getting one recently.
and i LOVE it!
i even love the oxidization of the untreated aluminum camera body, looks and feels just like a Herman Miller made Eames "aluminum group" chair!

everything about this camera is different: the look (i mean THE look), the operations, the shutter sound.

mine costs me US$20+postage (not sure if it is a good buy, but the prices on the Bay keeps moving upward these days...)
the body is solid, the leatherette intact, all the buttons smooth...the high speed is doubtful (1/100, 1/200, 1/300, 1/1000 sec looks the same in bare eyes observation) but other speed including B & T are good.

i just popped in a Tri-X and will fool around a bit, just hope it will give good results --"characteristic" ;-) i hope, at least.
anyone share some thoughts (--or even better, your photo by a Mercury)?


Last edited by pinkarmy : 07-28-2011 at 02:14. Reason: typo
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Old 07-29-2011   #2
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I have one, they're fun cameras. Rick Oleson has a great write-up on it where he discusses how stable the shutter mechanism is:

http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/index-25.html

Chances are your speeds are accurate.
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Old 07-30-2011   #3
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I had one, but I've forgotten which one. As far as I recall, it was the original model with the Mercury-unique film loading. I cobbled together a roll and exposed it, and that was enough. As I recall, the shutter speed dial rotates during the exposure: keep fingers and hair away from it. Lots of reading matter on the camera, though!

Cheers,

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Last edited by Roger Hicks : 07-30-2011 at 08:40. Reason: typo
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Old 07-30-2011   #4
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I had one and might still have a selfie in a mirror from years back (man, I looked young then).

The shutter mechanism at the time of production was claimed to be as accurate as that of a Leica, and scientific tests proved the manufacturers to be right. (don't know where I read that, might have been on Rick Olesons site).

Mine (a Universal Mercury II, the standard film canister type) produced scratches on the negatives, probably from built-up gunk in there. These little beauts are probably difficult to get serviced, though...

Enjoy yours, would like to see shots!
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Old 07-30-2011   #5
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this one cost me $12.00.
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so true
Old 08-01-2011   #6
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Talking so true

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
the shutter speed dial rotates during the exposure: keep fingers and hair away from it. R.
LOL...and what a sight
it amused my baby girl when i photographed her!

Last edited by pinkarmy : 08-01-2011 at 06:40. Reason: typo
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first roll
Old 08-15-2011   #7
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first roll

it really is fun to use and i am happy about the result.

i noticed that the frame size is a little wider than standard half-frame's usual 18x24, (my Olympus Pen EF measures 17mm W, Canon Demi C measures 17.5mm)
the dimension is almost 19x24,
so is the gap between frame, also slightly wider.
that caused some problems for my lab to scan 2 frames into one--hence the crop.

but above all the lens is surprisingly great
the shutter mechanism is incredibly stable even at slow speed.

i'm gonna use it more!

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Kodak Tri-X, HC110 dil. B
one-hour lab scan-in


PS. the Rick Oleson link is a good read! thanks to you guys.

Last edited by pinkarmy : 08-15-2011 at 00:07. Reason: info
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Old 08-21-2011   #8
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I finally got around to shooting with my CX, and was pleasantly surprized at the output. Mine has a couple of issues though, as the shutter hangs up when pointing the camera down, and I'm not too sure the speeds are all that accurate. I shot three exposures in a row using 1/100, 1/200, and 1/300 all at f16, and it's hard to see a difference. But that Tricor lens is a beauty. Now I need to find some filters for it, and do a shutter overhaul.

I posted the results at: http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...d.php?t=109433
or you can just look for "Practicing With The Mercury II".

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Old 08-21-2011   #9
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[quote=farlymac;1690924]I finally got around to shooting with my CX, and was pleasantly surprized at the output. Mine has a couple of issues though, as the shutter hangs up when pointing the camera down, and I'm not too sure the speeds are all that accurate. I shot three exposures in a row using 1/100, 1/200, and 1/300 all at f16, and it's hard to see a difference. But that Tricor lens is a beauty. Now I need to find some filters for it, and do a shutter overhaul.

I posted the results at: http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...d.php?t=109433
or you can just look for "Practicing With The Mercury II".

PF[/quote

I had a similar experience with my Olympus half-frame: it wasn't even working as consistently as yours, but it gave me hope. After I had it serviced I found that the up close (1 to 2 ft) and color film is a special look that I really like.
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Old 02-12-2012   #10
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Today I finally got tired of looking at the CX sitting on my desk, and decided to do a teardown on it. Broke out the Tomosy's book for some pointers, and everything was going fine until I had to take the pin out of the shutter speed selector shaft. It just won't budge, at least not with the tool I was using.

What got me going was, after I did a bit of lubing at the points that Rick Oleson recommends, I thought it was working good. That is until I turned it back right side up. Then it started to sound like it was grinding again. Upside down, fine . Right side up, not good. So I think there may be a wear problem with the casting. But I won't be able to tell until I get the stinking pin out of the speed shaft.

Or I could just shoot it upside down. I mean, it looks weird already, why not expand on that? And maybe I could leave the coverings off, and paint it Kelly Green.

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Old 02-23-2012   #11
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Finally got a proper punch to drive that pin out, and finished the disassembly. Cleaned a lot of little bits of film and gobs of grease out of it. While reassembling the shutter, a small spring came out, and it took a while to get it back in place, as it was in a blind spot.

As it turned out, the reason the spring fell off the post was that the post had backed out of it's mounting hole, being just staved in. After twenty minutes of frustration, I was able to figure out a way to get the spring to go back where it belonged. After that, the rest of the shutter reassembly was a piece of cake.

While testing the shutter mechanism to determine if I had the speed setting correct (very easy to be off a speed or two), the shutter began to hang again, as it was doing before the teardown. Since having the thing completely apart gave me some insight as to how it all operated, it didn't take long to find the culprit. That post had backed out again, and the lever it was supporting was dragging on the shutter. Which also means the spring on the other side of the casting can now fall off again.

Unless I figure out a way to securely fasten the post to the casting, it's going to be a shelf queen. To that point, I am going ahead with the cosmetic restoration (cleaning all the oxidation off the body and sealing it), and will post everything when I get finished.

PF
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Old 02-25-2012   #12
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I finally identified the two main problems with the CX, and have them fixed, and the shutter running smoothly now. The body restoration is coming along nicely too. BTW, here is a photo before I started the restoration:


Mercury II Front by br1078phot, on Flickr

I must say, it is a much lighter camera than it could have been if Universal had not used an aluminum alloy for the main body castings. Without the shutter mech installed, it feels very light. I'll put further posts in the Repairs forum.

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Old 02-25-2012   #13
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[quote=farlymac;1820924...it is a much lighter camera than it could have been if Universal had not used an aluminum alloy for the main body castings...[/quote]

...but i found the aluminum casting a sensual to touch...it is almost "sexy" to me, may be it is that i am a big admirer of Charles Eames' Herman Miller aluminum group chairs.
no other camera gave me the same sensual.(well, Vitessa is sexy to my eyes)
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Old 02-26-2012   #14
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Other than the shutter hump, the main body of the camera is actually shorter than my Yashica YF. And I like the knurling underneath the synthetic coverings. I'm half tempted to leave it naked, but then it might get too warm to handle in the summer, and too cold in the winter. But it does fit the hand very well. And after a sanding to get rid of the corrosion, the bare parts do have a nice feel to them.

PF
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Old 03-20-2012   #15
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I finally got the repairs and cosmetic restoration finished, now I need to run a roll of film through it. Since it has the coated Tricor, I might as well use a 24 shot roll of color, so I don't have to take so many photos before taking the film in for developing. And it is springtime, so plenty of color around to shoot.

Before and After

Mercury II Repair and Restoration by br1078phot, on Flickr

I've got over 60 photos and half a dozen videos to go through and edit before I post on the Repair forum.

PF
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Old 03-20-2012   #16
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great work as always!
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Old 03-20-2012   #17
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Thanks, Pink. I had a few difficulties getting it back together, but nothing major. I didn't get one of the retainers tight enough, and I had the speed selector off a couple of notches. It's close enough now.

PF
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Old 03-20-2012   #18
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At the moment I have two of the Univex II's - both have lenses that are stuck. The alloy threads will oxidize and jam the focus. Occasional application of brute force will release it and then a liberal application of lubricant will help.
Great looking camera too - more complex exposure table on the back than even a DSLR menu!
The rotary shutter is pretty well bullet proof - and if you sharpen the edge of the blade, you could possibly cut veggies with it!
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Old 03-21-2012   #19
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I finally got the photos of the repair/restoration processed and posted on Flickr at http://flic.kr/s/aHsjzdMhue 97 photos and 5 videos

PF
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Old 03-21-2012   #20
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[quote=Tom A;1837866]At the moment I have two of the Univex II's - both have lenses that are stuck. The alloy threads will oxidize and jam the focus. Occasional application of brute force will release it and then a liberal application of lubricant will help.
Great looking camera too - more complex exposure table on the back than even a DSLR menu!
The rotary shutter is pretty well bullet proof - and if you sharpen the edge of the blade, you could possibly cut veggies with it![/quote]

As long as you remember to take the lens off first.

PF
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Old 01-05-2014   #21
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Hello,

My name is Pascal and I live in the South of France . Excuse my mistakes vocabulary or grammar.
I am French and fan of Mercury. I have two copies : two Mercury ii.
I also have the rangefinder , the flash bulb but I think I miss the sync cord to the flash. I 'm not sure.
I do not know what more you need to use batteries for the flash. Or even the camera settings with this flash. I started in the film.
You see I have some questions. Maybe you can help me ?
Is that you have used your mercury with an electronic flash. I saw that it was possible, especially with a Canolite D (after some minor adjustments). I refrence to this site : http://www.cosmonet.org/camera/mercury1_e.htm
Is what we can only use the speed 1/20s with Mercury and an electronic flash? It requires use of a tripod ? Did you know ?
Using another electronic flash?
It seems complicated to use Canolite. Perhaps you find you easier ?

I love this camera so special !

Thank you for listening and your answers.
Happy New Year 2014!
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Old 04-20-2014   #22
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Dear Pascal,

It's great to hear of another enthusiast having discovered the beauty of this remarkable camera! To answer at least some of your questions:

The original Mercury Flash Unit uses standard "Penlite" (AA Size) batteries, available everywhere today. As the Mercury was the first camera on earth fitted with a "hot shoe", no sync cable is required. The unit connects to the camera via the round contact in the middle of the front accessory shoe. There are no special camera settings required for flash operation - the rotary shutter is automatically synchronized at all "speeds" (i.e. rotor opening positions) via a special cam attached to the rotor).

However, using the Flash Unit today would require supply of the "press type" flash bulbs it is designed for. These bulbs were very expensive in the 1940's, and surviving unused examples are collectible, so firing one is literally a waste of money. Of course, these are single-use bulbs - each one fires once and is thrown away afterwards.

Using a modern electronic flash on the Mercury requires the use of a simple adapter aligning the ancient Mercury "hot shoe" contact with the slightly different position of a modern standard hot shoe. However, the "timing" of a modern flash differs from that of the old "press type" bulbs. If the contact is closed, a modern electronic flash fires immediately and lights up for a very short time. The old bulbs needed some fractions of a second to light, but burned significantly longer. As the built in synchronization arrangement of the Mercury is adjusted to these bulb parameters, a modern flash will light up too early at most speed settings - the flash fires before the slit in the rotating shutter reaches the film plane, and does not last long enough to illuminate the whole exposure. Therefore it will work only at 1/20s, as at this "speed", the rotor is fully opened, avoiding the described effect.

In my opinion, the best workaround is adapting a more modern condensator bulb flash to the Mercury - the small Philips flashbulbs are easily found on eBay, and there were types similar in parameters to the old "press type" bulbs, so this should work (I have not tried it myself so far with a Mercury, but successfully with other classic cameras).

Regards,

Accursius
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Old 11-26-2014   #23
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I recently acquired a Mercury II in "typical" condition. The metal is oxidized like they all are, but all of the cosmetics including the rear exposure disc and the film reminder are in excellent shape. The lens is in good shape and both the focus and aperture rings turn smoothly. I was able to remove the front glass of the viewfinder and clean inside and now the viewfinder is pristine.

After opening the rear film compartment and test firing the shutter a couple of times to see if it worked, I initially thought my shutter was bad because it moved very slowly.

But then I read this thread that the orientation of the camera can affect the shutter speed, so I made it a point to hold the camera upright (rather than pointing the lens down like you would while looking inside the film compartment), sure enough the shutter moves freely. I tested all the speeds and they look accurate (to the naked eye that its), even B and T worked as intended.

So my question is, is this just a characteristic of this camera? If I feel confident that the shutter speeds are accurate while holding the camera in a normal way, is it worth tearing it down to clean the mechanics of it? Or does the slow shutter while pointing down indicate a looming problem with using this camera?

Question two, I have found a ton of info saying that the Mercury II was introduced in 1945 after WWII, but nothing saying how long they were sold for. The serial number on mine is 86334. Does anyone know if there is a way to date these cameras by the serial number, or at the very least, estimate when they stopped making them?

Im pretty excited to begin shooting wiht this camera. Part me of wants to fully restore it, polish out all the metal and re-leather it, but on the other hand, I think the oxidations gives it a cool rustic look!
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Old 11-26-2014   #24
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Probably no need to do any disassembly if your shutter is basically working ok. If you take off the lens and hold open the shutter on the T setting you can easily brush some lighter fluid onto the easily accessible gears.

There is a very good book on the Universal Camera Corporation by Cynthia A. Repinski. I got mine on ebay for 25 bucks and the first page was signed by the author. She says that the Mercury II was first marketed in December of 1945. "Approximately 150,000 Mercury II cameras were sold the world over during the period 1946 through 1952."
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Old 11-27-2014   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mconnealy View Post
Probably no need to do any disassembly if your shutter is basically working ok. If you take off the lens and hold open the shutter on the T setting you can easily brush some lighter fluid onto the easily accessible gears.

There is a very good book on the Universal Camera Corporation by Cynthia A. Repinski. I got mine on ebay for 25 bucks and the first page was signed by the author. She says that the Mercury II was first marketed in December of 1945. "Approximately 150,000 Mercury II cameras were sold the world over during the period 1946 through 1952."
Thanks for both pieces of info. I will try taking a stab at getting some Ronsonol on the gears with the shutter open.

Based on the info in your book, if there were approx 150,000 sold, and mine is numbered 86,334, its not a stretch to think that mine was made a little more than halfway through the production run. So a broad guesstimate would be that mine could have been made around 1949.
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Old 12-11-2014   #26
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Unfortunately, it is not possible to estimate the date using your method, as the Mercury II serial numbers did not start with "000001". The situation is somewhat more complicated:

When Universal introduced the original Univex Mercury (CC) in 1937, the serial numbers started with "00,001". Early examples in the 00,05x range are known to exist in collections. Until the end of production in 1942, about 45.000 were made, being numbered consecutively.

In 1939, the famous, short-lived Mercury CC-1500 appeared, being introduced by Universal at the New York World Fair. These spectacular cameras (less than 3.000 were made) were given separate serial numbers beginning with 100,001. Examples with 102,xxx numbers are known to exist.

The Mercury II (CX) was first shown by Universal in several 1944 newspaper ads, but not made in relevant quantities until the end of WWII in mid-1945. The CX prototype shown in the CX user manual bears the serial number 046,000; the earliest CX production examples known to exist are in the 046,4xx range. When numbering reached 99,999, Universal left out the numbers given to CC-1500 cameras and continued with 103,xxx. The last CX cameras made in 1952 had numbers in the 190,000 range.

Additionally, it must be considered that during the first production years (1945 - 1948) more CX cameras were made and sold than in the later period until 1952, as Universal was slowly getting into financial trouble.

Your CX 86,334 is, therefore, quite an early example, possibly made in 1946 or 1947. You may verify this by examining the bottom of the camera - on early CX examples, you will notice a flat surface with several circular insertions, while on late examples, the bottom shows three little "feet".
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Old 12-11-2014   #27
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Just looked at mine, and the Serial # is 62308.

Ekmanmj, the shutter spins at a single constant speed. What determines the length of exposure is how wide the shutter vanes are set apart. So even if the speeds look good enough, there could be some drag on the mechanism that would then make all the speeds slow. This occurs when the trap lever actuator starts backing out of it's mounting hole, which it is just pushed into like a stave. The shutter vanes then drag on the lever. Old grease on the gears also can slow down the shutter. I used some white lithium to relube mine, but if I ever fix another one I'll use Super Lube.

PF
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Old 12-11-2014   #28
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I would recommend to use ball bearing lubrication grease instead (this is what I use myself). Liquid lubrication fluid tends to be spread by the shutter rotor inside the whole camera, including the back element of the lens (not recommendable, especially if you have one of the rare types mounted, i.e. the Hexar f2/35 or the Telecor).
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Old 12-11-2014   #29
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Hi,
Anybody knows the size of the filter thread, and what kind of hood can fit?
Thanks
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Old 12-11-2014   #30
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The Mercury has interchangeable screw mount lenses, so filter size depends on the lens you are referring to, of course. The most common standard lens (Universal Tricor 2.7/35) has an E25.4mm filter thread (1.0 inch, in other words). The filters sold by Universal themselves for this lens are A27mm clip-on filters, however. The same applies to hoods. Third party E25.4 screw-in filters and lens hoods are rather common, as the same size was used by Kodak and several other camera makers as well. On my "everday use" CX, I use a modern Hoya E25.4 UV filter to protect the lens.

The less common Universal Tricor 3.5/35 should be the same size, I think, as the lens barrel is the same.

The pre-war Wollensak Tricor and Hexar lenses do not have any filter thread, so only clip-on filters may be used. The Telecor does have one, but I am not shure about the diameter.
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Old 12-21-2014   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Accursius View Post
Unfortunately, it is not possible to estimate the date using your method, as the Mercury II serial numbers did not start with "000001". The situation is somewhat more complicated:

When Universal introduced the original Univex Mercury (CC) in 1937, the serial numbers started with "00,001". Early examples in the 00,05x range are known to exist in collections. Until the end of production in 1942, about 45.000 were made, being numbered consecutively.

In 1939, the famous, short-lived Mercury CC-1500 appeared, being introduced by Universal at the New York World Fair. These spectacular cameras (less than 3.000 were made) were given separate serial numbers beginning with 100,001. Examples with 102,xxx numbers are known to exist.

The Mercury II (CX) was first shown by Universal in several 1944 newspaper ads, but not made in relevant quantities until the end of WWII in mid-1945. The CX prototype shown in the CX user manual bears the serial number 046,000; the earliest CX production examples known to exist are in the 046,4xx range. When numbering reached 99,999, Universal left out the numbers given to CC-1500 cameras and continued with 103,xxx. The last CX cameras made in 1952 had numbers in the 190,000 range.

Additionally, it must be considered that during the first production years (1945 - 1948) more CX cameras were made and sold than in the later period until 1952, as Universal was slowly getting into financial trouble.

Your CX 86,334 is, therefore, quite an early example, possibly made in 1946 or 1947. You may verify this by examining the bottom of the camera - on early CX examples, you will notice a flat surface with several circular insertions, while on late examples, the bottom shows three little "feet".
Wow, thanks for all of the good info!

I looked at the bottom of mine, and there are definitely no "feet". I do have 3 circular things, all on the side of the camera with the rewind knob and film counter.

It's good to know that mine is an early-ish model, as my collection is rather short of 40s cameras. I have a bunch from the 1950s, and I like telling people that this camera is from the 1940s!

As for shutter speed accuracy. See the new thread I started with some pictures. I shot everything using Sunny 16. and the exposures look accurate to me. If they're off, its such a small amount, it makes no difference outdoors.
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Old 12-23-2014   #32
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so touched to see that this thread is still alive and kicking
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Old 12-24-2014   #33
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so touched to see that this thread is still alive and kicking
Kinda like the Mercury II! Almost 70 years later and many of them are still alive and kicking!
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Old 12-31-2014   #34
Luddite Frank
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I cleaned-up my Mercury II last evening, and got the shutter running pretty-good.

Will probably run a roll through it next week... I kind of miss those 12 exposure rolls of 135...
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Old 01-14-2015   #35
pinkarmy
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Originally Posted by eckmanmj View Post
Kinda like the Mercury II! Almost 70 years later and many of them are still alive and kicking!
yeah exactly and very well-said
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Old 01-14-2015   #36
farlymac
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Good to see you're still around, Pink.

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Old 01-24-2015   #37
brand350cid
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Hi everyone, I'm new to the group. I've been collecting cameras for a few years now. I have a Universal Mercury II CX serial number 43126. I have a second Mercury II CX that has leather in place of a back plate, so there is no serial number available. This one has the three "feet" on the bottom of the camera. I'm trying to figure out when the "feet" were added to determine the possible serial number run it may be part of. Any suggestions?
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Old 01-24-2015   #38
eckmanmj
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Originally Posted by brand350cid View Post
Hi everyone, I'm new to the group. I've been collecting cameras for a few years now. I have a Universal Mercury II CX serial number 43126. I have a second Mercury II CX that has leather in place of a back plate, so there is no serial number available. This one has the three "feet" on the bottom of the camera. I'm trying to figure out when the "feet" were added to determine the possible serial number run it may be part of. Any suggestions?
I haven't been able to find any conclusive evidence regarding when those "feet" started to appear. As a matter of fact, the best information about serial numbers is in this thread by Accursius.

I have the Univex Story by Cynthia Repinski and she doesn't even get into much detail about the serial number history of the Mercury II.

Mine is 86,xxx and it does not have the feet, so the only conclusive info I can give you is that it's after that.

Good luck, and if you ever find anything conclusive, come back here and let us know.
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Old 01-25-2015   #39
farlymac
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Originally Posted by brand350cid View Post
Hi everyone, I'm new to the group. I've been collecting cameras for a few years now. I have a Universal Mercury II CX serial number 43126. I have a second Mercury II CX that has leather in place of a back plate, so there is no serial number available. This one has the three "feet" on the bottom of the camera. I'm trying to figure out when the "feet" were added to determine the possible serial number run it may be part of. Any suggestions?
Welcome to the Forum, Brand. Could it be possible that a previous owner just put some leather over the back plate, instead of removing it first? But then leather covering would be an indication of the back plate missing as it would then cover up the screw holes.

PF
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Old 02-05-2015   #40
eckmanmj
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Originally Posted by brand350cid View Post
Hi everyone, I'm new to the group. I've been collecting cameras for a few years now. I have a Universal Mercury II CX serial number 43126. I have a second Mercury II CX that has leather in place of a back plate, so there is no serial number available. This one has the three "feet" on the bottom of the camera. I'm trying to figure out when the "feet" were added to determine the possible serial number run it may be part of. Any suggestions?
Something just occurred to me. Is it possible that you have the Univex Mercury CC (the first model)? The CC had leather on the back part of the "hump" instead of the serial number plate like on the CX. The easiest way to tell the difference between the CC and CX is that the CC has the word "Univex" on the front, and the CX does not.
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