The Mercury II is a 35mm half frame viewfinder camera manufactured by the New York based company Universal between 1946-1952. The company formed in 1933 with the goal of manufacturing photographic equipment that was affordable for anyone that desired to purchase a camera. By 1936, Universal began producing cine cameras and projectors in addition to still cameras. Their motto at the time was “more cameras per year than any other company in the world.”
Universal’s growing presence in the photographic industry was short lived due to suspended shipments of film during WWII, and the company was on the verge of bankruptcy by 1940. The US entry into the war brought Universal a contract with the military, so they were able to temporarily recover with the production of binoculars and other optical related equipment. By 1945, Universal launched the Mercury II, and it became a very popular post war camera. However, due to a series of financial issues and failing projects, the company became insolvent in 1952. Although Universal’s involvement in the photographic industry came to an end in 1964, they can be credited with the production of one of the more unusual cameras made in America.
The Mercury II’s construction is that of magnesium and aluminum alloy, and it uses 35mm film for 65 half size exposures. The particular Mercury II featured above has a Tricor 35mm f2.7 coated lens. The Mercury II also has a Galilean type optical viewfinder, and a rotary metal focal plane shutter with speeds up to 1/1000th of a second. The disc on the top of the camera houses the rotary shutter blades, and gives the Mercury II a very distinct look. The camera weighs approximately 1.3 lbs, and has a film reminder dial on the back. The Mercury II featured above is shown with a Mercury Photoflash Unit. Although this particular camera is being sold as a non-working unit, it is a great collectible piece.
Click HERE to view the Mercury II on the KEH Camera Outlet on eBay.