Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/10/28

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Subject: [Leica] Single-Frame 35mm Camera
From: attinasi at (Marc Attinasi)
Date: Thu Oct 28 22:08:19 2004
References: <>

Hi Jim,

from looking at the Helicopter and Steeple shots I'd say that is a 
pretty sharp 35mm lens on the Mercury! I shoot a lot of single-frame, 
or half-frame as I commonly (though inaccurately) refer to it - I love 
it! All of my half-frame cameras are Olympus:  from the SLR style Pen 
FT to the fast-lens Pen ED and the custom OM-2000 converted to half 
frame and taking OM lenses. I particularly like the vertical framing, 
the small size, and the often surprising diptychs and triptychs.

It was nice to see the Mercury and to read your explanation of the 
camera. I think I will look for one to play with. I really like the 
look of the camera with the 'dome' top and the dials on the front - 
very cool.

BTW: I have found that many minilabs have the ability to handle 
half-frame film. I mention that the pictures are half frame and they 
print them one image per 4 X 6 print. I have never asked for CDs 
though... I know that the Fuji Frontier machine does half-frames, and I 
think many others do too - just ask. One place looked it up in their 
users manual and found the software menu command to enable it ;-) I was 
very surprised. Ok - last thing, I use 12 exposure rolls almost all the 
time, particularly nice is the Reala Trial pack with a 12 exp roll for 

- marc

On Oct 28, 2004, at 2:49 PM, Jim Nichols wrote:

> A week or so back, someone asked about the suitable focal length for a 
> standard lens for a single-frame 35mm camera.  I responded that, based 
> on the diagonal of the film image, a 35mm lens is appropriate, and 
> included that I have a Mercury II single-frame camera which is 
> equipped with a 35mm f/2.7 lens.  Sonny C. saw my comment and said he 
> also has such a camera, and wondered if I ever shot any pictures with 
> it.  It has been sitting in a box in a closet for at least 25 years, 
> but I thought I would give it a try.
> There was a pre-war version of the Mercury that used a special film.  
> In 1945, the Mercury II was produced, incorporating standard 35mm film 
> cartridges and a hot shoe for flash.  The unique shutter is of rotary 
> construction, of steel, and moves a window across the single-frame 
> opening in 1/20th of a second.  Exposure is varied from 1/20th to 
> 1/1000th of a second by varying the slot width of the shutter as it 
> crosses the film opening.  The semi-circular enclosure on top of the 
> camera is necessary to accommodate the movement of the shutter.  The 
> camera body is of cast aluminum, with very close tolerances, but the 
> bare aluminum is subject to corrosion, and many of the remaining 
> examples are too corroded to be useful.   With the single-frame 
> format, one can get 65 exposures on a 36-exposure roll of film.
> It should be noted that the camera has no rangefinder, and no exposure 
> meter.  Focusing is by scale setting, and the camera includes 
> detailled depth-of-field tables on the front and back plates.
> I loaded it up with Kodak B&W400 C-41 film and tried my hand at using 
> it.  For a guy like me with tri-focals, the viewfinder is a real pain. 
>  After guessing at some exposures, I reverted to a small, clip-on 
> meter to help.
> Not wanting to take the time to shoot the full roll, I pulled the film 
> after about 30 exposures and took it to Wal-Mart 1-Hour Photo, 
> explaining that the images would be different from what they normally 
> see, but asked for developing and transfer to CD.  When I picked up 
> the film and CD today, I found that my exposure guesses and the lab's 
> transfer to CD both had problems.  The unusual spacing of the images 
> will not convert easily to two images per normal frame, so I got some 
> chopped up files.  However, there were some useful images that serve 
> to demonstrate the camera's capability.
> I mention the lab problems not as criticism, but to point out the 
> problems that are encountered when one leaves the "beaten path" of 
> photography, whether it be the Mercury II or the Leica single-frame 
> version that was mentioned on the LUG a few weeks ago.
> Photos of the Mercury II and examples of its photos are posted in my 
> gallery, as given below.  I realize this is OT, but other comments 
> will be welcomed.  Have a look.
> Jim Nichols
> _______________________________________________
> Leica Users Group.
> See for more information

In reply to: Message from nicholsj at (Jim Nichols) ([Leica] Single-Frame 35mm Camera)