Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/10/29

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Subject: [Leica] Single-Frame 35mm Camera
From: nicholsj at (Jim Nichols)
Date: Fri Oct 29 09:31:32 2004

Hi Marc,

I appreciate your comments and am glad that you have access to versatile
labs.  The Fuji machines at Wal-Mart may be able to handle single frame
automatically, but, after I explained what I had on the film, the operators
seemed at a loss to depart from normal practices.  I'll put the Mercury
back on the shelf, because my Leicas and Pentax are much easier on these
old eyes.

If you want more history on the Mercury, do a Google search.  I was
surprised to find quite a bit on-line.

Thanks for looking.
Jim Nichols

> [Original Message]
> From: Marc Attinasi <>
> To: Leica Users Group <>
> Date: 10/29/2004 12:08:43 AM
> Subject: Re: [Leica] Single-Frame 35mm Camera
> 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 
> $1.39
> Cheers!
> - 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.
> >
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> > Jim Nichols
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Leica Users Group.
> > See for more information
> >
> _______________________________________________
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