Friday, March 28, 2014

eBay Phenomenon

With four days to go on the bidding, this Model CC Mercury with the 1/1500 shutter has reached a bid price of $103.50 and garnered twenty-five bids.

This 1939 model was not a great market success partly because of the unreliability of the overtensed shutter, but it was definitely pushing the envelope of innovation.  

The camera offered in the auction is equipped with almost every one of the accessories the company was offering including the flash which attached to the hot shoe, the rapid winder, the accessory range finder, and the extinction light meter.  The lens on this example is the 35mm f/2 Hexar made by Wollensak.

Only about 3000 of the CC-1500 model were sold.  War-time conditions cut off access to film supplied by Gevaert and Dufaycolor.  Those films were in the standard 35mm sprocketed format, but it was rolled onto specially constructed reels with small gears which meshed with the camera's advance system.  

Univex/Universal survived the war with contracts to manufacture binoculars for the armed forces.  After the war, the company abandoned the CC-1500 innovations.  The basic CC design was altered to produce the the Mercury II CX which used standard 35mm cartridges.  That last Mercury enjoyed some market success, but ultimately succumbed to a combination of bad management decisions and fierce competitive pressure.

Thirty-five bids at the auction's end with a winning bid of $255.


JR Smith said...

Got to be one of the most interesting looking cameras ever!

Mike said...

I couldn't agree more. I wish someone owning one of these would share some information about this model's construction and performance. I'd be especially interested in details of the design of the Wollensak Hexar. Three element lenses like the Tricor on the Mercury II don't normally support an aperture wider than f3.5, so it seems like Wollensak must have come up with some other configuration.

H. Hahn said...

The Hexar is actually something VERY different from a Triplet, being an improved Double Gauss type lens, 6 elements in 4 groups, similar to the Kodak Ektar made for the Bantam Special (ans meant to compete with it).

Mike said...

Thanks for the info on the Hexar. Interesting that Universal would try to compete with the best that Kodak had to offer at the time. Now all we need is to see some pictures made with the Hexar. Would also be interesting to see the Hexar and the Ektar compared in terms of results.

Heiko Hahn said...

The CC-1500/Hexar combination was sold at $ 65.00, not including accessories. Therefore, if bought together with the clip-on rangefinder, it was not much cheaper than a Bantam Special ($ 87.50). I do not own the latter, so I can not compare Hexar and Ektar myself, but I may say that the results the Hexar produces strongly remind me of those of my Leitz Summar, which is similar in optical design as well: rather soft focus if used wide open, distinctively low contrast, but definitely appealing. I do not have scans of my own pictures at hand, but at least one set made by another collector using his Hexar can be found on flickr -

Mike said...

Thanks for the excellent additional comments on the 1500. I would be interested in seeing some of your images if you should get around to scanning them. I wish Rick O. would have sought better conditions for making his shots as it is hard to judge the lens quality in the set he displays. Of course, Rick cannot be faulted in regard to his fine instructions and illustrations for renovating the old cameras.