Thursday, April 3, 2008

My camera

I haven't switched to digital photography yet, and I may never do so, I love my first 35mm camera, a Mercury II. It was given to me by an uncle who went to America to realize a better life. This is a completely manual film camera. It has no internal metering system, and I have to manually set all distance, aperture, and shutter-speed controls. I think that gives me better control over what I want to record. I do not write down any shooting data because I would rather rely on my instincts when making each new photograph, rather than refer to settings I used in the past.

Elinor thought photography enthusiasts would like to know some technical details about the Mercury II. It was made in the United States from 1945 to 1952. It was billed as a half-frame camera, but it really was more like a three-quarter-frame camera. Conventional half-frame cameras take 48 exposures on a 24-exposure roll of film, but the Mercury takes 32 pictures on a 24-exposure roll and 65 on a 36-exposure roll. That still makes it very economical to use.

That odd half-moon shape on the top has a convenient depth-of-field chart, but you can see in this close-up that it’s labeled depth of focus. It also houses the shutter. The shutter is a large focal-plane disc that rotates for one-tenth of a second during the exposure. There is a slit in this disc, and the size of this opening varies to change the shutter speed. People tell me that's very ingenious. The mechanism is extremely accurate and reliable and permits shutter speeds as short as 1/1,000 second-- one of the earliest cameras to be that fast. It can also make both Bulb and Time exposures.

On the upper right is the dial for setting the shutter speed. The dial on the left dial is the exposure counter. The lens has a focal length of 35mm, has apertures from f/3.5 to f/22, and can be focused from one-and-a-half feet to infinity. This gives me good control over depth of field.

On the lower left of the back of the camera is the film-speed dial. This is where I set the number of exposures as well as whether the film is fast, medium, slow– or color. There’s no mention of ASAs. In the middle is a unique and comprehensive exposure guide, with suggested settings for various lighting conditions as well as for different times of day and for summer and winter.


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