Camera Collecting
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Camera Collecting for Fun
My collecting has generally had a 50's emphasis. I think that is mainly because I did a lot of dreaming about what I wished I could own back when I was deciding what to buy as my first 35mm camera, which I purchased in 1956. My dream books at that time and for some time after were old Photo Directories my parents had from 1949-52.
When I had my first collection back in my single days in the early and mid '70's, I had about everything, from pre-1900 Detective and Glass Plate Cameras forward. Starting over again now I have put the emphasis on nostalgia items, such as items I owned before 1970 and items that were favorite dream cameras in the 50's.

American Classic - Mercury II
The old Universal Mercury II has been a long time favorite of mine. It was one of the cameras I had to choose from for my first camera. Why I choose the Kodak 35RF instead I don't know. Probably I was told I wanted the full frame format, which was a good idea at the time. When I finally did own one in the early 70's I was surprised at how good the lens was. I had always heard the old 3 element lens was pretty poor. Maybe I have been lucky and gotten good ones, but I have made some excellent 11X14 prints from my half-frame Mercury II black and white negatives. This black Mercury II apparently was a professional quality paint job, now showing much wear, as there were none made by the factory as far as I have been able to find out. More details on the Mercury and Universal Camera Corp on the U.S. cameras page
  Clarus American 35mm Camera
For more information on Clarus go to Scott's Photography site, which you can access by going to the Clarus chat box link below. I have loved the Clarus since I owned my first one back in the mid 1990's. It is an American made 35mm that gets very mixed reviews. Some call it a big, heavy awkward camera. Maybe I just have big hands, but I like the feel and heft. Lenses also vary on them a bit. The 2nd body below has the worse Clarus lens I have tried - tremendous edge fall off at wide apertures. From another lens I have made beautiful 11X14's that are tack sharp. The first Clarus below is the original version. Arrows and numbers indicate features that are unique to the first version only.

American cameras of the 50's are a big field
You can get started on an American 35mm collection pretty cheaply. There are some rare expensive cameras, such as the Kodak Ektra. However, there are a good selection of inexpensive cameras, many of which are fine shooters. The Bolsey B-2 and Jubilee; Argus in most models, including the durable C-3; most Kodak's; Universal cameras such as the Mercury II, Buccaneer, Corsair II; Clarus; Perfex; Graflex; Ciro and more. In Kodak's, the Signet 35 usually has an excellent lens. Check it over though if you want a user - the rangefinder may be dim or non existent, and make sure the shutter works. I have a fully working one that makes excellent pictures, and they don't cost much, if any, more than ones with problems.

Rick Oleson on Mercury II

RUSSIAN 35mm (see also Kiev page)
I first got interested in Russian cameras in late 2002 when I was wanting to own a Contax rangefinder camera again but couldn't afford one. My first Kiev was love at first sight. I have a separate page dedicated to Kiev, but I also enjoy other Russian equipment. I think the Zorki 3 rangefinder camera is one of the most attractive Leica imitations to come out of Russia(see a variety of Russian Leica imitations including the Zorki 3 near the top of the Misc. Cameras page). One nice feature it incorporates is the combined rangefinder/viewfinder (more like a Canon screw mount rangefinder camera). On the "More Cameras" page, I show one of the many fake Leica's coming out of the Ukraine. This is a gold colored body with wood trim. They are making many very attractive cameras, probably custom made to meet U.S. demand. There are some beautiful all black bodies, they have some with WW II markings, snakeskin in place of the leather, color finishes.

Clarus Fans Chat box

4 Main Clarus Variations
In the short production life of the Clarus, there were many little differences, but I generally think of there being 4 major variations. All are still called the Clarus MS-35. The first variation is the only one with 1)spring loaded instead of rotary catch. 2) "Made in the U.S.A" next to the wind end viewfinder. 3)3 circular bands around the shutter release collar. 4)Speed dial with speeds on the dial. Later models have speeds on the camera body. 5)bezels surrounding all the viewfinders in the front of the camera & 6) Strap lugs.The second variation looks about like the 2nd illustration, except it did not have the little black hole in the back near the shoe - which is flash sync. The 3rd variation shown in the second picture adds the flash sync. The final variation dropped the heavy molded accessory shoe for a cheap add-on shoe. Extremely rare are the Wescon versions, possibly very limited production by the company that purchased Clarus when they folded.