Universal Meteor

Universal Meteor
Universal Meteor

Universal Ad My 1949Produced by the Universal Camera Company in 1947 the Meteor is by today's standards a "Toy Camera" with it's guessed focus plastic lens, simple aperture selections and size. However, that didn't stop Universal from advertising it as a "Economy camera with 15 Professional features" In 1949 this camera sold for $15 when you calculate for inflation that equals $135 in 2010.  Basically, the Meteor was an affordable and easy to use camera aimed at the casual photographer.

The Meteor uses 620 film and takes twelve 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inch (6x6 cm) images. The viewfinder is extremely small and actually only shows about 60% of the image that will end up on the negative. It does feature an extinction meter located directly to the left of the viewfinder, however this is also very small and virtually worthless in helping you determine the correct exposure settings.

Universal Meteor
The shutter is self-resting, which is an interesting feature for such a cheap camera...sorry, economy camera. The shutter has two settings "I" for instant which is about 1/30th second and "B" for Bulb. It's shutter click is quiet and the lever operates surprisingly smooth, sometimes you wounder if it even opened. There is no double exposure prevention.

Here you can see the how the shutter operates. The lever located at the top right (1 o'clock) is the shutter speed selector. In normal "Instant" operation that lever stays stationary, but the only way to capture the shutter in the open position was to switch it to "Bulb" and snap a photo of it.

The aperture is by far the most interesting feature of Meteor. Unlike the majority of cameras the actual shape of the aperture on the Meteor is square! Very odd, but once you see how mechanically simple the aperture is it becomes clear that this is truly a Toy Camera. The other oddity of the aperture is the stops ranging from 11 - 18 - 22 - 32 yeah f/32 at 1/30th that's insanely slow, in fact some photographers consider f/32 to be in the "pin-hole" range. I guess that's why Universal all included a nice rugged tri-pod mount.

Aperture removed from the camera    - Aperture in the camera-                        Aperture Speed Selection
Aperture in the camera
Aperture selection

The lens is guess focused with market distance indicators of 5' - 8' - 10' - 15' - 50' - Infinity. I don't know if it's because mine is so rusted and the lens is a bit wobbly or if they are all this way, but there is virtually no difference in focus at any of those settings. 

Universal Meteor
The meteor also has a great synchronized hot shoe that is battery powered and intended for use with a flash, which you would need if you want to take photos in anything less then partly sunny conditions. I'm not sure what size battery it takes as the sticker is missing.

The lens barrel does contract into the body to make the camera easier to carry, but there is such a minimal difference between deployed and retracted that I think this feature was just a gimmick, who knows maybe Universal didn't like the way "14 Professional Features" sounded. 

Film is loaded into a kind of removable carriage or cartridge that drops out of the bottom of the camera. The little lever that holds the cartridge in the camera does not "click" in place, so all it takes is a little bump or jolt and the lever will switch to "open" and out will fall the cartridge ruining your film, found this out the hard way.