Friday, November 02, 2007

Meteor from the Past

I know, that doesn't really make any sense, does it? Anyway, World Toy Camera Day was a couple weeks ago, now. One of the cameras I took with me and used for the first time was the Meteor. A crappy camera disguised as something more than what it is, made by Universal Camera Corporation, probably in the 1950s.

It even has a fancy leather case....real leather. I'm not sure who this camera was marketed to, but it probably was an older crowd than it deserves.

Not to say it's a piece of junk or anything. It's actually fairly solid. Mostly metal with some plastic parts. About the size of a Diana, but a couple pounds heavier. It has some 'features'. First, the barrel slides out to make it a tiny bit more compact that it would be otherwise.

It also has a little pin under the shutter release, so you can't fire the shutter by accident while the barrel isn't out. And you see it has a handy meter guide on top of the camera, though I didn't really see any difference in photo quality with different apertures...much the same as other toy cameras. It doesn't affect DOF or anything -- it's just there.

So it does have aperture and focus settings, an Instant/Bulb switch, and a flash hotshoe (though no timing thing for the flash to plug into). Oddly enough, I didn't see a lot of difference in focusing, either. It was all about even if it was in focus. It also has an interesting film loading angle. From the bottom.

Not has difficult as it looks. A little bit awkward, as it's just...different. And, believe it or not, this setup doesn't keep the camera from leaking from somewhere. It's all very snug, but I guess not that snug.
Sometimes designers are just funny. Take the viewfinder.

So we have the viewfinder. Hey, it looks kind of crooked. Let's put another one next to it. What? Costs to much? Then we'll just plug it. So we have another decorative circle to balance it out.
So, how did it shoot? Well, mostly pretty good. The most...disconcerting thing about the camera is how quiet the shutter is. I mean it is so quiet that I wasn't sure if it was even firing through the entire roll. I have the typical 'looking at my face' shot trying to see if I could tell if it was working. You just hear a slight "shk" sound, and that's it. It qould be a great stealth camera if it wasn't so big and obvious. The shutter was a little slow a couple times, but overall was on the money. These are shots from in and around Quartzsite, AZ.

It has some typical toy camera features. Blur and vignette along the edge, lightleaks, somewhat unpredictable. Reminds me of a Holga, mostly. Has the same issue where the viewfinder only shows half of what will show up on film.
What I found very interesting is that it has the same odd "light" square along the inside edges of the frame as the Diana+. Still not sure what this is from...reflection? But I haven't seen it elsewhere. Just odd that it is almost exactly the same. I can't really see inside the Meteor because the back doesn't come off.
So what do I think of it? Well, I don't dislike it, but I'm not all that impressed, either. Maybe if it were a bit smaller, or at least lighter. Funny, I read how people tape coins to Holgas to give them some weight, so they feel more substantial. If I could lead my floating camera along with a string, I'd be happy. And this camera is heavy. It's not all bad or anything, and I like the output to a degree. It's just all kind of...meh. It's like totally middle of the road. Some toy camera effects, some real camera ideals. Nothing bad, but nothing all that interesting, either. Granted, the subjects aren't that great either, but I've used better. There are so many other cameras to use, this one will probably only see daylight once a year. I'd like to run some color film through it. But I'm in no hurry.
Hmmm... sometime soon, I think I might compare the Diana with her retarded stepchild (and I mean that in the least offensive way possible), the Banner, also known as Arrow and a few other names. There are straight Diana clones, and there are copycat clones. The Banner is different enough that I think it is not really a Diana. It's just mostly shaped like one. More on that later. Ja, ne...


  1. Dude, i really admire your work.
    I check your blog weekly for updates =)

    Tnx for the interesting research!

    Greetings from Breda, Holland,
    Thomas Kuijpers
    3rd year Art Student Photography

  2. That's an extinction meter on the left of the viewfinder... they never were very useful, so I don't even know why manufacturers bothered. My meteor surprised me with its sharpness. Like a lot of cameras made by Universal Camera, quality control was um... not the greatest. Great Blog!