The UniveX AF Series – A Vest Pocket Camera that Really Fits in a Vest Pocket!

All AF Folders

The UniveX Model AF Series

In 1935, the Universal Camera Corporation was flying high.  They had a small Bakelite camera selling for 39 cents that had taken the country by storm.  After selling 2.6 million units in 1934, they needed a follow-up product.  They also wanted to lock up the market for 8-to-16 year-olds while expanding their grip on American amateur photographers.  A competitor, the Vest Pocket Kodak, had been introduced in 1912, and had been very well received, various versions being produced through 1935.  Both Boy Scout and Girl Scout versions were produced in 1929 through around 1933.  Kodak also produced Boy Scout and Girl Scout versions of the Brownie Box Camera, providing a lower cost option. 

P1090322

Vest Pocket Kodak, Model B

Vest pocket Kodaks used No. 127 rollfilm, producing a negative 1-5/8” square.  UniveX No. “00″ rollfilm made for a slightly smaller negative, 1-1/8” x 1-1/2”.   Universal decided to produce a folding “vest pocket” camera using their proprietary “00” rollfilm, marketing it to children and adults as a lower priced alternative to the Vest Pocket Kodak.

The UniveX Model AF was much smaller than the VPK, measuring 2-1/8” x 4” x 7/8” when closed.  The shutter had only two settings, I and T (instant and time).  The lens had but a single stop, and was clearly designed for outdoor use.  However, for Universal’s target demographic, this was no problem.  Amateur photography in those days precluded the use of flash, and the UniveX AF was a viable competitor to Kodak’s offerings at a lower price.  The camera was offered in four colors – black, brown, green, and blue.

Univex AF

UniveX Model AF in black

In 1936, Universal produced a Girl Scout version of the camera, which was listed in the Official Girl Scout Catalog for the price of $1.00.  Kodak’s Girl Scout Kodak was also listed, at a price of $6.00.  Bearing in mind that the Depression was still in full swing in 1936, one can only imagine that the UniveX Girl Scout Camera attracted a significant following.  In 1938, an improved version was introduced, bearing a single button bellows release and a new color scheme (black and green vs. the former all-green model).  The little UniveX Model A was also listed in the Official Girl Scout Catalog from 1933 on, at a price of 35 cents. 

Other special versions of the Model AF were produced as premiums and corporate giveaways.  “The Hollywood Camera” was a special version about which little is known – it carried no UniveX markings at all, and no documentation of its production is extant.

The UniveX Model AF-2 was released in 1936, bearing a black, red and chrome art deco style faceplate, the quick-release bellows button, and a hinged back.  Price was $1.50.

Univex AF-2

The UniveX Model AF-2

 The AF-3 also came out in 1936, featuring an achromatic doublet lens to replace the singlet meniscus lens on all previous models.  The AF-3 featured an oxidized silver front plate.  The AF-3 sold for $2.50.

 The UniveX Model AF-4 came out in 1938.  It was essentially the same as the AF-3, only not featuring the “Duo Achromatic Lens” marking on the front plate.  It sold for $1.95.

Univex AF-4

This nice specimen of the UniveX AF-4 closely resembles the AF-3

The final model of the UniveX AF Series was the Minicam Model AF-5, also introduced in 1938, featured a 60mm Ilex Achromar lens, and was designed for either vertical or horizontal format pictures using either the vertical wire frame finder or the horizontal optical viewfinder.

Univex AF-5

The UniveX Minicam Model AF-5

These cameras had a significant impact on amateur photography.  By 1937, over a million Model AF folders had been sold.  At this point in time, Universal was a real threat to Kodak, and they had even higher aspirations for the future.

More to come……

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7 responses to “The UniveX AF Series – A Vest Pocket Camera that Really Fits in a Vest Pocket!

  1. hello my name is shannon Mckay, my grandfather passed away reciently and i know nothing about camera’s or clocks and am trying to find out about some of them

  2. how much dose one of these cost today

    • Shannon, these cameras are selling on eBay at $15-20 in average condition. They’re worth more in the original box, with instruction manuals, etc. Condition, however, is the most important factor. Mint specimens can easily fetch 4 or 5 times this amount at auction.

  3. I also have a Univex AF-4 in great condition to sell.
    what auctions are there, other than ebay?

    EBay seems your best bet to me at this point. I’ve had more success buying and selling there than anywhere else.
    Dana

  4. danakennedy,
    I am the proud owner of a UniveX AF-3 that looks just like your Model; AF-4. Thank you for the information about the camera. It’s nice to know something about it so I give it to my grandson I can tell him all about it..

    Thank You,
    Garndpa Gary

  5. hi
    can anyone tell me the value of
    univex model af-2 it seems to be in realy good shape
    thank you
    john bono

  6. Hello there, my name is Brianne. Today I was given a UniveX Model AF-5 by my Grandpa, he said it was given to him by his Father. I was looking to get a little more information about it. Please get back to me if you can help. It would be much appreciated! ♥

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