About Dana Kennedy

I live in Mentor, Ohio (near Cleveland) on the shores of Lake Erie with my wife, Sally, and my son, Andy, who has Down syndrome.   Andy is 21 years old (soon to be 22) and is in a vocational training program to help him on his way to independence. 

Andy at the Newport Aquarium
Andy at the Newport Aquarium

 Since I’ve traveled extensively for work, I haven’t been at home long enough to become disgusted by the climate here – see Sally’s blog for a different point of view!   As an engineer, I’m fascinated by any kind of mechanical equipment, and I’ve been interested in optics for most of my life – hence, my involvement in photography and lately, amateur astronomy.    I’ve been collecting cameras and optical devices since I was a kid. 

My collecting interests are fairly unfocused – I like what I like, whether or not it fits into any particular category.  But for the sake of dividing the whole pile into a few smaller piles, here are a few areas of interest:

American Cameras made before 1925: these are mostly box cameras and folding bellows models made by Kodak, Ansco,  and a whole lot of smaller companies that were eventually bought out by these two.  I don’t have a lot of examples, but I’ll be posting some of the good ones eventually. 

Japanese, German, and American 35mm Rangefinder Cameras: these cameras have been a point of interest for me from the beginning of my involvement in the hobby.  I started in 35mm photography with a Kodak Pony II, switched to an Argus C3 (for the rangefinder focusing), then graduated to a Retina Automatic.  Years later, I got a Yashica Electro 35 GSN, one of the most sophisticated fixed-mount 35’s ever designed. 

Pre-War German Folding Cameras: I still have one or two of these, and they still attract my interest.  They’re harder to find in good condition these days, and I’m not concentrating on finding more of them at the moment, but if I came across something nice at a flea market for a great price, well…..

Kodak and Other American Made Cameras of the 20th Century: I particularly love the cheap cameras that were made in America prior to and shortly after World War 2.  Art deco design, bakelite or zinc die cast construction, flashguns with huge reflectors, and silk-screened metal faceplates with interesting designs are typical features that make these cameras worth collecting. 

Anything Made by the Universal Camera Corporation (1933-1964): those of us who collect UniveX cameras are somewhat obsessed with this company and its products.  You may well wonder why: they’re cheap, sometimes shoddy, won’t accept standard film in most cases, and they will never be considered “Classic Cameras.”  However, in 1936, Universal could boast that they were selling more cameras than any other company in the world, and for that reason, their history is worth a look.  The real reason, though, is that their Art deco designs and unique features make them some of the coolest cameras ever made, both in form and in function.  In the pre-war days, they were incredibly innovative, a subject I’ll be writing about.

I hope you’ll check in regularly to see what’s new, as I pull out cameras from my collection and relate a bit of their background and history along with photos and descriptions of their features.  Please post your comments, as I want to hear from you!

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33 responses to “About Dana Kennedy

  1. Nice collection, we have many in common so I’ll assume we have similar tastes. Great job with the site and wonderfully informative. Keep up the good work.

  2. I love old cameras, especially ones that work. Love your site and one of my goals this year is to do a lot of film work ( especially with the older cameras) as I was writing on this I just bid on an old Spartus Rocket 127 film camera – george

  3. I came across your web site, researching what I believe, according to your description and criteria, an ORIGINAL NORTON camera. It has both spools and film inside. It came from an estate, most of which dated from the late 1920’s to 1940’s.
    I would like to correspond with you further to our mutual benefit. Thank you, John

  4. Dear Dana,

    I have a c1948 Kodak Bantam which I am selling on eBay but I am upable to photograph it at present.

    I do hope you don;t mind but I used the image from your website to show the item on eBay. I have mentioned in the item’s text that I took the images from your site and that I have contacted you.

    This is a real cheek, I know, but I was unable to source an image showing the exact camera I have, albeit not in quite as good a condition as your image shows.

    If you are unhappy about my using the image I will remove the item but as soon as I am able to photograph it myself, in the next few days, I will replace your image.

    Apologies and thanks in advance.

    Clive Wilson

  5. Dana,

    Cool site, wondering if you know anything about finding batteries that work in a Spartus Press Flash Camera. I’ve got one and some press 40 bulbs but the camera apparently takes a long-ago-discontinued type of AA battery, today’s AA batteries don’t fit.

    Any thoughts?

    Gregg, that’s news to me – maybe a reader will have an answer to your problem! Dana

    Thanks.

    • Greg, I don’t know about AA batteries, but in 1956 “D” batteries were made with a loose cardboard sleeve over a bare zinc alloy body. The flashgun for my Mamiya 6 rangefinder bought at the PX in Tokyo in 1956 or 57 used the batteries with the cardboard sleeve removed. Today’s steel jacketed “D” batteries will not fit. I made a holder to use today’s “C” batteries. Maybe you can adapt today’s AAA batteries to your AA battery needs.
      Mel

  6. Dear Dana, good evening from Germany! I love cameras made in the USA, I have now: Argus C44,
    Burke & James, Busch Pressman, Graphic 35 and my latest purchase : Universal Mercury II with Tricor 2.7 lens. It has no rangefinder, but I have read now that Spiratone had made one named Opticap. I cannot find it on eBay or the internet.
    Can you help me? I would pay a good price. Thank you so much in advance! With kindest regards: Ralf

    • Rolf, I understand how you feel. I have seen an ad for the Mercury rangefinder in the Spiratone ads of the late 40’s, but I have not yet seen even one example on eBay or any other collecting site. Maybe one of my readers can give us some information!
      Dana

    • Ralf, I have been looking for the same item myself for about 10 years. Good luck with your search!
      Dana

  7. Greetings, Dana!
    Just wanted to say I love your website. I’m an engineering geek myself as well as a camera collector. I’ve only been collecting for three years, but I’ve accumulated around 200 cameras. Funny how my collecting has evolved; I started out averaging about 20 five-dollar cameras every couple of months. Now it’s more like 1 hundred-dollar camera every couple months. Good thing I have a tolerant wife!
    Best regards,
    John

  8. Hi – I came across this page while looking for information a Universal Vitar camera I found in my mother-in-laws collection of “stuff”: https://oldcameras.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/the-universal-vitar-%E2%80%93-a-camera-made-from-spare-parts/

    I have what looks to be the same camera, I’m not sure if it is working condition or not as I don’t know much about these old cameras. Any idea what it’s value may be?

    • Mikel, for Univex collectors, the Vitar is a bit of “Holy Grail”. Vitars are among the most rare of Universal Camera Company’s production models. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make them especially valuable. Two specimens have shown up on eBay in the past month, both in as good or better condition than mine. One failed to draw a bid, and the other failed the first time, but was relisted and sold at $38.50. Interestingly enough, ten years ago I would have valued this camera at $150 easily. The problem is that the Internet has drawn all the old cameras out of the woodwork, and there aren’t that many collectors to go around. Best wishes!
      Dana

      • Dana – Thanks for the quick response! I was going to put it up on eBay, but before I do would you be interested in it? You should have my e-mail on my posts here, you can send me a message directly.

  9. Greetings, Dana!
    Just wanted to say I love your website. I’m an engineering geek myself as well as a camera collector. I’ve only been collecting for three years, but I’ve accumulated around 200 cameras. Funny how my collecting has evolved; I started out averaging about 20 five-dollar cameras every couple of months. Now it’s more like 1 hundred-dollar camera every couple months. Good thing I have a tolerant wife!
    Best regards,
    John

  10. Lamir de Vasconcelos

    I have in Brazil 105 cameras (some muve-some projector) , is my colection-Ihad during 35 years a store of photography in Rio de Janeiro_Brazil- some is possible to see in my ORKUT (lamirvasconcelos@gmail.com)- I want to buy, you know how who sale?

  11. Hi, I purchased a vintage Falcon model four camera for my son around the holidays, but we’re having trouble figuring out what kind of film it takes. (It is built similarly to the Roamer pop-out camera you have pictured.) We tried 620 film, and the spindle seems to be the right width and length, but the holes where it should click in to the camera are too small (the little pegs in the camera are slightly larger.) Any ideas? Thanks!

  12. Hi from the UK, I am a collector of half frame cameras and came across a Mercury II at a junk sale a couple of years ago. I then got bitten by the Universal/Univex bug, and have been acquiring their cameras bit by bit since. I am also a member of the Photographic Collectors Club International [formerly the PCCGB] and have given talks to my region on the Universal company and its products. The subject has many different avenues to explore, and I am particularly interested in contacting an ex-employee of Universal to expand upon my info on conditions in the factory; any chance you Dana, or any reader, can help please? I am in contact with Cythia Repinski, so have some first hand info from her, but it is limited.
    By the way, I am looking for a Zenith and Vitar [35mm version] to complete the line-up for my talks – can anybody help me to acquire them please?
    Cheers, Brian W

  13. Dear Dana, I have enjoyed your website. Recently I have been reviewing the Kodaks of the 1930s. You have referred to the 1933 Norton and the 1938 Bullet cameras as Bakelite. Do you have any references for that? It seems to me there was a transition from brittle Bakelite ( Hawkette rarely found without chips ) to my 1950s Snoopys and Mickeys and the 1980s Pocket Instamatics which seem stronger. Are they all Bakelite? If not, What?

    George Layne Philadelphia

  14. Dana,

    I have my Grandmother’s Falcon Miniature, and it is exactly like the one in the front of the 3rd photo in your post entitled, “Art Deco Wars: Spartus, Falcon, and Kodak” posted on October 19, 2009. The bottom is broken. I’d like to restore or repair it, and have looked on ebay and for an exact match to no avail. Do you have any insight or suggestions? Any information will be much appreciated.

    Laura@BlumeCreative.com

  15. I was watching a movie tonight ( The FBI Story ) I noticed a picture was being taken with a Universal camera I believe it was a Vitar.Is there any value to this camera as I have one that has been in the family since I was a child.I believe it took Kodak 620 film.Any info on this camera would be appreciated. Thank You

  16. Dana, I have a Kodak Roamer I Camera in a leather Universal case and is in very good condition. I’m looking to sell it and would like to know what the going price is. I can get a photo of it but not right now. thanks.

  17. Rick DeKostic

    Dana,
    As an expert on Universal Camera Co., I’m hoping you can assist me. A few years back I acquired a Minute 16 set from an elderly relative. It’s in excellent condition, with much of the original packaging and many accessories. Can you advise me of the approximate value?
    Thanks,
    Rick DeKostic

  18. I have a Falcon Miniature. Anyone interested in buying it?

  19. I have an Exakta VXIIa 35mm (U.S.S.R. Occupied) with Tele-Xenar 3.5/135 lens, Xenon 1.9/50 zoom, Curtagon 2.8/35 lens, GE exposure meter DW-68, case and manuals. Can you give and estimated value for all? The condition is excellent – to +.
    Thanks and by the way I like your collection….well done!
    Randy Elson

  20. Brian Woodley

    Dana: I told you of my interest in the Universal Camera Corp in my comments on March 21 2011. Since then I have been spreading the word in the UK as well as collecting an example of every camera that Universal made [with the help of a number of American friends and contacts]. I am now starting on articles for the Club magazine and would like to quote from some of your inputs – please do you have any objections to my doing so provided that I acknowledge the source? mention as the you

  21. I have happened upon a ton of old photography magazines, ads, manuals, and some equipment/cameras (prob. 1930’s-1950’s). If you are interested feel free to email me. Tahnks

  22. Hey Dana, Happy to find your site, a wonderful collection and great research into the history of these gems. I am starting my own blog to showcase my collection soon…possibly over the Christmas break. Will be sure to send you a link.

    Keep hunting 🙂

    Roy

  23. HI- Thanks for the link to The Ohio Camera Collector’s Web page. We will have a lot of great vintage cameras at our annual show and auction coming up May 15,16, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. See http://historiccamera.com/club/occs/ or also find us on Facebook!

  24. Hi, I was actually trying to find some info on a Hamilton Ross Miniature 127 Camera as I am about to list it on ebay, but don’t know too much about it other than it’s a beautiful style. Love you collection…though I still can’t find anything on this particular camera. Plenty on the Falcon, etc., but this one stumps me. -Susan Lothrop

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