United States Camera USC 35

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United States Camera USC 35

In the early last century, there were two photographic centres in the US. One was Rochester, NY, headquarters of Kodak and its predecessors, and the other was Chicago, IL, where a slew of small companies entered the up-and-coming industry. The very early ones were Burke and James in 1897, DeVry in 1913, and projector makers  Ampro and Exell. Later, added pre-war camera makers were Revere,  Allied, Spartus / Gelter and T.D.C. Chicago-based Bell & Howell and Sears included cameras to their product line.

With the post-war economic boom, as 8 million returning GIs utilized the GI Bill benefits, the expanding middle class had pockets full like never before. The industrial muscle that made armaments turned to consumer goods, and suburban housing went beyond the horizon. All that was needed was a way to immortalize the moment, as Kodak brilliantly tagged it as ‘a Kodak moment’. To answer that, Chicago saw another line of budding camera makers such as Herbert George, Harold, Monarch, General Product and the Cameramen. But, while Kodak was busy with the Ektra and B&H with the Foton, these makers made Dinky Toys.

In 1947, a new company joined the party under two names: United States Camera Co. / Pho-Tak Corp.

The company operated under both names between 1948 and 1964. Little is known about the company; for more, see Mike Eckman’s article about Pho-Tak. It is snubbed by the camera boks about US-made cameras, with no mention in any of the directories.

It seems that the two companies had a different line of products. Pho-Tak had box cameras, a few folders, and box TLR cameras. United States Camera had a similar offering but seemed higher quality, such as proper TLR cameras made by Beauty and several viewfinders sourced from Regula. There is no indication of where other cameras were made; some models state origin, but most do not. For example, the Simplex models are marked as ‘Made in USA, ‘ which leaves the rest in question. I would guess that the basic cameras were locally made, and anything more advanced came from abroad, as did other distributors. Both lines did not enjoy much appreciation from users then or collectors today, as very few, if any, have now changed hands.

The camera on my desk is a USC 35, a rebranded Regula IIa made by King in Germany. Markings are an oxymoron, marked as ‘United States Camera, Chicago Illinois, Made in Germany’. Identifying the correct Regula is challenging, as there were several look-alike models, such as the Regula IP, and Regula KG. I will look at it on the King Regula page and correct it accordingly.

I got this camera a few years ago when I passed by Buffalo NY, and branched into Clarence Antique Market, which is said to be the largest flea market in Western New York State. It is mighty indeed if you visit on a summer weekend. Several large buildings have indoor displays and miles of vendors in self-storage-style outdoor booths. In colder months, only the indoors are open, not as impressive. You could spend an afternoon there in the summer without repeating the same display twice.

The camera is a typical Regula model, with a well-styled and well-finished body made of punched metal. The lever handle is skirted with a frame counter, which is easy to reset. A rewind pull-up knob, surrounded with film speed memo. The winder lever pulls the film one frame at a time, but the shutter is cocked via a cog on the film pathway, so it takes a film inside to fire, or manually turn it. A fin at the back, under the winding lever, allows for rewinding.

In the middle at the back, two viewers are positioned against two windows at the front. The square window at the front is the finder, on the small side, and the elongated rectangle is an extinction meter. On-camera extinction meters were popular in the 1940s and the 1950s, mainly by German manufacturers, with a few American models following suit. They came out of fashion when photoelectric meters became cheap and widespread.

Extinction meters come in several flavours, either as a handheld instrument or integral to the camera body. Here, the viewer sees a line of gradually darkened numbers, where the most visible number is the exposure value (EV) recommended for the given light conditions. The value is translated to the camera control via a secondary dial on the camera or, in this model, using an external settings table.

The lens mount is a typical Regula large ring with machined indentations. It is fixed or could be unscrewed; I did not apply force. On Regula rangefinders, a very similar ring turns for focusing. In front of it is the aperture lever, with good and clear markings, and next is the speed selector dial, offering modest speeds B, 25 to 200. The zone-focusing dial is on the front end, marked feet as is this model was sold in the US. An era-typical lens 2.8 by 45 completes the features.

The camera takes no batteries and needs no manual; you just load it and shoot. It could appeal to Americana collectors, but otherwise it carries a little importance.

Camdex list number 26018
Brand United States Camera
Model USC 35
Format 35mm
Introduced 1954
AKA King Regula Iia
Country US / Germany
Qty made
Initial price
Type Viewfinder
Body material Metal
Mode Manual
Weight 395 gr,  Body with lens
Class average weight 460 gr,  Body with lens
ASA range Memo only
Kit lens 2,8/45
Lens make Cassar
Filter size N/A
Lens mount Fixed lens
Mount size N/A
Shutter Leaf
Shutter make Vero
Light meter None
Winder Lever
Lock No
Speeds B, 25-200
Mirror N/A
Viewer Viewfinder
DOF preview No
Exposure lock No
Exposure compensation No
Shoe Cold
External sync X/M
Sync speed
Timer No
Battery, original N/A
Battery, replacement N/A
Battery voltage N/A
Integral flash None
Service / repair links See camerlog.com

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