Norton Camera

The Norton Camera, taking a bow.

This is what I hate. It really bugs me when you click on something thinking you’ll get information about it but instead the person goes on and on about something completely unrelated. [Just wait for it, ok? I’m getting there.] Today, I’m working on updating my Norton Camera review, which I originally wrote nearly 20 years ago. SO FUN to re-read this crap! At the same time, I’m refiling my negative pages – going alphabetical by camera. It’s a bit flabbergasting just how much film I’ve shot and just how many negatives I have to file. So, it’s January 31st at 3 o’clock. Bob & I go without alcohol during the month of January. We’ve been doing this for years. Today, we’ve decided to break our vows 9 hours early. We sat down to toast our month of cleanliness. And I begin telling him about my negative filing. He says, “You have a lot of negatives. You gotta start lookin’ at the positives.” And we laugh and laugh…. So here is the original review word-for-word, but with updated images. And then some.

The story behind my ownership of this Norton camera is kinda funny. I found a box of junk store cameras while previewing an auction. I don’t usually take in auctions, but…you know. Anyway, in the box were a few interesting cameras and a few not so interesting cameras. At the very bottom was the Norton Camera. I’d never seen one before! I ended up getting the box of cameras for $25, simply because I wanted that little bastard!

The Norton Camera takes Univex #00 size film. I quickly found that the spool of the 828 film purchased from Film For Classics doesn’t fit inside the camera. There was a take up spool inside the camera already, but no extra spools were available. While I stewed over different ways I could make the film fit, I put the camera on the back burner. During that time I saw two or three cameras that matched this one at the annual camera show in Puyallup, Washington. The dealers wanted $35 and up for them. My limit on a single junk store camera is $8.

One day we were out shopping for a claw foot bathtub. Found one at a junk store in Brady, Washington. While poking around the junk store, I found a camera that looked just like the Norton Camera. My excitement mounted. My heart began to beat faster. There was a chunk of Bakelite missing from the front of the camera that made it useless for picture taking. There was no price tag on it. Now, there is a strategy in junk store camera shopping. One doesn’t want to look too eager. Also, you don’t want to appear as though you actually know what it is you’re looking at. I mean, I assume my look-at-this-silly-little-thing mode. It’s plastic…you can’t even get the film for it anymore…how much could something like this possibly cost anyway? Then too, you have to factor in that I’m still in denial that I collect these things. Plus I don’t need two of the same camera. Okay, enough. I was thinking that if this camera had a #00 reel inside (and was within my price range), I could load the 828 film I already had onto it and put it in my Norton Camera. The camera had a little tab on the side that read, “press here to open” and, like all good camera fanatics, I pressed. The camera burst into smithereens! In my hands were eighteen pieces of Bakelite where there used to be just one. I immediately glanced sideways at the shop owner. He was involved in a conversation about Noritake china and hadn’t noticed a thing. I could cram all the pieces back on the shelf and move on…but I didn’t want to dent my karma…and I am a relatively honest person. So, I brought all the pieces up to the counter, intending to insist that I pay for my mistake, but also intending to point out that the camera was broken before I even touched it. I waited for the shop owner to finish his discussion. As I handed him the pieces and said how sorry I was, I saw the reel. It was the very reel I needed. He accepted the pieces. He told me I didn’t have to pay for it. “It was a $35 camera until some guy broke the front off it.” He threw all the pieces in the garbage. Damn! Now, if I asked him for the reel, he’d think I’d broken the camera on purpose. Hmmm…I walked around the store. As we were loading the claw foot tub (which no longer mattered to me), I mentioned that I might be able to use the reel from the camera he’d thrown away. Bless his little heart, he took the pieces out of the garbage and gave them to me.

The reel worked. But the camera is slightly different from mine. It is a full 1/2″ shorter. Its a Univex Model A. It has information written on every millimeter of its body. “Univex Camera Corporation, New York, NY.” “Use Univex No. 00 film rolls only” ” equipped with special Univex synchromatic speedlens” Stuff like that. Shutter works. Camera’s busted.

As far as the Norton goes though; I think I left too much paper on the film reel. It jammed up. I had to open the back after every exposure (inside a changing bag, of course) and wind the film by hand. This meant that I never could tell whether the counter was in the right spot.

Anyway, the camera is 3 1/2″ wide and 1 7/8″ tall. part of the viewfinder folds down. The shutter releases on the way up and on the way down. It says it was manufactured in Lock Port, NY.


Just thought this photo of the shutter might help someone one day. Ever the helpful one.

5 Responses

  1. way cool! I just got a Norton Camera for my collection. I haven’t opened it yet to see if the reels are there. Thanks for your story.

  2. I have to say, this is probably the Edsel of cameras. If this monstrously ugly little beast doesn’t win for the ugliest camera, I don’t know what would!
    I love the angles, and the utilitarian “fuck it!” vibe I get from seeing it.
    This is a fantastic site!
    Thank you so much.

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