Univex Iris

The basics: Made by Universal Camera Corp. USA. The lens is an Ilex Vitar 50mm. 7.9 – 22f. Shutter speeds are “I”, “B” and “T”. Very deco, with a viewfinder on the top. It takes six exposures on Univex film. The lens assembly pops out, away from the body. Made of heavy metal and 2 7/8″ tall (including the viewfinder) by 4 7/8″ wide, this camera came with a leather case. The case has an aroma that is very hard to describe. A VERY salty smell. Not unpleasant. Not quite pleasant. This camera was manufactured in 1938 and is considered a “Deluxe”. Wow! I woulda thought a “deluxe” model to be worth more than a regular model, but no. It’s listed as being worth ten dollars less…probably due to that speedy 7.9f lens.

Love the deco viewfinder.
Leather case.
The Iris when it’s glad to see me.

My experiences with this camera could have been entitled a Comedy Of Errors! This camera came with two rolls of Univex film. Univex film is close to 828 in size, but not quite..and it is rolled onto its own special Univex spools. One of the rolls in the camera was exposed. The other roll was new and waiting patiently for me in the spare roll chamber inside the camera. I processed the exposed roll and got these two images:

Found this man.


Found this porch.

Barely there and nothing to get too excited about. The camera was set aside, once again left to wait for another day. That day turned out to be Christmas 2000. After a morning stocking filled with a variety of whiskeys, emptied, we opted for a walk on the beach. It was sunny – a perfect day for a Junk Store Camera! I decided to give myself that roll of Univex film for Christmas. As it went, someone else used the camera to photograph me. He yelled, while cranking the film winder, “Hey! How come this thing doesn’t stop at the next picture?”  My heart sank… He didn’t know how many images he had taken, or where on the film they might be… oh well. Once I processed the film, I realized that we (I’m using the term “we” in a nice way) had forgotten to extend the lens before exposure (I’m using the term “exposure” in a nice way also).

Here I am, romping naked on the beach on Christmas day 2000. Luckily, for everyone concerned, this image did not work out!

Okay. Then I went into the darkroom and cut myself a film template from the processed Univex roll. I spent about a half an hour slicing up a roll of 120 HP5 with a scalpel. It’s tough working with a scalpel in complete darkness. I attached this cut film to the Univex backing paper. I spent some time out and about, photographing. I took six exposures. Once I wound the film past the end, I noticed that there was still some weird, crumpled up exposure numbers in the window. Now, I’ve worked with film for over 25 years… you know what I did in that darkroom that morning? And I’ll admit it here… I loaded the cut 120 backing paper onto the Univex backing paper! Silly me.

So, back to the darkroom “we” go. This time, I already had a template…and I wasn’t afraid to use it. I had the FILM cut and loaded in five minutes. Into the camera it went…six more exposures (and a whispered threat to the camera, “You’d better work or I will go medieval on yo’ ass” -one of my favorite lines from Pulp Fiction) and this is what I came away with:

Univex Iris.
Univex Iris.
Univex Iris.
Univex Iris.



2 Responses

  1. Great website. I just ran across it today searching for information on Univex cameras. I have a 1938 Univex AF-5 minicam in the original box that belonged to my mother.

    I may add a Univex Iris to the collection now that I’ve seen your review.

    I also enjoyed your Argus C3 review.

    1. Hey Ed! Thanks for the comments! I love the Univex brand most for their outrageous claims in their ads, where they put the art of Univex photography on such a pedestal.


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