Vintage Lomography: Winpro 35

I had been told about an Estate Sale two days before. That it was the household furniture and effects from four houses combined into one location, and the sale included a “lot of vintage cameras”. I asked what was meant by “vintage”. The answer was cameras from the 50s and 60s. Perhaps because I lived through both of those decades, I consider items from that time period to be classic rather than vintage. It is just a matter of perspective. But I’m always ready to look at cameras from those decades.

Mike Harmon and I showed up a half-hour before the sale was to start on the first day. We figured there might be a Zorki or Kiev rangefinder, or even an interesting folder in the pile. No way of knowing without showing up. It was also quite possible that we’d encounter a pile of Kodak Instamatic cameras that were not worth the weight of their vintage plastic.

The sale was somewhat disorganized. One was supposed to get a number from a volunteer wearing a blue shirt, but there was no sign mentioning that, so I got the number 30 ticket, though I was among the first dozen people who showed up for the sale. Mike turned up 3 or 4 minutes later and ended up with number 49, I believe. The sale organizers let the first 25 go into the house first, then let a handful of people in as people left the sale. Going in first, I told Mike that I’d corner anything good.

There was nothing to “corner”. It was a short pile of Kodak Instamatics, after all. Damn.

But there was one interesting item, a Winpro 35mm. I picked it up for $7 just because it looked interesting. I may have overpaid by two or three dollars.

The Winpro 35 was a one-off wonder made in Rochester, New York during the late 1940s and early 1950s. 1947 to 1955 to be exact. Webster Industries later became the Zenith Film Corporation. This model was made by Zenith Film Corp. The distinguishing difference was the addition of red to the graphics around the lens by Zenith, while the earlier Webster version had plain 2-color graphics. The company names are different, of course.

The Winpro 35 was a very simple point-and-shoot camera. The body was made of something called “Tenite”, a plastic that appears to have something in common with Bakelite, though it is purportedly more sturdy and long-lasting. The 40mm “Crystar” lens appears to be plastic, and it’s focus was fixed at the factory.

There are three apertures control settings; #1 for Direct Sun, #2 for Cloudy Day, and #3 for Direct Sun Snow or Beach Scene. A three-position switch at the side of the lens housing controls the 3 settings.

There are two shutter settings; INST and TIME. The INST setting is instant, of course. press the shutter plunger down and the shutter is instantly activated, presumably at a fixed speed. The TIME setting in not a Timer setting, at least not on my example of the camera. When I push the shutter plunger down, the shutter opens and remains open until I release the plunger, so it is really a Bulb setting.

Loading 35mm film is quite simple and clearly explained by the instruction sheet that accompanied the camera. Since everything seemed to be working as intended, I looked around for some cheap film to “test” the camera with.

I found a roll of Kodak Gold 200 to make the trial with. I don’t remember where the roll of 200 came from, but suspect that someone gave it to me, because I don’t like it, unlike the 100 ASA/ISO version of Gold. That roll has been in the refrigerator for nearly four years due to my distaste for it. It is good to find a use for it, however trivial.

The wind wheel, rewind wheel, and frame counter are on the bottom of the camera. The camera is the result of a very minimalistic engineering approach. 

I’m going to shoot the 24-frame roll, then have it developed at Costco. If anything interesting comes of it, I’ll post it later. After reading a few rather brief reviews of the camera’s erratic imaging qualities, I have very low expectations. But it will be something to play with…  

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