“What if you could shoot old Polaroid film, Fuji’s current Instax version, huge medium format negatives, large sheet film, and digital, all with the same camera?”
So begins the Kickstarter campaign for the Mercury camera, a project by Mercury Works with the bold claim of being the first universally modular camera. As with any claim like this, it can be easy to assume it’s too good to be true. The Mercury camera already exists as a prototype, however, and sample images suggest it could actually live up to its hefty promise. (Typeface sticklers beware, though, as the Kickstarter campaign features liberal use of the Papyrus font.)
Through a complex arrangement of adapters and modules, the Mercury camera is designed to take just about any lens and pair it to just about any film or digital format for which a camera back exists. The main components of the Mercury are the Front, which supports the lens stack, including focus spacers and mount adapters, and the Back, which attaches to the various film holders, packs, or digital backs.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Mercury is that it will grant photographers significantly more control with formats that are normally very restrictive. For example, with Fujifilm Instax instant film, users will have full exposure control and the option to use multiple lenses. Neither of these options is possible on Fuji’s own Instax cameras.
Challenges remain in making the Mercury truly universal, as it is designed to work primarily with medium and large format optics. DSLR lens adapters are coming for Canon and Nikon, but these lenses do not contain shutters (since DSLRs put the shutter in the camera). Modern DSLR lenses also don’t have aperture rings, so implementing an aperture control system would be necessary.
Mercury Work’s primary focus is on bringing medium and large format photography to a wider audience. Beyond the camera itself, it hopes to build a community of photography enthusiasts and tinkerers who will continue to innovate and add value to the product.
At the time of writing, the Kickstarter project has raised about $5,800 of it’s $50,000 goal.