PHOTOGRAPHY   © mike connealy
Jem Jr. 120
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The Jem Jr. 120 was produced in the 1940's by the J.E.Mergott Co. of Newark, N.J. There are almost no machined parts in this box camera. Everything is sheetmetal, held together by spot welds, rivets and the springy, formed structure of the material. It is an elegant and functional design from the pre-plastic era. I found my Jem in a Las Cruces junk store in the summer of 2002.

The Jem's only operational refinement is a lever on the top that allows a choice of Instant or Timed exposures. There are no tripod or cable release sockets. According to the user manual, the aperture is set at f16 and the shutter operates at 1/25th of a second. I recall making and using a wooden tripod mount with rubberbands to hold the camera in place, but it is possible to shoot the camera hand-held with a little care.

A single screw on the top of the camera permits the easy removal of the camera's front to clean the lens, the lens cover plate, the two viewfinders, and the shutter. Even after cleaning, however, the viewfinders are pretty challenging to use; they are large, but lack a magnifying lens.

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Below are the results from the two or three rolls of film I put through the camera over the course of a year. My Photoshop skills were less than perfect at the time. I should go back and shoot some more with this nice little box camera.



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