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Gizmos A - Z

15-station Desk Intercom

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Accoson Sphygmomanometer

Acos SLM3 Sound Level Meter

Acoustic Coupler

Advance PP5 Stabilised PSU

Aibo ERS-111 Robotic Pet

Aiwa LX-110 Linear Turntable

Aiwa TP-32A Tape Recorder

Alba PTV-11 Mini TV Clock Radio

Alcatel Minitel 1 Videotex

Aldis Folding Slide Viewer

Alpha-Tek Pocket Radio

Airlite 62 Military Headset

Airlite 71 Aviation Headset

Aitron Wrist Radio

Aiwa TP-60R Tape Recorder

AKG K290 Surround 'Phones

Amerex Alpha One Spycorder

Amstrad em@iler

Amstrad NC100 Notepad

Amstrad VMC-100 Camcorder

AN/PRC-6 Walkie Talkie

Apple Macintosh SE FDHD

Amstrad CPC 464 Computer

AlphaTantel Prestel

Archer Realistic Headphone Radio

Astatic D-104 Desk Microphone

Atari 2600 Video Game

Atari 600XL Home Computer

Audiotronic LSH 80 'Phones

Avia Electronic Watch

Avid Pneumatic Headphones

AVO Multiminor

AVO Model 8 Multimeter

Bambino Challenger Radio

Bandai Solar LCD Game

Barlow Wadley XCR-30 Radio

BC-611/SCR-536 Handy Talkie

B&O Beocom 2000 Phone
B&O Beolit 609 EXP II AM Radio

Baygen Freeplay Lantern

Bellwood, Bond Spycorder

Benkson 65 LW/MW Radio

Benkson 68 Mini Tape Recorder

Benkson 79 Mini Tape Recorder

Benkson 92 Baby Sitter Alarm

Betacom BF1 Pianotel Phone

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Bigston PS-5 Flat Panel Speakers

Binatone Digivox Alarm

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Bio Activity Translator

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Bolex Paillard 155 Cine Camera

Bowmar LED Digital Watch

Boots CRTV-50 TV,Tape, Radio

Beseler PM2 Color Analyzer

British Gas Mk 2 Multimeter

Brolac Camera In A Can

Brydex Ever Ready Lighter

BSB Squarial

BT CT6000 Moneybox Payphone

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BT Kingfisher Answering Machine

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BT Slimtel 10 HT2A

Bush TR 82C MW/LW Radio

Cambridge Z88 Computer

Candlestick Telephone

Canon Ion RC-260 Camera

Cartex TX-160 Multiband Radio

Casio VL-Tone Keyboard

CD V-700 Geiger Counter

CD V-715 Survey Meter

CDV-717 Survey Meter

CD V-742 Pen Dosimeter

Casio CA-90 Calculator Watch

Casio WQV-1 Camera Watch

Central C-7980EN Multimeter

Channel Master 6546

Chinon 722-P Super 8 ciné

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Citizen ST555 Pocket TV

Clairtone Mini Hi Fi Radio

CocaCola Keychain Camera

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Commodore 64 Home PC

Commodore PET 2001-N

Companion CR-313 Walkie Talkies

Computer Novelty AM/FM Radio

Compact Marine SX-25

Concord F20 Sound Camera

Connevans LA5 Loop Amplifier

Coomber 393 Cassette Recorder

Coomber 2241-7 CD Cassette

Contamination Meter No.1

Cosmos Melody Organ

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Craig TR-408 tape recorder

C-Scope ProMet II Detector

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Field Telephone Set J

Fidelity HF42 Record Player

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GPO Headset No. 1

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Henica H-138 Radio Lighter

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Hohner 9806 Organetta

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Ianero Polaris Spotlight

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IR Binoculars No 1 Mk 1

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King Folding Binoculars

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Kodak 56X Instamatic

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Kodak Pony 135

Koss ESP-6 Headphones

Kvarts DRSB-01 Dosimeter

Kvarts DRSB-88 Dosimeter

Kvarts DRSB-90 Geiger Count

Kyoto S600 8-Track Player

La Pavoni Espresso Machine

Le Parfait Picture Frame Radio

Linwood SImple Siren Car Alarm

Ludlum Model 2 Survey Meter

Macarthys Surgical AM Radio

Magnetic Core Memory 4kb

Maplin YU-13 Video Stabilizer

Marlboro Giant  AM Radio

Mattel Intellivision

Maxcom Cordless Phone

McArthur Microscope OU

Mehanotehnika Intercom

Memo Call Tape Recorder

Merlin Hand-Held Game

Micronta 22-195A Multimeter

Micronta 3001 Metal Detector

Micronta S-100 Signal Injector

Microphax Case II Fiche

Midland 12-204 Tape Rccorder

Military Headset 5965-99-100

Mini Com Walkie Talkies

Mini Instruments 5.40 Geiger

Minifon Attaché Tape Recorder

Mini-Z Electro Thermometer

Minolta 10P 16mm Camera

 

Widget Of The Week

Wein/Honeywell WP-500 Flashmeter, 1973

Dustygizmos is home to a fair selection of ‘firsts’, ‘smallest’, ‘largest’ and even ‘weirdest’ gadgets from the past half-century or so, but here’s a new category. They’re ‘Old Troupers’ (until we think of a catchier name…), widgets that have been around for several decades and remained largely unchanged since the day they appeared. Our first contender for this prestigious title is the Wein Flashmeter, which was in continuous production from 1968 until just a few years ago.

 

The model featured here is a first generation WP-500. It’s successor, the 500B dating from the mid 70s, looked almost identical but had a plastic instead of a Bakelite case and a removable battery cover. Otherwise you would be hard pressed to tell when it was made but they all do exactly the same thing, which is measure the light from a flashgun, reflected from a subject or scene being photographed. The photographer uses this information to set the optimum exposure on their camera. It’s the sort of thing modern cameras have been doing automatically for years, in fact auto exposure systems were common long before pixels replaced film. Nevertheless plenty of professional photographers still prefer to use a flash meter for several very good reasons. It is difficult to accurately measure the ‘strobe’ flash many modern cameras use to check a scene prior to taking a picture, and no matter how clever digital systems have become, there is as yet no substitute for human knowledge and experience. This is one of the reasons why the Wein Flashmeter survived for so long. It also helped that they got the design more or less right from the beginning and it needed no improvement.

 

Almost any photographer familiar with proper film cameras, that haven’t had their brains addled by digital technology should be able to use it without reading the instructions. The large dial on bottom left hand corner is for setting the speed of the film being used (ISO/ASA 25 – 400). The large white rocker switch on the right is for checking the battery and switching it on. To take a reading the unit is held close to the camera lens, with the meter facing the scene; that’s because the light sensor is behind the white cap on the top of the film speed knob. The flash is fired and the suggested exposure value – (between f2 and f22) is shown and held on the meter. Skilled photographers will take several readings in different places and use their eyes and judgement to fine-tune the camera’s exposure settings to compensate for shadows and subtle variations in the reflectivity of the scene.   

 

As you can see from this interior shot it’s not especially complicated. There’s a light-dependant resistor or LDR to measure the reflected light. It’s connected to a battery and links up to the meter via the film index potentiometer, a pair of preset variable resistors (for calibration) and a little black box that ‘holds’ or freezes the peak meter reading after the flash has been fired. The exact contents of the black box are uncertain. It is potted in resin and taking it apart would almost certainly destroy it. It’s sixties technology, though, and likely to be just a handful of common components. Later versions are probably more sophisticated, as it is the sort of thing inexpensive microchips can do really well. It looks hand built and indeed there is a label on the case to that effect, adding that it needs to be properly calibrated. That highlights improvements on later Wein instruments, like the almost identical looking WP-1000, which has the facility for user calibration.

 

Needless to say this one, probably from the early to mid 70s (it has a Bakelite case), came from a car boot sale and was as is so often the case, a helluva bargain, costing me just 50 pence. It was a calculated gamble -- not that 50 pee was much of a risk – and the meter on its own would be worth several times the asking price, assuming it was working. The fact that it look clean and un-tinkered with and the meter needle moved freely when gently shook, suggested that it was worth a punt. It was, and it worked, at least the meter moved and stayed put when I ‘flashed ‘ it with a camera. It is almost certainly in need of calibration, though, and the simplest to do that, without access to a service manual, is to do side-by-side comparisons with a known good meter. Suffice it to say it will have to take its turn on my never-ending to-do list.    

 

What Happened To It?

It appears that the WP-500 was originally designed by Honeywell in the US. Some Flashmeters are co-branded but at some point the design was passed or more likely sold to Wein who took over production. There’s little in the way of background on the web about how and when this happened, or much about Wein, who nowadays mostly make air purifiers. This lack of information is a little surprising considering that the WP-500, 500B and 1000 were all highly regarded by amateur and professional photographers. A fair number must have been sold if ebay listings are anything to go by, but most of them are in the US, which might indicate that it wasn’t extensively exported.

 

The market for instruments like this would have been at its height from the mid 60s to the late 90s. That was a golden era for film photography with large numbers of affordable high-performance cameras coming out of Japan. Inevitably automation played a large part in the slowdown in demand for flash meters, but it was the arrival of advanced digital cameras in the early noughties and sophisticated low cost digital light meters that meant only a tiny handful of companies continued making analogue instruments, and Wein may well have been the last one. It’s a classic design, expensive in its day and still very useable. You would be forgiven for thinking they command high prices but more often than not working examples in good condition sell on ebay for less than £20, a lot less in some cases. Be warned, though, shipping from the US to the UK can add £15 to £25 to the final price. Vintage cameras are highly collectable, with prices to match, but accessories and ancillaries currently have less appeal, which makes them a good starting point for anyone interested collecting photography-related items. As time goes by as the cost of desirable cameras keeps on rising there is good reason to suppose that the cost of accessories will also go up. Right now there’s a lot of really good quality instruments on offer, and you can afford to be choosy and seek out clean, working and boxed examples, which will be the most likely to appreciate in value in the future.  


DUSTY DATA

First Seen:                   1968

Original Price:             £95.00

Value Today:               £10.00 (1119)

Features:                     Direct reading, exposure range f2 – f22 (1/3 f-stop accuracy), 25 – 400 ASA/ISO adjustment, peak hold, battery test function 

Power req:                   9 volts DC, PP3 type battery

Dimensions:                 103 x 74 x 52mm

Weight:                        250g

Made (assembled) in:   Japan

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest): 7



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