Wollensak (Weston) Fastax High Speed Cine Camera Exposure Meter, Model 755. 1960 USA manufacture.    

 

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The Fastax was one of the first practical high speed cine cameras commercially available. It was designed and made by Wollensak, a division of 3M, in the USA. It was able to shoot at up to 10,000 frames per second. This phenomenal rate was achieved by running the film at continuous speed through the camera. The image was wiped onto the film using a rotating glass prism, instead of a shutter.

Of necessity, the effective shutter speed was very short. So, to get a useable image on the film, the subject had to be extremely powerfully lit. A conventional Selenium cell would have been far too sensitive to accommodate such high lighting levels. 

Weston therefore designed a very desensitised and highly baffled cell which was used in the 757 and this model 755. It can be used on the un-baffled range, or with one of two other baffles that could be rotated across. The three ranges allowed readings to be taken up to 300,000 foot candles!

The model 757 used a separate cell wand connected to the meter by cable. This allowed for the meter - a conventional scientific grade precision unit - to be read away from the high lighting level. It is doubtful whether such a meter could have survived the heat generated by the lighting otherwise. This model 755 has evidently been designed for robustness in the industrial environment however. The Cast iron casing and metal meter housing suggest that the unit has been ruggedised. Bakelite does not feature in this model which, I would imagine, is by far the heaviest light meter ever made.

The industrial pedigee of this meter is very much in evidence in its design. The casing is completely flush on the back, allowing it to be rested flat on a surface and allowing no opportunity for it to roll off or receive accidental damage. The meter face rests proud and is angled. This would allow for easy reading without the operator having to stick their head under the bright hot, (dangerous) lighting.

It is clear that this meter design had been very well thought out for the utilitarian environment that it was expected to be used in. But it is not free of decoration and this is where, twenty five years after its zenith, Art Deco rears its recognisable head. There is a great deal of characteristic stepped geometry in the shaping of the cast iron housing that surrounds the meter. It cannot be denied. And just to make sure you understand this, the word 'FASTAX' on the metal reference plate is encompassed by deco flashing.

The instructions and exposure calculator dial screwed onto the back of the Model 755 meter. This plastic sheet would probably melt if left directly under the high powered lighting, but is protected in use by the body of the meter. It would have been removed from under the lights and then turned over to do the calculation. 

Note the table for recording readings and other data. The plastic plate, including the fixing screws that stand proud, are set into a recess in the casting so that the meter rests on the cast iron shell when laid flat. This would also protect the plastic plate from abrasion on rough surfaces.