Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Legends of photography: the Tessina 35

The Tessina had a full range of accessories including a wrist strap, prism finder, and slip-on exposure meter. It came in a variety of colors.
The Tessina is a TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) miniature camera that takes 14x21mm images on 35mm film. It has two 25mm f/2.8 Tessinon lenses, one for taking the photo and one for viewing. The camera was first manufactured in 1957 in Switzerland by the Concava company, and was built with the precision of a Swiss watch. It remained in regular production until 1996, and some cameras were sporadically available until 2005 . The camera measured 2.5" x 2" x .75", weighed only 5 ounces,  and could manually focus down to a little less than one foot.

35mm film was transferred to special Tessina film cannisters for loading into the camera. Although the image measured 14x21mm, it could still be printed using a standard 35mm enlarger. Because the image was transferred from the lens to the film via a right angle mirror, it was reversed so the film had to be inverted in the enlarger.
A spring wound motor was used to advance the film up to eight frames on a single wind. The camera could be mounted on a wrist strap and worn like a watch. The camera came in a variety of colors including silver (the most popular), black, gold, red. There was even a silent "spy" version made with nylon gears to dampen the noise.

The 14x21cm frame size is actually close in size to half frame and is considerably larger than most sub-miniature cameras.

An optional slip-on pentaprism veiwfinder made composing the image much easier, although it did bulk up the design of the camera.
 There were three nearly identical models, the Tessina Auto, Tessina 35 (the camera illustrated here), and the Tessina 35L.

A plate alongside the viewfinder contains a table with suggested exposures. This plate can be removed by sliding it off, and replaced with a sellenium exposure meter.
The back side of the camera has the flash synch socket, adjustable to M and X synch, and the shutter speed dial. Speeds go from 1/2 second to 1/500 second plus B setting. By lifting and turning the right film dial the camera spring motor is wound to about 8 shots.

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