135compact.com       35mm half format cameras       Tessina L

The Tessina isn't a proper half frame camera, film format is only 14x21mm on ordinary 35mm film. The film has to be transferred from a normal cartridge to a smaller Tessina cartridge. In the old days special Tessina film was readily available, but this film is no longer produced. Loading Tessina cartridges is easy with the Tessina daylight loader. You get 3 loads from a 36 pictures film, each will give about 25 photos in the Tessina.

The Tessina was created and patented by Dr. Rudolph Steineck, an 
Austrian engineer, in Lugano (Switzerland) for Siegrist in Grenchen (Switzerland), who produced it. It was introduced in 1957 and sold by Steineck's company Concava S.A. It remained in production until 1996. The Tessina is a real twin lens reflex, with two lenses, one for taking the picture, the other for viewing on a tiny ground-glass focusing screen on top of the camera. A 45 mirror reflects incoming light down to the film at the bottom of the camera, another mirror reflects the light of the second lens up to the ground glass. The film is advanced via a clockwork motor built into the takeup spool, with a pullout winder like the crown on a wristwatch. Each winding can give up to 8 exposures.

According to the web the Tessina has been hand assembled from more than two hundred precision parts, it contains ruby bearings like swiss watches to reduce friction, each camera was designed for 100,000 pictures. 

The camera's main features are:

35mm film twin lens reflex camera, picture size 14 x 21 mm
25 mm f/2.8 Tessinon lensesfocus via tiny ground glass, 0.23m (!) min. distance
Shutter speeds: 1/2 to 1/500 and B, Aperture: 2.8 to 22
69 x 56 x 27mm, Weight : 168 g
Special accessory meter: ISO 12-800

Front. Shutter release button. Lens cover closed, finder folded.

Back view. Rewind wheel, flash syncro selector, flash contact, speed selector, rewind release, winding knob.

Seen from above. Aperture selection (outer ring), exposure counter. Focussing distance selection and depth-of-the-field scale. Accessory meter, it couples with the aperture wheel via its dented wheel and gives you the shutter speed to set. It makes the Tessina a semi-automatic camera. It has to be coupled at F 4 setting. Finder, folded.

Seen from below. There is tripod mount/neckchain device available which slides under the 4 rivets, as well as a wrist strap or a short instruction plate.

Right side.

Left side. Opening catch.

Front view, lenses uncovered and finder unfolded.

Back view. Finder unfolded. The finder can serve as ordinary viewfinder. Once unfolded, 2 little sheets of metal protect the ground glass from stray light as well.

Seen from above. Finder open, ground glass view, 50cm distance.

Seen from above. Finder open, ground glass view, infinity focus.

Meter removed. There is a small metal exposure calculation table available to be slid into the space and a Swiss mechanical watch as extrvagant accessory.

Camera back open open. Tessina cassette installed.

Cassette removed.

Back side of the meter. ISO setting. These meters are the tiniest light meters ever built. The size is 26.5mm x 22.2mm x 9.8mm, weight 19.5g. Most of these meters are dead. I was lucky to get a working one in a bundle with the camera.

A very handy accessory, a plate with a tripod socket and a neckchain.

It slides under the camera and is firmly held.

A good set to start, a Tessina, the tripod plate and chain, 3 film canisters and the daylight loader. You can load 3 cartridges of 25 pictures with one 36 pictures standard 135 film.

The Tessina is a jewel of a precision and craft. At 14x21mm picture size it has nearly 4 times the picture size of a Minox C and it's only slightly bigger. The use of ordinary 35mm film is a big advantage. As it's a full featured twin lens reflex, there are many collectors who must have it, hence the prices are high to absurd. If you are interested nevertheless, be patient. On the big auction site there are good offers from time to time. You should be sure that it is working and you need some accessories: one cassette at least (better 3) and the daylight loader. The rest is optional. Be prepared to develop your film yourself, you should not give the expensive cassettes away unless you are sure to get them back undestroyed. And remember that the photos on the film are inverted, as they are exposed via a mirror. So you should be able to enlarge them yourself or have a good negative scanner.

The Tessina is not a reasonable camera any more, but it's real fun to use it, at least for some time.

A dismounted Tessina and parts.

Sale photo for a Tessina lot.