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
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 2x 25 mm f/2.8 Tessinon lenses, focus via tiny ground glass, 0.23m (!) min. distance Shutter speeds: 1/2 to 1/500 and B, Aperture: 2.8 to 22 Size 69 x 56 x 27mm, Weight : 168 g Special accessory meter: ISO 12-800
Front. Shutter release button. Lens cover closed, finder folded.
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.
from below. There is tripod mount/neckchain device available which
slides under the 4 rivets, as well as a wrist strap or a short
Left side. Opening catch.
Front view, lenses uncovered and finder unfolded.
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.
removed. There is a small metal exposure calculation table available to
be slid into the space and a Swiss mechanical watch as extrvagant
Camera back open
open. Tessina cassette installed.
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
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.