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The incredible Swiss Tessina 35mm Twin Lens Reflex

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What other twin lens reflex is smaller than a pack of cigarettes?

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This little camera weighing in at 5 oz, is the incredible Tessina -- a 35mm twin lens reflex by Concava in Lugano Switzerland.    Very few cameras are of such totally original design.     Interestingly, it was designed by the designer of the Kodak Retina, Paul Nagel.  Motorized film advance, four element 25/2.8,  with interchangeable finders and many accessories.  It has Leica quality in an upscale subminiature.  

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The wheel is on the left focus, to a little less than 12"    The wheel to the right changes f/stops 2.8 to 22.  The smaller wheel inside atop the f/stop wheel counts exposures.  The sliding front covers provides protection for the taking and viewing lenses.  The cable release threaded shutter button is on the front of the camera, and can only be operated when the sliding front is open.


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The left dial is for rewind.  The middle large dial is the shutter speeds, from 1/2 to 1/500th, plus B.  The large right dial is the spring motor drive, good for up to 8 or so  frames per winding.


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The finder slides off.  Shown are the prism, folding finder, and magnifying waist level finder. The folding finder is multi-use, capable of a straight-a-head albada viewing,  or waist level ground glass focusing. 

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The "Brief Instructions" plate can be detached, to be replaced by a flash gun or by an accessory meter.   Not shown is a small selenium meter which slides in next to the finder.


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A system camera, the little Tessina offers interchangeability whenever possible.  Here are shown your choice of a nifty neck chain or wrist watch type camera bands -- shades of Dick Tracy!


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Standard 35mm cartridge and Tessina cartridge side by side.   You reload standard 35mm film into the Tessina cartridge.   Camera back open, showing film chamber.  To reduce camera  size,  image is reflected 90 degrees to make its way to film!


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Tessina outfit. The very useful daylight loader is shown on the far left.  It conveniently loads Tessina cartridges from standard 35mm cartridges!     Introduced in 1961, this little guy is still being made,  imported in the US by Karl Heitz.  Format size 14x21mm -- probably giving the Tessina the "smallest camera biggest negative" award.    The two almost identical models are the standard Tessina, and the later Tessina L.   The main differences seem to be that the  L has larger groves on the shutter wheel to mate to the extremely hard to find meter, and no F synchronization.   Most Tessinas are chrome.   Of the other black, red, or gold colors, gold is probably the rarest.   Even rarer is the "silent" Tessina -- intended for spy work.

Advantages?  Wonderful precision, large negative to camera size, uses standard 35mm film stock, versatile with different accessories.

Disadvantages?  With a built in miniature mechanical spring wound motor drive, most users have not found it a rugged camera - - treat it gently.  Another problem can be the focusing mirror  out of alignment.    It is also expensive, hard to find, harder to get fixed or serviced,  has  no tripod socket, no TTL metering or AE exposure,  and a fixed lens.   Bitch bitch bitch.  It's still a great little camera.  Today the Tessina  remains an outstanding shooter Submini and classic collectible.

Undoubtedly the Tessina is among the elite of subminis.  If you like precision and innovative design, you will like the Tessina.

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Revised: November 26, 2003 Copyright � 1998-2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.