This camera is part of Watergate history which led to the demise of US President Richard Nixon. It was reported that a special 'silent' version of the Tessina 35 was found one one of the arrested Watergate's plumbers and later seized as evidence in the affair that ultimately led to resignation of US president Richard Nixon...
Mr Guan Kee showed me a Tessina in absolutely pristine condition recently and I would like to introduce it to Clubsnappers as both a review in engineering ingenuity before the digital age as well as sharing a little piece of photography and camera historica.
At the time, the Tessina 35 was widely acknowledged as the smallest 35 mm camera in the world that was tiny enough to be worn as a wristwatch.
It is Swiss-made, and truly a fine masterpiece of engineering. It is made up of about 400 seperate parts.
Its maker used jewels (ruby) to reduce wear and tear and friction to give it a longer working life (this is one of the techniques used by good Swiss watch makers).
The Tessina 35mm is a TLR camera, exactly made like the Rolleiflex, but one would be hard pressed to find visual similarities. It is a subminiature TLR, and at that time, perfectly suited for clandestine/spy photography.
One does not need to bring the camera to eye level for composition because it had a pop-up viewfinder and mini ground glass (!!!)
One story circulating around during the Cold War was that STASI, the East German secret police were so taken with the camera, that they copied and manufactured a silent version of the Tessina 35.
Mr Guan Kee's Tessina 35 comes with a (yet) unused leather watch strap, viewfinder attachment, camrea, watch (STILL WORKING!!!) and instruction manual.
Dimensions and Information
- The Tessina 35 began production in 1960
- They were made in Grenchen Switzerland by Siegrist although the front of the User Manual says Concava S.A. Lugano- Cassarate
- It's design was patented in West Germany, Switzerland and the US by Dr Rudolph Steineck
- A 2nd gentleman, Paul Nagal is listed as co-inventor of the rewind and shutter and film transport mechanisms. Nagal was also the designer for the Kodak Retina
- Built-in miniature spring wound motor drive so you could shoot several frames without cocking the shutter
- 69 x 56 x 27mm
- 1 lens reflects UPWARDS to the ground glass
- Tessinon 25mm (!!) f2.8 (!!!) lens grouping
- Optional 6x power prism finder (this one comes with one)
- 0.5sec - 1/500sec shutterspeed
- Weight 166g
- Uses 141cm long strips of standard 35mm film and so you could essentially buy a roll of negative color film, roll it into a minature 35mm film spool/cartridge, load it and start shooting.
- Output exposed frame size is 14x21 mm, which is much larger than other subminiature formats (Minox) but in form factor that was smaller than most 16mm cameras
Mr Guan Kee using his monocular to look into my iPod Touch reading about the Compass Camera article that appeared in Clubsnap last week