Review: A Camera that contributed to Nixon's demise at Watergate - the Tessina 35


ed9119

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#1
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
 

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ed9119

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#2
The watch timepiece was running fine ..... it reflected the time in the afternoon I was with Mr Guan Kee :)


Pretty spotless and leathers all in place for a 50 year old camera


Kind gentleman, Mr Guan Kee
 

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ed9119

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#3
I get the drools just looking at this piece of art


Lens covered closed .... if you look at the little button with the tiny black hold on the 'side' of this camera..... its the shutter release button ....... you could crank a spring up and with the stored energy you can take a good 9-13 shots before cocking again


The ground glass and lens was clear as the sky


With the camera strap
bottom dial was for distance while top dial is for f-stop ..... you'd better know your Sunny 16 rules good if you want to meter well
 

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ed9119

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#4
Bottom of camera .... notice the shutter speed dial and other setting dials


With the enlarger viewfinder attached...



GOOD OLD TRI-X (Yayyyy!!!) Canisters and cartridges made specially for the Tessina 35


Film loader and cutter with the minature cartridge to take-up a fresh roll of film


With the back (bottom) of the camera opened..... fresh film cartridge on the left and exposed film take-up spool on the right
 

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ed9119

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#6
With the dust cover open showing the TLR lens set-up ..... its SIDE by SIDE instead of the traditional TOP and BOTTOM layout of traditional TLRs .... which still qualifies it as a TLR
Taking lens for exposing the film (below the f-stop dial ) is next to the '1960' sticker while viewing lens is next to the little shutter button
 

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ed9119

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#7
A short video clip shot with the Samsung EX1
[video=youtube;wZhKQOarAsE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZhKQOarAsE[/video]
 

ed9119

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#8
trivia: On the 2nd pic..... observe the 3.25pm ish time on the face of the watch I started taking pics of this camera ...... until the last couple of pics above which show 4.10+pm when we were done with this camera

okie..... all done here :) .... dont you think this is just crazy the kind of stuff they made years and years ago ?

There will be another interesting old camera review next week......
 

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coolthought

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Jun 23, 2008
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#9
hmm... such a treasure why don't they make this anymore.
 

Jul 27, 2011
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#11
kudos! Maybe someone should suggest to nikon to start working on one of this as well.. haha
 

Oct 17, 2008
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#12
Cool~
very good attempt to review & document such beautiful piece of engineering & art...
 

sfoto100

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#14
hi Eddie,

tks so much for writing this. i can see your passion!!!!
 

Dec 23, 2007
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#15
its good stuff ... hard to find such item anymore. Its a very good eye opening for us younger generation. Thanks bro.
 

Dec 23, 2007
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#17
haha, at least consider young compare to the camera's age lor :p
 

ed9119

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#19
please...... if any of you have an interesting tale about an old camera please feel free to start a thread on it
 

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