Tessina 14x21 film

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*2001/10/22 160.50USD (27 films)
2002/03/17 48.97USD (5 films)
2003/03/10 2.99USD
2004/01/28 10.50USD (4 films)
2004/01/31 15.50EUR (2 films)
2005/06/07 16.50USD (6 films)
2005/09/01 16.50USD (blue canister)
2005/11/10 19.99USD (5 films, box of slides)
2006/11/26 40EUR (4 films with film loader)
2007/01/22 9.95USD (3 films with canisters)
2008/01/01 46.77USD (3 films with canisters and boxes)
2008/01/01 67USD (3 films with canisters and boxes)

Film Loading


Standard 35mm cartridge and Tessina cartridge side by side. 

Camera back open, showing film chamber.


Film loaded into Tessina cassettes are available from Heitz services at 30USD per roll. Most users reload standard 35mm film into an empty Tessina cartridge. Worn felt can be replaced with felt from regular 35mm cassettes, using double-sided tape (glue does not work!). Tessina cassettes can be obtained in metal canisters for 2-10USD each.

To reduce camera  size the  image is reflected 90 degrees to make its way to film! Consequently all film shot by Tessina is reversed, as in a mirror. By reversing the film when printing or enlarging you get a 'right way' round result. Some purists argue that a loss of quality results, since the image must traverse the thickness of the film before reaching the printing paper. Any loss of quality would not be noticeable to the human eye, given a negative that was clean, and scratch free.

You load the Tessina very much like other 1960-era 35mm half-frame cameras. The entire bottom (back in a standard 35mm camera) is removable. You then wind the film advance spring knob about four turns, set the film counter at the red dot before zero and click off three frames to reach exposure 1. When all shots have been made, you flick up the rewind knob, rewind the film and take the film out.

The very useful daylight loader conveniently loads Tessina cartridges from standard 35mm cartridges! 

One of the major problems facing the ultra or subminiature user has been non-standard film. Whether 8mm, 9.5mm, 110, 16mm or 17.5mm is needed, the photographer depends an the camera distributor for loaded cartridges or must go through an elaborate, and sometimes complicated, cartridge reloading scheme using movie film or slit 35mm film. Processing of the very tiny and delicate color and black & white images is good, bad or indifferent depending on the lab. It's fairly expensive in any case.

Tessina uses standard 35mm film in special slim plastic cassettes similar in construction to standard 35mm cassettes. An extremely clever daylight bulk loader allows the user to load film from any ordinary 35mm film cassette. Used loaders cost 30-50USD and new ones are about 100USD. 

The plastic Tessina cassettes hold 14 - 20 inches of film depending on the thickness of the film base. About 20 - 30 pictures, 14 x 21mm, can be made on one loading. If you figure some loss of film for front and rear leader, a standard 20 exposure 35mm cassette yields about 40 Tessina pictures, bigger than any other ultra miniature size yet slightly smaller than the standard single-frame format of 18 x 24mm area. 

Factory loads are rated at 23 pictures on black and white roll and 18 for colour. A standard 35mm 36 exposure cassette of black and white film will load three Tessina cassettes with a little left over. Since color film is thicker, only 14.4" will fit in a Tessina cassette, and it is possible to get four rolls from each 35mm cassette. The bulk loader has a switch for film type, and a measuring device. This breaks easily. A broken loader still can be used; eleven and one half turns is 16.5 inches. Thinner films like Technical Pan and High Speed Infrared can be loaded in longer lengths if your loader is broken; 15-16 turns for about 30 exposures. Many modern films bind if the correct length is loaded and so loading about half and inch less (12mm) than recommended for black and white and an inch (25mm) less for Fuji colour films overcomes this problem. There is also a built-in knife for cutting off the film;  it tends to cut through the perforations and scatter film specks through the loader. It takes about three minutes to load a single cassette.  

The 35mm film when processed in any 35mm tank using standard 35mm developing procedures can be enlarged in any enlarger having a standard 35mm negative carrier. You will probably want to use an enlarger lens in the 28 to 35mm range, however. A 50mm enlarger lens will make 8x10 enlargements ( being about the equivalent of 16x20 for regular 35mm).

Performance is quite good. The combined lens/film/camera system resolution, scale focused, is over 80 lpm with APX-25. The negative size is slightly less than half the size of regular 35mm cameras; twice the size of a "conventional" 16mm camera, and four times the size of a Minox. It is pretty close to APS. 3.5 x 5 inch (9x13cm) prints are about the equivalent of 8x10 in full-frame 35mm. Grain at this size is not an issue with slower films; it is noticeable with 400 and faster speed film.

Since the Tessina can use any 35mm film, it is possible to use High Speed Infrared, Tmax 3200, Fuji 1600 and other very high speed films for unobstrusive available light pictures. Like any subminiature camera, the major enemy of clear pictures is camera shake, and so shutter speeds of 1/250 or 1/500 are best; ASA-100 films such as Ilford Delta 100 or Kodak Tmax are probably the best compromise for outdoor use. APX-25 or Tech Pan are useful only outdoors on very bright days; the extra resolution is otherwise wasted because of the slower shutter speeds. Agfa Copex using Spur Nanospeed developer gives impressive results.

Information on reloading the Tessina cassette can be found at the SubClub.org (http://www.subclub.org/darkroom/rolltess.htm).

Last Updated on 3rd January 2008