Lens-Hack #1 – Piccolette Contessa-Nettel Zeiss Ikon
The Piccolette is a beautiful folding camera manufactured by Contessa-Nettel (and later by Zeiss Ikon). It was introduced in 1919 and production was discontinued in 1932. The Piccolette uses 127 film. Most cameras have a fixed 6.3 Novar or an f/11 Achromat lens. Some Piccolettes also use a Tessar lens. The camera is very light (250 gr) and very small (12 x 7 cm when folded). The Piccolette is a prime example of the typical pocket vest camera of the 1920ies.
Piccolette Contessa-Nettel Lens Hack
Ever wondered if it is possible to use a vintage folding camera on a modern SLR? Well, it is possible and works much easier than you might think. I was very positively surprised by the results.
A couple of weeks ago I came accross the superb blog of Jason Bognacki. He managed to put an old folding camera on his digital SLR. I tried it and here are the results!
What do you need?
First of all you need the right folding camera, in this case it is the Contessa-Nettel Piccolette. I baught one on Ebay for about 40 Euros. When you buy one, make sure that the folding leather does not have any light leaks. Unfortunately the leather tends to become porous. The camera I used had a Nettar Anastigmat 1:6.3/7.5cm lens – so its definitely an outdoors camera!
M42 extension tube
You will also need an M42 extension tube. The shorter the better as otherwise you will not be able to focus to infinity. I used a 7mm extension tube. That way when the camera is folded you focus to infinity which comes in super handy for fast focusing. The M42 extension tube will have to be glued to the back of the folding camera.
In order to connect your digital camera to the folding camera you need an M42 adapter.
You could use instant glue but I would recommend to use hot glue just to be on the safe side. You can purchase hot glue in any DIY store.
In most cases your Piccolette camera will not have been used for a very long time and is probably dusty. Make sure to clean it both outside and inside if you don’t want dust on your digital sensor.
How does it work?
Clean the camera
First of all clean the camera! I normally start off by brushing the exterior with a damp q-tip.
Unscrew the film back
Once you are done with the outside, unscrew the film back (just twist it, it comes off very easily). Make sure to clean the interior of the camera as well.
Glue the M42 extension tube to the folding camera
Try to glue the M42 extension tube to the back of the folding camera. Try to center the extension tube as much as possible and glue it evenly.
Screw the Piccolette to your camera
Now you can screw your Digital camera to the M42 extension tube using an M42 adapter
The Lens hack is done and you are ready to go
Set you folding camera shutter to bulb (marked T) and set your DSLR to manual or aperture mode. Simply move the bellows to focus and you are ready to do some shootin’!
It really is hard to believe these pictures were taken using a folding camera from the 1920ies and a modern SLR. Obviously the focusing is a bit tricky but at the same time shooting it was a truely enriching experience!