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Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor

Style, film format Box camera, 127 VP, 120 and 116/616 roll film

Lens, shutter Goerz Frontar, blade shutter

Photo quality Variable

Ergonomics It's a box!

It sometimes seemed that Zeiss Ikon tried to cater to all segments of photography, from the amateur to the seasoned pro to the weekend snapshooter. That would explain the Box Tengors -- holdovers from Goerz, one of the companies that formed Zeiss Ikon.

The Box Tengors are exactly what you think they might be: Simple box cameras with simple lenses. Some of the earliest models had no aperture controls, and all Box Tengors have two shutter speeds: instant (about 1/25) and B. Later cameras added aperture settings and the ability to focus, which really was accomplished by adding lenses behind the Frontar.

Nearly all Box Tengors featured the Goerz Frontar lens. First, a quick note about the lens. It appears to be a single lens element -- a meniscus -- but in fact it's two very thin cemented lens elements. It's an achromat, although it usually wasn't marked as such.

The 127 version -- known as the Baby Box Tengor -- also offered a model with a focusing Novar. And from what I've been able to see, it's the only Box Tengor that had a choice of lenses.

The Box Tengors came in several versions using either 127 VP film or 120 roll film -- 6x4.5 and 6x9. I can't find any evidence that Zeiss Ikon produced one for 620, and in fact the company seems to have largely ignored this film format. Note that you can use 620 film in most Zeiss Ikon cameras, although Zeiss Ikon didn't appear to build many or possibly any cameras specifically for that format. There also was a much larger version for 116/616 film.

The Box Tengors have very few controls. There is a small tab that is pulled to release the back from the front. There also is another tab or slide to change the shutter from instant to B and those that have aperture and focusing use small tabs above and below the lens.

In general, these cameras are very simple to operate. Load the film, frame your shot in the small brilliant finder and push the lever to release the shutter. To change from portrait to landscape, simply turn the camera on its side. The Baby Box Tengor lacks an optical finder, opting for a wire-frame viewfinder that doubles as a shutter-release lock.

Production of the Box Tengor continued after the war, although from what I can tell, just the 6x9 model survived. This camera, which is quite attractive with powder-finish chrome and leather, features double-exposure prevention and a coated f/9-11-16 Frontar-Achromat lens. The one thing I don't like about the postwar model is its stiff shutter release, which makes it difficult to release the shutter without moving the camera. A threaded cable release makes things considerably easier with this model.

Using a Box Tengor is actually quite a bit of fun. There's no need to worry about aperture or shutter speed or even focusing with some of the cameras. Just frame your shot and take your photo.

If you're looking for a break from serious photography, try a Box Tengor. It will give you a new way to look at things.

The quality of the photos runs the gamut from average to very good.