Nixon Nixette 120 camera

This is a simple camera. A well designed and well made simple camera. It takes 120 film producing 12 off 60 by 60 mm negatives.
Nixon Nixette (C) John Margetts

lens: Supra anastigmat
focal length:  7.5 cm
apertures: f/5.6 to f/16 (plus, probably,  f/22)
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter:  Vario
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/200
flash: PC connector, no synch selector
film size: 120

The body of the camera is made from cast aluminium alloy with pressed steel back and lens door. The camera is covered with heavily textured leatherette with an anodised aluminium top plate. Apart from the top plate, the camera is low-gloss black.
The camera measures 140 mm by 95 mm by 50 mm (105 mm when the lens door is open) – two knobs on the base and the accessory shoe extend beyond these measurements. It weighs 477 g when loaded with film which  is sufficient heft to give stability but not too heavy to carry around.
The top plate is plain and nearly featureless. On the left hand end (left as when using the camera) between the top plate and camera body is a recessed wheel to advance the film. About a quarter of the way along the top plate is an accessory shoe – at this age it is a ‘cold’ shoe. Below this is the viewfinder – a reverse Galilean finder. This is small as was usual at this time – the eye-piece is circular and 5 mm in diameter. The other side of the viewfinder is 10 mm square. The only other feature on the top plate is a small button beside the accessory shoe to release the lens door. Press this and the lens door opens with a satisfying ‘clunk’.
Nixon Nixette
The rear of the camera is featureless apart from a circular red window to allow for the reading of the frame numbers when advancing the film. On this camera this window is orange – I am not sure if this is the standard colour used by Nixon or if the original red has faded. The rear door is made from pressed steel. There is a ribbed pressure plate on the inside.
Blog (C) John Margetts 2015)
The front of the camera is plain while closed. there is a central logo stating ‘NIXETTE’ in the middle of the lens door. This lens door is convex. This allows the camera to stand securely and levelly on a flat surface for ‘selfies’ (not as new an idea as you might think!).
Lens supporting struts

When the lens door is opened, the lens comes forward on a die-cast aluminium frame. This is very different to any other folding camera I have ever seen. The lens/shutter assembly is attached to the camera body with a folding bellows. The bellows are also different to any I have ever seen. The bellows are not the usual concertina style and has many less folds which will reduce the likelihood of pin-holes forming.


The shutter is a Gauthier Vario shutter. This is a very simple shutter offering only 3 speeds (1/25, 1/50 and 1/200) and B. The available apertures are from f/5.6 to f/16 Actually, f/16 is the smallest aperture marked, but the adjuster moves significantly beyond f/16 and reduces the aperture size beyond f/16 – judging by eye, at least to f/22.
The lens is marked as a Supra anastigmat. I doubt Nixon made the lens themselves – there were plenty of lens makers in Germany who could easily and cheaply supply lenses. The focal length is 7.5 cm and is marked with a ‘V’ which I assume means that the lens is coated The lens has a serial number but without knowing who made the lens the serial number is not of much use. the focus scale goes down to 3 – I assume feet as 3 m would not be an impressive close focus.
The distance scale has two Happy Snapper settings in red. To use these you must first set the aperture to the red dot (just slightly wider than f/11). The first happy Snapper setting is at 10 feet (just about 3 m) which, with the aperture at the red dot gives a depth of field from 7 feet to 15 feet – ideal for portraits and small groups. The next Happy snapper setting is at 30 feet. Again, aperture at the red dot, the depth of field is from 15 feet to infinity – this is the hyperfocal length at f/11 for this lens. Incidentally, this is a front cell focussing lens. That is, the entire lens does not move to focus, only the the front piece of glass (I suspect this is a triplet lens with three pieces of glass).
Closing the lens door is somewhat different to most folders. Normally, to close folding cameras, you collapse the struts holding the lens/shutter in place. With this camera, the die-cast assembly hinges from the top – first you have to depress a small chrome lever on the right of the lens opening near the door hinge. The tip of the assembly then will move down – the lens door will also move down slightly before folding up.

Shutter and lens

Inside the camera is as would be expected. the new film goes on the right – unusual but from from being rare. The roll of film has to fit under a sharply curved blue steel spring. On the take-up side, the empty spool is put in place by pulling out the chrome knob on the camera base plate. Incidentally, the camera serial number is located inside the camera, just below the film gate.

Camera in use:

The camera is now loaded with Fomapan Creative 200 black and white film. I am going to expose the as 125 ISO as the 35 mm Fomapan I have used has produced very thin negatives – to be on the safe side with checking the camera, the first two frames I will expose at box speed (200 ISO). That way I will know that any over-exposed negatives are down to the shutter, not my exposure.
The camera is easy to use. There is enough room for my hands either side of the lens door. The shutter release falls easily enough to hand – and will be very comfortable with practice. The film advance wheel is easy to move while holding the camera with your left hand.
Pictures will be about another week when I will submit them here.

Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

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