I have titled this article ‘Cocarette 514/15’ but I am far from sure as to the camera’s identity. It is certainly a Zeiss Ikon camera as the Zeiss Ikon logo appears twice on the camera. It looks like a Contessa Nettel Cocarette – complete with the film cassette loading system – but there is no model number or name anywhere that I can see. Both model name and model number were usually embossed in the leatherette and it is quite possible that age has removed the embossing. The leather carrying handle is missing and it is possible that this carried the model name/number. The design of the chrome struts holding the lens door is also the same as the struts on other Contessa Nettel cameras and very different to the struts on either Icarette or Nettar cameras so I am going to call this a Cocarette 220 (or 514/15) until someone shows me different.
“This is a very large folding camera – it takes size 116 film which gives a negative size of 65 by 105 mm.”
focal length: 140 mm
apertures: f/9 to f/32
focus range: 2 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Ernemann leaf shutter
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T
flash: No provision
film size: 116
This is a very large folding camera – it takes size 116 film which gives a negative size of 65 by 105 mm. This is from the day when people usually had contact prints done and the negative size was the print size – large negative = large print.
Zeiss Ikon started manufacturing in 1926 and stopped making Cocarette cameras in 1930 so that gives us a time span for this camera. Normally, with Zeiss Ikon cameras, we can look at the serial number and use this to gain a close-ish date but this camera does not have a Zeiss Ikon serial number (letter + five numbers) but rather a Contessa Nettel one (six numbers). This is actually useful as Zeiss Ikon fairly quickly used their own serial numbers on all production and the continued use of a Contessa Nettel number system suggest the camera was made soon after the merger that created Zeiss Ikon – i.e. 1926 or 1927. Lens and shutter serial numbers are useful in pegging down the date but the cheaper lens and shutter used on this camera do not have serial numbers. Using information about other Contessa Nettel cameras on the Interweb, I can peg this camera’s serial number (436466) down to late 1925 or early 1926. This is pre-Zeiss Ikon but they used up existing supplies of body castings and such.
“The camera is in poor cosmetic condition – it is about 90 years old – and has clearly been stored somewhere damp as there is a lot of mildew on the insides of the bellows and a fair bit of corrosion of the metal parts.”
The camera is in poor cosmetic condition – it is about 90 years old – and has clearly been stored somewhere damp as there is a lot of mildew on the insides of the bellows and a fair bit of corrosion of the metal parts. The body is made from cast aluminium with some steel parts. The body measures 195 by 105 mm and by 40 mm when closed. When open, the lens extends to 160 mm. It weighs 826 g. To open the camera for use you need to press a small brass button on one of the sides.
The lens door/baseboard then springs open. With my camera, it does not click into place as it opens but I suspect that it did when new. The lens then needs to be pulled forward by pulling on the chrome stud in front of the lens. There is only one central stud – every other folding camera that needs the lens pulling forward that I have seen have two studs. The lens will stop when it reaches the infinity focus position. The lens is connected to the camera body by leatherette bellows which are in poor condition on my camera.
The lens is a Frontar lens which was made by C. P. Goerz (one of the partner companies in Zeiss Ikon) and is a doublet (two glass elements) which is a cheap option. It has a focal length of 14 mm. The maximum aperture is f/9. The aperture is set by an iris diaphragm which will open to well beyond f/9 but there is a Waterhouse stop behind the diaphragm to prevent a wider aperture being used. A rough and ready measurement of the entrance pupil using a ruler suggests a maximum aperture of f/7 or thereby (formula is focal length divided by entrance pupil equals f/no). I suspect that this is related to the low quality of the Frontar lens being used – f/9 being the widest aperture consistent with usable image quality.
The shutter is anonymous but it is marked EW in a monogram. It looks a bit like a Derval but that would be marked with the Gauthier logo rather than with EW. I suspect that the EW is for Ernemann-Werke. The 1928 Zeiss Ikon catalogue offers the Cocarette 220 with a variety of lenses in ‘three speed shutter’ – is this an Ernemann shutter left over from before the Zeiss Ikon merger? Speeds are 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 plus B and T. The shutter is an everset design – there is no need to cock the shutter before taking the picture. There is provision for a threaded cable release.
The viewfinder is a brilliant finder which I always find very difficult to use. Focus is by sliding the lens/shutter housing forward. There are variations on how this was done before the advent of helical focusing. On more expensive cameras, there was a lever on the lens board which moved radially. This allowed for easier, smoother action and the possibility to set the focus between marked positions. This camera has no lever and only a few preset distances are available: 2, 3, 5, 10 and infinity. I suspect that the distances are meters rather than feet. When opening the camera it defaults to infinity focus. For closer focus, there is a round tab beneath the shutter housing on the left (as when using the camera) which needs to be pressed inwards while the lens/shutter sis moved forwards to the appropriate position. As the negative was never going to be enlarged, critical focus was not an issue.
Loading the film is by using the cassette. This is one of the reasons for me thinking that this is a Cocarette as this was a favoured method for Contessa Nettel. Rather than the back of the camera opening on a hinge, with this camera one side pulls off the camera bringing the film cassette with it. the roll of film is then loaded into the cassette and the cassette then reinserted into the camera. I cannot comment on how this system works compared to the more usual opening back system as the film size (116) required for this camera is no longer available. Because of this cassette system, there is (and cannot be) no pressure plate to keep the film flat in front of the film gate.
Using the cassette: the base of the cassette is the side of the camera which is made from cast aluminium. The main body of the cassette is pressed steel sheet painted black. The bulk of the pressed steel forms the film gate. Just inside the steel part of the film gate is a brass sheet insert which forms the actual opening against which the film sits. This opening measures 65 by 105 mm.
The take-up spool fits into the holder that has a film advance key on the outside. To make fitting the empty spool easier the end of the spool holder hinges out of the way. There is a chrome spring to keep the film taut on the spool. The new film fits into the spool holder at the other end – again the end of the spool holder is hinged and there is a chrome spring to keep the film taut.
As the film is pulled across the film gate, it pass over a chrome roller. It then needs to slide between the pressed steel frame and the brass sheet insert. This keeps the film flat in the absence of a pressure plate.
Once the film is loaded into the cassette, the cassette needs to be put back into the camera. There are deliberate gaps in the cassette and holes in the camera body which will allow air flow when the camera is opened for use and the bellows extended. These are to prevent a partial vacuum forming which might pull the film into a bow.
The big drawback to not having the back of the camera opening is the difficulty of cleaning inside the camera. To allow for this, there is a removable disc on the back of the camera. This turns about 45° anti-clockwise to remove. The red window for the frame numbers is by this removable disc. There are two tripod bosses – one on the lens door and one on the side of the camera. These are both 3/8 inch Whitworth threads.