This is a small, half-frame, camera from Ferrania in Italy. Being Italian, it has style. It is very different to look at than the German or Japanese cameras of the period. The Germans used the principle of “Form Follows Function” and there is nothing wrong with that – but that is not the Italian way. So, this camera has style as well as function. Actually, having said that, this camera is fairly reminiscent of the German Nixette. This is my second Ferrania camera, the other being the Ferrania Ibis – also a 127 format camera.
The camera is small and is made from aluminium alloy. The lens barrel, film gate and back are made from pressed steel. It measures 110 by 76 by 70 mm. The aluminium is still bright – the base is very shiny – but does not appear to be anodised. In keeping with standard photographic practice, most of the body is covered with black leatherette.
There are very few controls – in fact, just four. Just below the left of the top plate is the film advance wheel. this protrudes front and back and only rotates in one direction. This wheel is also made from aluminium.
On the top right of the lens barrel is the shutter release button. This is at an angle (at about 10 o’clock when looking at the lens)but parallel to the front of the camera body. This button falls nicely to the user’s index finger but its direction of travel is a bit awkward as your finger wants to press downwards but has to press inwards. This button is not threaded for a cable release.
The shutter is a simple everset shutter with one speed – Instantaneous – and B. This is selected by a lever on the bottom of the lens fascia with two positions – I and B.
The fourth control is focusing. The lens itself is coated – judging by the blue cast of the glass. I suspect that this lens is a single element meniscus lens. With multi-element lenses you can usually see multiple reflections of light when looking at the front of the lens. I can only see the one reflection. The focus range is from five feet to infinity. The distance scale is in feet, telling me that this is an export camera – this is verified by the legend “MADE IN ITALY” moulded into the metal of the base. The focus ring turns easily and is fairly roughly milled to give the user’s fingers a grip.
At the top of the lens is the camera name – “TANIT” in an elegant font. The base of the camera is a part of the cast aluminium body and is heavily ribbed. There is a standard 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket but that seems to be a bit superfluous on such a simple camera.
The viewfinder is not good. In the 1950s and earlier, small viewfinders were usual but the eyepiece on this camera is a massive 2 mm square – don’t even think about wearing glasses when using this camera! The front viewfinder window measures 7.5 by 5 mm. As this camera uses 127 film and is a half-frame camera, the negative measures 40 by 30 mm. When the camera is held horizontally, the negative will be in portrait format which I suspect will have been the main use of this camera.
The back of the camera has two red windows. For my younger readers, these red windows are to allow the user to read the frame numbers printed on the back of the film so you know how far to advance the film. This is a half-frame camera – the full frame for 127 film is 40 by 60 mm but this camera produces negatives that are 40 by 30 mm – and so fits twice as many pictures on a roll of film as the standard format does. In use, you wind the film until the number one is readable in the right red window, take a shot, and wind the film until the number one is readable in the left red window. This is then repeated for the number two, the number three, etc up to number eight. After number eight, the film is finished. As this is a roll film camera, there is no need to rewind the film. Instead, you keep winding the film until all the film and backing paper are on the take-up spool on the left. Note: because the film winds right to left, the frame numbers will be upside down.
Between the two red numbers is a small grasp to ease the user removing the back. To remove the back, you slide both step lugs down – the back comes away in one piece. In common with all roll film cameras, the used film spool must be removed and replaced on the left to become the take-up spool. To make removing and replacing the spools, the base of the spool holder swings out by about 45º. The take-up spool must latch into the film advance mechanism which can make interring the take-up spool rather fiddly. The unused film spool is just held in a couple of holes and so insertion is much easier. In many cameras, there are rollers on either side of the film gate to help prevent scratches on the film but not here – this is definitely a cheap camera.
One thought on “Ferrania Tanit 127 half-frame camera”
Hi John. Interesting collection of cameras indeed. I have unearthed an original Tanit instruction booklet in fair condition and all totally legible.
Would this be worth putting up for sale?