This Cocarette is a fairly standard folding camera from the early 20th century. The design was by Contessa Nettel in around 1920. When Contessa Nettel merged with other makers to form Zeiss Ikon in 1926, Zeiss Ikon continued to make Cocarette cameras until 1930 or 1931. My camera is the Zeiss Ikon version. Zeiss Ikon made an astonishing variety of the basic Cocarette design. Mine is the 514/2 version. The 514 thread used 120 film – or B11 as Zeiss Ikon called it – (other Cocarettes used other sizes of film) and the /2 part of the number in various Zeiss Ikon cameras produce eight 6 by 9 cm negatives so this camera produces eight 6 by 9 cm negatives on 120 film.
- lens: Dominar
- focal length: 105 mm
- apertures: ƒ/4.5 to ƒ/22
- focus range: 1.5 m to infinity
- lens fitting: fixed
- shutter: Telma
- speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B , T
- flash: No!
- film size: 120
The main way that Cocarette cameras differ from the plethora of other folding cameras is the method of loading film. With Cocarette cameras, the back of the camera does not open. Instead, one side of the camera pulls away from the body together with an internal cassette for holding the roll of film. In the middle of the side of the camera that pulls away is a sliding catch.
This is a nickel plated button within an oval ring. This button has two positions: A and Z. A is Auf which means, in this context, open. Z is Zu and Zu means closed. Both Auf and Zu have other meanings in German but in the context of a catch it is open and close. On my camera, pulling this cassette out is much harder than opening a hinged back. Mind you, my camera is 98 years old and has every right to be a bit stiff!
Because the film slides in sideways, it is not possible to have a pressure plate to keep the film flat. Instead, the film slides between two steel strips on either side of the film gate which prevent any curling of the film.
The removable side of the camera is made from aluminium alloy. The film cassette part is made from steel which is painted black. Most of the cassette consists of the film gate (the hole the light travels through to reach the film). The gate measures 90 by 57 mm – the size of the resulting negative.The film gate is rectangular but in one corner there is a semi-circular cut-out. This allows the user to see the frame numbers on the film through the red window on the camera back. Without the cut-out, the frame numbers would be obliterated by the steel framework.
On either side of the film gate are the spool holders for the film and take-up spools. On the end of the cassette away from the camera side there is a hinged plate to make fitting the spools easy. One end – the take-up spool end – has a key that fits into the end of the spool to allow the film advance key to rotate the take-up spool.
The aluminium side of the film cassette has a sliding catch to secure the cassette in the camera body. All around the internal edge of the aluminium side is a velvet light seal – none of this Japanese malarky with foam that turns to goo.
Where the film cassette slides into the body, there is a box structure that the film cassette has to fit around. This box is open to the front of the camera and is where the bellows fit . On the visible part of this box (which is painted with black crinkle-finish paint) is the counter-point to the catch on the cassette. Also here is the button to release the lens board on the front of the camera. This button protrudes through a hole is the side of the cassette so it can be accessed when the camera is fully assembled.
This is also where thw camera body serial number is stamped. Zeiss Ikon continued to use the ICA serial number system which consisted of a letter and up to five digits. As a note, early Zeiss Ikon Cocarettes continued to use Contessa Nettel serial numbers, presumably because there was a stock of Cocarette bodies in store when the Zeiss Ikon mergers took place. The serial number on my Cocarette is R 1828 which dates the body to 1930 which will have been one of the last to be made.
The side of the camera which pulls away also has the film advance key. Around this is an arrow showing the direction of turning. The key will turn in both directions but turning it the wrong way is likely to cause problems. Next to the film advance key is the button to release the lens board. At the other end of the side is a tripod socket. This is the original 3/8 inch Whitworth thread.
The front of the camera has the lens door. This is made form pressed steel and has a second tripod socket – the same 3/8 inch thread as the other tripod socket. There is also a folding foot which can be used to stand the camera on a table or such for when using the self-timer.
The lens door is opened by pressing the button beside the film advance key. When pressing this button, the lens board snaps down quite energetically. However, this is not a “self-erecting” camera and the lens/shutter assembly stays retracted inside the camera body. To use the camera, you have to pull out the lens/shutter. There are two bright metal studs in front of the lens. Pulling these studs forward pulls the lens/shutter forward – there is a definite stop when the lens/shutter is in the right place when a spring on the lens board latches onto a recess under the lenss/shutter assembly. The lens/shutter assembly is attached to the camera body by a concertina bellows.
The shutter is a Telma shutter made by Gauthier. The Telma shutter offers three speeds – 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 plus B and T. This shutter seems to be the same as a Derval shutter with the addition of a self-delay timer. This is an older type dial-set shutter with the shutter speed dial sitting above the shutter housing. The shutter is an everset type leaf shutter which means that there is no need to cock the shutter.
The lens is a Dominar. This is a copy of a Carl Zeiss Tessar originally made by Huttig and subsequently by Ica. Ica was owned by Carl Zeiss who, presumably, made the lenses for Ica. Assuming this to be so, the lens serial number will date the lens to 1930. This tallies with the body serial number which also dates the camera to 1930. The lens focal length is 10.5 cm (measuring focal length in mm had to wait for the 1940s) which is normal for a medium format camera.
The available apertures range from ƒ/4.5 to ƒ/22 which is a good range for the date of the camera. The iris diaphragm consists of ten blades giving a decagonal aperture. This should give near circular bokeh if such things matter to you. The focus range is from 1.5 m to infinity. The camera has helical focusing. Many folding cameras of this age and older have a focus slide which was not an accurate method. This helical focusing (where you turn the lens to focus) is capable of much greater accuracy.
The focus scale has a Happy Snapper facility. There is a red dot on the focus scale just above 8 m. There is a second red dot on the aperture scale between ƒ/11 and ƒ/16 (but quite close to ƒ/11). If you set both the focus scale and aperture scale to their respective red dots, you will have everything from 4 m to infinity in focus – this is the hyperfocal distance for this lens at ƒ/12 and useful for landscape photography.
When looking at the lens, there is a lever at around 10 o’clock which is the shutter release lever. Behind this is a threaded socket for a standard cable release. In fact, this standard cable release socket and conical thread was originally designed by Gauthier, the makers of this shutter.
At about 2 o’clock on the shutter housing is a red lever. This is the self-timer lever. turning this clockwise and then pushing down on the shutter release lever activates the timer. When new, this would have provided a delay of around 8 to 10 seconds – long enough for the photographer to join the the group being photographed. It could also be used to stand the camera on a table and have the shutter fire without the photographer touching the camera at the point the shutter fires – useful for slow 1/25 second exposures.