5 frames with...

5 Frames with Ilford FP4 & a Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 56/2 – by John Carlson-Zizic

September 19, 2020

Landing in Sarajevo after a gruelling 26-hour flight from Australia, this trip to meet my wife’s family was to be my first time in Europe and also a chance to return to my family roots in Sweden. Being a keen photographer, I would normally travel with several lenses however this trip I decided to bring along a Canon 5d Mkiii, a 24-70mm f2.8L ii and a lightweight Vortex tripod.

We were to spend six weeks with family in and around Sarajevo with a short road trip thrown in for good measure followed by several weeks in Scandinavia.

Walking the old city streets of Sarajevo, I spied the black and silver face of a Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 56/2 in the window of a second-hand goods store. No guessing that I was a tourist the attendant stated the price was 125BAM (Aud$100) however my wife spoke with the salesman (in Bosnian) and presto the price dropped 25% to Aud$75, all were smiling and laughing and we were now the proud owner of a mint Zeiss Ikon box camera.

I eventually bought some Ilford FP4 whilst road tripping in Budapest, Hungary. Finally let the fun begin, with the Canon dslr pulling double duty as camera and a rather expensive light meter we wandered the streets of the beautiful twin city. The hustle and bustle of a large European city is a massive contrast to the cities of Australia.

The Austro-Hungarian architecture, the statues, the palace, a very difficult language for someone with little language skills, this was all very new to me as I juggled the large Canon digital and the medium format box camera.

Eventually we travelled to Sweden and landed in my Grandfather’s hometown of Gothenburg, although I had never been to Sweden previously it was weird like returning home but to a place I had never previously been, the wide streets and parks, the short days of the Scandinavian November and a cold that I had never felt before.

Standing at Göteplasten adjacent the beautiful Poseidon statue and the Hasselblad Centre I was shooting with the box camera when I noticed an elderly man, maybe 85 years of age, smiling at me. Through his broad smile, in Swedish then broken English he revealed that he too owned the same camera when he was a young man.

As with the cities and countryside of Europe, the king of box cameras, the Zeiss Ikon Box Tenger 56/2 is old and beautiful. In its basic form it produces big 6×9 negatives that are unique and timeless. One shutter speed, 1/30 and ‘T’, three aperture settings f9, f11 and f16 and three focus settings, 1 – 3m, 3 – 8m and 8 – infinity. The Zeiss Ikon 56/2 is a wonderful medium format camera that every film photographer should try.

Not only does the box camera force you to read the light, it brought back what may have been a long-lost photography memory for an old gentleman and that’s worth the price.

Thanks for reading, you can find more of my photography on instagram  @carlson.zizic.photography

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  • Reply
    Jess Lantz
    September 19, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    Loved this!

    “ I was shooting with the box camera when I noticed an elderly man, maybe 85 years of age, smiling at me. Through his broad smile, in Swedish then broken English he revealed that he too owned the same camera when he was a young man.”

    • Reply
      John Carlson-Zizic
      September 19, 2020 at 11:18 pm

      The connection older people in Europe had with this camera was awesome, lots of smiles and nods of approval 🙂

  • Reply
    Michael J
    September 19, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing- it must have been a heady mixture, a strong sénse of place and memory, through the finder of such a venerable machine. Also, there are few things more satisfying than a radical reduction in price from the intervention of a native speaker!

    • Reply
      John Carlson-Zizic
      September 19, 2020 at 11:16 pm

      Can barely wait go back, tickets have been purchased however COVID19 has since stopped travel from Australia unfortunately.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    When I first read how much it cost you I didn’t think it was so great a bargain. But then I read about the camera in more detail and it really does stand out amongst al the rest of the Boxes. So much so that I’d like to get one to keep my Kodak Brownie Model 1 company. But they seem rare.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences with yet another interesting camera and I hope you enjoyed your trip to Europe.

    • Reply
      John Carlson-Zizic
      September 19, 2020 at 11:15 pm

      I now own two of these wonderful cameras and they both perform very well considering the nature of them. The 56/2 is a little on the rarer side but do turn up in good condition from time to time, some are listed very expensive considering however I purchased my second one for it’s leather case at Aud$60 from Germany (eBay) and the camera is superb with just a minor scuff on one of the viewing screens.
      Having a few different apertures and focal lengths really makes the little lightbox shine 🙂 ~ and what a marvellous way to get into medium format photography.

  • Reply
    Lilianna Diane Elrod
    September 19, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Well seen!!! You show that one really needs only the simplest of gear to get lovely images!!! I have the 1930’s version of this camera and love using it. Well done!

    • Reply
      John Carlson-Zizic
      September 19, 2020 at 11:27 pm

      Love mine and they also pack wonderfully for travel.

  • Reply
    steve phillips
    September 19, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    Excellent shots. I have had good results from a model 54. These cameras are too good to sit in secondhand shops!

    • Reply
      John Carlson-Zizic
      September 19, 2020 at 11:19 pm

      They are like Gremlins and will multiply if one is not careful, I now have a couple.

  • Reply
    Scott Gitlin
    September 20, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    A beautiful camera and fine results. There are so many iterations of the venerable box camera but yours might be the classiest.

  • Reply
    Phil Stefans
    September 21, 2020 at 12:24 am

    I can agree that buying these old girls gets addictive…I’ve got 9 of the various models of the box tengors. Great quality shots, easy to use just plain fun.

  • Reply
    Martin South of France
    September 21, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks for this piece and for the photos. Strangely enough I picked up one of these in pristine condition a few months back. I stripped it, simple as they are, and serviced it, and cleaned the slight haze off of the three lenses (….the taking lens and the two f stop lenses……) .and have been wondering just what the images might resemble. Impressive to say the least. So now it goes right to the front of the queue to be pressed into service! Thanks again!

    • Reply
      John Carlson-Zizic
      September 21, 2020 at 10:32 pm

      I am sure you will love getting out with your box camera, they have an amazing impact on how you look at things. Tip: Go with a low ISO film as the shutter speed is a little limiting if it is bright.

    • Reply
      September 25, 2020 at 5:40 am

      I have a Tengor I want to try and use soon. How did you clean the haze off the lenses?

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