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

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

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience

There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:

Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Subscribe here.

Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.

About The Author

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

  1. 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.”

  2. 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!

    1. John Carlson-Zizic

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

  3. 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.

    1. John Carlson-Zizic

      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.

  4. Lilianna Diane Elrod

    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!

  5. 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!

    1. John Carlson-Zizic

      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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top