I saw this camera advertised on Facebook Marketplace for a very reasonable price. I had been looking out for one after using the VPKs recently. It looked like this example was in good condition on the photos so I sent the seller a message. On seeing the camera I was impressed by how clean it was. Even the case was immaculate.
This is a 127 camera that takes a 6.5x4cm negative. It is a lot like the VPK in size and look. The main difference being the Piccolette’s film cassette which is removed from the bottom and in my opinion makes the camera easier to load. There is a dial to lock the cassette in place.
The camera required a minimal cleaning, but was very easy to do. The lens section just screwed off. I noticed small indents on one side of the lens and tried to twist it which split the lens into its two elements. The larger glass element was loose so I had to be careful not to drop it. The design made cleaning all the glass very easy. I was impressed by how smoothly it unscrewed even after all these years.
The viewfinder could be cleaned without disassembly so I went with that option. It was already fairly clean and the small size meant it would be tricky to use anyway so I decided not to tempt fate.
The bellows were perfect, so only a slight dusting was needed. Oh to extent the bellows, there is a small metal button on the bottom of the camera. Press the button and pull the curved part on the front until you hear a click. To replace the front and bellows, just push it firmly. It will return to the resting position with the viewfinder in either portrait or landscape articulations as it folds out of the way.
The front of the camera, on the lens mount, you will find the aperture controls and the speed selection. The aperture sizes were rubbed off slightly and tricky to see, but they seemed to range from about f6.5 to f36. The speeds choices were 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T.
I loaded the camera with expired Ilford FP4 plus rated about 50 asa, so I decided to leave the camera on f6.? and 1/100th. The speed selector didn’t have a visible dot or indicator to know which you have chosen. By playing with the dial I found the closest position to the lens was the correct placement. On a close up photo I could see there is a tiny green mark which makes me think there used to be a dot.
The shutter release is located behind the lens plate and moved very smoothly. For a 90-100 year old camera, it was in remarkable condition, much better than my VPKs of the same era.
As I said, I loaded mine with expired FP4 as film from that era would be slow and that was the only slow film I had available at the time that wasn’t Fomapan. When I have cut film using the FCK127 using Fomapan in the past, the negatives were badly scratched. I wanted to see if another film type would help that issues.
I took this and a few other cameras on a camping trip to the very tip of Scotland. In fact, it was the most northerly point on main land UK, Dunnet Head and Thurso.
Here are the results from my test roll.
Well, no scratching even though the roll was tight in the camera. I did cut the paper down as much as possible to make the roll thinner, but it was still tight inside the camera. It made winding the film a bit stiff at times. Usually there are 8 shots to a roll of 127, but 120 is longer so I managed to get 9 on this one.
I am impressed by the sharpness of the lens, much clearer than my VPKs. Plus they are all fairly straight, I always struggle with that issue. I could see just enough in the viewfinder to judge the aspects. The smoothness of the shutter and the 1/100th speed meant there was no camera shake.
I like this camera much more than the VPKs and will probably use it again. It is a keeper for sure.
9 thoughts on “Contessa Nettel Piccolette Model B”
The adventure of using old folding cameras is most often rewarding in some way or another! Excellent pictures – as these are – is just one of the possible outcomes, but they always seem to provide more than a little fun. Outstanding!
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Thanks, you are right…it was fun.
and…for some reason the markings on the aperture plate are very often in bad shape, even when the rest of the camera is nice
Well that is comforting to know.
It never ceases to amaze me the quality of photograph that can be produced by such an old camera, of course the photographer has a say in this, but none the less the above pics are just as good as any taken with digitals of today..if not better..because they have the added bonus of that film character you just don’t get with digital photography.
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I agree, but I was especially pleased with this one. Even after all this time. Things were built to last and user servicing was thought about.
PS, I recently acquired an Ilford Sportsman and lo and behold it came with the original bill of sale dated 1958 from none other than Dollond & Aitchson, just to add that the camera shot very well indeed.
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With the Dollond, it didn’t occur to me what the name was until I read the link.
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