View Full Version : New Kid On the Block: Can you tell me about this 9x12 cm camera?

1-Oct-2017, 14:59
Hello! My name is André Batista and I have been working with photography for 10 years, and happily amongst the many fields of 35mm (fashion, events, advertising, you name it) but recently I have been focusing on landscape and portraits, through medium format.

I started collecting cameras more extensively after I moved to Sweden one year ago and have been unbelievably lucky because many of the cameras I have been collecting came as gifts. But one of them caught my attention since it belongs to the until then mysterious and interesting universe of large format. It's still very new for me but I would really appreciate some help. From my research this is a Contessa-Nettel Onito in very good condition, and it holds 9x12 format.

Any further information and help will be extremely appreciated - I'm already reading all the articles and forum as possible.

Thank you!

All the best,



1-Oct-2017, 19:42
If you look at the strap/handle on the top of the camera, it has a name embossed into the leather. I'm assuming it says, "Onito?" Around 1926 Zeiss bought out several camera companies including ICA, which made the Contessa line. The Onito was a budget to mid price line of cameras. Look at the lens and see what it is, and also the serial number. If it's a Zeiss lens (and it probably is), you can figure out what year it was made. You can also look for the serial number on the Compur shutter and roughly date the camera that way.

Kent in SD

Michael E
2-Oct-2017, 05:01
I'm assuming you want to use the camera.

Do you have film holders? If not, make sure to get the correct type to match the camera. They were not standardized, even though some types were widely used. 9x12cm holders of this age were usually plate holders, with inserts they can be loaded with sheet film.

Does the bellows have holes? Take off the ground glass and point a flash light inside. Then check the bellows' corners from outside.

Is the shutter working? Cock it and trigger it a few times at 1s, then listen if it runs smoothly and if the time sounds plausible.

Like Two23 said, check if the lens is any good. Many cameras of this kind were sold with mediocre lenses.

If you have never worked with large format, be advised (my opinion) that the main advantage of this type of camera is its small size and weight - not ease of use or range of movements or versatility or even (depending on the lens) image quality. But they are fun to play with.



3-Oct-2017, 14:28

Hello Kent,

Thank you for your reply!

Yes it says Onito and that's what is displayed.



3-Oct-2017, 14:38

Hello Michael,

Thank you for your reply!

Everything seems to be working properly - I must confess ti be very excited to start testing.

All the best,


Michael E
4-Oct-2017, 07:47
So you have a 9x12cm ground glass with markings for a 6x9cm roll film back (e.g. Rollex). But do you have sheet film/plate holders? ebay.de might be a good source, they come up frequently (like #322777252509, no idea if these fit your camera).

4-Oct-2017, 12:44
will do that and keep on the research, thank you so much!

8-Oct-2017, 13:44

I've been looking around eBay and found some items however according to the sellers, I actually need spacers as well. Really hard to find by the way

Michael E
9-Oct-2017, 00:57
The good news is, these inserts are universal and not just for one type or brand of holders. For searching purposes: They are called "sheath" (in English) or "Planfilmeinlage" (in German). You can make do with a piece of cardboard and some double sided mildly sticky tape to get the film to the correct thickness. But if you have never used a LF camera, this provides a big potential for error and frustration. Handling film and sheath in total darkness is frustrating enough. You might consider starting with orthochromatic film or photo paper, so you can work under a red light.

14-Oct-2017, 14:22
Yes, they're quite hard to find. Still looking and will take your advice on photo paper.

Ron (Netherlands)
15-Oct-2017, 02:21
If you have never worked before with these types of cameras, you should first consider how you should get the film in the holders, and how to develop the film. Did you do any 'research' on that aspects yet?

Btw Contessa Nettel wasn't part of ICA (ICA was formed in 1909 as a merger of Hüttig, Wünsche, Krügener and Zeiss Palmos). In 1926 Zeiss Ikon was formed as a merger from ICA, Contessa Nettel, Heinrich Ernemann, Goerz.
Therefore Contessa Nettel had there own line of plateholders which are not so easy to find.

You can also find some info in the Rada catalogue (Rada made plateholders for all the different German cameras):