Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor

camera Baby Box Tengor 54/18
type box
film 127, 3×4 cm
producer Zeiss Ikon AG
place Berlin
country German Reich
date 1930-1939
shutter rotative
speeds 1/25, B
lens Goerz Frontar 50mm ƒ/11

English is not my native language. Please, contact me about any grammar or spelling mistake, thanks!

I must say that I've never been a great fan of box cameras. I've always preferred cameras that provide total control, whereas box cameras are more like to the boring point and shoot trend. However, among all the box cameras, I find the Box Tengors one of the most interesting series because of their variety and original designs. And among Box Tengors, the Baby Boxes are no doubt the most attractive ones.

As I already explained in the Box Tengor 54 text, Goerz started the Tengor cameras in the early 1920s and Zeiss Ikon carried on them. At first they were only available for large roll films: 6×9 cm, 6.5×11 cm and 5×7.5 cm, but in 1930 appeared the tiny Baby Box Tengor 54/18, which produced 3×4 cm exposures on 127 roll film.

As Hans-Dieter Götz [1] says, this small Box Tengor wasn't very well received by camera dealers. What's the point for such a small size? Who would buy such a small and simple camera?
Zeiss Ikon explained that the camera was targeted to children and youths, for it was designed to shoot without any effort. While other 127 cameras usually took eight 4×6.5 cm exposures, the Baby Box made sixteen 3×4 cm exposures in one single 127 roll, which was the cheapest roll film. Everything was arranged so that the young photographer would shoot on and on without caring about difficult technical controls or the waste of film. It was all set up in order to sell cameras and films like hot cakes, and film labs would also make profit.

It was such a success that other manufacturers, such as Balda or EHO, also joined the race for small-size box cameras. The underestimated Kleintengor eventually earned the affection of dealers and buyers and by the end of 1930 it was nicknamed Baby Box Tengor. The first versions, such as mine, are engraved with the markings "Box Tengor" that later would be replaced by "Baby Box Tengor".

The Baby Box Tengor is indeed a very simple and lovely tiny camera. You just have to unfold the eyepiece, pull up the wire frame finder, aim, press the shutter release and wind film. There's only one single shutter speed (probably 1/25 sec), although long exposures are available through the bulb mode. The lens is a Frontar 50mm ƒ/11 shared with the other Tengors. There's only one aperture and the focus is fixed between 3 ft and infinite. Such a shutter speed and aperture combination makes the camera suitable only for outdoor daylight situations.

A security device was added around 1931 by which the shutter wouldn't fire unless the wire finder had been pulled up. My camera lacks this mechanism, so I guess it is one of the earlier versions made around 1930.

In summer 1931 came a new version with a decorative hexagon instead of the original plain leather front.
Also in 1931 was released the special version 54/18E, a true collectible. This version was fitted with none other than the three-element Novar 50mm ƒ/6.3 lens with focusing ring, three apertures and a simplified Derval shutter with I, B and T modes.
According to Hans-Dieter Götz [1], this version was made only until 1932. It was probably discontinued beacuse of its high price (twice as much as the regular Baby Box). This kind of features may not have been worthwhile for children and young people at whom the camera was targeted. The other simpler Baby Box was advertised on Zeiss Ikon catalogues until 1939, though.

Nowadays the Baby Box is an interesting and sought-after collectible. Who wouln't resist to such a tiny and lovely camera? Unfortunately, prices are overrated, especially the 54/18E version. I paid 11€ ($15, £9) for mine, which is the basic version, and I don't think it should cost much more.


The following information comes mainly from the book Box-cameras made in Germany [1] by Hans-Dieter Götz and from my friend's Daniel Sánchez website, who also provided me the book.
Introduction dates are, as always, approximate. The film type is also indicated according to Zeiss Ikon own system.

camera year size (cm) film lens notes
Baby Box Tengor 54/18 1930 3×4 127 A8 Frontar 50mm ƒ/11 No hexagon
Baby Box Tengor 54/18 1931 3×4 127 A8 Frontar 50mm ƒ/11 With hexagon
Baby Box Tengor 54/18E 1930/31 3×4 127 A8 Novar 50mm ƒ/6.3 With hexagon

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor

The Goerz factories

Although Zeiss Ikon headquarters were based on Dresden, the former Goerz factories in Berlin were still used by Zeiss Ikon after the merge. Here were built the Box Tengor cameras, among others.

Goerzallee 299, 14167 Berlin

This plant was built between 1915-1917 by the architect E. Emsters when Goerz was still independent. From 1932 it was managed by Dr. Ing. Helmut Hemscheidt, member of the Board of Directors of Zeiss Ikon.
During the Second World War the building was severely damaged and rebuilt later. The plant was located on West Berlin (on the Federal Republic of Germany), so it wasn't confiscated by the communists as the Dresden plants did.
When Zeiss Ikon ceased its camera production in 1972, the Goerzwerk plant kept producing keys and lockers under the Ikon brand, which was taken over later by the Swedish-Finnish lock manufacturer Assa Abloy.

Although I supposed it would be a grey industrial area, the Goerzallee is actually a very nice and quiet area. There are small houses, private urban gardens (Kleingartenanlage) and malls. By the way, few camera manufacturers have an avenue named after themselves in a European capital city!
The Goerzwerk building belonged to the former Zehlendorf district, but after the 2001 administrative reform today belongs to the Lichterfelde neighbour on the Steglitz-Zehlendorf district.

Larger map

Goerz Höfe
Rheinstraße 45-46, 12161 Berlin

Six miles away from the Goerzwerk is the former Optische Anstalt C. P. Goerz factory and administrative headquarters. It's a complex of different buildings with different styles, designed in 1897/98 by the architects Paul Egeling, Waldemar Wendt, Emil Schmidt, Albert Paeseler and P. Mitnacht.
The main façade on the Rheinstraße is of Neo-Renaissance style decorated with funny small statues of children handling optical and photographic apparatus. The inner buildings form several courtyards (Höfe) with a more industrial appearance, with some Neo-Gothic details, though. One of these buildings was also the main factory of the photochemical branch Goerz Photochemische Werke at Holsteinischen Straße 42.
It seems that there are sculpted portraits of Daguerre, Fraunhofer and Gauss somewhere, but I didn't see them.

As well as the Goerzwerk plant, this factory was also managed by Helmut Hemscheidt. During the war the building was temporary used as the district town hall and later as a storeroom during the 1948-49 Berlin Blockade. Although the building was also on West Berlin, some machinery was dismantled after the war by the Russians, but camera production was resumed in the 1940s-50s after all.

The Goerz Höfe buildings were bought in the 1960s by the Becker & Kries real estate. Today they host small workshops and bureaus, a dance and theatre school, a gym and even an art school for children. They are located in a lively and commercial street on the Friedenau neighbour.

Larger map


Instruction manuals

Repair, service, disassembly, clean


[1] GÖTZ, Hans-Dieter. Box-cameras made in Germany. vfv Verlag, Gilching, 2002. ISBN 3-88955-131-9. (Thanks to Daniel Sánchez)

Text and pictures by Daniel Jiménez Chocrón. Translated and adapted by the author from the original Spanish edition.

First edition: Nov 11 2013. Last update: Mar 9 2014.