The Camera Info Archive

Zeiss Super Ikonta III & IV

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The Pinnacle of Zeiss Folder design

The Zeiss Ikon (Stuttgart, i.e. West German Zeiss Ikon) Super Ikonta III & IV were the last of the long line of Zeiss folders. These were, in design, features, and operation, the most advanced folders of the era. They would also be the last folders by Zeiss or any German manufacturer.

Both have a terrific built-in coupled rangefinder, are fitted with excellent f3.5 / 75mm Zeiss Tessars (though the III could also be had with the excellent 3 element f3.5 / 75mm Novar), and almost always fitted with the Synchro-Compur shutter. In the case of the Super Ikonta IV, one of the very very very rare breed of folders that has all these features, Zeiss also included a built-in light meter. Luckily 3 out of 5 Super Ikonta IV’s still have working meters !

Another feature, was that the cameras did not count the frames through the traditional “RED WINDOW” – in fact, it has no window, just a “hole(!)” which allowed you to verify that there was film in the camera. The film wind mechanism was a somewhat complicated affair (though less so than the Agfa Super Isolette) that after each exposure, the shutter release was blocked until you advanced the film to the next frame where upon the wind gear would stop and go no further, until you pushed the shutter release button. When it all works, a great feature. But, everything in life has a caveat or two!

First, there are quite a number of these fine cameras that unfortunately had ham-fisted owners with stronger shutter fingers than common sense. The net result is that these few examples have bent and even broken gears and levers that control the film advance routine. Half the time these maladies can be fixed. The other half must be reconstructed to eliminate the double exposure / auto frame stop mechanism to count their frames through a newly fitted traditional “red window.”

Second, and most common, these cameras were designed in the beginning of the 1950’s when film was physically different from the film we buy today. Specifically, the film and its paper backing was thicker then than it is today. The gearing and spacing levers were designed for the film available “back then”. The result is that today’s films will give far narrower spacing – and sometimes none – and even overlapping of frames in these cameras. While a cleaning of the mechanism can help, I’ve found only one solution to solve this spacing / overlapping problem… and no, I didn’t discover it.

The solution is illustrated in the two accompanying photos (slideshow on the right). Before loading your film, cut 2” of film paper backing from an old film and tape it to your new film’s leader. You’ll have to experiment, you may need 2 1/2” or 3” … depends on your camera of leader. Strange as it may sound, this extra thickness compensates for the thinner modern films and corrects the spacing issue of these two excellent folders.

Notwithstanding the extra effort, these two cameras from Zeiss Ikon were and are super 6×6 folders … superb in their handling and operation as well as capable, with either lens offering, of superior photographs.

Over-all, a pair of solid, handsome, quality built, and super performing lensed folders. Hey, it’s a Zeiss!!

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