Ikonta 520

This is a medium format camera (i.e. takes 120 film) from Zeiss Ikon.  It is a half-frame camera – 6 x 4.5 cm negative – which is half of a standard 120 frame of 6 x 9 cm. The body serial  number tells me it was made in 1932.
Ikonta 520
Ikonta 520, front view
lens: Novar
focal length:  75mm
apertures: f/6.3 to f/32
focus range: 4’6″ to infinity (that is the scale, actually about 4 feet)
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Derval
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T
flash: n/a
film size: 120
The body is made from cast aluminium.  This body casting is shared between the Ikonta 520, Bob 510 and Nettar 515. It is quite hard to understand why Zeiss Ikon shared the body between three different camera lines instead of calling them all Ikonta (the oldest name) seeing as Bob, Ikonta and Nettar all come with a range of lenses and shutters and can be considered to be one range in effect if not in name.

So, this Ikonta.  It is an Ikonta 520 – more specifically, a 520E. The other variants are

520IT with a f4.5 Novar and a Telma shutter,

520F with a F3.5 Novar and a Compur Rapid shutter and

520L with a f3.5 Tessar and Compur Rapid shutter.

The lens is a Novar which is a triplet and performs surprisingly well once stopped down to f/8 or smaller.  Ikontas were also available with Tessars at a higher price and wider aperture Novars.  The Novar on this camera is quite a slow lens with a maximum aperture of f/6.3.  The focussing is front cell only, rather than the whole lens moving (giving not quite so good image quality) and the focussing scale is in feet indicating that the camera is an official import into the UK.

The shutter is an everset Derval (everset means it does not need cocking before firing as a Klio or Compur would).  This is a fairly crude (and so cheap) shutter with two blades only and only offers three speeds: 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100.  With a slow lens like this camera has, faster shutter speeds would have been superfluous, particularly with the slow, by modern standards, films available in the 1930s.
Ikonta 520
Detail of rim-set shutter adjuster on Derval shutter
The shutter is a dial set shutter which means that the speed adjustment is by a dial set above the shutter housing.  More modern shutters have a rim set adjuster which is a ring around the shutter housing.  This shutter does not have a V (=Vorlaufwerk) setting for delayed action and as is usual with cameras made before the late 1940s, there is no flash connection or synchronisation.
Ikonta 520
Ikonta 520, side view
As I mentioned, the maximum aperture is rather small at f/6.3 but the minimum aperture is surprisingly small – f/32 – so the range of exposures possible is still respectably large.
A standard photograph with this camera (as with the Bob 510 and Nettar 515) is in portrait format and in this orientation the shutter release is underneath the camera and is uncomfortable to use.  To take landscape pictures, the camera must be used on its side and the shutter release is on the side and easy to use.
The viewfinder is the cheap two frame style of viewfinder – a Newtonian finder.
This was an expensive camera in its day – according to Tubbs (Zeiss Ikon Cameras 1926 -39, published by Hove Camera Foto Books), it cost £4/10/0 new in the early 1930s and advertised by Zeiss Ikon in the British Journal Almanac for 1936 at £4/17/6.  That is £4.50 in new money but a week’s wages for a working man would have been around £1/10/0 or £1.50. So this camera cost around a months income for a working man which is around £1,000 in today’s money.
The following is an advert for the Ikonta 520 from the British journal of Photography Almanac 0f 1936:
1936 003
19/07/2013:  I have now finished my test film for this camera and the results are not good.  The lens is susceptible to flare (as I would expect on a lens from 1930 – coating of lenses had not been invented yet) and some of the flare is very strange, suggesting something other than ordinary flare – a glass defect, perhaps.
Ikonta 520
Blues festival in Lincoln Arboretum
Ikonta 520
One of our many buskers in Lincoln – very young but quite accomplished
Ikonta 520
Lincoln Corn Exchange in the Cornhill
Comparison between Ikonta 520, Bob 510 and Nettar 515:
These three cameras from Zeiss Ikon share the same aluminium casting for their bodies.  This makes them very similar cameras.  They all take 120 film and they all produce half-frame negatives of 6 x 4.5 cm.  The details, however, are different.  I shall give the differences between them one model at a time, starting with the oldest.
Ikonta 520
This camera was produced from 1931 and is using the old fashioned dial set shutter – the disc at the top with the word ‘Derval’ on it..  The adjuster for the aperture is at the bottom of the shutter housing and requires the user to turn the camera around so that the scale can be seen.  The lens is a Novar triplet lens.  There is also a leather hand strap on this camera and the catch to close the back is solid.
Bob 510
Next is the Bob 510 (sold in the UK as a Nettar 510).  This is a slightly later camera first produced in 1934 and has a more modern rim set shutter – the dial is now replaced with a ring around the shutter housing.  Shutter speeds and apertures are the same, but the aperture adjuster is now on top of the shutter housing, behind the speed selector.  This means that the user can adjust the aperture with the camera pointing at the subject.  Perhaps not a major advance  but will have been less frustrating to use.  The lens is now a Nettar rather than the Novar – still a triplet but a different design.  There is no hand strap on this camera and the catch for the back is less secure than on the Ikonta
Nettar 515
Last is the Nettar 515.  This is later again, 1937, and also has the rim set shutter.  The shutter is now a Klio (on non-Zeiss Ikon cameras known as Prontor) with more shutter speeds (up to 1/175 and a few slow speeds).  The aperture adjuster is still on top, behind the speed adjuster, and there is now a delay setting lever below the shutter housing.  As with the Ikonta, the lens is a Novar triplet.  This shutter requires cocking before use  and there is an ancillary shutter release button on the camera body.  There is also provision to fit an optional brilliant finder on this camera although mine does not have this.  This model also has no hand strap and it has the same catch as the Bob 510
All three together, oldest on the left, newest on the right.


Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

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