Zeiss Ikon Ikonette 504/12

This is a very small folding camera from 1929. The maker is the renown Zeiss Ikon. This is one of the first cameras to be designed by Zeiss Ikon rather than being inherited from the companies that merged to become Zeiss Ikon in 1926.


The camera is very much a pocket camera – or handbag camera, as according to Zeiss Ikon advertising this was aimed at ladies. Kodak used the name Vest Pocket to describe both their small cameras and the 127 size films used in them (this is the USA usage of ‘vest’, Kodak were not suggesting that you should carry your camera in your underwear). The camera when closed measures 122 by 65 by 25 mm and opens to 122 by 65 by 98 mm and it weighs 290 g.

To open the camera for use, you lift the nickel plated lever/leg in the middle o0f the lens door. The door can then be pulled open – there are no springs involved here. The shutter/lens assembly must then be pulled forward by hand. There is a stop which will leave the lens focused at infinity. The base of the shutter/lens assembly runs between two chrome rails and is pulled by two chrome studs.

P1010355The shutter/lens assembly is connected to the camera body with folding bellows. These are made from black leatherette and, after exactly 90 years, are still flexible and light tight. This is one of the advantages of Zeiss Ikon as Agfa bellows of this age are rarely light tight. The lens board/lens door is held in place by two chrome struts which click easily into place.

The shutter is anonymous, is an everset type and only offers one speed which is labelled I. I suspect this speed is somewhere between 1/25 and 1/60 seconds. As the negatives from this camera are unlikely to have been enlarged – contact printing being usual in 1929 – a small amount of camera shake will not have been important. The shutter also has a B setting where the shutter remains open while the shutter release lever is depressed. The selector for this is on the top of the shutter housing.

The shutter release lever is just below half-way down the right hand side of then shutter housing. About one quarter of the way down is a small, threaded, hole. This is for a standard cable release.


The aperture control is on the left hand side of the shutter housing. Three apertures are provided. These are ƒ/9, ƒ/16 and ƒ/32. As this is a cheap camera, the apertures are provided by Waterhouse Stops which are a series of holes which can be moved behind the lens. Where only three apertures are provided this is much better than can iris diaphragm. On the front of the shutter housing is the Zeiss Ikon logo above the lens and the camera name “Ikonette” below the lens.

The lens is in the centre of the shutter housing. The lens is a Goerz Frontar lens. Goerz was one of the camera makers that combined to form Zeiss Ikon in 1926. According to the Interweb, the Frontar is a cemented doublet – two pieces of curved glass glued together. The name “Frontar” appears on the lens bezel above the lens (no mention of Goerz!). Below the lens on the bezel is the information 1:9 and ƒ=8cm. The first is the maximum aperture – ƒ/9 – and the second is the focal length – 8 cm or 80 mm. Before WWII, it was usual to designate focal lengths in cm rather than mm (or inches in the British Empire and the USA).

The diagonal of the  negative is 75mm so an 80 mm lens is very slightly longer than ‘normal‘.

P1010359To open the camera for loading a film, you must slide a small chrome stud on the base and then pull the top and bottom apart. The base, back and both ends of the camera come away in one piece, leaving the body with the bellows and shutter/lens assembly. The body is made from pressed steel which is painted black. On the base of the camera body is the body serial number in the standard ICA/Zeiss Ikon format. It is R12311. The ‘R’ tells us that the body was made in 1929 (or very early 1930).

P1010361The film plus empty spool fit at either end of the body. There is a hinged flange at the base, with a hole to take the end of the 127 film spool. The film spool fits into a hole at the other end of the spool chamber where there is a chrome spring to stop the spool moving in use. The take-up spool (the empty spool from the last film) needs to rotate to wind the film on so one end locates in the film advance key. this key will only rotate in one direction.

The outside of the camera is covered with black leatherette with the edges of the camera painted black. there is a square pattern embossed in the leatherette. On the front of the camera, near the winding key, the legend “Ikonette” is embossed. On the other end is the catalogue number 504/12. The back of the camera has the Zeiss Ikon logo embossed on one end. The centre of the back has a red window to allow the user to read frame numbers when winding the film on. As this is a full-frame 127 camera, there will be a total of eight frames on each roll of film.


Author: John Margetts

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

10 thoughts on “Zeiss Ikon Ikonette 504/12”

  1. Hi John,

    I have two of these cameras, and noticed that back on both differs from the one you have on your website.

    Rather than only one red window, these have two smaller windows, one red and one yellow.

    Otherwise, everything else seems to be identical.

    Could these be a different model? Or some kind of (regional) variation?




    1. Have you a photo of the back if your camera? If the two windows are in line (equidistant from the long edge of the camera), this suggests that yours are half-frame cameras, using each number on the film twice to give half sized negatives. If the two window are one above the other, this suggests that they are for use with non-standard film. Do your cameras gave the number 594/12 on them?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry, I’ve managed to (somehow) miss those numbers 🙂

    One is marked 504/12 and the other has 504/18.


    1. Also, it looks like the site deleted my comment with a link in it – here’s the photo of the back (remove spaces around : )

      https : //i.imgur.com/FfTMFwk.png


  3. I have an Ikonette with serial number N16923. Would you know what year is associated with that Ikonette? On camera-wiki.org/wiki/Zeiss_Ikon_serial_numbers I find two possibilities: 1927/1928 and 1941/1943. But I also found that this camera came on the market in 1929 and remained in the catalog until 1931. Neither possibility fits? What would be your guess?


    1. The dates for Zeiss Ikon cameras are very approximate. During World War II, ALL Zeiss Ikon records were lost. The dates that we have have been meticulously gleaned by looking at serial numbers and comparing them to sales catalogues, sales invoices, newspaper adverts and similar sources.

      As far as your ‘N’ serial number goes, I would think it probably a late ‘N’ serial number applied to a very early Ikonette production. Another possibility is that the Ikonette body was identical to the body of another camera model – this happened with the Ikonta and Nettar cameras which used the same body moulding. If that is the case, Zeiss Ikon would have a large stock of the body mouldings to hand and may well have used a moulding that was a couple of years old. The serial number is strictly the body serial number, not that of the finished camera.


      1. Thanks a lot for your quick reply. If I understand you correctly, your best guess would probably be early fourties.
        Thanks again.


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