Adox Golf 63 S

At one time Adox were a major photographic force.  German in origin, they were bought by Dupont. The Dupont company was sold to Agfa (and so became German once again) and Agfa did not use the Adox brand name so their registration of the name lapsed.  Almost immediately, Canadian and German companies registered the name, neither of which have any connection with the original German company (although the modern German Adox make excellent films).  The Adox name is now used exclusively by Adox Fotowerke GmbH although two companies own the rights to the name in different countries.  The Adox that made this camera are the original Adox – the owner of the name being Dr C. Schleussner Fotowerke GmbH – and the camera was made between 1954 and 1959.  It is at the bottom of the range of Golf cameras.
Adox Golf S

lens: Adoxar (made by Will Wetzlar)
focal length:  75 mm
apertures: f6.3 – f22
focus range: 1m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Gauthier Pronto
speeds: b, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200
flash: PC connector
film size: 120


The internal construction of the Golf resembles Agfa cameras of the period.  The visible parts of the body are made of pressed steel rather than the machined die-cast aluminium alloy used by the likes of Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander.
The bottom and top plates are pressed aluminium which has not been anodised – it is very prone to corrosion. Again, this is very different to the practice of Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander who used chrome plated brass.
That is the negative part over.  The design is good, even if basic. It is easier to load than my Zeiss Ikon medium format cameras of the period, with hinged spool holders (which is also reminiscent of Agfa).
The lens base board snaps fully open at the press of a button on the top plate and there is a double exposure interlock.
So, more specific details.  The outside of the camera first.  The size of the camera is basically dictated by the film size – 120 – and the frame size – 60 by 60 mm.  The camera measures 135 by 90 by 40 mm when closed and opens to 90 mm. It weighs 475 grams. This is very light compared to Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander models and is down to the use of pressed steel instead of die-cast aluminium.
Adox Golf S – closed


The lens is an Adoxar 1:6.3 75 mm lens.  It seems to be have been quite the fashion to have a lens name end in ‘ar’.  This lens was made for Adox by Will Wetzlar (now a part of Helmut Hund GmbH). The lens is housed in a Gauthier Pronto shutter (which earns the camera the designation ‘S’) rather than the usual Vario shutter. This is a good, well made shutter which is unlikely to give trouble even after sixty-odd years.  Gauthier shutters were designed to run dry – that is, with no lubricant. This means there is no oil to dry out and become sticky and there is nothing to trap dust and foul the movement. I have yet to come across a Gauthier shutter that did not work right, even after sitting untouched in a drawer for forty years.
Adox Golf S – side view


The top plate is uncluttered. The only controls here are the shutter release and film advance.  The shutter release is a simple aluminium button, threaded for a standard cable release. The film advance is a knurled knob. Between the shutter release and the film advance is an indicator window for the double exposure interlock. The shutter release will only work if this indicator is red. When you press the shutter release, the indicator changes to white and the shutter is now locked. When you advance the film, the indicator will change back from white to red and the shutter is unlocked. It takes about a half turn of the film advance knob to achieve this.

In the centre of the top plate is a simple accessory shoe. There are no electrical contacts here and flash is connected via a PC connector on the top of the shutter housing. Flash is synchronised for fast flash bulbs.  As this camera has a leaf shutter, shutter speed is not so important as with a focal plane shutter. The manual (which I have!) says the camera will work fine with electronic flash as well.

The bottom plate is plain apart from a linear machining and a centre tripod boss (1/4 inch Whitworth).

The back of the camera has no features apart from a red window. The position of this window is dictated by the negative size which is 6 by 6 cm. 120 film has three sets of numbers on the backing paper – one for full frame (6×9),one for half frame (6×4.5) and one for square (6×6). The set of numbers for 6×6 runs down the middle of the length of film, so needs a central window.

Adox Golf S – front

When winding on a 120 film, you have to look through the window at the numbers on the backing paper. The numbers are typically preceded by a row of circles of increasing size to show the number is getting closer.  For those only experienced in 35 mm film (or digital), when the film is finished, there is no need to rewind. You wind on until all trace of the backing paper has disappeared from the red window – then you open the camera, carefully take out the film and stick the self-adhesive tab around the film to prevent it from rewinding.

Under the window, the legend ‘made in Germany’ is embossed in the leatherette and beneath that is ‘T-YD’

In use, the base board drops down vertically. This is how I prefer it to be as it leaves plenty of room on either side of the lens for my not so small hands. My Franka folder has the base board hinged on the side and this makes it hard to hold securely.

The viewfinder is very small and I find I need to put my eye very close to it to frame the picture. This means I have to take my glasses off and then I can no longer see the picture I am framing. The shutter release falls nicely to my finger.

Sample pictures.

I am quite impressed with these.  They all came out a bit on the dark side (Gimped to get brightness where it should be) but I am impressed with the quality.  Perhaps I should not be surprised.  The lens was made by Will Wetzlar who also made lenses for Leica.

Skidbrooke Church


Lincoln Stonebow


Jazz buskers, Lincoln

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.

Dacora Digna

Dacora Digna
Dacora Digna
This is a very cheap camera from the mid 1950s.  It takes 120 film (12 negatives to a roll) which was more-or-less standard for amateur photographers at the time.  The Digna came in several versions and my example is, apparently, close to the top of the range.  The camera is fairly small for a medium format camera – 130mm wide, 90 mm tall and 70mm thick when closed – and also relatively light.
The camera has to be opened before use, but not by extending bellows.  You turn the lens very slightly clockwise and the lens pops out on a spring.  The shutter on my example is a Gauthier Vario leaf shutter – 1/25, 1/75 and 1/200 seconds and B.  As I say, this is the upmarket version so I dread to think what the lower end of the range had for a shutter.  The lens is a Subito f4.5 75mm lens – a make I have never heard of before.  As I have no intention of putting a roll of film through this camera, I shall never know how good the lens is (or not).  The lens focusses from 3.5 to infinity (I assume that is in feet as 3.5 meters would not be very usable as a near focus.  There are two Happy Snapper settings both at f10 – nine feet and around thirty feet.  At the nine feet setting, the depth of field is from seven feet to fifteen feet, and and the thirty feet setting the depth of field is fifteen feet to infinity.  Those two happy snapper settings are going to be quite useful.  The snap-shotter can keep the focus at the near Happy Snapper setting continually if he usually takes shots of people and at the far setting if he usually takes shots of landscapes.
To open the camera, the back comes away completely – no expensive hinge on the side away from the catch!  There seems to be very little holding the back in place, but it is quite secure.  The spool carrier for the new film hinges out for ease of loading, and the take-up spool carrier is partially hinged.  For a cheap camera, this is very good and easy to use.  When the back is removed, the mechanism for the pop-out lens is exposed – it is not at all sophisticated or complex so no worries about damaging it.  In fact, I was easily able to apply a few drops of clock oil to the moving parts and thus allowed the mechanism to work as if new
The finish is very poor.  It would seem to be nickel plated mild steel and aluminium. The main body seems to be die-cast aluminium with just the top plate and back being mild steel.  There is rust coming through the nickel plated portions and there is no evidence of anodising on the aluminium and it was rather corroded on my example.  There is the normal red window on the back to view the frame numbers and there is no blanking mechanism so the film could become fogged eventually if the camera is left in the light.
I am unable to say how the camera feels in use as I am not going to actually use it.   However, it fits in the hand very well and is ergonomically designed – the viewfinder and shutter release are both where you would want them to be.  In fact, the basic design is fine, it is just the poor standard of manufacture that lets this camera down.

Franka Solida III camera

The first Vintage camera that I bought was a Franka Solida II.  The Solida III is basically the same camera, as you would expect, with a different lens and the addition of a non-coupled rangefinder.

Franka Solida III camera

The Solida III takes 120 film and produces a 6 cm by 6 cm negative – twelve frames to a roll of film.

lens: Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar
focal length:  80 mm
apertures: f/2.9 to f/22
focus range: 3 ft to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor S
speeds: 1 second to 1/250 + B
flash:  PC socket, no X/M switch
film size: 120

The lens is a Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 80 mm, f/2.9 lens.  This is a bit unusual as the aperture sequence usually goes to f/2.8 rather than f/2.9.  The minimum aperture is f/22 which is more than small enough coupled with the 1/250 shutter speed.  It is probably worth noting that the physical size of the aperture at f/22 on a medium format camera is much larger than f/22 on a 35 mm camera and so diffraction effects are negligible and so give sharper images than an equivalent lens/aperture would with 35mm.  With an APS C format digital camera, the difference will be even sharper.  The test film showed this lens to be better than adequate, at the least.

Franka Solida III camera
The shutter is a Prontor S leaf shutter by Gauthier, offering shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/250 plus B.

Happy Snapper settings are indicated in red and are around f/9 and twenty five feet, giving a depth of field from twelve feet to infinity.  There is also a secondary Happy Snapper setting of f/9 and eight feet which gives you a depth of field from six feet to twelve feet – presumably for portraits.

There is the usual delayed action lever giving  a delay of around eight to ten seconds.  A PC socket is provided but no synchronisation lever so the flash synch could be either for bulb or electronic flash. Given the camera’s age, I suspect it is synced for bulbs but whether for M or F bulbs I do not know.

The rangefinder works well and the two images are nice and clear.  There is enough separation between the two rangefinder windows (43 mm) and there is enough movement on the adjusting wheel to make the device effective.  Unfortunately, as a non-coupled rangefinder, it is necessary to read the distance off the rangefinder and set it on the lens focussing scale.  I find guessing the distance and using a smallish aperture to be fine and I don’t think I would use this rangefinder very much.

The other niggle with the rangefinder is that it uses a separate eyepiece to the viewfinder making focussing and composing totally separate activities and further reduces the utility of the rangefinder.

There is a safety interlock between the film winder and the shutter release meaning it is impossible to make a double exposure.  There is a (very) small window beside the film winder which shows red when the film has been wound on.  In fact, it is only necessary to turn the film winder 3/4 of a turn to reset the shutter which is not enough to wind on to the next frame.  Not having a manual for the camera, I had thought the shutter faulty before I finally twigged the purpose of the small window.

The red window on the back which allows you to read the frame numbers has a sliding cover to prevent the fogging of panchromatic film.  Loading is easy.  Both the film spool and the take up spool are contained in hinged housings which hold the film securely until the back is closed.

The pressure plate is significantly larger than the frame size (80 mm wide) which means that the film is kept nicely flat – not always the case with medium format cameras.  The lens standard pops out nicely when the button on the base is pressed – this camera is fully self-erecting.

In use, this is not anywhere as easy as the Franka Solida II.  That camera opens vertically with the baseboard at the bottom under the lens. This Solida III opens sideways so that the baseboard is to the right of the lens when you are using the camera.  This leaves very little camera for the right hand to hold on to which is rather awkward. With the fingers of the right hand curled, it is quite usable and the forefinger drops quite nicely onto the shutter release.

Small items – there is an accessory shoe – cold shoe in flash terms – and a single tripod socket on the base which is to UK/USA standard.  Lastly, the film winder has a film speed reminder on its top, with DIN/ASA numbers from DIN 12/ASA 12 to DIN 24/ASA 200.  On a camera of this age, it is worth noting that the ASA numbers are the “new” ASA scale

Franka Solida III camera
Medieval troubadours, Stonebow, Lincoln
Franka Solida III camera
Medieval guildhall, Lincoln

Agfa Billy Record

Agfa Billy Record
Agfa Billy-Record
Agfa Billy Record
Agfa Billy-Record landscape format

This is a fairly standard full frame 120 film camera from the mid 1930s.  I think this camera is a grey import – no “made in Germany”, distance scale in metres and the tripod socket is continental rather than UK or USA. The 1937 Photographic Almanac refers to this camera as the Speedex Record but it is clearly the same camera. The suggested price is £5-5-0. As the average working wage in the UK in 1937 was around £1-10-0, this was around a month’s wages so really a middle class camera.

The camera takes eight pictures on 120 film which makes it an expensive camera to use.  There are two finders: a brilliant finder and a two frame Galilean finder.  I can never get on with brilliant finders – too small mostly.  The shutter is a Prontor II leaf shutter from Gauthier and the lens is Agfa’s Apotar 10.5 cm focal length and f/4.5 maximum aperture.  This lens performs very well – with colour as well as monochrome.  Lenses from the 1930s were usually colour corrected even though colour film was unusual.  This is because the new (for the time) panchromatic films were sensitive to all colours and non-colour corrected lenses would produce a very soft image.
Shutter speeds on the Prontor II are 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/150 as well as B and T.  1/25 and 1/50 seem very slow by modern standards. but the 6cm by 9cm negatives would be unlikely to be enlarged.  For most people, contact prints would be normal.  The lack of flash synchronisation and the 1/150 maximum shutter speed date this to the first Prontor II design and so dates the camera to between 1934 and 1938.
The lens focusses down to less than one metre to infinity.  On my camera, the lens will not focus to infinity – either because the grease on the focussing thread has solidified (something Agfas are notorious for) or because someone has attempted a repair (also common on old cameras).

As was normal until the mid 1950s, the shutter release lever is on the shutter housing.  As was also normal from 1930ish, Agfa provide a secondary shutter release on the camera body which is connected to the lever on the shutter housing by an articulated link.  This is a seriously weak link and barely works on my camera.  When opening the camera, there is a significant danger of the release link missing the lever on the shutter housing.  Agfa actually stress the importance of this in the manual for the camera.  The long term effect of this link missing its proper location is that the link has bent and frequently dis-articulates itself.

There are the two tripod bushes we would expect on a camera of this format and date.  One is on the base board – centrally placed which makes fitting a tripod easier than on some cameras – and one near the centre of the base.  Both are 3/8 Whitworth which is larger than most tripods use.  My other cameras from this era have a 1/4 Whitworth insert and these may well have been present at some time.

Sample pictures:

Agfa Billy Record
Stamp End, Lincoln
Agfa Billy Record
Lincoln Cathedral

Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex

Zeiss Ikon IkoflexZeiss Ikon IkoflexZeiss Ikon Ikoflexes are close copies of Rolleiflexes.  For some reason, they do not have the good reputation of the Rolleiflexes even though they use the same lenses and shutters – both, incidentally, made by Zeiss subsidiaries.
 My specimen is an Ikoflex II and has a lens serial number that dates from mid 1936 and a shutter serial number that dates from late 1936.  The camera has a focussing lever rather than knob – this was changed to a knob in 1937.  Together, this suggest a date for my camera of late 1936 to early 1937.   My specimen has a serial number of B17187 – this is found on the base just under the tripod thread.  I am told by the Zeiss Ikon Collectors group that the B serial numbers date from 1936 so I am confident that this camera body was made in 1936 although it is possible that the body, lens and shutter were put together in 1937.
The 1937 Photographic Almanac has a description of this camera and suggests that my camera – Carl Zeiss Tessar lens and Compur Rapid shutter – cost £20-10-0 and a cheaper version – Carl Zeiss Triotar lens and normal Compur shutter – cost £14-15-0. Both versions required quite a good salary to being able to afford one.
The picture lens in my camera is a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar f3.5, 7.5cm focal length and the focussing lens a Terona Anastigmat also 7.5cm focal length (pre-WWII, Carl Zeiss lenses had their focal length stated in cm and after WWII in mm).  This picture lens is as good as pre-war lenses get and pretty much as good as lenses get altogether.  The shutter is a Compur-Rapid leaf shutter which has speeds down to 1/500 of a second.  That is as fast as we go with a leaf shutter – any faster and you need a focal plane shutter ( I am told by experts that the actual top speed reached by a Compur-Rapid was nearer to 1/300 than the nominal 1/500).  This shutter has neither flash synchronisation nor delayed action.
Focussing takes a bit of getting used to.  You look down onto a ground glass screen and the image is reversed left-to-right.  As you move the camera to refine the composition, the image moves in the opposite way to that of the camera and slight tilting of the camera will put all the verticals out of kilter.  On a more positive note, the viewing screen is large and there is a magnifier to magnify the central portion for critical focussing.  Focussing of the lens is carried out with a lever – this was replaced with a more conventional knob in 1937.  The focussing lever is actually quite easy to use and moves across a distance quadrant which allows you to read off the depth of field at any given aperture.
The aperture control is partially hidden by the focussing lens and the f16 and f22 settings are hard to see.  To offset this, the lens is a very fast lens for the time – f3.5 fully open.  With a range of speed of 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250 and 1/500 seconds as well as B and T together with apertures from f3.5 to f22, this camera can cope with dull weather and bright sunshine with both slow (ISO 50) and fast (ISO 400) films.  The one big drawback here is if you hold the camera too firmly (i.e. holding the front plate as well as the body) it is not possible to focus as the front plate with both lenses moves to and fro to achieve focus.
This camera is easy to use two handed.  The left hand both focusses and cocks the shutter while the right hand releases the shutter release.  After the picture is taken, the film needs to be wound on before the shutter can be set again.  One draw back here is that the film can easily be wound on too far, there is no ‘stop’ as the film is wound on far enough – something we 35mm photographers take for granted.  As well as the waist-level finder, there is also a direct vision finder.  The centre of the front plate of the waist-level finder can be pushed out of the way, and the picture composed through a small hole in the rear plate.  As this is direct vision, there is no reversing of the image, but it is also not possible to use this finder to focus the image.
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex
When loading the film, the film passes over a roller that “counts” the film.  When the first number appears in the red window, a small lever on the side resets the film counter to “1” and from then on, you must use the film counter and not the numbers in the red window.  If you forget and use the numbers in the red window, you will get eight negatives only with large gaps between them – the series of numbers used are for 6 x 9 cm negatives.  This camera takes twelve pictures on a roll of 120 film (or BII as Zeiss Ikon call it.) – each negative being 6 cm x 6 cm.
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex
There in one tripod bush on the base (there would be no point in having two bushes on a square format camera).  It is a standard 1/4 Whitworth bush.  This is unusual in my 1930s Zeiss Ikon cameras which usually have a 3/8 Whitworth bush with a removable 1/4 Whitworth insert.
Really, there is no a lot more to say about this camera.  It is not sophisticated (as later models in the range were) but has a good lens and a good shutter and as a result it takes excellent pictures.  What more do you want from a camera?
The following is an advert from the Wallace Heaton Minitography and Cinematography catalogue from 1939 (this is a slightly updated version of the camera I have described – the focus lever has been replaced with a focus knob but otherwise the same camera):
Ikoflex1939 008

Zeiss Ikon Icarette

 The Icarette (sometimes mistakenly called a Jcarette because of the fancy “I” used) is a very old line of cameras, first produced by ICA before the mergers that formed Zeiss Ikon in 1926.  ICA itself was formed in 1909 by an amalgamation of Carl Zeiss Jena and others.  My Icarette has a lens serial number of 1089397, a body number of Q***42 and a shutter serial number of 1065884.  This means the lens was made towards the beginning of 1930, the body in early 1929 and the shutter in mid 1929.  This suggests that this particular Icarette was made in 1930 – 1931 at the latest.  The design is fairly old-fashioned for this date – not self-erecting and the focussing is on the baseboard, not the shutter assembly.  It does, however, have a rim-set leaf shutter which was very much state of the art for 1930.

I also have an earlier Icarette, from around 1919, made by ICA and a further ICA Icarette from 1925/6.

Zeiss Ikon Icarette

The Icarette is a thin camera when closed (35mm), but measures 180 mm long by 85 mm wide.  This makes it far too big to be a pocket camera.  To open the camera, you must press a slight bulge in the leatherette close to the film winder.  When opened, the base board has to be brought down to its position by hand – no springs here.  Then the lens/shutter has to be pulled forward until it locates on the focussing control.  The focussing control is a lever on the side of the base board which moves the shutter a total of less than one cm giving a focussing range from infinity to somewhere around three feet (the nearest marked position is for seven feet but the lever moves beyond this).

This camera has two viewfinders – a small brilliant finder and a cruder Newtonian finder with the far frame attached to the lens so movements of the lens are accounted for.  I do not find brilliant finders very easy to use but they have the advantage of allowing the camera to be used at waist level – much more discrete for candid or street photography.

The lens has a rise and fall mechanism and if you use this, the Newtonian finder is essential.  The rise and fall mechanism is there to allow the photographer to photograph tall things like trees and buildings without tilting the camera.  This means that there will be less distortion in the final picture.  The fact that the camera has a rise and fall mechanism means that the image circle must be much larger than the negative, which in turns means that vignetting will be minimal.

As mentioned above, the lens is a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens made in 1930.  This is the classic Zeiss lens which is still in use today.  It has an aperture range from f/4.5 to f/32 and focusses from around three feet to infinity.  The shutter is a Deckel Compur rim-set shutter made in 1929 with speeds of 1 second, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/250 seconds as well as B and T (B keeps the shutter open while the shutter release is depressed, T keeps the shutter open until the shutter release is pressed again).  The shutter also has a self-timer but as the general advice is not to use these on old cameras, I do not know how long the delay is.  I would suspect around ten seconds.  This shutter is the crème de la crème of shutters and still works well over eighty years after it left the factory.

The camera is fitted with two tripod bosses – one the base board close to the hinge and one part way along one of the edges.  Both are 3/8 inch Whitworth threads with a 1/4 inch Whitworth insert – the insert being held securely in place by a grub screw.  With my sample of this camera, someone has tried to remove the 1/4 inch insert without removing the grub screw damaging both the insert and the grub screw – they did this to both tripod bosses.  However, both still fit my modern tripod and hold the camera securely.

This camera takes 120 size film (or BII as Zeiss call it).  The spool carriers are hinged which allows easier loading of new film (and removal of exposed film).

This camera after a quick clean:
Zeiss Ikon Icarette

Some sample pictures:

These are fairly soft.  This is partly because focussing is inaccurate – the entire lens standard moves on a track and the distance between one metre and infinity is very small.  Helical focussing which became the norm soon after this camera was made gives more control.  Partly it is soft because it did not matter.  Photographs were normally printed as contact prints so the picture would have been 6cm by 9cm (a bit smaller than I have them here).

Zeiss Ikon IcaretteZeiss Ikon IcaretteZeiss Ikon Icarette

Zeiss Ikon Nettar family

Zeiss Ikon produced quite a series of cameras called Nettar – both before and after WWII. These range from cameras producing 6cm by 9cm to 6cm by 4.5 cm negatives. Information on these is conflicting to say the least.
I have four Nettars – two are very early ones from 1934-ish (the year Nettars were first sold), from 1937 and the newest from the early 1950s. I shall describe them separately as they are totally different cameras. The four Nettars are 510 (Bob), 515/2 (the older ones), 515 (the newer one) and 517/16 (almost new one).

The following advert from the 1939 Wallace Heaton minitography and cinematography catalogue show the models available in 1939 together with prices. There 517 and 518 were post-war models so are not mentioned in this advert:

Nettar 1939 009.jpg

Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Left to right: Nettar 515, Nettar 515/2, Bob 510, Nettar 517/16
Bob 510

This camera is very very similar to the Nettar 515. Indeed, this camera (Bob 510) was sold in the UK as a Nettar 510 – the first of the Nettar line. The Nettar 515 is obviously an update of the Bob/Nettar 510. I am basing that on the dates for introduction I have found on the Internet: 1934 for the 510, 1937 for the 515 and the fact that the 510 is a much lower spec. than the 515. However, Tubbs has the dates of introduction as 1938 for the 510 and 1934 for the 515. This seems unlikely to me as the 510 has hinge on the baseboard that will not allow the fitting of a top-plate shutter release while the 515 hinge does. There would be no advantage in redesigning a perfectly good hinge in order to make a cheaper camera. Also, the lens standard on the 515 has provision to fit an optional brilliant finder while the 510 does not. Again, there would be no commercial point in redesigning the lens standard to prevent the attachment of the brilliant finder in the cheaper camera. The re-engineering would cost needless money and also prevent potential sales of optional auxiliaries. The serial number of the body tells me it was made in 1936

Apart from the lens/shutter options and the differences mentioned above, the 510 and 515 are identical.

The name “Bob” is an estimable one. It is an Ernemann name and dates from 1914. Ernemann was one of the four companies (Goertz, Contessa-Nettal, ICA and Ernemann) who combined under the aegis of the Carl Zeiss Foundation to form Zeiss Ikon in 1926. Zeiss Ikon continued to sell Bob III and Bob IV cameras but were using up stock from before the merger. These Ernemann Bobs bequeathed nothing but the name to the Bob 510.

As I said, the Bob 510 was marketed in the UK as the Nettar 510 but my specimen is clearly a Bob with the name “Bob” embossed in the leatherette and the distance scale is in metres. I am always a bit uneasy when I buy German versions of cameras from the 1930s – they were certainly not retailed here in the UK. I suspect many were taken as war booty by British soldiers or “bought” in exchange for unavailable items. However, that is now fairly distant past and is (always was) beyond my control.

This is a half-frame camera – full frame for 120 film is 6cm by 9cm. This camera produces 6cm by 4.5cm negatives – 16 to a roll of film. This is roughly four times as large as a 35mm negative and most of the defects of an old, cheap lens are off-set by the need to enlarge the pictures four times less.

The lens on this camera is a Nettar Anastigmat 1:6.3 with a focal length of 7.5 cm. This was below the standard for the time and marks the camera as a cheap version. F6.3 is very slow and faster lenses were available, in fact the 515 had a f4.5 lens just a couple of years later. Focussing is courtesy of the front cell only – usual on the lower end of the market, even with upmarket lenses such as Tessars. Focussing is from just short of 1.2 metres to infinity. This lens is fairly soft with a predisposition to flare as you can see from the photographs below.

The shutter is the fairly crude Derval leaf shutter by Gauthier – speeds are 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 plus B and T. There is no delayed action lever. The fascia of the shutter, which was supplied by Zeiss Ikon rather than Gauthier, is a black and chrome Art Deco disc more reminiscent of Agfa of the time than nit is of Zeiss Ikon. The shutter is of the everset variety – there is no need to cock the shutter first as on a Klio or Prontor shutter. The shutter release lever has quite a lot of travel before it acts making firing the shutter a bit uncertain. This is much easier in landscape orientation but in portrait orientation one finger of the right hand has to move well under the lens while the rest of the hand has to hold the camera steady. As is usual, the lens/shutter combination has Happy Snapper settings signified by red dots. These are just larger than f11 and about seven metres. With the slow films of the 1930s, this would have required a slow shutter speed of 1/25 or 1/50 except in really bright light. The resulting pictures would not have stood any enlarging, but the customers for this camera would have been unlikely to have had anything other than contact prints from the 6cm by 4.5 cm negatives.

The viewfinder is a folding Galilean finder. The eye-piece is very small – 3mm by 5mm – and difficult to use while wearing spectacles. To add to this difficulty, the front part on my specimen is very worn and leans forward at an alarming angle. This means that precision of composition is not possible – but if I wanted precision I would not be using a seventy plus year old camera.

There is one tripod bush on the bottom at the end of the film holder. This protrudes from the casing and means that the tripod will not fit very securely. The main boss is 3/8 inch Whitworth but will take a 1/4 inch Whitworth insert – it probably had one to begin with.

Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Views along the banks of the Sincil towards Lincoln cathedral.


This camera is a full frame 120 camera – that is it gives 8 off 6cm by 9cm negatives. This makes it an expensive camera to use but that is offset by the greater quality of the much larger negative. The body serial number tells me that it was made in 1932.
The lens is a Nettar anastigmat with a focal length of 11 cm (cm before 1945 and mm after 1945) which is “normal” for a 6cm x 9cm negative. This lens has an aperture range of f/4.5 to f/32 – quite a fast lens for its time.
The shutter is a Telma everset leaf shutter made by Gauthier – “everset” means the shutter does not need cocking – with a speed range of 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 plus B and T. (B keeps the shutter open while the shutter release is pressed, T keeps then shutter open until the shutter release is pressed a second time). The shutter release is on the lens assembly and has two definite parts to its travel – tensioning the shutter and releasing the shutter. Although it requires a firmer touch than a Compur shutter which needs cocking, it is much faster in action. The shutter also has a delay action lever which delays the shutter by around ten seconds.
This was the fourth cheapest Nettar 520/2 – Zeiss Ikon advertised it at £5/10/0 in 1936. The bottom of the range (f6.3 Nettar lens and Derval shutter) sold for £3/15/0 and the top of the range (f4.5 Tessar and a normal Compur shutter) sold for £9/17/6 (all prices in ‘Old Money’). The lens has a focussing range of slightly less than 4’6″ to infinity. Both the focussing scale and the aperture scale have a Happy Snapper setting marked in red – about f13 and about 40 feet. Basically, this means that 40 feet is the lens’s hyperfocal distance at f13 and nearly everything will be in focus at these setting.
There are two viewfinders – a brilliant finder that can be turned for Portrait or Landscape formats and a direct vision finder that is simply two open frames. I find brilliant finders hard to use but I suspect that this is (at least partly) due to inexperience. I much prefer the direct vision finder.

The camera is self-erecting – that is, you press the button on the body, the baseboard opens and the lens lines up correctly. You still need to pull the base board into position as it is not spring loaded like the 515 is. The same body button also opens the direct vision finder. There are two tripod bushes – one on the base board near the hinge and one on the bottom in the end of the film holder. This means that this tripod bush will not hold the camera very securely. Both are 3/8 inch Whitworth threads, both with 1/4 inch Whitworth inserts held in place with a grub screw.

The camera is designed to use Orthochromatic film which is not sensitive to red light. The red view hole in the back for noting negative numbers has no cover and if the camera is used with modern Panchromatic film, a degree of fogging could occur through this hole. As you can see, there is a problem with the bellows on this old camera – there is a slight sag where the bellows join the camera body. I am not sure how easy this would be to fix. The many black dots are dirt that has been attracted to static on the film – a good but expensive way to clean the inside of the camera.

This following is adverts for this model from the British Journal of Photography Almanac of 1936:

1936 002

1936 004

Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Cornhill, Lincoln, August 2011
Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Silver Street, Lincoln, August 2011
Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Stamp End, Lincoln – Fujifilm Provia
My Nettar 515 was made in 1937, judging by the body serial number. It is of the 6cm x 4.5 cm flavour and is small enough to be considered a pocket camera even if it is rather heavy for a jacket pocket.
The Nettar 515 takes 120 film (all of the range do) and produces 16 pictures on a roll of 120 film. It is essentially a half-frame camera – as it uses each negative number on the film twice – once in each of the two red windows.
The camera sports a Novar Anastigmat lens – 7.5 cm focal length and maximum aperture of f/4.5, minimum aperture of f/22. Actually, the aperture lever goes beyond the f/22 mark by as much as the distance between f/16 and f/22 so perhaps is closing down to as little as f/32 at its limit. The shutter is a Klio leaf shutter made by Gauthier (which was actually owned by Zeiss Ikon). As this is a rim set shutter, it is not of the everset variety that early Klios were and needs cocking before a picture can be taken. Shutter speeds on a Klio are 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 175 – all fractions of a second. This is adequate but causes problems in very bright conditions. It is probably better to restrict this camera to ASA (sorry, ISO) 125 film or slower. The shutter has a Happy Snapper setting indicated by red dots. This is f/10 and focus at 24 feet. At this setting just about everything will be in focus. That is to say that 24 feet is the hyperfocal distance at f/10.
There is a delayed action lever which delays the shutter by about ten seconds which allows the photographer to get himself into the frame. On this camera this works but the usual advice for old cameras applies – don’t use it. This is because the spring that controls the delayed action is fairly weak and might break with age. As is normal with pre-WWII shutters, the release lever is on the shutter assembly. By the mid 30s, it was de rigeur to have the shutter release on the camera body, which is exactly where it is with this camera. It is linked to the lever on the shutter assembly by two inter-connected levers – a bit cumbersome but it works well enough. There is one tripod bush on the bottom at the end of the film holder. This protrudes from the casing and means that the tripod will not fit very securely. The main boss is 3/8 inch Whitworth but has a 1/4 inch Whitworth insert held in place by a small grub screw. There is also a tapered thread cable release socket but no flash connection – flash was unusual in the 1930s, particularly with amateurs.
The viewfinder is primitive – particularly by modern standards. It is a Galilean finder – two frames each with a lens which combine to give a viewfinder image slightly smaller than life size. Once a few pictures have been taken, it becomes second nature to use, although it can never be as accurate as a modern Galilean finder contained in one housing. There is provision for the attachment of a brilliant finder but my experience of these leaves me preferring the cruder Galilean finder.
In 1939, this model sold fo £5-12-6 with a Nettar lens rather than the Novar lens that my camera has. The Nettar 515 was available for as little as £3-7-6 with a Nettar ƒ/6.3 lens and a Derval shutter.

A scanned copy of the original Nettar manual for this camera is available as a download. Also available is Zeiss Ikon’s 1930s exposure guide.

Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Lincoln Arboretum, 2011
Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Drury lane, Lincoln – looking north
Nettar 517/16.
This is a post (WWII) war Nettar and has some improvements over the pre-war Nettars. There were two versions of post-war Nettars – 517/16 and 518/16 (the 16 in the designation means it takes twelve pictures on a roll of 120 (or BII) film. No, I’m afraid you will have to ask Zeiss Ikon why 16 and not 12). The only difference that I can see is that the 518 has a double exposure interlock and the 517 does not. This is a 517 and this comes in two versions. Mine has a square design top plate and later 517/16 cameras has a softer curved profile to the top plate.
Although these were not top-of-the-range cameras, they were not cheap either. I have a 1952 camera catalogue which prices the Nettar (not sure whether 517 or 518) at £16/13/3 (which is old money. It would be £16.66 in new money) for the basic model or £21/15/9 (£21.79 in new money). That is more than an average working man would earn in a week (£9 for a man, on average). In terms of an average man’s wage in 2013, it equates to over £1,000 for a Nettar in modern money.
The controls are pretty basic (and much the same as the Nettars described above). On the top plate is a lens release button, a shutter release button and a winding knob. All other controls are on the shutter housing. Here is the diaphragm (f6.3 to f22), shutter speed (1/25, 1/75 and 1/200) and focusing (marked as being 4.5 feet to infinity but it focusses much closer – I suspect to one metre or three feet).
The lens is a Novar ( the same as on my 515) which is a triplet. These produce good results (better than many people expect) but needs to be stopped down for the best results. This lens is only f/6.3 wide open so should always give good results.
The shutter is a Vario leaf shutter which is one of Gauthier’s cheaper shutters. It only really has one useable speed – 1/200. It does have 1/25 and 1/75 but while these would have been fine for contact prints that were usual in the 1950s the resulting pictures would not bear enlarging due to the camera shake.
As was normal (at least on Zeiss Ikon’s cheaper cameras) there are Happy Snapper settings marked with a red dot. These are focus at around 22 feet and slightly wider than f/11 aperture. Using this Happy Snapper setting should give you a depth of field from 11 feet to infinity. When stopped down to f/22, this lens should give you a depth of field from six feet to infinity.
The lens baseboard hinges down which I prefer as it leaves more room for your hands. It also provides a stable base for the camera which would be useful if the Vario shutter provided a Vorlaufwerk (or delay action) setting, which it does not. This camera also came with the more expensive Prontor S shutter which does have such a setting.
The release for the baseboard should allow the lens to spring into action just by the release being pressed. This is not so on my camera which is probably due to lack of use. I shall oil it directly and try the action a few times to see if it will free up. It is no big deal if it does not. The viewfinder on the 517/16 (and 518/16) has been modernised over the pre-war versions but not to provide an improvement. The viewfinder is now built-in to the top plate instead of being two folding frames; unfortunately, it is also much smaller. It is now too small for me to use with my glasses on which will make the camera harder to use. The image seen in the viewfinder is also much smaller, about a quarter of real life, and I need to get my really close to the viewfinder – this is why I cannot use it with my glasses on and when I try the metal surround scratches the plastic lenses on my glasses. On top of the viewfinder is an accessory shoe.
The film advance is on the left and on the top. This feels back-to-front to me but it is a perfectly acceptable system. There is one central red window on the back of the camera with a chrome slider to keep light out between shots. The spools are kept securely in place with spring loaded bosses. There is no provision for air flow around the film mask, so with this camera it might be a good idea to open the bellows before winding on the film. The reason for this is that the expanding bellows can act as a pump and suck the film into the space in the middle of the film mask giving a slightly curved piece of film in front of the lens. Conversely, wait a few seconds between opening the camera and taking the first picture.
The following is an advert from the 1952 Wallace Heaton catalogue:
Nettat 1952 003
Test pictures will be provided as soon as I have had the chance to try the camera out.
30-11-13: I now have my test roll developed – Fuji Provia reversal film. This camera has quite bad vignetting – it shows more on some pictures than others -I am assuming it has to do with the aperture used. The picture of Lincoln’s Exchequergate has hardly any visible vignetting.
Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Lincoln’s Exchequergate
Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Lindesfarne Castle
Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
Bamburgh Castle
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
Zeiss Ikon Nettar family
All three together, oldest on the left, newest on the right.

Agfa Billy Clack

Agfa Billy Clack

This is really little more than a pretentious box camera. However it is distinguished by its excellent design. It is a camera of the 1930s and it is an Art Deco camera. It folds into a compact (very compact for a 120 size camera) slim box which easily fits into a pocket. It also is light enough to carry in a pocket – some other (Zeiss Ikon) folders fit in a pocket but are so heavy, they pull your clothing to one side.

The 1937 edition of the British journal Photographic Almanac has a piece on two ‘new’ Agfa cameras. These are called the Agfa Speedex Clack cameras but the smaller one is clearly this Billy Clack. The price given for this camera is 32/’ or £1-12-5. This is a cheap camera but still represents a significant purchase for a working man – about a week’s wages.

The front panel comes forward on “lazy tongs” struts which hold the camera very steady. The controls are minimal. There is an aperture adjustment – a disc in front of the lens with three holes of various sizes. These are known as Waterhouse stops. They are cheaper to make than an iris diaphragm is and more reliable – there is only the one rotating disc – but necessarily offer a restricted number of aperture options. On the Billy Clack, the options are ƒ/8.8, ƒ/11 and ƒ/16.
The other adjustment is the shutter speed. This can be either long – basically “B” where the shutter remains open while your finger is on the shutter release – or instantaneous – actually about 1/30th second. These are good enough to produce well exposed pictures with Kodak 160 ISO colour film in good/bright sunlight.
There is an inbuilt yellow filter designed for use with orthochromatic or the new (at the time this camera was designed) panchromatic films. As my trial film was colour, I was not able to judge the effectiveness of this filter in use, but as it appears to be a mid-yellow, it will surely increase contrast in skies with most monochrome films. The only other control is a shutter lock which is well worth while as the simple shutter is easily tripped while handling the camera.
On the rear of the camera are two red holes for winding on the film. This camera uses the series of numbers on the film backing paper intended for cameras producing 6cm x 9cm negatives by using each number (1 to 8) on the film twice – once in each hole – and so is a half frame camera. The camera will give 16 6cm x 4.5cm negatives on one roll of film. This is nearly four times the area as a standard 35mm negative and means that even a poor lens will give acceptable results. In use, the red holes are covered by a swivelling cover to prevent fogging with panchromatic films.
There are two viewfinders. One is for portrait aspect pictures and the other for landscape aspect pictures. These are of the “brilliant” type with two lenses at right angles and a sloping mirror between. in bright light, these are hard to see through, and I found I needed to shield the top of the viewfinder with my hand in order to see the image. Personally, I would prefer a direct vision Newtonian finder – the crudeness and inaccuracy would more than compensated for by ease of use.
The last thing to note with this camera is the design of the front panel.  There are two viewfinder lenses and the taking lens on a black plate with rather pleasing Art Deco lines painted on. Visually, this is an excellent camera. Indeed, my decision to buy this camera was entirely aesthetic.
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