An Ikon-ic Camera - 5 Frames with the Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta 533/16 - By Eric Norris
Camera Random

An Ikon-ic Camera – 5 Frames with the Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta 533/16 – By Eric Norris

Prompted by a very good experience with a new-to-me Mamiya C Professional TLR, my internet searches recently turned toward medium format cameras. I hunted around for relatively affordable cameras eventually landing on the venerable Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta, a folding medium-format camera produced by Zeiss in the 1940s and 50s that seemed to be well-liked by those who used it. From there, I turned to eBay, where I found what looked to be a very nice example listed for sale from an estate liquidator. I hit the “Buy Now” button, and a few days later my Ikonta (the later 533/16 version) arrived in the mail.

Right off the bat, the Ikon Super Ikonta 533/16 looked great. The leather case had torn where it would normally bend (a common issue with very old leather, in my experience), but overall the camera showed very few signs of use. I checked shutter speeds, the rangefinder, the insides. Everything looked great.

So I loaded a roll of black-and-white film and shot what I thought were 12 photos… until I processed the film and discovered that I had overlooked a critical step or two when I loaded the film and shot the photos. However, a few frames turned out and there were no light leaks or other obvious problems (other than user error). After a quick trip back to the internet to learn about the camera I loaded a roll of Ektar and sent out on my bike to take some pictures in and around Sacramento. My ride ended at the local film lab (Mike’s Camera) where I dropped off the film and started waiting.

A day later, an email arrived letting me know that my digital scans were ready for downloading. I hit the download link, and… Wow. I was blown away.

Before getting into the pictures, I should disclose that my color film photography experiences thus far have been somewhat underwhelming. I’ve gotten acceptable results, but in general I prefer the results I get from black and white film.

The images from the Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta 533/16, by comparison, were head-and-shoulders above any other color pictures I’ve taken. I’ve used Ektar in the past, but the colors from the Zeiss, the sharpness, the saturation were far better than anything else. Even the Contax T2, a camera that costs four times what I paid for the Zeiss, did not produced images this nice. The Zeiss lens (a Tessar design, 80mm f2.8) is very sharp, and creates some very interesting bokeh and background separation even at relatively small apertures. The rangefinder, which includes a small lens mounted out on the lens, worked flawlessly and produced pin-sharp focusing.

The Images

So… on to the images.

The Guy West Bridge is a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, but 1/10th the size. The bridge carries cyclists and pedestrians over the American River.

I love photographing palm trees. These are on the other side of the levee that holds in the American River.

Always a great spot to stop and take a photo on the American River.

The El Camino Plaza’s sign harkens back to an earlier era. My Zeiss would have been some 20 years old when this center was built.

My favorite shot from this roll is this 1940s Chevrolet. The luminousity and the vibrant colors just blew me away.

I set exposure using the Lux app on my iPhone. The Ikon Super Ikonta 533/16 has a built-in Selenium meter that works but provides inconsistent results. It’s the only non-mechanical part of the camera, and the only part that hasn’t passed the test of time.

Needless to say, I will shoot many more photos with this camera in the future. It’s lasted this many years in great condition. I hope to keep it as pristine as it was when it arrived at my door.

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Eric Norris

While my professional life for the past 30 years has revolved around urban planning, my love of photography goes back much farther. I inherited an old folding camera from my grandfather in high school, and was soon taking over the bathroom develop and print film. Since then, photography has remained a common thread in all my endeavors, which have included a stint as newspaper reporter and several decades of long-distance cycling. In addition to 35MMC, I post to Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube under the user name CampyOnlyGuy

Eric Norris

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