Zeiss Ikon, a German camera legend, operated between 1926 and 1972. Among others, they produced a vast array of folding camera models, many of which can be picked up on places like eBay for next to nothing, whilst some are very collectable still fetching (relatively) premium prices. The Nettar line was the lower tier of cameras produced by Zeiss Ikon, whilst the Ikonta were the premium line. This specific model, the 517, was produced in 1949 has a Novar Anastigmat 75mm f6.3 lens and a Vario Leaf shutter (with Bulb, 1/25, 1/75 and 1/200 speeds). It takes 6×6 photos on normal paper backed 120 film, and there is a little window on the back to show the frame number to help you with winding it on correctly. There is no double exposure prevention mechanism, which may be a useful or annoying thing depending on how consistent you are at winding on the film after a shot.
The pros for this camera: it is so light and small that it can fit in a large pocket. Its also so inexpensive that there is no reason that if you have any desire to try one out, you should just go ahead and buy one. The lens is also surprisingly sharp, when you get it in focus.
The negatives would be the limited shutter speeds and slow aperture on this model, meaning fast film, lots of sunlight or tripod mounting is generally the way to go.
My Story with this Camera
This camera was given to me by my Great Grandma, who came by it in a roundabout way. It looks barely used and is in fantastic condition. The bellows look pristine, which is the first thing you should check when buying one of these. This was my first medium format camera, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised after the first roll that I got any photos I liked at all. Its a camera thats easy to make mistakes with, either by misjudging exposure, not paying close enough attention to the focus scale or forgetting if you’ve wound it on. In fact when I first used the camera I mainly used it to try double exposures, however now looking back many of those have lost their novelty.
Medium Format film is great and this camera was my first exposure to it. However I did start getting frustrated with the number of wasted shots I made with it, and finally got a Bronica SLR which led to me using this much less. In the future I’m going to revisit this camera, particularly when I want to take an MF camera but can’t deal with the bulk of the Bronica.
This camera can be a great inexpensive way to experience medium format film photography. It can also be really fun for double exposures, if thats your thing. However its easy to misjudge the focus and exposure, so its worth slowing down when using it. I doubt I’ll ever sell it; I find it remarkable that a camera 68 years old can still produce great images!