Zeiss Ikonta 520 A

I went to Tokyo recently and had to wait around for a friend. I was early and just happened to be near a camera shop, might as well take a look. They had a basket of folding cameras of various conditions, makes, and formats. I bought two. This one was in better condition and had the famed Zeiss Ikonta name. I had always wanted to try one…even if it was a cheap junk bin one.

They were originally produced between 1929-1938 after which it changed to 521. It is tricky to pinpoint the actual model as there seem to be many variations, but I am sure this is a 520 A, it does say 520 on the body 🙂

The black tape on the back covers the red film number windows. I think this is to stop light leaks on colour film which was not readily available when the camera was in production. Here is a blog with a great review and some technical details that you might not be able to garner from the photos above.

I tried two rolls of film in this camera before writing the blog. The main reason for this is that I mistook the size of the negative. This could be because the last folding camera I tried was the Certix which had massive negatives. So instead of moving the film numbers from one red window to the other, I just focused on one window…and a half of each film was wasted. That did mean I got through the films quicker.

Here is the first film.

Well, a bit fuzzy, but it is a 90-year-old camera. It can take multiple exposures as the shutter is not linked to the winder. I didn’t do that and just tried to get the thing in focus and straight. The one shot of the bollards seems to be where I managed it. You have to guess the distance and set the dial on the lens. The camera was made before lenses were coated to reduce haze, so in a bright light, haze is apparent.

As 120mm film takes 10 days to get back I got bored and shot another roll. This time black and white so I could develop it. Here you can see the negative issue.

And here are the photos from that film.

As you can see I had a bit of trouble holding the camera steady. The 1/100th speed coupled with the position of the shutter release was not easy for me especially when I tried to use the framing mask.

I enjoyed using the camera, but I don’t think I will use it very often due to the trouble I had keeping it steady.

Keep or Sell: I am reluctant to sell it as it is really, really old and works. But I doubt I will use it much. Sell…eventually.

UPDATE: I tried the camera on a monopod with a cable release and the results were much better.

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10 thoughts on “Zeiss Ikonta 520 A

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  1. You sound a little underwhelmed. I am rather impressed, I like the black and whites particularly. Bet it does brilliant portraits. I reckon it’s worth another go with the benefit of experience. Maybe a monopod would help….oh I have several shoe mount rangefinders, you’re welcome to one of they’d help…..maybe a polorising filter attatched in someway would help with the haze/glare. Filter threads or pushon?

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  2. I find with these old folders and their low fastest shutter speed, very slow film is best. I keep some Ilford Pan-F Plus 50 in the fridge for them.

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    1. The focus issue may be a result of the front element being out of calibration, having been removed and not remounted correctly. Also, there may be some haze present to cause the fuzzyness. There are websites that can explain fixes. That lens should do much better. I might suggest a cable release to make it more convenient to use. I have had the same problem of awkward shutter placement with Zeiss and other makes in these folders, and I would bet that the cable release was intended to be used with these.

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  3. Something you might consider. Try setting the camera down on something solid like a short wall or table and use the cable release. You can hold a standard UV filter (52 or 55mm) in front of the lens on a landscape photo too. I used to hold all kinds of different filters in front of my F-1 when taking long exposures of Fuji.

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    1. I did try it again using a monopod and a cable release. I am waiting for the film to be developed and will add to this on its return. I didn’t have enough hands to hold a filter too…plus I didn’t have one. I do now as I am testing another old camera and had the same thought.

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