PHOTOGRAPHY   © mike connealy
Zeiss Ikon Ikonta A 520
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I have some nice old cameras in my collection, but none combine form and function more elegantly than the little Ikonta A. The camera's features can all be found on earlier Zeiss products, but in this case everthing has been scaled and optimized to fit the purpose of producing images in the 6x4.5 centimeter format. The result is a light-weight, ultra-compact medium format camera that can slip easily into a pocket. The sturdy Compur-Rapid shutter has a full range of speeds including T,B and 1-500. The f3.5, 7cm Tessar lens is uncoated, but produces sharp and contrasty images provided it is not brought too close to the sun. The rather short focal length of the lens makes the need to estimate focus less of problem than is the case with most other medium format cameras. The camera is a self-erecting folder design, so pressing the door release on the top deck pops out the lens to shooting position very smartly, and the viewfinder also automatically flips upright.
    Most of the paint on the Ikonta's metal trim is worn off, speaking of a history of long use. However, the bellows looks near new, and it only took a little cleaning and lubrication to make the camera work like new. It did take me several tries to get the lens reinstalled so that the infinity focus was perfect. The three little set screws on Zeiss cameras usually seem like they should fit into some pre-drilled holes in the mount, but often don't.
    The camera was made at a time when the numbering on the paper backing of 120 film was not completely standardized, and not all of it came with the properly numbered spacing for the half-frame format. The solution was to put two red windows on the back of the camera so that the 6x9 numbering could be used. To start, the film is wound until the numeral "1" is seen in the first window. After the exposure, the same numeral is advanced to the second window for the second exposure. Some care has to be exercised in not winding past the mark as the film is traveling a very short lateral distance. Once you are used to that, it is very nice to get sixteen frames on a 120 roll.
    The only common problem with this camera and its close relatives is a light leak through the red windows in the back. The cure for that has been sorted out very effectively by Cliff Manley in a posting.

A scan of the user manual for a slightly
earlier model of this camera is available on line.

Above: the Ikonta A 520 perched on my woodpile.

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This is an unusual example of the Ikonta A, probably made just before the outbreak of war in 1939 or 1940. Earlier models had simpler shutters. The post-war models featured a double-exposure prevention module and a different shutter-lens mount.

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Below: Some sample photos from the camera.

Additional photos from the Ikonta A 520 are posted on my blog.

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