ryan stufflebam

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Super Ikonta Test Run

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Well, on my quest for the perfect travel camera, I ran across an interesting idea while searching forums and eBay. I certainly cannot afford a new high end medium format camera, but I could definitely afford an old folder from the 50s. The only two things I really truly care about are portability and image quality. Medium format folders are probably more portable than a 35mm system. And the lens of the camera I’d been eyeing has a reputation of being legendary.



The Zeiss Super Ikonta 532/16. I was able to find one for cheap because the lens had a good amount of haze, but looking at the photos, I didn’t think it was fungus. But who can tell, so I took a chance and bought it thinking that I might be able to clean the lens myself. I ran a roll through it just to see how bad it was. Dreamy, but obviously problematic. On the plus side, I expected to see big streaks from light leaks in the bellows, but to my surprise and great delight, there are no leaks to speak of.


I took the lens mostly apart, which was an ordeal, and cleaned it as best I could with generic glasses lens cleaner. There’s only one surface with a little haze left, but getting to it would take quite a bit of know how. I’d have to take it all apart, degrease everything, re-oil everything, recalibrate the rangefinder, and I’m nowhere near competent enough yet to do that. But here’s the same photo after cleaning.


The Super Ikonta is kind of a weird camera with a great lens. The lens is really quite sharp, and the out of focus areas render a lot like my father-in-law’s speed graphic from the same era. On the other hand, the viewfinder is terrible. Gets the job done, but incredibly small. Also, it only takes 11 shots per roll instead of the ubiquitous 12 (which you can see on the counter below). It was one of the first automatic frame counters for the format, so I guess the mechanics for 12 just wasn’t there yet or something. For the lens alone, one missing frame is an excellent trade off (particularly for the price).







The camera arrived early enough that I could test it, clean it, test again, and still had a few days before leaving for another work trip. Took a couple rolls out at Mt. Baker in Washington. There’s still a roll of expired Fuji color in the camera with a couple frames left, but haven’t had an excuse to finish it. For next time…

Written by ryanstufflebam

May 16, 2016 at 8:00 pm

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