View Full Version : Zeiss Ikon Nettar medium format folder

06-12-09, 20:34

I was just given an old Zeiss Ikon folding bellows camera by a friend who had no use for it. It's one of the more basic incarnations of this popular entry-level Zeiss offering. Mine is a 515/2 dated 1937, with a Novar Anastigmat 105mm f4.5 lens and Pronto shutter with 4 speeds (1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200) and of course B. The camera is a 6x9 format which means total quality overkill and only 8 pics per roll of 120 but still very portable, more compact than an SLR when folded.

I have looked over it and it seems to be in excellent condition for its age. A few cosmetic marks, but the shutter fires and the speeds appear correct. Lens is a bit grubby and dusty but scratch free and the bellows are looking great. The selftimer is worn out though, no big deal.

Anyone know anything about these old folders? Feedback appreciated as usual. I shall be shooting some film through it soon!







21-12-09, 23:17
Got some Ilford HP5 B&W 120 rollfilm into this baby. Full review on my blog: http://alexbreton.tumblr.com

Don Hoey
22-12-09, 17:54
Hi Alex,

I know from previous posts you are a film guy and no probs there. ( Quick decent to " Can you picture your Japanese all-electronic wunderkamera working seamlessly in 70 years time? The CCD/CMOS will be broken, the electronics frazzled, it won’t interface with the computer and the file format won’t be supported. " )

I shot 6x6 almost exclusively for 14 years, and chuck in some 5x4 and 6x9 as well in that time, so from a previous big film user I think you will find a 12mp digital shot in RAW with a quality lens will trump 645 never mind 35mm, when scanned on anything us mere mortals can afford. A few articles on the web where 12mp will give all but the finest grain 6x6 a run for its money and that is using decent scanners, as film grain finally intrudes on the films ability to record fine detail. If you cannot afford to high end scan film negs, or afford to run a darkroom using quality enlarging lenes the whole film v digital is a bit of a non arguement. I have been doing research on M/F for Jim and note that labs will offer a hq scan from 120film that run to 60mb tiffs. My D2X does 70mb tiffs from raw without uprezzing.

Had a bit of a chuckle over this part " 35mm film was invented, which was commonly used by amateurs (journalism always stayed with medium format) ".
True in the early days. Huge Speed Grahics then replaced by TLR Rollie's. But when was the last time you saw a press pack with using TLR's. Late 60's probably. But for journo photogs the Nikon F would not have made its name, and that was released in 1959.

You are quite right on the affordability front though. In retirement I would have given up photography due to film, chemical and paper costs, but digital saved me there. I still have my darkroom in the loft but cannot afford to get it going again so I will be a staunch defender of digital as without it I would no longer be taking many pics.

Film cameras I still have ....... Olympus XA, Nikkormat FTN, Nikkormat FT3, Nikon F2AS, Nikon F3HP, YashicaMat 124G, 3 folding 2 1/4 square's, and one folding 6x9 all of which got regular use when I was in paid employment so could afford to run them.


Don Hoey
22-12-09, 18:16
Example of scanning costs from Peak Imaging to add a bit of perspective.

Sort of puts the cost of running a digital camera v film camera into fairly sharp relief.


PS : My answer to scanning on a budget. Digital camera mandatory :)

22-12-09, 20:39
Hi Don,

Thanks for pointing out my little errors-they will be rectified. You are quite right, I know all too well how much more expensive running a film setup is.

I was mostly commenting on the difference in longevity between old beaters and modern digicams. I agree that just about anything made by Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Pentax will give sharper, higher-res results than anything with funny chemicals in its belly. However, due to their increased complexity and decreased construction quality (as a general rule only-a D3 is better made than a Zenit) they won't last as long. I was myself quite amazed that this camera, which hadn't been used in 50 years still seemed to work. Now, obviously running a thing like this for 70 years isn't feasible unless you are a technophobe with deep pockets, but it nevertheless shows how well built these old folders were. Its the fact that it can carry on working for 70 years that makes me love it, not that I'd actually keep it that long.

Don Hoey
22-12-09, 21:34
............. However, due to their increased complexity and decreased construction quality (as a general rule only-a D3 is better made than a Zenit) they won't last as long.

:D :D :D
Rolls around the floor creased up. Ha, ha, ha.

That one should be in a Christmas Cracker.

Sorry but I am unable to generate a sensible answer to that one tonight.

Zenith and precision, struggling to get that one together ........... All from a time when the Russians had to have their ballpens refilled due to lack of ball manufacturing technology.

Oh dear, oh dear, I have not laughed so much in a long time.

Sensible answer tomorrow.


Don Hoey
23-12-09, 12:30
To simplify things it is easier to concentrate on a single format so as its the most popular here lets make it 35mm.

So to start with if the parameter is maximum longevity the camera should be totally mechanical with no battery reliance. In my opinion you are in the realms of Nikon F2, Canon F1, Pentax LX, and Leicaflex SL2 for the absolute peak in development of mechanical SLRs. Missed Olympus your fav, then I will add the OM1 but all after that all OM's were electronic.

Why did electronics invade ...... well it added features and reduced production costs. Nikon only stopped making the F2 when the cost of manufacture made it unaffordable for there target market. Leica with the SL2 were loosing money even at the prices they charged due to production costs.
So at this point electronics can be said to have arrived. Engineers were able to add desirable features but the achillies heel was there. In time all were liable to fail and their life span would be determined by useage and availability of spare parts.

Materials used in manufacture also changed. Aluminium mirrorbox and pressed brass top and bottom plates gave way to diecast alloys and plastics. Ahhh the dreaded words ...... Plastics and Polycarbonates. These materials allowed manufacturers to further reduce manufacturing costs, and provided the product was decently engineered would have no impact on its function.

So now that we have added electronics and lightweight mouldable materials all to cut manufacturing costs, the winner is the photographer on any budget. I'll example that by my experience. In 1967 I bought a new Nikkormat FTN ( nothing fancy here ), and it cost 16 weeks wages. I was in the RAF as an airman then so at todays conversion that might equate to around 14,000 pa. after tax. Therefore 16 weeks wages = 4300. Just think of the fancy bit of kit you could get for that money today and if we flip the coin would you be prepared to pay 4300 for a mechanical manual only SLR with a CDS lightmeter. All credit to modern manufacturing materials and processes.

Next up the dreaded digital camera that will not last more than a few years.

First up you have to recognise that the prices for used film kit has collapsed as a result of digital and nothing else. So if we are going to bash digital we have to make the assumption that the film camera should be realistically priced to reflect its true manufacturing/selling cost. You cannot slag off digital an then use used film camera prices that are set by the digital photography market.
Options are limited as most 35mm manufacturers now only make digital, so the option of all mechanical may be with the Nikon FM10 ( 540 body only ) or add electronics the Nikon F6 ( 1699 body only ) or go mad and think Leica with the M7 ( 2355 body only ).

Now the tricky part of putting 's to this and seeing if digital with its short life span makes any sense. For that we have to consider digital as paying up front for the camera and the equivalent of film and processing cost NOT INCLUDING PRINTING as that is the great variable between individuals. For the film variant we would either need to price slide film and add the cost of a projector or any film plus the price of a decent scanner. Another tricky aspect is that digital gives colour, B&W and the equivalent of push processing so perhaps E6 for the film on standard process.

How much film would be reasonable for a year. Mmmmm tricky again. In the old days someone buying a camera like the Practica MTL3 may only do a dozen in a year whereas an enthusast with a bit more money to spend on camera and film could be 60 rolls a year. Mmmm again 60 x 36 = 2160 frames pa. Some digital users probably do that a month.

For the Digital camera body perhaps something in the region of 1200 would be reasonable, and for the film body we will go with the lowest cost one the Nikon FM10 at 540.

1st year cost of digital = Camera and images ready to view 1200
1st year cost of film = Camera 540, 60rolls of Fuji Velvia RVP100 135-36 324.60(Calumet), Processing into sleeves 242.40(PeakImaging). All up cost 1107 * Note no cost allocated to a viewing method ( projector or scanner).
2nd and susequent year cost Digital = 0:00
2nd and susequent year cost of film = 567:00 pa excluding price rises

So on cost grounds alone I could easily afford to dump my digital camera working or not, around every four years or so, and with a budget one I could bin it each year and still be quids in.

My question to you now is what does it matter if your digital camera packs up after 8 - 10 years. After all it is only a tool that enables you to capture images.
Its still hugely cheaper than film, even 35mm, and more importantly has done more than anything else to make this an affordable hobby for many. So credit where credit is due.


23-12-09, 14:04
Don, thank you. Great postings.

I was having a trawl around recently and was amazed to find you can still get a new Voigtlander Bessa for 545 (body only). It really showed me how much film camera prices have collapsed. 400 for a standard 50mm lens though.......

Apart from the Zenit quality quip, which I agree is a the sort of comment that would make you snort soup out through your nose if made at an inappropriate moment, the comment Alex made that brought a smile to my lips was "the shutter fires accurately". Really? The leaves and springs must have been replaced with some fancy modern electronics then. Even when new, there was a certain amount of variation depending on temperature etc. Lord only knows how the ravages of 70 years have acted upon the mechanism. Have you had it serviced and calibrated Alex? That'll put the initial 20 cost into perspective.

Don Hoey
23-12-09, 21:03
I was having a trawl around recently and was amazed to find you can still get a new Voigtlander Bessa for 545 (body only). It really showed me how much film camera prices have collapsed. 400 for a standard 50mm lens though.......

Body prices may fall but lenses not necessarily. Leica M fit for less than half the price of the Leica. Voigtlander made lenses in Nikon fit and have a seriously good reputation so I guess they can charge that for a 50mm.

Never had an interest in Leica ( pockets way to small for that ) but check out the prices on this Robert White link :eek:

In particular you will see some really low prices to create interest. Click on more info and they turn out to be the lens hoods. :eek: :D


26-12-09, 19:56
Great postings. Can't agree with all of it, but the market for film kit has certainly has largely left the mainstream in many areas of photography, not least the hobbyist. However, in some specialist areas it is going strong.
Whilst some prices have fallen through the floor (quite common to see a s/h Bronica SQA body go for less than 100), some of the premium branded older lenses have actually gone up in price, in the secondhand market. Some users for example have realised how good some older lenses are on their newer digital bodies, sometimes even when directly compared to the more modern lens counterpart (e.g try Nikkor AI'd 28mm f/3.5 vs AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8).
A nice MPP 4x5 will still sell for respectable money. Some Leitz, CZ and Cosina/Voigtlander glass truely deserves accolade, and is worth every penny, even though still so expensive by comparison to mainstream digital SLR manufacturers own glass.