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My German Cameras
Most of my collection is devoted to Mamiya 35mm cameras,
although I do have a modest collection of other cameras, from early
Kodak folders to a beautiful old (still functional) Burke & James
8x10 View Camera. The cameras on this page were all manufactured
in Germany and are currently in my collection. However, I do not
have any technical data related to them, beyond what you read here.
A Brief History
The German cameras that are in my collection come
from three distinct companies: Zeiss Ikon, Voigtländer
and Agfa Camera-Werk. A very brief description of each follows.
Prior to 1926, Zeiss cameras were made by Carl
Zeiss Jena, a company originally founded in 1846 for the manufacture
of specialty glass lenses. In 1902, Carl Zeiss began also making
cameras, and his camera company became part of Ica in 1909. The
company Zeiss Ikon was formed in 1926, when Ica joined with
the camera manufacturers Contessa-Nettel, Ernemann and Goerz to
form a single company. After WWII, there were Zeiss factories operating
in each half of divided Germany, and the trademark was much disputed.
The East German Zeiss operation marketed under that name (and the
name Pentacon) in eastern bloc countries. The West German operation
marketed in NATO countries. Zeiss Ikon camera assembly ceased in
The original Voigtländer
company was founded in 1756 as a maker of scientific instruments.
Peter Wilhelm Friedrich Voigtländer, the grandson of the founder,
helped develop the first mathematically computed lens (f/3.7!) in
1840, and also designed an equally incredible camera to use the
lens. Camera production was a major part of the business for more
than a century. Zeiss bought Voigtländer in 1956, and the production
of Zeiss Ikon Voigtländer cameras ended with the demise of
the Zeiss camera business in 1972. In 1997, Ringfoto GmbH acquired
rights to Voigtländer and relaunched the company. They continue
to market the Voigtländer Bessa-L and Bessa-RF, excellent cameras
with outstanding optics certain to be sought-after collectibles
in the future.
Agfa Camera-Werk Actien Gesellschaft für Anilin
Fabrikation, or Agfa, was formed in 1867. The first Agfa
name on cameras, however, was not until 1873. Agfa USA joined with
Ansco in 1928 and eventually became GAF. Agfa AG, the German Agfa,
merged with Gavaert of Belgium in 1964.
write to me if you have Zeiss
Ikon, Voigtländer or Agfa information.
Zeiss Super Ikonta B (532/16)
The cornerstone of this portion of my
collection has to be this fabulous Zeiss Super Ikonta B (532-16)
(above, c.1939). A single window rangefinder/viewfinder with the lens/shutter
housing in black enamel (it was chrome after 1948, until 1956). It
has an 8cm Carl Zeiss Jenna Tessar f/2.8 lens (serial number 2166641)
in a Compur-Rapid shutter. Shutter speeds range from B, 1-1/400 and
it uses 120 film. The Zeiss Ikon logo is embossed on both the front
and back leather, and the words "Super Ikonta 532/16" are debossed
into the leather on the back.
Zeiss Box Tengor
This inexpensive Zeiss Box Tengor
54/2 (right, c.1934-39) takes a 4.5x6cm (half frame) image
on 120 film. It has an f/11 Goerz Frontar lens (with only one other
f-stop adjustment, to f/22), with rotating waterhouse stops of B,
T & I, and one close-up lens, controlled from the front of the
camera. It has a single-speed (approx. 1/25) shutter and, surprisingly,
a flash synch. Film is advanced via the diamond-shaped wind knob
on the side.
Voigtländer Bessa 66
The Voigtländer Bessa 66
was produced in two periods; first from 1930-40 and again from 1948-50.
It was available in several viewfinder combinations: an optical
finder incorporated in the top housing, a folding optical finder
or, like this one in my collection (left, c.1948), with a folding
frame finder. This camera has a 75mm f/3.5 lens in a Prontor-II
shutter. This camera has a missing "beauty" trim ring on the front
lens housing, where the permanently-fitted Voigtländer Moment
yellow filter mount was normally hinged. Other than that, it is
in exceptional working condition.
Voigtländer Bessa 1937
The Voigtländer Bessa (right,
c.1937) was a folding rollfilm camera using 120 film, usually in
a 6x9 cm size, although there were some with film-aperture masks
in a dual-format (4.5x6cm). It was also made in various lens/shutter
combinations, including Voigtar, Vasker or Skopar lenses in Singlo,
Prontor or Compur shutters. This
particular camera (c.1937) was the basic 6x9cm model and only had
the folding frame finder (no brilliant finder). It has a 10.5cm Voigtar
f/6.3 lens in a Compur shutter.
Zeiss Ikon Signal Nettar
The Zeiss Ikon Signal Nettar
(right, c.1949) is a modernized version of the original Nettar,
which was introduced in 1933. Extremely popular in the UK, it
has a body release and chrome top plate, with the squared-off
finder window. It has a synthetic leather-covered aluminum body.
It was also known as the Zeiss Ikon 518/16 or II(b). The Signal
Nettar features double-exposure prevention, because it is impossible
to release the shutter until the film is wound and the shutter set.
A red signal (hence the name) also appears in an opening next to the
camera body release, indicating the film is ready for picture taking.
It produced 6x6cm images on 120 rollfilm and was generally sold with
an f/4.5 or f/6.3 Novar coated anastigmat lens in a Velio 5-speed
shutter (1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200).
Zeiss Nettar (515)
The Zeiss Nettar (515) (c.1937-41)
is a folding rollfilm camera for 6x9cm exposures on 120 film. It has a
body release and a folding optical finder (that may have been optional,
since there are examples without one). Best of all, it really does
fold and fit into your pocket, unlike a lot of the so-called "pocket"
cameras from our friends at Kodak! It came with a 10.5cm f/6.3 Zeiss Novar
lens in a Vario shutter. There were four shutter speeds: B, 1/25, 1/75 and 1/200.
Interestingly, it also has a PC flash sync! There are two tripod mounts, both a
bit awkward to use, one in the spindle ends and another in the bellows door.
Voigtländer Bessa (1930)
The Voigtländer Bessa was introduced in 1929. It was
the first self-erecting rollfilm camera from Voigtländer, making 6x9cm images. This
model, produced in 1930, is slightly smaller than the original, and has flat body ends
(the original 1929 version had rounded ends). This later model also had nickel trimmed body
edges and a folding frame finder, which the original lacked. It has a leatherette covered
body with three-point front cell focusing (Landscape, Group and Portrait, written in German
in red letters below the lens), and a 10.5cm f/6.3 Voigtar lens in an Embezet shutter.
A series of double-extension folding
plate cameras, the Voigtländer Avus was introduced in 1914.
They had a leather-covered aluminum body and a U-style lens standard
with rise and shift for parallax correction. This later model (c.1930)
has the brilliant finder centered over the lens, and uses an f/4.5 13.5cm
Skopar lens (1 - 1/200) in a Compur shutter.
The Voigtländer Vitoret cameras
(right, c.1962-71) were part of a series of inexpensive, basic 35mm
rangefinder cameras. The first part of the series (1962-65) had the
traditional Voigtländer "round" body, while the second part of
the series (1966-71) had a noticably angular and "square" body. Both
had uncoupled selenium exposure meters, accessory shoes, and a "countdown"
film counter, showing unused exposures. Their brightline finders also had
an indication for parallax correction. The early model in my collection
(shown here, c.1962) has a fixed 50mm Voigtländer Lanthar f/2.8 lens
in a Prontor 300 shutter.
Voigtländer Bessamatic Deluxe
The Voigtländer Bessamatic
35mm SLR was made in several versions from 1959-69. One of several
in my collection, this camera (right, c.1962) is the
"Deluxe" version, which was a name used only in the US
(it does not appear on the camera). It is recognizable by the
small T-shaped window above the built-in selenium meter cell. The
diaphragm and shutter speed were visible in the finder (in the "regular"
version they were not). It has a 50mm Voigtländer Color-Skopar
f/2.8 lens in a Synchro-Compur shutter. Another version, the Bessamatic
m, was provided without a meter.
Bessamatic lenses were interchangeable,
and reknowned for the quality of the optics. The Voigtländer
Bessamatic series also has the distinction of providing the world's
first SLR zoom lens, the highly-regarded 36-82mm f/2.8 Zoomar.
The Agfa Isolette was a series of
horizontal folding rollfilm cameras using 120 film. Prewar models had
a black Trolitan plastic top. After 1945 (c.1945-50) they had a cast
aluminum top. The last series (c.1950-60) had a stamped metal top.
This camera (left, the Agfa Isolette
4.5 - c.1945) has the cast aluminum top housing and an 8.5cm
Auto Apotar f/4.5 lens in a Prontor II shutter.
The Agfa Memo (c.1939) was a
horizontally styled folding bed camera for 24x36cm exposures on
35mm Agfa Karat cassettes (no longer available). It has a rapid
advance lever on the back, and was made by Agfa Ansco in the USA.
Often overlooked as an American camera because of its Agfa name
(see, even I have it in "My German Cameras"), it was made in
Binghampton, New York). It was made in both full- and half-frame
versions, and was available with or without a flash shoe (mount
only, not hot), and came with either an Agfa Memar f/3.5, 4.5
or 5.6 lens.