The Zeiss Icon 6×9 Folding Film Camera is an antique beauty and one of my most recently acquired cameras. I will be going over the features of this old camera sold around the 1930s and show you how to operate camera, lens and how to load it up with some 120 medium format film.
Table of Contents
Main Camera Features
Camera Type: Range Finder, fold-up
Lens Type: Manual Operation, Leaf Shutter
Film Load: 120 Roll
Format of Negatives: 6×9 cm
Aperture Range: f/6.3 – f/32
Shutter Speed Range: 1/200 – 1/25 (plus, Bulb mode)
A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.
Why I Bought This Camera
For a while now I am shooting film and loving it. For the most part, I enjoy shooting medium format as it allows me to achieve a certain look that is almost impossible to get with 35mm cameras, even if shot whilst using fast glass. I own mainly 6×7 cameras as I do like the slightly wider format and if desired there is always the option to crop the images to 6×6.
However, sometimes I wish I could get a slightly wider frame, mostly when shooting in portrait orientation. Prices for another 6×8 back to go with my Mamiya RZ67 drove me into looking into other options. When I found this camera for a few bucks on Elbaz I gave it a try and there we are.
Camera Features Explained
The Zeiss Icon Nettar is a so-called folding camera. The design is to keep the camera small when closed down to pack it away. The fact that this camera is a rangefinder system and does not have a mirror box contributes to the size even more. Compared to a 6×7 medium format camera it takes almost no space up in your backpack and is also insanely lightweight.
Its size and compactness come with a price to pay. The rangefinder gives you a reference what will be captured in the frame but not what is in focus. You have to measure distance or guess the focus distance. However, the DOF indicator is really helpful in this regard. Nevertheless, it is something that can easily be misjudged.
As all the operations are in the lens, they are all close together and within a finger’s reach. Shutter speed and aperture are right next to each other on the lens. The aperture ranges from f/6.3 all the way to aperture f/32. Shutter speeds on the Zeiss Icon Nettar include a bulb modus, next slowest shutter speed available is 1/25th of a second, while 1/200s is the shortest shutter speed you can choose. This means it is not a really fast shutting lense, however, as there is a pc sync port on the lens, you will also be able to use 1/200s as a flash sync speed.
Features on this camera are pretty basic. If you are looking for anything else but focus, shutter speed and aperture, look elsewhere.
Perceived Handling And Ease Of Use
Overall the Nettar is pretty straightforward. The shutter mechanism is easy to identify, as is the aperture control. On this camera, the shutter release button is on the left side of the camera and can easily be confused with the opening mechanism release button which is on the right where you would expect the shutter button to be.
Shutter control ring is a bit tricky, there is no lever to help you adjust the ring, also, the indication is an embossed notch which sometimes is a bit hard to identify which setting you are at.
Loading film is easy and quick. the new spool goes in the right side of the camera as the film advance wheel is on the left side, next to the shutter button.
The frame counter is to be identified through the camera’s back door which allows getting a peak onto the film’s protective paper which has the frame numbers printed. The doors are positioned relative to the format you are shooting. The paper backings have different count measurements for all the different formats to shoot with 120 films. Meaning, there is nothing to do wrong, as long as you put the film spool incorrectly (black side goes towards the front of the camera)
I have not shot this camera yet. As it is a rangefinder with no indication for focus, I imagine it to be not the camera to take to every occasion. You might want to think twice before taking it. As it is quite a large format, there can go much more wrong as for misfocussing than it is with a 35mm camera.
I imagine it to be a great camera for landscapes. The wider format also contributes to this.
When I have shot the first roll of film with this old precious thing, I will put the images on my photography blog.
The Zeiss Icon Nettar seems a good fit for film lovers who are looking for something unique and stylish. It might not be the fit for everyone but I am also convinced, even though you might not take the greatest shots with it when using your first few rolls, the learning potential is much greater when being a bit limited. This is the main reason I like simple cameras. It gets us back to the true and more artistic nature of photography.