Friday, January 9, 2009

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Front
Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Front; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Canon 430EX

My most recent acquisition is this Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 folding camera. It was caused by a Christmas present I got, which was a t-shirt with a hand-drawn folding camera on the front. I said 'You know, I don't have a folding camera. I should get one to match my new t-shirt.' And so I browsed around KEH for a while, and ordered this one.

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Back
Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Back; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Canon 430EX

Vital stats:

120 film in 6x6 format
75mm Novar-Anastigmat lens, f/6.3 - f/22
Vario shutter, B, 25, 75, 200
Scale focusing from 4.6 feet to infinity
Double exposure prevention (you can defeat this by using a cable release with the socket on the lens instead of the body shutter release)
Manual film advance with red window

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Lens
Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Lens; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Kenko 12mm extension tube, Canon 430EX

When it arrived, I inspected it, and all seemed to be working; bellows looked light-tight, shutter cocked and fired, aperture worked. So I took it out for a walk one morning, and dropped the roll off at a lab (I'm not set up for 120 development and scanning yet - soon!).

Apartments; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Ilford HP5+

First, 120 film is amazing. Huge negatives (compared to 35mm), and the 12 exposure limit will really focus me. Even with the basic lab scan, they look great, and the prints are lovely. Unfortunately, I found out I'm not very good at estimating distances and scale focusing - a skill that I'm sure will improve! Having to manually cock the shutter each time is something that I forgot a lot, and I missed a shot of a train because of it.

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Front with Ilford Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Shutter Release Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Hotshoe
Various; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Kenko 12mm extension tube, Canon 430EX

This is the most basic camera I own, and the simplicity of it is very alluring. The fully manual operation, with no built in meter and no built in focus/rangefinder forces you to slow down and think before you click the shutter release; you have to run through a mental checklist (estimate or meter exposure, estimate distance, compose, cock the shutter, release) for each picture, and so while you only get twelve exposures, you can be sure that you thought hard about each and every one of them. Hopefully the discipline will help me even with more automated cameras. Verdict: wonderful piece of old mechanical technology that produces great results once some thought is applied.

Modern Offices Traditional Offices
Freeway Parking Lot
Various; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Ilford HP5+

For those interested in flash techniques, all of the pictures of the Nettar were taken with the following setup:

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 Strobist Setup
Strobist setup; Canon 30D, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Canon 430EX

Flash is a Canon 430EX, and yes, that is a toothpaste box cut up to make a snoot!


  1. Nice to see other strobists w/ a Nettar - I have the 517/16 with a 75/4.5 lens, and ofc it's strobist-enabled ;) Found my way here via the strobist flickr pool...

  2. Cool! I haven't done any strobist stuff with my film cameras yet, although I want to. 35mm would be easy, as they all have hotshoes that could take my wireless triggers. Not sure how I could attach to the Nettar though, although I guess you figured it out.

  3. Yeah, the camera actually has a standard PC connector. I made a note here to point out where it's located. I had made a modified i-TTL cable previously so I just made a different "camera end" to it.

  4. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that AFAIK it syncs with all shutter speeds including bulb :) But it's front curtain, but maybe I can live with that, the camera's made in 1949 after all ;)

  5. Very nice review. I bought mine a year ago and i wrote a small review. Very nice cameras

  6. Hey, does anyone know if / where i can get film for my Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518.16. in South africa? or if not then in the USA?

  7. Hello, I have a Zeiss Ikon Nettar same as described above, I want to sell. Anyone have any idea of its market price? Can write to, or also greetings from Bogota Colombia.