A photo of a vintage folding style camera, with the lens pointing to the viewer

4 Frames (and an error) with a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16

By Matthew Becker

After getting into medium format when I bought a Bronica ETRSi almost a year ago, I’ve wanted to try a larger negative and, ideally, one that pushes me to try different composition styles.

6×6 format seemed like the logical choice, with a very large selection of cameras in a wide range of prices. And so the burning Eye of GAS turned its fiery gaze once more to used camera sites and began scrolling through listings. Carefully ignoring the Hasselblads and Mamiya 6s that were orders of magnitude more expensive than any semblance of a budget that I had, I ended up settling on the idea of a folding camera. The Voigtlander 66 and Perkeo looked promising, but the words “Color Skopar” seem to come with their own premium.

In the end, I found a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, appearing to be in almost unused condition, with the Novar Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 and a Vario shutter. A decent spec, with acceptable shutter speeds available and, from samples, a sharp lens once stopped down. All for £25.

With the protestations of my debit card once again muffled by my wallet, the camera was purchased and before too long had arrived on my doorstep.

I fired off a test roll of Delta 100 filled with unremarkable pictures to confirm it was all in working order and was overall very pleased with the output. It appears to have a small issue with roll tightness even if I pull the takeup spool when loading, especially with certain films. Lomography Color Negative, which I’ve also now shot through this camera, was a particularly bad one for roll tightness and ended up with some serious light leaks up through the edges of the backing paper.

Besides this, however, the camera works very well, especially for its age and the likelihood that it had sat completely unused for the majority of its life.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed with this camera so far is having the option of sharp, large negatives in a camera body that, once folded, fits in a coat pocket. I can always have it in a camera bag in a side pocket, regardless of what other kit I’m taking out that day, which gives me a nice backup option and a way to use film I might not otherwise have taken with me that day.

I took it with me when I went for a walk with family around Dinefwr Castle and grounds, with about half a roll remaining of Cinestill Double X. It was a very warm and bright day in early May, and I’d mostly been planning to shoot in colour because the bluebells were at their peak in the castle woods, so I took the Nettar as a way to have some B&W frames where needed without taking up too much bag room.

The little picnic area near the castle had some fantastic old oaks, labelled and tagged for their significance to the grounds. I found a composition there that I was quite pleased with, with the large branch cutting horizontally across the frame, otherwise mostly filled by the imposing old tree to the side.

a black and white photo of a large oak tree trunk cuts across the right side of the frame, with a large branch coming horizontally across from the right to the left
An ancient oak near Dinefwr Castle

I followed this up with a fairly cliché image of the castle door, before walking up and around the ruins of the castle itself. It’s not the most complete ruin, but well worth the walk if you’re in the area. The view from the top was, for me, the highlight. The nearby castle of Dryslwyn has quite a good view but it’s nowhere near the expanse that Dinefwr commands. I found another nice composition there that I was quite pleased with, I especially like how the road runs parallel to the river across the bottom of the frame.

A black and white photo of a stone arched doorway with a large wooden door, leading into a ruined castle courtyard
Door to Dinefwr Castle

a black and white photo of a landscape, a river running along the bottom of the frame and farm buildings are visible
The view from Dinefwr Castle

The Zeiss lens also has a chance here with the distance detail to flex its sharpness, especially for its price, and the detail resolution for what is really a very simple triplet design in an equally simple camera is excellent.

On the way back out of the castle towards the picnic area again, the light on the path caught my eye for another simple image, before I then packed the camera away for the walk back through the woods.

a black and white photo of a path, leading towards a wooded area, with a metal fence along a steep stone wall
Dinefwr Castle picnic area

I had one frame left, and a path at the bottom of the hill looked promising for an image of a snaking road. I had the camera to my eye and then, after working smoothly for one frame short of three full rolls, the camera did what any self-respecting 70 year old, totally unserviced piece of machinery does: absolutely nothing. The shutter button wouldn’t press, but the double exposure prevention should’ve deactivated about halfway into the wind from frames 11-12 as it had done previously. The shutter was cocked, all settings were set…but nothing. So I tried winding on a tiny bit, the double exposure prevention seemed to click again, and the shutter released immediately. Old cameras, right? Oh well.

a black and white photo of a dirt road. the photo is blurry from motion as the photographer moved to fix the camera, and there is a black, splotchy area to the top of the frame where the film didn't develop properly
Oh.

The idea for the image is still visible, so you can get the jist from there. To rub salt in the wound, the film curled extra tightly in development and the frame ended up not getting an even covering of developer, the rest of the roll was fine. Perhaps some vengeful Dinefwr ghost was unhappy with the composition. Perhaps it was done as a kindness, to tell me it wasn’t going to be the best photo anyway. Or, perhaps, I should just get the camera serviced.

If you’d like to see some more images from when my camera does work, I can be found on my website, Instagram, or Flickr.

Thank you for reading.

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About The Author

By Matthew Becker
When I'm not face down in a bush terrorising unsuspecting insects, I'm aimlessly wandering around with an old camera and some entirely-too-expensive film.
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Comments

Gary Smith on 4 Frames (and an error) with a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16

Comment posted: 09/07/2024

Those are some great shots Matthew! I also like the fact that my Perkeo becomes small enough for my pocket.
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Matthew Becker replied:

Comment posted: 09/07/2024

Thank you, the perkeos looked great but sadly the Voigtlander name pushed them above my current budget. One day! I do enjoy how a camera taking such a large negative can fit comfortably in any decent pocket

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Jukka Reimola on 4 Frames (and an error) with a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16

Comment posted: 09/07/2024

Fine looking set of photos, Matthew. I found a minty 6x6 Voigtländer Perkeo a while ago (my posting about it is waiting in line). Those old mediun format folders are just great. In fact, now I got my eyes on a recently CLA'd 6x9 Bessa...
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Matthew Becker replied:

Comment posted: 09/07/2024

Thank you! The Bessas look great too, along with perhaps the Ikontas and Super Ikontas. A very simple era of cameras producing great results with very little beyond the absolutely required parts

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Russ Rosener on 4 Frames (and an error) with a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16

Comment posted: 09/07/2024

I love these Zeiss Nettar folders as well! I have one with the exact same specs as yours... except she was minted in 1937! The sharp and fast (for its time) f4.5 Novar lens is actually made by Rodenstock and not Zeiss. Here is a good tip in case that shutter button gets jammed up again; just reach down for the little lever on front of the shutter and trip it manually! This can also be helpful if you're doing double exposures.

Shoot some Kodak Gold 200 next and I bet you'll be surprised at the depth and vibrance of the colors.
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Matthew Becker replied:

Comment posted: 09/07/2024

I've had some Ektar through it after this roll, which turned out very nicely. It reproduces colours very well Thank you for that tip, I'll bear it in mind if it decides to do this again in the future

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Paul Quellin on 4 Frames (and an error) with a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16

Comment posted: 09/07/2024

Very nicely written article Matthew. The camera and the images are very reminiscent of my Agifold and my experiences have been similar too. I have had similar experiences with films creasing edges of backing paper. I wondered if older 120 rolls had subtly thinner reel ends or similar. A little careful use of some copper washers made a bit of a difference and I also found some films run better than others. I really enjoy my Agifold and the output gets better with each roll. I really hope you are finding the same with your Ikon.
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Matthew Becker replied:

Comment posted: 09/07/2024

Thank you! I'm finding specific types of backing paper seem to work better than others, it may also be to do with the level of purchase it has on the roller, since the mechanism has very little in the way of film tensioning. The Ilford and Kodak films I've used have come out quite tight, with no major issues nor need to tighten when sealing the roll, but Lomography and Cinestill were a bit more trouble.

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Steviemac on 4 Frames (and an error) with a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16

Comment posted: 10/07/2024

I can only echo what you and the other respondents to the article have said, namely what wonderful little cameras these folders are. A similar Zeiss Nettar was my successful reintroduction to medium format photography after a poor start decades ago with a Lubitel. You obtained some excellent images there, and showed that a stopped down triplet is nothing to be sneered at. As for the hiccups? Those are just to keep us on our toes.
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