More California History with the Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta – By Eric Norris

Today’s post is part of my continuing effort to show my British 35mmc colleagues that California is not all freeways and rapidly built neighborhoods. There are pockets of history here, if you know where to look! Your local pub may predate the Magna Carta, but we have our own gems here and there.

Case in point today is the small town of Angels Camp in the foothills above Sacramento. Founded in 1849 as a gold mining camp by George Angel, Angels Camp was at the epicenter of the California Gold Rush. According to the State Department of Parks and Recreation, $100-million in gold was mined from the local hills.

Aside from the gold, however, Angels Camp is perhaps most famous as the locale for Mark Twain’s classic story, “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” about two local characters betting whose frog can jump the farthest. The story led to international acclaim for Twain, and launched his career. A very large plaque on the historic Angels Hotel marks the location where Twain first heard the anecdote that he expanded into the Jumping Frog.

To capture this quaint, historic town, I brought my 1950s Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta (533/16), a camera that I’ve reviewed here in the past. I loaded a roll of Ilford HP5, pocketed a vintage Sekonic 378 light meter, and set out on a brief walk up and down the main street. Here are the photos:

Main Street in Angels Camp includes many buildings dating to the 1860s. Mark Twain might recognize this scene
The Union Congregational Church was founded in 1869. The current building was erected in 1905.
One of many rustic old homes on the narrow hillside streets just off Main Street.
There are even historic vehicles, like this old sedan delivery.
The heavy rains we experienced this year had passed by the time I visited, but local streams like this one just off Main Street were still full of water
The former Calaveras County Bank, built in 1900 and for decades the only bank in the county.
Finally, here’s a whimsical piece of art that builds on the frog-related history of the town.

As always, my Zeiss Ikon performed perfectly. It has some very minor problems with the spacing of images on the film, but everything else works perfectly (except the old Selenium meter). The 80mm Zeiss Opton lens is of a Tessar design, and is amazingly sharp. My version of the Super Ikonta (there were many) is equipped with a rangefinder that is still, after some 70 years, spot-on accurate and bright and lets me nail focus every time.

To see some another of my adventures in Old California with an old camera, click here for photos from San Benito, home of a historic Spanish mission. Photos of a variety of subjects are available on my Instagram.

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4 thoughts on “More California History with the Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta – By Eric Norris”

  1. Thank you, Eric. Your shots appear to have fine resolution. I have never been able to manage this with the f2.8 Tessar and have found the more modern SIs with the f3.5 version superior. I have read somewhere that the 2.8 was considered “overstretched” in an effort to boost sales.

      1. My personal experience with about a dozen Super Ikontas with the 80mm f2.8 Tessar is as follows. Most of these lenses are soft and flarey especially at wide apertures at the edges. The two examples that were sharp and contrasty had serial numbers over a million and a front element with a yellow tinge. Your example appears to be one of these. Regards, Mark. P S check eBay for 533/16 excellent lens.

  2. Ibraar Hussain

    Enjoyed the post and photos!
    You’ll find that much of Britain now is quite unrecognisable from when I was a kid – constant change: roads and buildings and stuff has made things depressingly soulless
    Probably more culture and history in California – a place I’d love to visit one day!

    And I’m looking at a later Ikonta but with scale focus and a 3 element lens !! Going to read your review now

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