Zeiss Ikon Nettar
5 frames with...

5 frames of St Ives with my Zeiss Ikon Nettar & Ilford FP4 – by Graham Spinks

August 25, 2020

For the last 25 years I have kept an office in St Ives – not the one by the sea where aggressive gulls rip ice creams indiscriminately from the hands of hyperactive children and defenseless pensioners – but the quiet market town a few miles to the north west of Cambridge.

The lock down has meant that I have not been visiting as often as usual and I’ve really missed the place. I hadn’t realised quite how much the Victorian riverside port with its gentle rhythm of bustling market days and sleepy early closing has worked its way into my affection.

So the day after the summer solstice I found myself getting up at 6.00 in the morning and wandering around with only a few bleary-eyed fishermen at the end of their night, and a similar complement of sprightly dog walkers beginning their day, for company.

I wanted to try to capture the timelessness of some of my favourite haunts in the extraordinary light of one of the earliest of early mornings.

I took with me my Zeiss Ikon Nettar, my Weston Master III light meter and two rolls of Ilford FP4.

There is something about this combination that invites you to take your time and savour each shot. The camera is so simple and well-built that it’s a real pleasure to hold in your hands. I love the feel of the bellows opening out and the pre-shot cocking of the shutter. These pictures were all shot at 1/75 second at between f16 and f22.

I was especially chuffed with the accidental double exposure which combines two images of the high street!

I’m now working on a larger set of photos with notes on the history of the locations which I hope to publish as a book to give to colleagues and friends.


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  • Reply
    Babak Farshchian
    August 25, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos Graham! A nice location. You are lucky to have your office there 🙂

    I love these cameras. They are small and give you decent quality medium format in a solid and pocketable body. I have one that even has a functioning built-in light meter, though I never trusted it. I should try FP4 with this camera. It gives a nice vintage look!

  • Reply
    Graham Spinks
    August 25, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you Babak. I love FP4 — as you say it has a classic feel.

  • Reply
    August 25, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Fine, crisp shots, Graham: thank you. One puzzlement: you identify the lens as a Nettar. The lens barrell reads 4.5 Novar. My Super Ikonta has a 3.5 Novar. I was not aware that the Novar was available in different speeds.

    • Reply
      Graham Spinks
      August 25, 2020 at 4:07 pm

      The camera — rather than the lens — is branded as Zeiss Ikon Nettar and it says 517/16 on the side. It’s a very nice lens. I believe the Ikonita was a more sophisticated and more expensive version.

    • Reply
      August 25, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      The Zeiss Ikon series of folding cameras came with a variety of different lens and shutter options at all 3 levels of camera features/performance (Nettar, Ikonta, Super Ikonta). The Nettar was the lowest camera tier and typically had slower lens/shutter combinations. The Nettar II 517/16 was produced in the 1950s and has a 75mm lens, either an f/6.3 Novar, or f/4.5 Novar lens, which are both triplet lenses. You would have to upgrade to an Ikonta or Super Ikonta to get an f/3.5 Novar lens, or f/4.5 Tessar, or f/3.5 Tessar lenses.

      FWIW, I have an Ikonta 523/2 from the early 1950s with an f/3.5 Novar triplet lens with Prontor SV shutter. It’s really a joy to use if you’re looking for a slow and deliberate photography experience. The Nettar and Ikonta cameras were scale focus cameras, with no built-in rangefinder, while Super Ikontas, depending on their vintage, had either a coupled or uncoupled rangefinder. I use a separate accessory rangefinder to determine focusing distance on my Ikonta and I use a Minolta Spotmeter F to determine exposure of my frame. I just have to dial in those focusing and exposure values to the shutter and lens on my Ikonta to get sharp images full of character.

      • Reply
        Graham Spinks
        August 25, 2020 at 6:29 pm

        Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I have a stand-alone rangefinder but often simply pace out the distances.

  • Reply
    Eric Norris
    August 25, 2020 at 5:47 pm

    Your post has inspired me to finish the roll in my Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta, a tank of a folding 120 camera that doesn’t get nearly as much use as it should.

    I’m jealous of your location. We’re watching the entire run of “Endeavour” from the BBC, and of course are in love with the Oxford of the 1960s portrayed in the series.

    • Reply
      Graham Spinks
      August 25, 2020 at 6:25 pm

      I’ve been looking at reviews of the Super Ikonta an they certainly look great. Very brave of you to mention enjoying a series set in Oxford to a Cambridge man!

  • Reply
    August 25, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Good comments!

    Particular thanks to Lee for his authoritative essay on Zeiss folders. I’m very happy with the resolution of the Novar f3.5 triplet on my Super Ikonta III; it has consistently outperformed the earlier f2.8 Tessars that I have tried. Stopped down to f8 it produces negatives that I can enlarge to 11×14 inches.

    The camera is rugged, foolproof, pocketable, and thiefproof, and, o digital friends, it is mirrorless!

  • Reply
    Alex Vye
    August 25, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    Very nice. I am jealous – I was working on an article with the exact same camera/film combination 🙂 you beat me to it.

    • Reply
      Graham Spinks
      August 25, 2020 at 9:01 pm

      Apologies. I hope you are enjoying the camera as much as I am.

  • Reply
    August 25, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    Excellent! Beautiful, peaceful photos–even the double exposure! Thanks for posting…

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