Zeiss Ikon Ikonta family

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Zeiss Ikon Ikonta family naming convention

Zeiss, in their various incarnations, made a long list of cameras. Counting cameras made by companies incorporated into Zeiss, there are well over a thousand.

Similar camera styles were made across the industry. That means that the above companies made comparable models using similar technologies and design. Same as today, car models within a particular class offer identical features and follow the same design pattern.

By the time Zeiss had rested from their acquisition spree, they had held a thick catalogue of many camera models, too many a variation of the same melody. In the 1920s, Zeiss sat down to decide what is to stay and what model to assign to each category of the budding photography market.

The top and bottom ends of the market were easy to define. For the midmarket, say serious amateurs, they have allocated the tried and true #120 format that was promoted at the same time by Kodak. Although the 35mm format had already made way, including within Zeiss models. The #120 was yet to have a good run for two decades past the war and even after that with professionals.

For the midmarket, Zeiss selected the Ikonta. A camera line well advanced for the period, inexpensive,  truly small, and easy to use. The comparable Retina that came to market several years later had followed the same concept and graduated from the same school – the designer was an ex Zeiss.

I looked at the Ikonta family. There was an alphabet soup of names and numbers, numerals and letters, making little sense. I could not find a source that lists and explained the legacy of this line, so had to do it myself.

Some camera makers adhered to a simple naming convention. Either by numbering serials or by names. Each consecutive model well defined. Others, where Kodak has a  front centre seat, mix and match the same terms in different order and variation, enough to cause nausea. Zeiss is somewhere off centre, not far from Kodak.

The Ikonta subscribes to a convention unique to Zeiss. The older models were defined by the following:

  1. Name
  2. Three digits, succeeded by a slash.
  3. Suffix of one or two digits after the slash.
  4. Capital letters.
  5. Roman numerals.
  6. Pet name.

Which means:

Name: Ikonta, or Bob or Tengor, or other names are the denomination of the model, more of a product line name or a group name.
In this case, the Ikonta models were sold in the US under Ikomat.

Three digits system was adopted by Zeiss from ICA, and continued thereafter. Each number specified a camera model in a given variation. Where a name, such as “Ikonta” defines the entire line, a number such as “520” indicates a specific model. This convention begun with two digits, grown to three and graduated to four digits. It was easy to use when data was managed with physical cards or ledgers. When the world became digitized, it became awkward. In 1956 Zeis moved into a decimal convention: the two digits left of the decimal point represented the model. The first two digits at the right of the decimal represented the model evolution, and the next two digits allowed for the variation within the specific generation.

For example, Zeiss decimal 10.1801:
[10] = Contax.
[18] = IIa.
[01] = 3.5/50 Tessar.

Meaning Contax IIa with 3.5/50 Tessar lens.

Suffix: In the old convention, the digits after the slash indicate the film format and the image size. The combinations relevant to the Ikonta are:

Zeiss # suffix Film Metric, CM Imperial, rounded “ US code
Default 120 6.00 4.50 2.25 1.75 A
16 120 6.00 6.00 2.25 2.25 B
2 120 9.00 6.00 3.50 2.25 C
616 6.50 11.00 2.50 4.25 D
24 135 3.60 2.40
12 127 6.50 4.00
14 7.50 5.00 3.00 2.00
15 116 11.00 6.50 4.33 2.56
18 127 4.00 3.00 1.57 1.18

Note that the 6cm x 4.5cm on #120 film was considered a default, so no suffix is used.

Capital letters: above system was used in Europe and other markets, where the US exports used another cataloguing system, where the letters A to D used to mark the image size, at the right column of the table above.

Roman numerals were sometimes used together with the three digits model definition, such as Super Ikonta II is the same as 531/2.

Pet name, such as Baby Ikonta for the #127 format camera or the Mess Ikonta for the rangefinder model. Note that “Mess” does not denote chaos but is short for “Messen”, measure in German.

After understanding the convention, I further studied the Ikonta variation. I had a base list of 36 models, which, after removing duplications due to differences in naming conventions, shrunk to 24, per the list below. Just hope it is correct.

Note that there are other lens and speeds variations to the values specified here. Such information is widely available online.

Current camera values are at camdex.ca, updated monthly.

Ikonta model list

Model Zeiss
number
US
format
code
Orientation Viewer Introduced Format Size Notes
Ikonta [520] 520 A Vertical Frame Finder 1929 120 4.5*6 Ikomat A
Ikonta [520/2] 520/2 C Vertical Frame Finder 1929 120 6*9 Ikonta C
Ikonta [520/14] 520/14 Vertical Frame Finder 1931 129 5*7.5
Ikonta [520/15] 520/15 D Vertical Frame Finder 1931 116 / 616 6.5*11 Ikomat D
Ikonta III [524/16] 524/16 B Horizontal Rangefinder 1931 120 6*6 Ikonta M
Ikonta [520/18] 520/18 Vertical Frame Finder 1931 127 3*4 Baby Ikonta, Ikomat 520/18
Super Ikonta [530/2] 530/2 C Vertical Rangefinder 1934 120 6*9 Super Ikomat C
Super Ikonta II [531] 531 A Vertical Rangefinder 1934 120 4.5*6
Super Ikonta [530/15] 530/15 D Vertical Rangefinder 1934 116 6.5*11 Super Ikomat D
Super Ikonta [530/16] 530/16 B Horizontal Rangefinder 1935 120 6*6 Super Ikomat B
Super Ikonta II [531/2] 531/2 C Horizontal Rangefinder 1936 120 6*9
Ikonta [520/16] 520/16 B Horizontal Frame Finder 1937 120 6*6
Ikonta [521/16] 521/16 B Horizontal Frame Finder 1937 120 6*6
Super Ikonta I [532/16] 532/16 B Horizontal Rangefinder 1937 120 6*6
Ikonta [521/2] 521/2 A Horizontal Frame Finder 1938 120 6*9
Ikonta [521] 521 A Vertical Frame Finder 1938 120 4.5*6
Ikonta 35 [522/24] 522/24 Horizontal Viewfinder 1947 35 mm Contina,
Ikonta II [523/2] 523/2 C Vertical Viewfinder 1950 120 6*9
Mess Ikonta [524/2] 524/2 C Vertical Rangefinder 1951 120 6*9
Super Ikonta BX [533/16] 533/16 B Horizontal Rangefinder 1952 120 6*6
Super Ikonta [530] 530 A Horizontal Rangefinder 1953 120 4.5*6 Super Ikomat A
Ikonta II [523/16] 523/16 B Horizontal Viewfinder 1954 120 6*6
Super Ikonta III [531/16] 531/16 B Horizontal Rangefinder 1954 120 6*6
Super Ikonta IV [534/16] 534/16 B Horizontal Rangefinder 1956 120 6*6

 

520

Ikonta [520], Ikomat A
Introduced 1929. Common lens: Novar / Radionar ,Tessar 6.3/105. Speeds T, B, 1-250.

520/2

Ikonta [520/2], Ikonta C
Introduced 1929. Common lens: Novar / Radionar, Tessar 4.5/110. Speeds T, B, 25-100.

520/14

Ikonta [520/14]
Introduced 1931. Common lens: Tessar, Novar 4.5/80, 6.3/80. Speeds T, B, 1-500.

520/15

Ikonta [520/15], Ikomat D
Introduced 1931. Common lens: Tessar, Novar 4.5/120, 6.3/120. Speeds T, B, 1-250.

 

524/16  M

Ikonta [524/16], Ikonta M
Introduced 1931. Common lens: Novar 3.5/75, 4.5/75. Speeds B, 1-500.

 

520/18

Ikonta [520/18], Baby Ikonta, Ikomat 520/18
Introduced 1931. Common lens: Tessar, Novar 3.5/45, 4.5/63. Speeds T, B, 1-500.

530/2

 

 

Super Ikonta [530/2], Super Ikomat C
Introduced 1934. Common lens: Tessar / Triotar 3.8/45 , 4.5/105. Speeds B, 1-400.

531

Super Ikonta II [531]
Introduced 1934. Common lens: Tessar 3.5/70. Speeds B, 1-500.

530/15

Super Ikonta [530/15], Super Ikomat D
Introduced 1934. Common lens: Tessar / Triotar 4.5/120. Speeds B, T, 1-400.

530/16

Super Ikonta [530/16], Super Ikomat B
Introduced 1935. Common lens: Tessar 2.8/80, 3.5/80. Speeds B, 1-400.

531/2

Super Ikonta II [531/2]
Introduced 1936. Common lens: Tessar / Novar 3.5/105, 4.5/105. Speeds B, 1-400.

520/16

Ikonta [520/16]
Introduced 1937. Common lens: Tessar, Novar 3.5/75, 4.5/75. Speeds T, B, 1-125.

521/16

Ikonta [521/16]
Introduced 1937. Common lens: Tessar, Novar 3.5/75, 4.5/75. Speeds B, 1-300.

532/16

Super Ikonta I [532/16]
Introduced 1937. Common lens: Tessar 2.8/80. Speeds B, 1-400.

521/2

Ikonta [521/2]
Introduced 1938. Common lens: Tessar, Novar 3.5/75, 4.5/105. Speeds B, 1-200.

521

Ikonta [521]
Introduced 1938. Common lens: Tessar, Novar 3.5/63, 4.5/75. Speeds B, 10-200.

522/24

Ikonta 35 [522/24], Contina
Introduced 1947. Common lens: Tessar, Xenar 2.8/45. Speeds T, B, 25-200.

523/2

Ikonta [523/2]
Introduced 1950. Common lens: Tessar, Novar 3.5/105, 4.5/105. Speeds T, B, 25-100.

524/2

Mess Ikonta [524/2]
Introduced 1951. Common lens: Tessar 3.5/75. Speeds B, 1-400.

533/16

Super Ikonta BX [533/16]
Introduced 1952. Common lens: Tessar 2.8/80. Speeds B, 1-400.

530

Super Ikonta [530], Super Ikomat A
Introduced 1953. Common lens: Tessar / Triotar 4.5/120, 4.5/105. Speeds T, B, 1-100.

523/16

 

Ikonta [523/16]
Introduced 1954. Common lens: Tessar, Novar 4.5/75. Speeds B, 1-300.

531/16

Super Ikonta III [531/16]
Introduced 1954. Common lens: Novar 3.5/75. Speeds B, 1-500.

534/16

Super Ikonta IV [534/16
Introduced 1956. Common lens: Tessar 3.5/75. Speeds B, 1-500.

ir1001

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