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Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex/Contaflex TLRs

These cameras are shown in (approximate) order of first appearance. The sequence of Ikoflexes is complex, with serial numbers in irrational order and repeated for different cameras. The table below the thumbnails and descriptions shows how it works.

The picture above comes from the photoshoot by Amateur Photographer in October 2005, for an article by Ivor Matanle on the history of the Zeiss Ikon TLRs. A copy can be found here. At the bottom of the page is an article on the late Ikoflexes published in Photoguide magazine (UK) in October 1956.

If you find any errors on this page or have any camera I might be interested in, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. Click on the small "thumbnail" pictures below to go to larger ones.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex 35 TLR (860/24)

One of the best/most expensive cameras ever built - 1935 - ZI's flagship. First camera to have an exposure meter, first with chrome finish. One of very few 35mm TLR cameras, and very unusual in having interchangeable taking lenses. Heavy and not very successful, due partly to costing the same as a small car!
Taking lens shown is 50mm f1.5 Sonnar
Zeiss focal-plane shutter 16sec - 1/1000

Sonnar 135mm lens for
Zeiss Contaflex 35 TLR

This is the tele-focus lens made by Zeiss for the Contaflex TLR. The camera has a fixed viewing lens, with different frames in the waist-level finder for different lenses. Lens swap is fairly easy, although a little stiff on this camera. Incidentally, the camera is also the first one with an Albada mirored glass sports finder.
Taking lens shown is 135mm f1.5 Sonnar
Zeiss focal-plane shutter 16sec - 1/1000

Ikoflex Coffeecan models (850/16)

There are two versions, with only minor variation. The name came about because the Art Deco styling was said to look like German WW1 trench coffee can. The unusual early feature of this camera - shared by only one or two other early TLRs - is that the 120 or 620 film travels horizontally, with the wind lever below the object lens. The definitive article on these two cameras was published by Alun Evans in Photographica World in 2002/3

Coffeecan" 850/16 version 1

This was the very first Ikoflex, originally launched in 1934 as the Ikoflex I, and sold through into April of the following year. Its distinguishing feature is the shallow "Mexican pyramid" style of the lid, which chimes well with its overall Art Deco appearance.
Taking lens is Novar 80mm f4.5
Shutter Derval 1 - 1/100

"Coffeecan" 850/16 version 2

The second variant differs from the first only in the design of the hood, which features a quadrant design focus on the Zeiss Ikon logo, with the quadrants covered with the same leather as the body. This model is much more common than the first.
Taking lens is Novar 80mm f4.5
Shutter Derval 1 - 1/100

Ikoflex I 850-16 (early)

The original Ikoflex I and II were launched simultaneously to replace the Coffeecan in 1936-7. This early and basic one has a Novar lens. Lever focus on right side (changed to knob from 1938).
Taking lens is Novar 80mm f4.5
Shutter is a Klio 1 - 1/175 sec

Ikoflex II 851/16

The year-younger model II - very similar to the I - is somewhat improved. A considerably better shutter/lens, and the oval Art Deco lens surround has changed from black to chrome.
Taking lens is Triotar 75mm f3.5
Shutter is Compur-Rapid 1-1/500

Ikoflex II/III 852/16

Evolved from the Ikoflex II above in 1938. Aperture/speed now in peepholes overviewing lens. Came out as Ikoflex III, but soon renamed as new III launched.

Taking lens is Triotar 75mm f3.5
Shutter is Compur 1 to 1/300

Ikoflex II/III (brass) 852/16

Same model as previous one, but this one has an unusual brass nameplate - probably it has been over-polished and the chrome removed, or perhaps the plating was poor-quality on this one.
Taking lens is Triotar 75mm f3.5
Shutter is Compur 1 to 1/300

Ikoflex III 853/16

From 1939: widely seen as the best Ikoflex of all. Crank advance and shutter cocking. Huge mirrored Albada sport finder on hood. Grey leathercloth finish.
Taking lens is Tessar 80mm f2.8
Shutter is Compur-Rapid 1 to 1/400

Ikoflex I 850/16

From 1939: replaced old Ikoflex II, confusingly. Made until 1951 under different managements. Body design changed, but carcass did not.
Taking lens is Novar 75mm f3.5
Shutter unnamed, prob. Klio 1 to 1/250

Ikoflex IIa (early) 855/16

Developed from the Ikoflex II, but with new front housing design. Speed and aperture are shown in two peepholes bracketing the taking lens.
Taking lens is Tessar 75mm f3.5
Shutter Compur-Rapid 1 to 1/500

Ikoflex IIa (late) 855/16

Fussy frontal design prefigures Favorit (below). Speed/aperture set by wheels, show in single window over taking lens. Exposure meter. "Ikoflex" under lens.
Taking lens is Tessar 75mm f3.5
Shutter Synchro-Compur MX 1 to 1/500

Ikoflex Ia 854/16

First postwar series I 1956. Black nameplate, silver letters. Retains top-mounted shutter push-button. Aperture/speed windows by taking lens.
Taking lens is Novar 75mm f3.5
Shutter unnamed (Prontor-SV) 1 to 1/300

Ikoflex Ib 856/16

Improved Ia 1956. Similar looks, but folding side shutter release. Hood folds in one action. Aperture/speed in magnified windows by the taking lens.
Taking lens is Tessar 75mm f3.5
Shutter unnamed (Prontor-SVS) 1 to 1/300

Ikoflex Ic 886/16

The final series I model, produced from 1956. It has a CdS meter where the nameplate would have been, like the late IIa above, with the readout projected into the viewfinder - a nice refinement carried over to the Favorit. A distinct notch above the Ib, and prices today indicate that it still has a fond following.

Taking lens is Tessar 75mm f3.5
Shutter unnamed (Prontor-SVS) 1 to 1/300

Ikoflex Favorit 887/16

Sometimes known by cognoscenti as the "IIc", the Favorit was the last of a great line. It has cross-coupled light-value setting for aperture and speed, set by wheels, like the late IIa (above). The built-in LVS meter is projected on the viewfinder ground glass. Winding the film on auto-cocks the shutter. This particular one is a very nice camera, found in a school cupboard in US Mid-West, near-unused and with some Zeiss accessories.
Taking lens is Tessar 75mm f3.5
Shutter Synchro-Compur MXV 1 to 1/500

Table of Ikoflex models

Number Model Built Lens Shutter Comments
850/16 Ikoflex 1934-37 f6.3 or 4.5/80 Novar Compur-Rapid, Klio, Derval "coffee can" model - low-cost Rollei competitor
850/16 Ikoflex I 1939-51 f3.5/75 Novar or Tessar Compur, Klio, Prontor S same as Ikoflex II from 1937-39 (851/16)
851/16 Ikoflex II 1936-39 f3.8 CZJ Triotar or f3.5/75 Tessar Compur-Rapid lever focus in1937, knob focus after '37, continued as Ikoflex I (850/16) after 1939
851/16 Ikoflex II 1939-51 f3.5/70 Novar or f3.5/75 Tessar Prontor similar to Ikoflex II of 1937-39
854/16 Ikoflex Ia 1952-56 f3.5/70 Novar or f3.5/70 Tessar Prontor shutter release located on top next to viewfinder
856/16 Ikoflex Ib 1956-58 f3.5/75 Novar or f3.5/75 Tessar Prontor improved version of Ia, shutter release located on side next to taking lens
886/16 Ikoflex Ic 1956-60 f3.5/75 Novar or f3.5/75 Tessar Prontor metered version of Ib
852/16 Ikoflex II/III 1938-40s f3.5/75 Tessar or f3.5/75 Triotar Compur-Rapid or Compur new style Ikoflex II after 1939
855/16 Ikoflex IIa 1950-52 f3.5/75 Tessar Compur-Rapid early version with peep window on each side of taking lens
855/16 Ikoflex IIa 1953-56 f3.5/75 Tessar Compur-Rapid restyled version with peep windows directly over viewing lens
853/16 Ikoflex III 1939-40 f2.8/80 Tessar Compur-Rapid Albada finder
887/16 Ikoflex Favorit 1957-60 f3.5/75 Tessar Synchro-Compur LVS light meter, last Ikoflex

From "Photoguide, October 1956