My Favourite Camera #1
A 645 in My Inside Breast Pocket,
Just Way Cool

Veijo Vilva

Zeiss Ikon Ikonta A 520 with Tessar 1:4.5 7.5cm in Compur (1933)
120mm x 86mm x 38mm when closed (about the same as a small 35mm folder), 440g.
On a typical 17" CRT screen, the right-hand picture is about life-size.

Ikonta A has front cell focusing, and this specimen has a distance scale in feet. The same Tessar+Compur lens-shutter combination was used on Rolleiflex Original and Standard models from 1928 till 1938 although these TLR cameras moved the whole lens assembly to focus instead of just the front cell. The high-quality lens is, however, uncoated like most pre-WWII lenses. There is no shutter release on the body, which at first is rather awkward, no double exposure prevention and no range finder, which means focusing is by guesstimate only. These early Ikontas have an optical popup finder.


Zeiss Ikon Ikonta A 520 (6x4.5, 1933) and Nettar 515/2 (6x9, 1937)

Together, these two cameras weigh about 200g less than a Rolleiflex 2.8E Planar,
and I can carry them around in my pockets, the Nettar in a coat or trouser pocket!


Ikonta A compared to Rolleiflex 2.8E Planar

Frame (mask) sizes: 58mm x 43mm (Ikonta A) vs. 56mm x 56mm (Rolleiflex). The Rollei has better focusing, a slightly sharper and more contrasty lens, an even quieter shutter, a flash sync socket and a much better film winding mechanism. However, it also has almost 800g more weight - and it most certainly doesn't travel in a pocket. The Rollei is very stolid and businesslike, nothing about it is casual. In comparison, the Ikonta A from the early 1930s is just way cool, probably one of the coolest cameras you can draw out of your breast pocket.

An Ikonta A 520 has about double the volume and 1.2x the weight of a Rollei 35, which is one of the smallest high-end 35mm compact cameras (97mm x 60mm x 32mm and 370g) with a slightly wider angle 1:3.5 40mm lens, also a Tessar. This size difference, however, hardly matters in your breast pocket and is amply offset by the significantly larger 645 negatives, which need about 1.7x less magnification for a given final image size. If you fancy panoramas, you can crop to a rather wide 56mm x 24mm, which isn't quite like X-pan, but which, on the other hand, allows you the equivalent of a +/-9mm vertical movement, i.e. +/-1.5" in 4x5 terms.


Some Shots (Fuji Neopan Acros 100)









(cropped) 4800x3200 (15Mp), printed at 254dpi,
this would be about the same size as 1537x1024



  2136x1600 is about 30"x20" on a 17" screen.



  • except for the coolness factor, there isn't much sense in using a camera like this unless the negatives are scanned at a high enough resolution.
  • the camera is very light and slightly more difficult to keep steady than a Rolleiflex with almost triple the weight
  • the leather covered body is quite well damped compared to the leatherette/vulcanite covered Nettars I have, and it also has quite a different, much softer feel



My Two Most Favourite Cameras

These two cameras together weigh less than a Rolleiflex although the Robot is a heavyweight.
These two cameras just work.

Berning ROBOT STAR (1952)

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