Icarex 35: the marriage of Zeiss-Ikon and Voigtlander

By the end of the sixties the final battle of the German cameras began. The competition with Japan was killing World’s leading camera manufacturer. Too complicated camera’s, too expensive, far too less innovative. And all that the Japanese cameras offered, producing high tech and cheaper cameras in many brands and designs. Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander tried one last approach: to combine their strengths with the famous Icares series, the ultimate SLR for 135 film.

Invented by Voigtlander, but as a marriage gift presented to Zeiss-Ikon after the merger in 1966. That is the Icarex 35, a heavily overengineered SLR to compete with the Japanese market. But one of the most beautiful also, but despite its shining appealing appearance, it was doomed to fail. A little too much a little too late. Nikon, Canon and Minolta were already throwing their best machines on the market with lower prices and similar and even better quality. The golden days of the German Camera were over. For once and for all. And it is pity that the fantastic Icarex became the symbol for that, despite its almost flawless design and high quality.

Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS
The looks of the last well built German SLR: the shining Icarex 35 (CS).

In the picture is the Icarex 35 CS camera from 1968, problably the most special one from the whole Icarex series, since it had a metered pentaprism on top. The 35mm SLR made by Voigtlander and together with Zeiss Ikon presented in 1966. The Icarex 35, or Icarex 35 has a focal plane shutter to 1/1000, an own (hated) bayonet mount, an interchangeable finder, and a waist-level finder, or a (metered) pentaprism or a metered pentaprism. The exposure meter in the pentaprism was TTL, but the exposure can only be read with the diaphragm closed (with the big lever down next to the lens). The Icarex 35 also had interchangeable finder screens. From the Icarex 35S onwards the pentaprism was fixed and became a true TTL metered SLR.

Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS
Metering the light with the dial to ‘measure’ different speeds and ISO’s and copy those readings to the shutter of the Icarex 35CS.

Just a few lenses were available to the special Icarex mount and it became one of the pitfalls of the Icarex sales, although the Tessar lenses were of high quality. To name a few:
50/1.8 Ultron, 50/2.8 Tessar, 90/3.4 Dynarex, 135/4 Super-Dynarex, 200/4 Super-Dynarex
and even a 400/5 Telomar. In the later 35 models the mount was changed to accept the huge range of 42mm screw lenses. A special TM badge was used to distinguish them from the bayonet versions, that remained also in production with a BM badge. To emphasize the high quality on the last, unchanged models the name ‘profesional’ was added. The cameras had it al, including a wide range of shutter times, a self timer, cold flash shoe, PC sync connections for M and Auto, an easy film loading system and a distinguished shutter sound.

Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS
The colorful top plate with all kind of dials for speed, ISO and metering on the Icarex 35.

814 grams weighs the big camera. A very sturdy design with big knobs, a solid focal plane (cloth) shutter, a single stroke lever, green indication for readiness, a very bright viewfinder with a transparent readout of the aperture and light needle. All very harmonic and ergonomically well placed. It is hard to believe that this gem could not save this great company. It is one of the few SLR’s that really stands out, due to it’s unique design with black and red dials, the simple, elegant design of the high quality lenses.

Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS
The final stage of the German Camera: the famous Icarex 35 CS.

Who collects Voigtlander or Zeiss Ikon cameras, cannot escape the Icarex. Who owns the first camera of these brands, needs also the last one. Was it the last one, well, Voigtlander and Zeiss Ikon in a way also went their own ways again, Voigtlander presented the successor of the Icarex with the VSL series (together in the new merger with Rollei) and Zeiss Ikon sadly left the stage in 1972. But nevertheless, they did go down with a fantastic final product, a camera you will fall in love with, a last glimpse of German ingenuity in a well designed, reliable and shining camera, the Icarex, now and forever. But yes, Icares reminds of Icarus, the Greek mythology of the man who could fly, but went too high in the sky before falling to death.

Oh yes, the many failures of the Icarex 35CS light metering prism! The fact is that it is not always the meter that is defect or the battery. The battery is still available, know as the Weincell MRB625 that gives the right voltage you need (and for for many meters). The lightmeters often are still good, but the problems can also be found in the electric wiring in the lens mount area. Just remove the lens, unscrew the four screws holding the mounting ring, remove the inner plate just by lifting it up and look for yourself. The wiring and contacts can be damaged easily. See picture. In my case i used some liquid rubber to easily fix the worn cable and the meter immediately was working as new…and exactly.

Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS light metering problems
Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS light metering problems

5 Replies to “Icarex 35: the marriage of Zeiss-Ikon and Voigtlander”

  1. Hello,

    I am a proud owner of an ICAREX 35S that I have inherited from my father. He was an avid photographer and loved and used themes cameras extensively. I’m in the process of figuring out if my ICAREX can be passed along to my thirty something daughter who loves photography but hasn’t had any experience with analog cameras.

    This ICAREX seems to be in great shape but the light-meter isn’t responding even after changing the battery. I have replaced the old battery with a VARTA V625U/PX625A. Could the battery be the problem or is the light-meter simply not working?

    I look forward to hearing your advice.

    Thank you,

    1. The Icarex can suffer from a broken wire that easily can be assessed by opening the front lens mount. Take the mount ring off by unscrewing it and look if the wires are still in good shape.

  2. I always thought the Icarex is one beautiful camera. The chrome finish is incredible. In many ways I think it beats the Contarex (though I wish I had one, especially the Special). The Icarex is a bit smaller but has more flexibility and great lenses like the Ultron and Tessar. In my retirement, I am enjoying the Icarex collection I started years ago. Taking one on vacation today as a matter of fact.

  3. Hi there!
    You who are very knowledgeable about these machines:
    I have the Carl Zeiss Ultron 50mm 1.8 lens on the Icarex 35 cs camera.
    I bought an M42 mount to use the lens on a Nikon camera, but the adapter didn’t work with that lens.
    Could you give me some advice on which adapter I should look for?
    Have a great day, cheers

  4. Ich habe mich zu Beginn der 90er Jahre in die Icarex-System-kamera verguckt, und einige Jahre lang intensiv und ausschließlich mit ihr und den gängigen Objektiven (einschließlich des riesigen Telomar) fotografiert. Meine Bewertung fällt nicht rundum positiv aus, weil sie eine reine “Schönwettter”-Kamera ist, bei der das Motiv während der Belichtungsmessung fast unsichtbar wird – zumal bei eingeschränkten Lichtverhältnissen! Bei intensivem “Arbeiten” (die ersten Erfahrungen sammelte ich bei den Schmalspur-bahnen im Harz) holte ich mir beim häufigen Objektivwechsel an dem scharfkantigen Anschlußring wunde Finger – die noch am anderen Tag schmerzten! Sogar das legendäre Voigtländer-Zoomar habe ich verwendet und war erstaunt über seine guten Eigenschaften – die typischen kissen- oder tonnenförmigen
    Verzeichnungen gab es anfangs auch bei fernöstlichen Vario-Objektiven. Mit der Icarex “knipse” ich schon lange nicht mehr, aber ihr Anblick bzw. der meiner kleinen Sammlung erfreut mich nach wie vor.

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