Zeiss Ikon: the German camera empire

Zeiss Ikon is probably the most famous and biggest German camera manufacturer that was formed in 1926 by the merger of the classic four camera makers from the early years: Contessa-Nettel, Ernemann, Goerz and Ica. A very important and significant historical moment that financially was co-founded by capital of Zeiss. The company formed one part of the Carl Zeiss Foundation, another part being the optical company Carl Zeiss. That is the reason most Zeiss-Ikon cameras are fitted with the legendary Carl Zeiss lenses. Who sees a Zeiss Ikon camera, raises his eyebrows over the stunning performance these cameras delivered in those days. But like with all brands, you love or just hate them. Zeiss-Ikon only had fans because of their unbeatable variety of cameras and lenses. Nobody came near, not even Leica.

Zeiss-Ikon’s home was in the photo technology capital Dresden, with plants in Stuttgart and Berlin. It continued several products of its constituents for a while, but also created new ones like the quality folder Ikonta and the medium format rangefinder camera Super Ikonta. After World War II Zeiss Ikon was split into a West German and an East German part. Stuttgart became the company’s domicile for the Western World. Dresden the Eastern home with Jena for the Zeiss lenses. A very comprehensive video shows the interesting history and downfall in the former Democratic German Republic.

So what names belong to Zeiss-Ikon? The famous Contax which was the major competitor for Leica (M3) and for a few years even considered the better camera. Or the long running Contaflex and Icarex series that also was the last camera before the factory lost the competition with Japan in 1972.  This was a great shock for the entire German camera industry, but the result of stubbornness on German site about the ‘Asian computerization’ of camera’s which the Western photographer ‘did not like or need’. In West Germany Zeiss Ikon became eventually Voigtlander and in East germany Pentacon was born out of Zeiss Ikon, but they all did not survive the battle with the ‘new’ high quality, electronically enhanced SLR’s of Nikon, Minolta and Canon.

It is all history now, but not on Ebay or Catawiki. There the company revived as best second hand camera supplier. All the old fascinating interchangeable lens rangefinders, fixed lens cameras, folders, SLR’s and TLR’s are reunited for a fast growing community of fans of vintage, manual photographing. Zeiss-Ikon made mechanical masterpieces with quality lenses from Zeiss, the perfect combination and with engineers with a lot of fantasy, creativity and skills that are not available anymore. On this site we will contribute to that era of craftsmanship by reviewing a lot of their camera’s, like the Ikonta’s, Contax, Contaflex, Contina, Icarette and many more. Why? Because these models make your heart beat faster of their design, their uncompromising quality and above all, the pictures they produce(d).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *