The Zeiss Ikoflex is a wonderfully usable classic camera, even today. It uses still-available 120 roll film in either color or black & white, for slides or prints. Negative size is 6x6 cm, or 2-1/4" square.
Quite a few different models of Ikoflex were produced over the years. I'm most familiar with the Ia, & IIa models, and to a lesser extent, the "Favorit". I'll limit my comments to these.
A little history:
For those of us who grew up with names like Nikon, Minolta, & Canon, the name Zeiss may be a little more obscure. From the late 1800's until the early 1970's, Zeiss meant quality. It still does.
Zeiss stopped making cameras in the early 1970's, but they still make first-rate optics today...even for optometry devices. The lenses available for your Ikoflex were among the best of their day and are very good.
Lenses for your Ikoflex:
The Tessar lens: Probably the most common lens and in my opinon, the best user for an Ikoflex.
Four elements...coated on the later models. It will produce sharp pictures that will hold up to sizable enlagements.
In extremely contrasty conditions you may find that lens flare "washes out" some of the contrast near the very bright spots. HOWEVER...for normal lighting conditions...and even night shots...it's a very sharp lens that you can do wonderful work with. Lens designers have learned a thing or two in 50+ years.
The Novar lens: Also very common. A three element lens that is not quite up to the Tessar in sharpness. Unless you have a Novar camera already, I would wait for one with a Tessar lens.
The Triotar lens: I have no experience with this particular lens. It seems to be on older cameras.
Again, unless you are a collector, I would pick a camera with a Tessar lens for use. You should be very pleased with the Tessar.
Using the camera:
The twin-lens camera lends itself best to still photography...for portraits by a window, landscape shots, candids at a friend's wedding...it's an excellent tool.
If you want to learn photography...exposure, composition, making big enlargements in black & white or color...mastering your Ikoflex will teach you how it all works.
By the way, if you want to try the action shots, flip up the front panel of the open viewfinder and sight through the square hole in the rear panel...it's called a "sports finder"...(best of luck on that!)
You should have the following:
a cable release
a hand-held light meter
Some good accessories are a Kodak Series VI push-on filter ring, a lens shade, and Series VI filters.
(See notes below about Series VI filters.)
The first time you look at your subject in the viewfinder, it will appear as a mirror image, left to right. Move the camera and tripod around until you get a great looking composition. If you have never used a camera of this type outdoors, you will probably look into the viewfinder and say, "Wow...This is cool!"
Nice looking outdoor scenic photos can be had in the early sun or at late afternoon when you get good lighting and contrast.
A note about shooting indoors: I have taken many indoor pictures with a flash and gotten good results. However...Seeing an image in the viewfinder of an Ikoflex during low light conditions can be difficult.
I once got someone in a group shot at an outdoor party to hold a candle, just so I could focus on the candle! It was in a very dimly lit area of a courtyard. It did amuse the group!
Setting the Focus:
The most straight-forward way to focus a twin-lens camera like the Ikoflex is to look into the viewfinder, flip up the little magnifying glass that hides under the top cover, and focus on your subject by turning the focus knob. This works fine.
For landscape shots, there is another way to do it:
Next to the focus knob is a scale on the side of the camera.
This scale has two numbers, like "16-16", "11-11", etc.
By setting the aperture (lens opening) at f:16 for example, the area in your shot that will be in sharp focus is indicated between the two "16" marks on the scale.
For landscape shots, you can "roll" the infinity mark on the knob forward to the "16" mark. Then look at the other "16" mark on the scale, and it will show how close to the camera will be sharply in focus. Having a camera handy will make this clearer!
What this "rolling ahead" of the focus knob does is extend the area that's sharply in focus from infinity to closer to the camera than if you just focused with the viewfinder.
This will make your landscape pictures completely sharp from near the camera to infinity.
You will need a tripod to use the tiny f:16 lens opening...the shutter speed will probably be long.
Hint: The smaller the lens opening you use, like f:16...the LONGER the area that is sharply in focus from near the camera to far away. It's just how the optics of the lens work.
A large lens opening like f:3.5 makes a SHORT area that's sharply in focus...perhaps a few feet deep.
You will learn to use this creatively in your photography. By using a large lens opening and focusing on your subject, you can keep your subject sharp, but have the background out of focus. This works well for people shots.
I have read that the MIDDLE lens openings...f:8...allow a lens to do its sharpest work.
Light meters: A hand held light meter will work just fine with your camera.
Polaris (good, affordable)
Luna-Pro...and others are available.
Unless you have one, I wouldn't buy a vintage meter for serious use. The photo cells on many old meters deteriorate or fail over time. Modern meters are more responsive in very low light.
If you haven't used a hand held reflected light meter:
Point it toward the scene you are photographing.
Turn the dial until the two needles match.
This will give you pairs of shutter speed / f:stop settings.
Choose the pair you want to use and set your camera with them.
If you have a digital meter, there is no dial...it will give you the "pairs" to use on the display.
If you can't afford a meter yet, or just want to try out your old camera, do this:
The Sunny 16 Rule:
On a bright, clear sunny day, set the aperture to f:16.
The shutter speed will be whatever film speed you're using...
1/500th for Kodacolor 400,
1/250th for 200 speed film, etc.
It works. If it's bright but cloudy, open the aperture a stop to f:11, etc. In shade, open it to f: 8 or f: 5.6. This assumes that your camera's shutter settings are still pretty close to correct.
If you drive a couple of hours to shoot pictures and find that your light meter isn't in the camera bag...or if you find the battery dead in your meter...the Sunny 16 rule can save your bacon! You can still shoot.
Open the camera back by pulling down the sliding button at the top of the back door.
On the left side of the camera are two spring loaded "plungers" to retain the film spools. Pull them out and twist them to hold them out.
Remove the empty film spool from the bottom position and place it in the top position.
Keep the spool in place by releasing the retainer. Turn the film advance knob a little until the spool "clicks" into place. (You can get a spool at a camera store or by stripping it off a roll of film.)
Place the new roll in the bottom position with the film "tail" rolling out from under the bottom towards you. Release the retainer to hold the roll in place.
Pull the film up to the top spool and put the tail in the slot of the top spool. Using your thumb to hold the film in the slot, advance the film several turns with the wind knob until it holds.
Close the camera back. It should snap shut.
Look at the camera bottom. There is a little sliding door over a red film widow.
Slide this door back.
Advance the film, looking through the red window under the light.
You will see some arrows go by, perhaps a series of dots, then a number "1" will appear.
Stop winding at the "1".
Slide the little film window door shut.
NOW...On the right side of the camera is a round "button".
Using your thumb, roll the button counter-clockwise until it "clicks".
This sets the counter at frame number one.
You are now ready to shoot! There are 12 frames.
It won't be so bad with practice! Load the camera in the shade, since roll film doesn't come in a cannister like 35mm film. When you are through shooting the roll, wind the film a little further to make sure that the "tail end" is completely on the top spool.
Open the back, pull back the film release, remove the roll.
Fold the "tail" of the film under, per instructions on the film, and use the paper "tape" provided to seal the roll. Some brands require licking the tape, others use sticky adhesive. You may want to mark the roll to remember later what you were shooting. Store the roll in a dark pocket, pouch, or bag.
The Ikoflex Favorit is a fancier looking camera than the IIa or Ia, but since I have never used one, I'll stick with what seem to be the two most common types. For some reason, the couple of "Favorit" cameras I've seen have been inoperative...but that may just be the few I've seen.
The Ikoflex model IIa is a great camera. It features a four-element 75mm coated Tessar lens which produces very sharp photos.
The shutter and aperture settings are on top of the lens housing, making it very easy to see the settings.
The shutter on the IIa is first-rate, a self-cocking Syncro-Compur.
The shutter speeds go up to 1/500th of a second, though a camera owner might not discover this.
As you roll the shutter speeds higher, it feels like you hit a "stop" after 1/250th. This is actually the fast speed cam, so with the camera uncocked, roll the speed "over the hump" up to 1/500th.
The smallest aperture is f:22.
The shutter has an X-M switch at bottom.
X (Xenon) setting is for using a modern strobe flash.
M (Magnesium) setting was for flash bulbs.
Another plus for your classic camera...you can use a modern flash. If you plan to use a flash you will need a flash bracket & "shoe" (see note below).
The Ikoflex model Ia is the next step down, but is still a very usable camera. Mine has a 75mm Tessar lens, just like the IIa does. The Ia has a good Prontor shutter with speeds to 1/300th. The smallest aperture is only f:16, but I use this model of camera myself, and have never had a limitation with this minimum aperture (as opposed to the smaller f:22 on the IIa model.)
Setting the f: stop and shutter speeds is a litte more tedious on the Ia model. You must look through a hole in the shutter housing to see the shutter speeds, and through another hole to see the f: stop setting. It works, but it can be aggrivating, especially with a lens shade on the camera, or in low light.
The shutter on this model is manually cocked. Push down the tiny lever on the right side of the shutter housing before tripping the shutter.
The lever on the left side is a mechanical self-timer. "Left" and "right" as you look into the viewfinder.
The shutter release button on both models is at the top, right corner, with a threaded hole for a cable release. If the button doesn't depress, cock the shutter or advance the film.
The viewfinder must be open to depress the shutter release.
I have recently become aware of a problem with the Ia model that I thought was unique to my camera.
The negatives on the strip of film touch one another. If you do your own developing and printing, this isn't a big deal. If you go to a pro lab, it might drive them crazy, since the machine they print from may sense the space between the frames to index by! My lab hates to see me coming, since it will run the whole negative strip through at one time...there are no gaps between the frames!
Another Ia user E-mailed me with word that his camera does the same thing. I don't know how common a problem this is. I don't remember the problem with the IIa model I once had.
I just put up with it and enjoy using my camera. One of the quirks of hand-made technology. The pictures still look good!
Filters: Your camera can use Kodak Series VI filters with a 37mm Kodak Series VI adapter ring.
The filter ring "pushes on" over the taking lens "rim".
Lens shades are made that screw on in front of the filter to hold it in. I recommend using a lens shade.
If you buy Series VI filters on E-bay, make sure the seller guarantees that they arent becoming "cloudy". If they're not, they'll work fine. Hold them up to the light to check for cloudiness.
Let's see if I can pull some filter info out of my memory:
A yellow K2 filter will add a little contrast to your black and white photos. (add 1 unit of exposure).
A red filter will add more contrast, and will darken a blue sky. (add 3 extra units of exposure).
A skylight filter is good to just leave on the camera to protect the lens, but will not affect the exposure.
Flash: As noted elsewhere, your Ia or IIa will work with a modern strobe flash. I use a flash bracket with a hand grip that screws underneath the camera into the tripod socket, a little flash "shoe" with a power cord goes on top of that, with the flash sitting on top of the shoe. It's a little rickety, but it works!
Light meters: (See above.)
Lens damage: The most common types of lens damage are:
Scratches to the front element...It is best to leave a skylight or UV filter on the lens to protect it. The purplish reflection on the lens is a super-fine coating to improve contrast by reducing lens flare. NEVER use window cleaner on a lens, as this will remove this fine coating. Use a blower brush to remove any grit, and sparingly, gently use lens tissue with a little cleaner only when there's no other way. Breathing on the lens will often put enough moisture on it to gently remove a smudge with a soft lens tissue.
Mild scratches or cleaning marks on the front lens element, while not desirable, do not seem to degrade an image much. If there are scratches on the rear element inside the camera (uncommon) it might degrade the image, or so I've heard.
Separation: The glass lens elements of classic cameras are cemented together with "balsam", a natural adhesive. If a camera gets too hot, this adhesive can melt, separating the individual lens elements. It can be fixed, but if you're looking at a camera to buy, find another camera. This is why you should never leave an old camera in a hot car.
Sticky slow shutter speeds: Many of the cameras for sale today have seen years of closet duty. The lubricants used in old mechanical shutters become sticky and will need to be cleaned out and replaced. When firing the shutter at slow speeds, it might get hung up as the shutter opens and closes. This doesn't mean that it's broken, but it is aggrivating. If it gets hung up while cycling, try coaxing it through the cycle by tapping lightly on the camera body. If it's really hung up, then a service person must fix it. If the speeds are sluggish, it will need service before use anyway.
Lens fungus: Some cameras that have been in storage actually have liquid, or fungus growth in the lens. (My Ia did!) This was fixable on mine.
Focus adjustment problems: The focus is set on a twin-lens camera when the focus for the top lens (viewfinder) matches the focus for the bottom lens (film). If your camera takes out-of-focus pictures, then the top lens may not be adjusted to match the bottom lens. I would let a qualified repair person re-set the focus.
If you want to check it for yourself, try this:
With the camera back open, put several pieces of frosted tape flatly across the film rollers.
Set the shutter speed to "B" setting.
With a locking cable release, click open the shutter and lock the cable release.
Use a loupe to look at the image projected onto the frosted tape. Don't push in the tape.
Compare the image to what's in the viewfinder. It is possible to set the focus this way, but since the tripod socket is on the open door...I wouldn't recommend it! Let a repair person handle it. Focus problems can also happen for other reasons.
Looking through the lens with the camera back open and the shutter depressed at the "B" setting is a good way to examine the lens glass for scratches. Hold it towards the light and at arms length.
NOW, the point of all of this familiarity with your classic camera is really to TAKE PICTURES!
If you're the creative type like me, it really is a lot of fun. I'll wind up with some memories:
There are some old Civil War stone furnaces near where I live...a couple of stories tall. On a cool fall morning with the sun rising over the trees, I stand there with a cup of coffee, taking in the peace & quiet, the sound of the stream, watching the light creep across the old stonework, getting the scene on film with my old Ikoflex. The camera has enough sharpness to make a nice wall hanger sized print if I happen to get a nice shot.
Last summer two WWII bombers came to a small airport near my home. I went to the airshow with a friend whose father had been a B-24 crewman.
Later that night, I went back after the airport was deserted except for a fuel truck driver and a lady at the flight desk. I asked if I could go out by the hanger and get some shots. They looked at me kind of funny since it was dark, but said, "Sure".
As I walked out by the hangers, the two old bombers were sitting in the shadows on the tarmac. So I set up my Ikoflex on a tripod, composed using the magnifying glass in the viewfinder, and opened the shutter in the dark, popped off my flash several times and left. Well, the pictures weren't bad, but didn't QUITE make the grade I had hoped for, but I learned...and it was still fun to do it!
Some years before that I tried another low light shot with my Ikoflex and got a good shot of the USS Alabama at Mobile with the moon over the ship in the early dawn. That one was to me anyway, a keeper!
That's really the point. Whether it's digital or a classic like the Ikoflex...
Use a tool you enjoy using, take some nice shots, and enjoy doing it!
So...get some film, get the keys, put the equipment in the car, and go looking for that great shot!
Remember what your mother used to say..."Turn that thing off...Go outside and have some fun!"