Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex 1a


As far as I can tell, my camera is the Ikoflex 1a model made between the 1930’s and 1950’s. When it was in production, it was competing with the infamous Rollei’s, but it was never as popular. Although it was mechanically competitive with the Rolleicord, it is thought that it’s lack of popularity was due to it’s less stylized and more “function over form” approach.

Mechanically, this camera is amazing. Batteries and battery life are such big issues in modern cameras that it is truly amazing to see a camera function so well without battery power. Sure, you have to manually cock the shutter, and manually advance the film, but is that really such a big deal?

The Zeiss name is another interesting sidenote about this camera. Today, Zeiss is known for their superb lenses used in top name cameras. When the Ikoflex was being manufactured, Zeiss was making entire cameras. Later Zeiss would split with Ikon, and Ikon would eventually become Contax, another leading name in modern cameras.

Aside from a lack of a light meter, the Ikoflex has a great selection of features. I think later versions of the Ikoflex did have a light meter, but being so old, I don’t know how well they would work. The viewfinder is bright. You have a wide range of apertures from f3.5 to f16. Shutter speeds are from 1 second to 250 with a bulb setting. You manually cock the shutter, and there is double exposure prevention. There is even a self timer. The film counter is such a luxury compared with the red windows of cheaper cameras. It may take a time or two to figure out how to load the film to correspond with the counter, but once you get it, its easy. The focus knob on the left is a little stiff and boring, but it gets the job done.

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9 Responses to “Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex 1a”

  1. erin Says:

    How do you get the film advance to coincide with the counter?! WHen I load and rely on the red window on the underside of the camera the top frame wheel is at #8 when I’m actually only on the first frame. Can I rely on the number in the red window or is it reading numbers on the film backing that won’t coincide with the 6×6 image size? I thought those numbers ran along the middle of the film backing and this one is on the side that appears in the red window. Any help would be appreciated. thanks!

  2. Adrian Says:

    Once you have the film loaded, and you see the number one through the red window, you should be able to turn the counter wheel with your finger back to one. The thing is that it will only let you rewind the counter wheel after it gets to twelve. If you see the number 8, release the shutter and turn the film advance knob 4 times so that it gets to twelve. Then load the film, and turn the film counter back to one. Now the number on the film should match the film counter. I am going by memory, but I am pretty sure that will work for you.

  3. Mike Gott Says:

    This sounds a bit like a problem I’m having putting a film through one of the first Ikoflex “coffee can” models of c.1934. There are two frame counter windows – presumably for 120 and 620 film (?) and a small lever which sends both counters back to “1”. I loaded a 120 film, advanced it until the first frame was indicated in the ruby window then used the lever to set both counters to “1”. Since then, neither counter has followed the numbers visible in the window! I am at present on “6” on the backing paper, “7” in the left window (“met”) and somewhere between 8 and 9 in the right one….

    Anyone familiar with this or do I have a posessed Ikoflex?


  4. Adrian Says:

    That’s interesting. I guess that once I have the film loaded, I never look at the number on the film through the red window. Maybe they don’t line up. I think the numbers are spaced out a little more than necessary to take a 6×6 picture. Maybe the Ikoflex puts less space between frames rather than going by the numbers. Or, maybe the film counter works differently on different models.

  5. Mike Gott Says:

    Further to above – have now worked it out… The ruby window shows the frames for 8 shots at 6×9 (of course) – I didn’t think the film would still have that graduation for some reason. I made up a dummy film with markings to line up with the window showing 12 shots at 6×6. After runing it through I can confirm that the counter to use is the one on the right as you are aiming the camera – just in case there is somebody else out there having the same problem!

    Regards – Mike

  6. Mike Gott Says:

    Meanwhile – back with the coffee can….several rolls of film later. I have decided it would be good to clean the focusing mirror and the inside of the ground glass viewing screen. Does anyone know how to get access to these? There is a screw on the back of the body of which the removal allows the part holding the screen and hood (the parts I wish to remove) to be lifted up at the back, but not freed from the body of the camera completely. There must be some other securing point(?)


  7. John O'Riley Says:

    There is a book titled “Restoring the Great Collectible Cameras” 1945-1970. Author:Thomas Tomosy, (ISBN: 0-936262-73-7), Copyright 1998, on page 94, it describes the method to open and access your mirrors. Good luck.

  8. Tom Thomas Says:

    My Ikoflex 1A was stored about 50 years by previous owner and the focus knob is too stiff to turn without considerable effort. Anyone know how to loosen it up without the dreaded WD-40 spray or complete disassembly?

  9. Sigivald Says:

    Mike: If you ever find this thread again, I believe the other counter is for use with a 6×4.5 leaf insert; I’ve read about that being the case on many box cameras, but I’ve never had one myself.

    And of course the 6×4.5 leaves are commonly not found with the camera…

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