Super Compact and Medium Format? Why Not?

For those interested in a extremely compact medium format camera that shoots the most iconic format, 6x6, the Zeiss Super Ikonta 534/16 is here for you.  

In this video, Kyle McDougall offers some insight into his shooting experiences with one of the more iconic compact medium format cameras, the Zeiss Super Ikonta 534/16 (also known as Super Ikonta IV). This specific model was made available between 1955-1959 and sports a 75mm f/3.5 Synchro-Compur leaf shutter lens, which is approximately equivalent to a 40mm f/1.9 in full frame. That said, the 6x6 format is so distinct from full frame that it can still be difficult to think of its lens in any sort of full frame equivalent. The Super Ikonta line dates back to the early 1930s with multiple formats available, including 645, 6x9, and 6.5x11 (which I've never heard of or seen).

I don't have any extensive experience with the 6x6 format, but it's been calling my name. Similarly, I've been chomping at the bit to get something that's extremely lightweight, all manual, and medium format for traveling. This camera seems like a viable option. In addition, I don't have any considerable experience with twin lens reflex cameras either (most of which also shoot a 6x6 format), which would be in direct competition for this camera in my books. 

What about you? Do you have any experience shooting with this camera or any of its earlier models? What were your thoughts/experiences?

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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The old folders are all great fun.

In the 1980s Fuji put out the relatively compact GS45 6x4.5 camera with a bellows that folds up to roughly the size of a Walkman of it's day. It was a great camera save for the bellows that developed leaks, surprising that it did, considering when the camera was made. Funny, I picked this one up in the 90s to do night street photography, and because of that, it wasn't until sometime later when I finally shot in the daytime that I realized the bellows leaked! :-D

I always wanted one of these

If you wanna get into compact and super cheap cameras. These still go for $50-$80 for those beginners looking to get into 6 x 6 medium format.

Unfortunately overpriced now. Any camera with a bellows you must be wary of leaks in the bellows.

How many megapixels?

I have two Zeiss Super Ikontas. A 532/16 (6x6 Mid-Late 1930s) with a 8cm f2.8 Compur Rapid and the proper macro attachment kit. It was in very good condition when I came across it, and I had it CLAd' by a friend who happens to be one of the greatest techs in Europe. I also like the fact that it doesn't have the (most likely dead by now) selenium based meter built in. Works beautifully.

My second is a Zeiss Super Ikonta 530 (645) with a Tessar 7cm f3.5.

Both work flawlessly and are a lit of fun!

Used one of my Ikontas into the ground. Camera, Sekonic light meter and a few rolls of film, tuck nicely into a small bag. Consider the old Soviet folders too. Moskvas are Ikonta clones built like bricks and a bit cheaper than the Ikonta equivalents. You may need to adjust the range finder accuracy of these old folders unless you buy them from someone who assures quality, but as long as the shutter fires you can make great pictures with them.

I have a few medium format folders, all acquired for pretty cheap (from 10 to 50 EUR) at flea markets or over eBay. They are definitely not for snapshots, even if you have a coupled rangefinder (the only one of that sort I have is the Seagull 203), and ergonomics are suboptimal, but hey, medium format in your pocket. And image quality can be very good indeed! My latest acquisition, a Voigtländer Perkeo similar to the one reviewed in the video posted by Juan Garcia, is a seriously impressive camera.
I have no doubt whatsoever the Super Ikonta is a superb camera, but cheap it is not. If you can live without a coupled rangefinder, and with a ruby window instead of a frame counter, you'll be able to give folders a try for (much) less than 50 bucks. As often as not they come with gummed up shutters, even more often with gummed up self-timers. Thankfully they are actually fairly easy to take apart and clean up.

The Fiat 500 picture was made with the Perkeo. Can't complain about image quality! The outdoors living room comes from the Zeiss Ikonta 521 (6x45 on 120 film). Not bad for a pre-WWII camera :)

One from my Zeiss Ikon Ikonta dating from 1936, still very usable even with low light as seen here.
Afraid I only use this camera for boudoir so this is the safest shot I could find.

Oh boy. This poor lady looks like she could need some kilos on her ribs. Looks quite disturbing to me. Nice shot, though!

This is my wife, she insists on just sucking her belly in no matter what I say, rest assured, she is a pretty healthy weight :)

Oh, then I am relieved.
Count yourself lucky to have such a good looking wife, who isn't reluctant to be photographed.

I'm doubly lucky as she isn't to bad behind a camera either and tolerates my photo related spending as a result :)

Those compact folding cameras are really cool. I have a few dozens of them and they're all a joy to use, even the cheaper ones (like the Agfa Isolettes).

My absolute favorite in this category is the Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 (Novar lens, f/4.5, 75mm) made in 1949. I just love it. Simple, compact, with a very sharp lens. Below is a picture I've shot with it right after sunset.

Also, there are a lot of cool folding 6x9 cameras, like the Agfa Billy Record or the older Kodak Folding Brownies for example. They're obviously a bit larger than the 6x6 models, but they still fit in a jacket pocket.

I often use my Zeiss Ercona 6x9 folder. Fits in the back pocket of my pants. Tessar lens is sharp and the negatives are huge and detailed.

Oh yes, I have 6x6 and 6x9 folders - that's just astonishing when you develop film and realize the frame came from something you can put easily in you jacket's pocket :O