Zeiss Ikon Nettar

camera Nettar 518/16 / Signal Nettar
type folding
film 120, 6×6 cm
producer Zeiss Ikon AG
place Stuttgart
country West Germany
date 1953-1959
shutter Velio, leaf shutter
speeds 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, B
lens Novar-Anastigmat 75mm ƒ/4.5

English is not my native language. Please, contact me about any grammar or spelling mistake, thanks!

Nettar cameras were Zeiss Ikon's amateur folding cameras. According to D. B. Tubbs [1], the first Nettar (515/2) was introduced in 1934 as a cheaper alternative to the Ikonta 520/2, both on 6×9 size. During the thirties, more Nettars followed with different designs, finders or film sizes (4.5×6, 6×6, 6×9), but they had some common features: they were 120 roll film self-erecting folding cameras and they were among the cheapest Zeiss Ikon's folders. It's not that the Nettars were worst quality cameras, it's just that they were fitted with cheaper shutters or lenses. In fact, according to D. B. Tubbs [1], "the Ikonta 520/2 has the same body as the Nettars" (p.124).

After the Second World War, Zeiss Ikon's headquarters in Dresden were destroyed as well as to be nationalized by the German Democratic Republic.
Nevertheless, according to Zeiss Ikon Compendium [2], the Western Zeiss Ikon branch resumed the camera production in 1947 at the former Contessa-Nettel plant in Stuttgart, West Germany. The country was devastated, raw materials were scarce, so some of the new cameras were just assembled from existing parts. It wasn't until 1949 when the Nettar was launched again in 6×6 (515/16) and 6×9 (515/2) formats. These versions had a prewar design with a simple frame finder.

When Zeiss Ikon achieved regular mass production, it was time to redesign the old prewar cameras and modernize them. Thus, in 1951 appeared a new Nettar, the Nettar II, with an optical viewfinder enclosed in a chromed top cover, first versions with rounded shoulders and later versions square. According to Willi Kerkmann [3], this Nettar II was introduced in 6×6 (517/16) and 6×9 (517/2) sizes in the 1951 Photokina fair.

Later, around 1953, a new improvement was added: a mechanism to prevent double exposures. This version, known as Signal Nettar, is identical to the previous Nettar II, but adds a device that prevents from shooting a new exposure unless some film has been wound. The left half of the viewfinder turns red to warn you that you haven't wound film, hence the name "Signal".

According to Willi Kerkmann [3], this red viewfinder mechanism was very expensive to make, so it was replaced on the same year by another version with a red dot on the top cover beside the shutter release button.

Both red viewfinder and red dot versions are known as Signal Nettar and bear the same codes: 518/16 for 6×6 size and 518/2 for 6×9 size. The 6×6 versions are way more common and easier to find than the 6×9 ones. In Zeiss Ikon's nomenclature, the size 6×6 was called "B" and the 6×9 was "C", for this reason it's not rare to find the "Nettar IIB" or "Nettar IIC" references in some catalogues or brochures.

Although not state of the art cameras, they were actually good and reliable cameras. As Zeiss Ikon Compendium [2] says, "These cameras, although in many respects dated and unexciting, were to sell well and the Super Ikonta line marked Zeiss Ikon as a primary supplier for the advanced amateur and professional photographer. Many of these folders are still in use today [...]" (pages 23-24).

The new postwar Nettars were still Ikonta's smaller sisters, but in 1956 another bigger sister was born: the Nettax (513/16). It was like a 6×6 Signal Nettar with a non coupled selenium exposure meter. This Nettax name is quite confusing, since there had been a prewar 35mm Nettax camera. Anyway, as collectors should've noticed, Zeiss Ikon's names and codes are not always very logical...

The Nettar and Nettax cameras were built until 1959, being the last Zeiss Ikon's folders (the Ikonta had been discontinued around 1956). The last Zeiss Ikon medium format camera, the TLR Ikoflex, was to be discontinued in 1960. Since 1960, all the Zeiss Ikon cameras would be 35mm.

My Nettar

My Nettar version is a Signal Nettar with red viewfinder signal, which, according to Willi Kerkman [3] was made only during 1953 and is less common than the red dot version. On one side of the back is engraved the code "518/16", "518" referring to the double exposure prevention version and "16" meaning 6×6 size.

It's a very simple and basic camera, lacking exposure meter and rangefinder. I bought it in a flea market in Braunschweig with my good old friend and collector Daniel Sánchez. The lens was very clean and the shutter ran smoothly. I tested it with film and I loved the results, although the viewfinder is quite small and a bit hard to get used to.
When you hold it in your hands, you can tell that the materials are of high quality, it's a rugged camera easy and pleasing to use. As Ivor Matanle [4] says, Zeiss Ikon folders seem to be more rigid and better aging resistant than other manufacturer's.

Being a folding camera, it's very easy to carry everywhere you go. To sum up, the postwar Nettars are excellent examples to introduce yourself in medium format photography. In spite of their simplicity, they are among Ivor Matanle's [4] favourite folding cameras.


Postwar Nettars were only fitted with Novar-Anastigmat lenses with maximum apertures of ƒ/3.5, ƒ/4.5 or ƒ/6.3. Focal distance in 6×6 versions was 75mm, or 105 mm in 6×9 versions.
My own version has a Novar-Anastimat 75mm ƒ/4.5. Focusing is made by turning the front element from 1,2 meters (4 feet) to infinite, taking almost three quarters of a turn. The ten bladed diaphragm is placed behind the shutter and stops down between ƒ/4.5 and ƒ/22 by sliding a non-click-stops lever.

The Novar-Anastigmat formula was first used by Hüttig in the early 1900s. When Hüttig merged into ICA, some ICA cameras were also fitted with this lens. And, when ICA merged into Zeiss Ikon in 1926, more cameras were equipped with the Novar-Anastigmat. According to Zeiss Ikon Compendium [2], the Novar formula was owned by Zeiss Ikon, not by Carl Zeiss. As a result, some or all of the Nettar's Novar lenses were actually built by Rodenstock in Munich or by Hensoldt in Wetzlar. Only high quality Zeiss Ikon cameras were supplied with Zeiss' lenses, but amateur cameras such as the Nettar had lower standards.

In spite of being a very simple triplet lens, the Novar-Anastigmat is a very good lens with high resolution. Ivor Matanle [4] says that, stopped down to between ƒ/8 and ƒ/16, the results are indistinguishable from those obtained with a more expensive Tessar.


The Nettars were sold with different shutters made by Gauthier, from the simple Vario to the more sofisticated Prontor-SV. Actually, the type of shutter, as well as the maximum lens aperture, determined the final price of the camera. According to Kerkmann [3], the most expensive version could cost twice as much as the less expensive. It was the same camera but with a different shutter and lens aperture combination.

The following shutters with their respective shutter speeds can be found in postwar Nettars:

Vario 25, 75, 200, B
Vero 25, 50, 100, 200, B
Velio 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, B
Pronto 25, 50, 100, 200, B Self-timer
Prontor-S 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250 or 300, B Self-timer
Prontor-SV 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250 or 300, B Self-timer and flash synchro

My version has a Velio shutter that still works great. It's made up by five leaves in front of the diaphragm.
Before each exposure you have to cock the shutter by activating a small lever located in the shutter itself. This lever can be seen from the viewfinder, so you can tell if the shutter has been cocked or not.


The following table lists only the postwar Nettar versions according to the book Deutsche Kameras by Willi Kerkmann (thanks to Daniel Sánchez).
Some other data has been gathered from the Zeiss Ikon Compendium (thanks to Pedro J.) and some Zeiss Ikon catalogues. Manufacture dates are approximate, since they are sometimes contradictory. I've preferred to focus on the dates provided by Willi Kerkmann because the Zeiss Ikon Compendium doesn't distinguish between the red viewfinder and red dot variants.

As I've said before, all the Nettars were made in both 6×6 and 6×9 sizes (except for the Nettax), being the 6×6 the most common version. Appart from the obvious body size and focal distance differences, 6×6 and 6×9 versions are identical.
The front bed that covers the lens bears the name Nettar in capital or lower case letters.

camera date 6×6 6×9 doub.exp.prev. top cover lenses shutters
(prewar design)
1949-1951 515/16 515/2 no frame finder Novar-Anastigmat
75mm (6×6), 105mm (6×9)
ƒ/4.5 or ƒ/6.3
Vario, Pronto, Prontor, Prontor-S, Prontor-SV
Nettar II 1951-1953 517/16 517/2 no curved Novar-Anastigmat
75mm (6×6), 105mm (6×9)
ƒ/3.5, ƒ/4.5 or ƒ/6.3
Vario, Vero, Velio, Pronto, Prontor-S, Prontor-SV
1953 517/16 517/2 no right-angled
Signal Nettar 1953 518/16 518/2 red finder right-angled
1953-1959 518/16 518/2 red dot right-angled
Nettax 1956-1959 513/16 - red finder
right-angled Novar-Anastigmat 75mm ƒ/4.5 Pronto, Prontor-S


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Instruction manuals

Repair, service, disassembly, clean


[1] TUBBS, D. B. Zeiss Ikon Cameras 1926-1939. Hove Books, Small Dole (UK), 3rd printing, 2001. ISBN 1-874707-01-4.

[2] BARRINGER, Charles M. and SMALL, Marc James. Zeiss Ikon Compendium. Hove Collectors Books, Small Dole (UK), 2nd ed., 1999. ISBN 1-874707-24-3. (Thanks to Pedro J.)

[3] KERKMANN, Willi. Deustche Kameras 1945-1999. Edited by the author, 3rd ed., 1999. ISBN 3-00-004635-6. (Thanks to Daniel Sánchez).

[4] MATANLE, Ivor. Collecting and Using Classic Cameras. Thames and Hudson, London, 1993. ISBN 0500276560. (Quotings from Spanish edition).

Text and pictures by Daniel Jiménez Chocrón.

First edition: 1 Apr 2013. Last update: 28 Jan 2015.

Published under a Creative Commons BY-NC License.