Old Zeiss folders have been the subject of intrigue for me over some time. Near the start of my interest in shooting film a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 517 6x6 folder was discovered by a relative and given to me to experiment with. I found it quite a curio - bellows? guessing the focus? would it even work? Some research dated it to 1949, some 60+ years prior, but it looked in good condition so I gave it a whirl. I have written about my experiences with this camera before and now and again I put another roll through it. The character of the images produced with this camera really are punchy with a sharp contrasty lens in the centre frame, and a nice natural vignette and softness towards the corners. To say framing is an approximation would be a slight understatement, and focus is normally guesswork, and of course there is no meter, but these things become more comfortable with time.
I love shooting medium format film and find myself gravitating towards B&W 6x6 images, and my Bronica SQA is a solid workhorse for this. Its got so much flexibility with all the different lenses but if I am travelling where the primary purpose of the trip will not be photography then it is hard for me to justify bringing so much weight along. This is where the Zeiss Ikon folders came back to mind as they are so light and compact. There are of course some compromises, nothing comes for free: I would be limited to one focal length (a 75mm 'normal') and also I did not think it would be easy to use my existing sets of filters, particularly the ND filters for long exposures.
Inspired by this Shooting Film Like a Boss YouTube video performing long exposures with a Nettar by bodging the filter on the front with an elastic band, I had a brainstorm. Why not use a step up ring with an appropriately sized inner diameter to slip over the lens and then use the 52mm filters I already owned? For armed with a micrometer I measured the Novar-Anastigmat 75mm f6.3 lens on the Nettar, ordered a 38-52mm step up ring. I knew this ring would be slightly bigger than the lens so I added some stick on velcro (the soft part) to the inner circumference. It worked! Now I can push this adapter over the lens and use my standard 52mm filters. You may notice the Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 521/16 in the photo above. Its a recent acquisition and there will be more on this another time but in case you are interested the 75mm f4.5 Novar-Anastigmat lens takes a 40.5-52mm step up ring with the soft velcro inside too.
So this is where I hoped to share some images from my recent trip to the white cliffs of Dover using some red and ND filters on the folders. My new Ikonta 521 let me down, it turned out that using a shutter release cord did not consistently work to fire the shutter, and then the double exposure prevention mechanism blocked me from trying again. Further investigation after my trip led to me realising part of the shutter trigger mechanism had come misaligned which enabled me to fix it. So I will try this one out another time. The Nettar has the cable release mount next to the shutter and so no transfer mechanism is necessary. There is also no double exposure prevention, which could be seen as a benefit, as there is less to go wrong. The only downside in my eyes is that the shutter on the Nettar is very limited with only Bulb, 25, 75 and 200, whereas the Ikonta has Bulb, 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 250 enabling far more flexibility.
The Nettar was still loaded up with some Ilford HP5 that I'd half used at Christmas in the US. So at least I still had this to experiment with. I shot off the remaining 6 frames with a mixture of with and without a red and 10x ND filter (with some 20 second exposures) and looked forward to seeing how the results came back from the lab. Peculiarly in all of the 6 frames I took in Dover (but not the 6 exposed 9 months prior), and increasing with severity towards the end of the roll, there are speckled marks. These are present on the negative itself as dark marks and so must be something additive to the negative (e.g. light, debris etc) but I can't explain them. Searching online I have found a few similar examples that had suggestions of expired fixer or perhaps some issue with the backing paper affecting the film. The former doesn't make sense to me as if there was an issue in development (which was performed by my normal lab) then I would have expected it to be present on all frames. One suggestion I saw was air bubbles accumulating whilst developing so perhaps this is plausible if it only occurred on one part of the tank.
The testing of the Ikona 521 and long exposures with both of these cameras will have to wait unfortunately, but at least the forgotten images from 9 month prior came out ok!