Zeiss-Ikon was formed in 1926 through the merger of four significant camera builders: Contessa-Nettel, Ernemann, Goerz and ICA, and with a large capital infusion by the large optical company, Carl Zeiss. The company was obligated to use a high percentage of Zeiss lenses and Deckel shutters (Compur etc.), and prohibited from making their own lenses. Zeiss-Ikon had a proprietary brand Klio shutter for low end cameras, but production was by Prontor based on the Prontor S. Goerz shutdown its premerger lens production.
Many of the premerger models were rebadged with the Zeiss-Ikon name and logo, but retained the pre merger model names.
With the merger came August Nagel the leader and chief designer for Contessa-Nettle, and all his designs became Zeiss-Ikon property. But Nagel didn’t fit in the bureaucracy and soon broke away to form his own company in 1928, which was merged into Kodak in 1931, but giving him nearly complete autonomy. Nagel was the father of the modern 35mm film cartridge which he invented in 1931.
At the time of the merger there was a very eclectic group of camera models, mostly folding cameras using a variety of film types and glass plates. Some of my pre-merger legacy models are shown below, for post 1926 Zeiss-Ikon designs, see the links above.
The Nixe preceded ICA as a Wunsche model prior to the 1909 merger into ICA. This is a well featured camera, with rise and cross front movements, double extension bellows, a removable roll film back which could be replaced by a ground glass screen and plate holders, and had both a brilliant and a wireframe viewfinder.
The Nixe was carried into the Zeiss-Ikon line and produced until 1934.
The Icarette was a medium format, taking square photos on size 120 film. It was introduced in 1912, three years after ICA (Internationale Camera A.-G) was formed by the 1909 merger of Huttig, Kamerawerke Dr. Krügenersche, Wunsche AG, and Carl Zeiss Palmos AG.
The Icarette I was continued after the 1926 merger into Zeiss-Ikon, and produced until the mid 1930s.
The Goerz Taro Tenax was a lower cost option to the standard Tenax. The Taro Tenax III was produced from 1912 until 1926, and continued under Zeiss-Ikon for a few more years. This was a glass plate camera.
The Piccolette was inspired by the Kodak Vest Pocket camera of 1912, commonly called the Soldier’s Camera for its extensive use by US and British soldiers in WWI. The Piccolette design was almost identically copied in 1925 by a Japanese company which later became Konica.
Production continued under Zeiss-Ikon into the early 1930s when many models were discontinued due to the Depression.
The ICA Volta of 1920 was a small folding bed camera in the 9cm x 12cm format for sheet film or glass plates. It was an economy level camera. The Volta continued in the Zeiss-Ikon line after the 1926 merger, but was discontinued around 1929.
The Contessa-Nettel Altura was a glass plate or film sheet camera with double extension for close focusing.
The Ernemann Bob series of cameras began in 1902, but appear to not have continued into the Zeiss-Ikon era. This is the Bob V made from 1924 to 1926. The Cronos shutter was an inhouse Ernemann brand.
The Contessa-Nettel Miroflex was coming to market as the merger was underway. A few were produced with Contessa-Nettel branding, but after the merger was complete, this became a Zeiss-Ikon model.
These are large press-style single lens reflex cameras inspired by the Graflex press cameras of the era. Ansel Adams used one of these in the 1920s for some of his early work in Yosemite.
Three interesting small cameras. The one on the left is an August Nagel design, one of his first designs after leaving Zeiss-Ikon in 1928, but before he merged into Kodak in 1931. The other two are from predecessor companies which merged into Zeiss-Ikon in 1926 (each is detailed above).
Ansel Adams is shown above with an early 1930s Zeiss-Ikon Universal Juwel camera. This was a carryover product from ICA, and preceded ICA as a Wunsche model dating back to origins in the Juwel-Klapp-Camera of 1900.
The Model 275-11 was the smaller of two Juwel models, taking 9cm x 12cm (3.5″ x 4.7″) images on sheet film or glass plates.
The Juwel is also shown below collapsed into its case, and also fully extended (triple extension) for a long lens or macro work.
Follow these links for post 1926 Zeiss-Ikon designs: