Friday, October 7, 2011

Zeiss Ikon/ICA Folding Camera Circa 1926?

Kind of Steampunk and Beautiful, But What am I?

Click me to see larger.

Well, that's the best detective work I can do based on available information.  Disclaimer:  This is the Internet.  I am not an expert on this particular camera and its origins are speculation based on available facts.

Now that we have that over with, lets look at some of the fine details of this machine.  For anyone that is curious, this photo session was done with the Canon 60D outfitted with the unworldly good Sigma 50mm f2.8 macro lens.

Confused Identity 1 on the Leather Strap
Confused Identity 2 Screwed on Side of Case
Confused Identity 3 below Lens Assembly.  This is the tension lock for the rail focal length adjustment.
Lens and Shutter Assembly in Normal Position.  Note ICA, COMPUR and Carl Zeiss Jena Logos.  The lever to the right of the lens cocks the shutter.  The release is the the small lever sticking out the bottom left.  The lens and shutter assembly screw out of the end of the bellows.  The advertisement at the end lists some available lenses.
Normal focal length extension.

Neat Tricks.  The entire assembly slides past the normal focus range to provide macro capability.  The silver thumb screw above and to the left of the lens adjusts the height.  The big knurled knob below the lens allows the entire yoke to slide left or right.  This machine is all about bending light to adjust for whatever is in the field.  The thumb wheel towards the bottom center of the photo runs a geared extension for the rails.

Full height and full length extension.  The bellows are amazingly supple for its age.

This is the standard viewfinder and bubble level.  The level is a nice detail.  The height adjustment screw is on the right.
About this hump:  this is an aftermarket roll film adapter.  I miss having the original plate holder, but this actually makes the camera a bit more functional.  I wonder what brand name would have been on the back?
The adapter includes a simple knife gate to expose the film.

For basic research on vintage cameras, my favorite spot is

The complicated story of the Donata name is explained in part at

The closest make and model I could find good information on is the Zeiss Ikon Ideal 225.  For a phenomenal writeup and photos on this beautiful camera, follow the link...

Jo Lommen's Classic Press Cameras

Original advertising.  Source:


  1. Wow! What a great camera! The details on it look awesome.

  2. This camera is a world unto itself. So many different aspects from every angle. Like an artful building.

    I imagine it would indeed be challenging to take pictures with this old baby, but I bet the results would be fascinating!

  3. I just got one of these from ebay and it came with 5 plates and a Rada Rollfilm Kassete, The kassette is much different then the one on you camera I sure the one I got is an after market one. I'm going to see if there is some way to adapt it to do wet plate collodion. very cool camera

  4. We have a couple of small tables in the house that are generally off limits to knick-knacks, newspapers, magazines, books, robot parts, typewriters and other Nerd debris. This camera is out on one of those tables just because it is so well put together.

    Word of caution: the screws on the lens yoke assembly (made up term, but hopefully close) do not have any travel stops. Once accidentally removed, they can be difficult to get back in.

    Good luck putting your camera to use!

  5. This is NOT a Zeiss Ideal- the Ideal's had a 'pop-on' film back, not one that slides in on the rails.
    The Donata was one of the Mid-grade cameras; the Ideal had a double extension bellows allowing for almost one-to-one closeup photography.
    A great camera, the Donata! ICA and Zeiss Ikon merged together, and I believe some ICA parts would wind up on Zeiss Ikon cameras... the plate screwed to the side of the camera is from a Voigtlander camera, same focal length 13.5 cm would give approximately the same Depth Of Field results (DOF).

  6. I've got an Ideal 225 that I picked as part of a job lot at an auction. I've opened it to try everything but now I can't seem to close it again. The lens will travel back to the infinity stop and won't go back into the body.
    I assume there's some trick but I just can't work it out,
    Can anybody help?


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