The old adage says, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” Of late, nine times out of ten, that been my EOS 1D Mark III, or failing that, my iPhone 4. I’ve been longing to shoot more medium format film outside of the studio, but as much as I love my Mamiya RB67 ProSD, I’ve never really been thrilled with it’s weight.
A friend had suggested I pick up a Holga 120, but I wanted something that afforded actual control over the image. A few months ago, browsing randomly through a flickr discussion group, I stumbled across the concept of the folding camera — in the early 20th century, medium format folding cameras dominated the consumer market, offering a large film negative in a camera that fit in a jacket pocket. Scouring craigslist, I’d found an Ansco Speedex (an Agfa Isolette in Ansco clothing), but a constellation of pinhole leaks in the bellows and, more importantly, a stuck lens triplet (stuck even worse after I galled the threads trying to fix it) make it a conversation piece, not a useable camera.
A few weeks later, I found a bargain Zeiss Ikon Ikonta, listed as a 524/16 on eBay. What I received was a 523/16 (the difference being that the 524 has an uncoupled rangefinder, whereas the 523 has a simple composing window), but it worked (as long as the Prontor SV shutter is set faster than 1/25th of a second) and it included two rolls of Agfa Optima II, one of which was already loaded. The 75mm f/3.5 Novar lens is very sharp and, near as I can tell, perfect.
Although I’m unsure of my camera’s manufacturing date, the Ikonta 523/16 was only produced between 1954 and 1956 and seems to be relatively uncommon.
Either way, I’m just happy to have a fantastic 6×6 camera that fits in my back pocket (and when it’s not in my back pocket, it cohabitates, with my 1D Mark III, in my Domke FX-5B man purse.