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An overview of early Zeiss related Cameras

This unique camera is made of rare woods and brass and was classified as a detective camera by its manufacturer, Wuensche of Dresden.  Wuensche was a predecessor company of Ica which merged into Zeiss Ikon in 1926.The History of Zeiss Ikon extends back to 1862 with the founding of the firm Hüttig. In those days the manufactures of cameras were most likely to be cabinet makers. The lenses were very simple and limited in resolution. However, the later cameras became very exotic with plenty of brass and exotic woods.

This camera was developed and marketed by the firm of Wünsche in a small town of Reika outside of what would become the camera capital of the world in Dresden. Wünsche made some fairly exotic film exchange methods as did other companies which were merged into the firm of Ica in 1909 and later into Zeiss Ikon in 1926.

These days can find these cameras mostly in European museums and exclusive private collections.


A Single Lens Reflex camera from the 1915-1925 era made by the famoous firm of Ernemann of  Dresden which was merged into Zeiss Ikon in 1926.By 1910 or so, most camera companies were moving away from wood to either wood and leather or metal covered with leather. The use of bellows were became more and more common along with scientifically computed lenses and more moving parts.

This example is a single lens reflex camera that focuses via a moveable bellows and has another collapsing bellows to eliminate extraneous light to the viewing ground glass via a mirror that moves when the film is exposed. This is a typical camera design from 1910-1930. This was made by the firm of Ernemann which was also in Dresden and merged into Zeiss Ikon in 1926.

Ernemann was a leading maker of cinematic equipment both amateur and professional. It brought the professional line of such equipment to the merger into Zeiss Ikon and this of business continued to contribute heavily to the growth of the company in the bad economic times of the 1920s.

Ernemann had its own lens design and manufacturing divisions within the company but relied heavily on the leading lens designers of C.P. Goerz and Carl Zeiss Jena which had the major portion of the market. However, Ernemann employed young designer, Ludwig Bertele, who would revolutionize the photographic industry with his high speed Ernostar lens. He later contributed the Sonnar and Biogon families of lenses to Zeiss Ikon.


This is the Nettel camera originally made by the firm of Contessa Nettel and made after the merger with Zeiss Ikon until the late 1930s.The firm of Contessa Nettel was a major exception to the rule of camera manufacturers in Dresden. Under the direction of Dr. August Nagel, the firm made very innovative cameras that were incorporated into the Zeiss Ikon early catalog.

This is a popular focal plane camera that was trademarked as the Nettel. It was widely used as a press camera because of its portability and quick use viewfinder.

Nagel did the groundwork to create the basic camera that evolved into the Super Ikonta family of rangefinder cameras but he left Zeiss Ikon soon after the merger to form his own company.

Focal plane cameras such as these led to the migration to 35 mm/miniature cameras since the shutter was so compact. The Leica would use this rubberized cloth shutter on a horizontal plane while the Contax would use a metal shutter on a vertical plane.



The Contax camera was a breakthrough of tremendous proportions in 1932.  As a rangefinder camera, it evolved from 1932 until 1960 when the modern 35 mm SLR dominated the market.The Contax camera was developed by Zeiss Ikon and marketed in 1932. It was the first system camera with a wide range of interchangeable lenses and numerous accessories for commercial, scientific as well as general photography.

It featured bayonet mounted lenses from Carl Zeiss Jena which were among the most progressive and successful of the time. This picture shows also an accessory viewfinder that was optical but featured self-contained interchangeable elements that represented the view major available lenses and adjusted for parallax.

This is just a short survey of some historical cameras that were associated with Zeiss Ikon, the predecessor companies and Carl Zeiss Jena optics.


Our site is comprised of the following pages. Click on the name of each area to go to that page:

1. An overview of historical Zeiss Companies and a list of their collectibles
2. Our Zeiss Historica Publications
3. A sample article - The Contax camera's migration to Kiev, Ukraine
4. A second sample article - An unusual Contax I
5. An index to all of our published articles
6. Links to other interesting web sites related to Zeiss and photography
7. Membership Information
8. Famous Zeiss Designers and Personalities


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