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1939: Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex III

When the German Zeiss Ikon company introduced the first Ikoflex twin lens reflex (TLR) in 1934, it was nicknamed the Coffee Can, due to its unusual shape. There followed a series of new models that took the more conventional Rolleiflex look-alike style adopted by most TLR manufacturers. But then came the super-stylish Ikoflex III.


At its core, the Ikoflex follows the conventional TLR design: two lenses, one to take the picture the other to reflect its image up to a large focusing screen on top; Tessar shooting lens; shutter speeds of 1-1/200sec and apertures of f/2.8-f/22 set on levers around the shooting lens and displayed in windows above the viewing lens; 120 size rollfilm wound by a crank; 6x6cm images; shutter released by a side-mounted lever. What sets the camera apart from its contemporaries is the large albada viewfinder mounted in the focusing hood.


Seen from the front, an albada viewfinder is a mirror (ideal for the 1930s equivalent of a selfie). Viewed through an eyepiece in the back of the viewfinder hood, the finder is semi-silvered. That means you can see through it while also seeing reflections in it. The refection it sees is of a square frame etched onto the inside of the back of the hood.


So, as well a large ground-glass screen for waist-level viewing, the photographer also has an amazingly large eye-level viewfinder that shows the scene being photographed with a pale yellow frame superimposed over it to indicate the actual picture area.


According to a Zeiss Ikon booklet, published in the UK in 1939, supplies were expected at the end of June. Given that Britain went to war with Germany less than three months later, it is doubtful that went to plan.

Left above: The very stylish Ikoflex III

Left below: How the eye-level viewfinder frames the subject

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