#14: Medium Format: The Rangefinder of ’51

It was some weeks ago that I decided the Hasselblad needs to be replaced as my go-to medium format camera. I have no fun in focusing with the waist level finder, and taking the prism finder out for a walk is ridiculous. I bought a bright focusing screen and now I have more focus failures than ever because I need a split screen. With a Nikon F4, on the other hand, I can even focus with an ancient 135/2.8 non-Ai attached. Wide open. With kids hopping around.


Needs time, love and understanding: The 500 C/M (First three: Nikon  F2, 55/3.5, Silvermax)

In “My Personal Holga” I wrote about the Agfa Isolette, which is nice, but focusing with it needs the ability to guess the distance right. Is it 1.2 meters or 1.5 meters? Or even 1.7 meters? I’m bad with such things and I don’t like to bother when I need to be inspired.


The Isolette, easy to handle when you’ve correctly guessed the distance

So first I wanted a Fuji 645 – there are several types of them. My favorite choice would be model with the 45mm Fujinon. But somehow looking for a model wasn’t successful. Then I came across the pictures of a hand reconstructive surgeon from Japan who likes to photograph with old medium format cameras. Especially during his trips on a motorbike.

So I decided to get a Super Ikonta, the one with the Zeiss T* coating, because I really like what it does to the Hasselblad lenses.


The 533/16, solid and collapsable

Two sites for further information:

I had to buy it twice. The first model I bought came from Prague and pressing the shutter needed so much force that camera shake blur was inevitable. Plus, the focusing system was so deranged that adjusting it on infinity made the system focus on the area around your feet. So the seller had to take it back.

The second one finally is a success. Smooth shutter action and mechanical system, clean rangefinder glass, the focus is properly adjusted. The selenium light meter has given up working a long time ago, but that was to be expected, more than sixty years after it was made. I am used to work with light meters anyway and most of the time I like to take a general reading and then rely on my own judgements dealing with exposure compensation. 

After some test shots (I show them at the end, together with the out of focus test shots with the Super Ikonta from Prague) I gave it a try and took it with me to the finals of the Chess League. The Zeiss was loaded with Tri-X 400, pushed to 1600. Some of the frames are cropped, I find the results more interesting like this.

I also took the Olympus XA with me and some Delta400. The more I tried different angles and close-ups the more I like the results on 35mm film with this lens. The more traditional frames have not that certain something.

Some test shots with the first model of the Ikonta 533/16: The first one was focussed on infinity. Another picture shows the tower, which I was focusing on. Or the white car.

Test shots with the second model of the Zeiss 533/16.

I also give one example with Portra 400. The focus is not spot on here, but this was my fault, because I was sitting right in front of the man and couldn’t get farther away than this. So I fell below the closest possible focusing distance. But I have other examples which show the quality. Haven’t scanned them yet and will add another example later.


William (+ a Canon A-1), showing his photos of the  Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (shot with Ektar)- the face is a little soft, but the shirt is sharp 😉


Pollux on 52rolls:

10 thoughts on “#14: Medium Format: The Rangefinder of ’51

    • Thanks! Yes, I did push process them. Shot on -2 EV (ISO 1600) and developed the film in Xtol stock or Xtol 1+1, I guess (or Microphen, I’ve got to check the glassine covers for the negatives).


    • I see, but in practice I find the Super Ikonta much easier to use than say the Hasselblad or the RZ 67 Pro II. Different story with the Fujifilm 645 though. They are hard to beat considering the handling. First class. Lately I had the chance to hold a Mamiya 7 in my hands. Could well be a cam for me, but the 43mm alone is so expensive it’s just not worth the effort for me.

      Liked by 1 person

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