Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16.

Ok, and here it is my first 120mm camera purchase.

I found this beauty on the way home in a shop that sell antiques,  I can’t resist to the camera and of course the excepcional low price (after a few minutes of negotiations with the seller). It was a great deal, after checking the price in various websites.

Let’s move in on to the important part, the camera himself…

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 folding camera made in Stuttgart by the famous Zeiss Ikon company. It used medium format 120 film with negatives measuring 6cm x 6cm. It was, in its day, a very high quality camera that used medium format 120 film, though it was the size of a 35mm.

According this source, this specific model it was manufactured in Stuttgart –  Germany, between (month ?)/1949-Dec./1959.


  • 120mm film in 6×6 format
  • Novar-Anastigmat Lens 1:4.5 f=75mm
  • Vario Shutter
  • Aperture: f4.5-22
  • Shutter: B, 1/25, 1/75, 1/200 sec.
  • Double exposure prevention (you can defeat this by using a cable release with the socket on the lens instead of the body shutter release)
  • Manual film advance with red window

A 400 ASA film is best advised when using the Nettar 518/16.

Tthat is because the speed range is rather limited by today’s standards. Speeds range from 1/25 – 1/75 – 1/200 sec. plus B. You should always remember that the lens is a 75mm, so shooting at 1/25 involves a risk of shaking the camera. This leaves you with two speeds that you can work safely with, 1/75 sec. and 1/200 sec.

The fully manual operation, with no built in meter and no built in focus/rangefinder forces you to slow down and think before you click the shutter release. You have to run through a mental checklist (estimate or meter exposure, estimate distance, compose, cock the shutter, release) for each picture, and so while You only get twelve exposures, You can be sure that You thought hard about each and every one of them. Hopefully the discipline will help  even with more automated cameras.

The Nettar 518/16 has a double exposure prevention mechanism which is very handy. A red flag appears in the finder and you cannot press the shutter button without winding the film.


I have not yet photographed with this camera, so I can not have a proper conclusion of myself, but I can leave here two opinions that I have found on the web.

(…) wonderful piece of old mechanical technology that produces great results once some thought is applied.

If you are looking for an inexpensive entry to medium format photography, this is the way to go. Image quality is really really good between f/5.6 – f/11, it is build like a tank with very few things that can break and you can always have it with you due to it’s small size. My only complain is the limited speed range and the lack of a rangefinder, so it might be a good idea to buy and external one.
All in all, a very nice camera and if you find it for anything less than £50 buy it and you won’t regret.

18 responses to “Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16.

  1. Hi Ricardo, sounds like you got a bargain 🙂 I didn’t know that Zeiss made cameras in Stuttgart. Zeiss is based in Jena, but at that time there was the wall and some companies were “copied” by putting an additional word to the company’s name. It was just after Germany was divided and there were many issues, also with the film producing company I cannot recall the name right now. Very interesting.

    • Hi Ute, thank You for all info.

      The fact you’re completely right, I was surprised too. To know this models are maded in Stuttgart and I can confirm that on the back of the camera has printed “Made in Germany – Stuttgart”. I have not found more valuable information on the web if this is really true but I belive like You said, before the wall the Zeiss was based in Stuttgart and manufacture the cameras on their.

      About film production, it’s the very first time I’m knowing they was manufactured film and they’ve some issues with that.

      Always learning… 🙂

      Thank You and regards.

  2. Congratulations on your purchase. I’m looking forward to seeing a few shots! Sooner or later I will buy a medium format camera too…

    • Thank You, Susi.

      When I have some pics to post here, I’ll open a new category called “Gallery”, with the info in the pics on which camera and film that it was taken. 🙂

      After, let me know which medium format camera You buy, ok? 🙂

      Kind Regards, and thanks for the comment.

    • Join the club. 😀 I can’t wait to see how’s the quality of the pics of this camera. I hope the lens is in perfect shape (that’s my concern by now). It seems like in a good conditions but never knows, right? Praying that all it’s just fine. 🙂

      Kind Regards, thank You for the comment.

  3. I’ve got one very, very similar. I love it. First time I used it was in the studio, sadly I couldn’t get it to sync with our lights so had to get my model to stand very still and turn the lamps up full.
    How much did you pay for it? Got mine in an Oxfam for £35 works perfectly (other than the light thing, but I believe that had nothing to do with the camera)

    • Hi, Amy. This is a very limited camera on specs as You can see in the article, for sure You can’t do a great work with her on studio, but outdoors I can bet the quality of pics are really great and I’m anxious to see the final results.

      About the price?… I can tell You, I’ve paid £10 less than You paid for your camera. 😉

      Kind Regards and thank for the comment.

  4. I have just obtained this camera myself from a flea market for very cheap – in great condition. I’m eager to use it, but don’t understand how you advance the film? Help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Open the back, the empty spool goes on the side where the winding knob is, the roll of film goes on the other side, break the little paper seal on the film and pull the “lip” of the film to the empty spool, tuck it into the slot, wind it a bit so it holds a doesn’t slip out, close the back and look in the red window. Wind the knob until you see “1”. Shoot your picture, wind to the next number and so on.

      Here it is the camera manual here.

      Hope it helps You.


  5. I have my fathers camera that looks just like brand new.
    It is a Nettar has a leather case which still smells as if it has just been bought..
    My Father passed away in 1963 and the Camera was purchased by him in 1959.

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