Zeiss Ikon is a German company that was formed in 1926 by the merger of four camera makers (Contessa-Nettel, Ernemann, Goerz and Ica), and an infusion of capital by Zeiss[1] The company formed one part of the Carl Zeiss Foundation, another part being the optical company Carl Zeiss. Logically, most of the Zeiss Ikon cameras were equipped with Carl Zeiss lenses and the formerly independent companies, in particular Goerz, had to shut down their own lens manufacture. The merged company was also obliged to use Compur shutters for 80% of its cameras. Thus only the simplest cameras could get cheaper shutters like the Klio. Soon AG Hahn für Optik und Mechanik, Kassel, and Goerz Photochemisches Werk GmbH, Berlin, joined the Zeiss Ikon syndicate. The group became one of the big companies in the phototechnical capital Dresden, with plants in Stuttgart and Berlin. Until WWII Zeiss Ikon was the world's market leading maker of 8mm movie cameras.

West Germany: Zeiss Ikon AG Stuttgart[]

Camera industry in Stuttgart
Contessa | Contessa-Nettel | Drexler & Nagel | Ebner | Kenngott | Kodak AG | G. A. Krauss | Nagel | Zeiss Ikon

After World War II Zeiss Ikon was split into a West-German and an East-German part. It was reformed in West Germany, and trademark disputes followed with the part that was left in East Germany. Stuttgart became the company's domicile. Zeiss Ikon merged in the mid 1960s with Voigtländer, another important German manufacturer that was controlled by the Zeiss Foundation since 1956. The product lines of Zeiss Ikon Stuttgart were different from the East German company's products. The Ikophot light meters were made in Stuttgart.

Zeiss Ikon ceased the production of cameras in 1972. It was a terrible shock for all the German camera industry. Parts of the Zeiss Ikon product line then went to Rollei, and part of the know-how was used to revive the Contax name in collaboration with the Japanese maker Yashica.

East Germany: VEB Zeiss Ikon Dresden[]

Camera industry in Dresden
Balda | Certo | Eho-Altissa | Ernemann | Feinmess | Hüttig | ICA | Ihagee | Kochmann | Kerman | KW | Eugen Loeber | Ludwig | Mentor | Mimosa | Pentacon | Richter | Werner | Wünsche | Zeiss Ikon | Zeh
Camera distributors in Dresden
Camera industry in Freital
Beier | Pouva | Thowe | Welta

Postwar production began early in May 1945. But it was interrupted because several factories were closed for dismantling their production machines. The machines were given as reparation to the soviet camera makers which had suffered demolition during the war. The production of the sophisticated Contax rangefinder cameras was prepared in Dresden and relaunched with new machines in Jena before all the machines were transferred to Soviet camera maker Kiev. In 1948 the East German part of Zeiss Ikon became state owned. Production and development of Ernemann projectors and movie cameras were continued from 1949. Camera production was continued in 1947 with the Tenax and the Ikonta models. Soon the company's stock of leaf shutters was running out. In 1950 it could produce its own shutters since it took over the shutter production of Balda and the shutter factory of Mimosa. In 1952 the Tempor was Zeiss Ikon's first own leaf shutter development, followed in 1954 by the Prestor, the fastest leaf shutter at this time.

In 1948 the company could introduce its advanced SLR model, the Contax S. Since there were suits about trade mark names with the West-German Zeiss Ikon AG, VEB Zeiss Ikon was renamed to VEB Kinowerke Dresden in 1958. Later it became the main part of the East German combinate Pentacon.

After German reunification[]

Today Carl Zeiss is reviving the Zeiss Ikon name. The new Zeiss Ikon camera, introduced at the 2004 Photokina show, is a rangefinder camera compatible with Leica M-mount, developed in Germany and built by Cosina in Japan (with lenses made in both Japan and Germany, like those for the Contax G1 and G2).


Interchangeable Lens Rangefinder[]



Fixed Lens[]



Together with Voigtländer:


120 film[]


  • Bob 510 (alternative name for Nettar 510)
  • Nettar
  • Nettar II
  • Nettax
  • Icarette
  • Cocarette
  • Ikonta
  • Super Ikonta A
  • Super Ikonta B
  • Super Ikonta C
  • Super Ikonta III
  • Super Ikonta IV



127 film[]

  • Baby Box Tengor
  • Ikonette (folding, 127, c.1929)
  • Ikonta 3x4 (Baby Ikonta)
  • Kolibri
  • Piccolette
  • V.P. Icarette

Other film[]

  • Nixe A & B
  • Baby Cocarette

Plate models[]

Folding bed[]

  • Maximar A (6.5×9) & B (9×12)
  • Ideal 250/3 (6.5×9cm)
  • Ideal 250/7 (9×12cm)
  • Ideal 250/9 (10×15cm)
  • Ideal 250/11 (13×18cm)
  • Ideal 225 (9×12cm)
  • Onito 127/6 (9x12cm)
  • Trona (9×12)
  • Trix / Orix (10×15)
  • Universal Juwel A (9×12) & B (13×18)
  • Volta (9×12)

Strut folding[]

VEB Zeiss Ikon (Zeiss Ikon East)[]

35mm SLR[]

35mm Fixed Lens[]

120 folder[]

  • Ercona / Ercona II

Zeiss Ikon / Cosina[]

  • Zeiss Ikon ZM (rangefinder)
  • Zeiss Ikon SW

Light Meters[]

Notes and references[]

  1. Reputedly, the word Ikon came from ICA and Contessa-Nettel, two of the constituents in the merger. Other sources claim that it is derived from the Greek, meaning image/picture.


  • Barringer, C. and Small, M. Zeiss Compendium East and West. 1940–1972. UK: Hove Books, 2nd edition, 1999. ISBN 1874707243.
  • Tubbs, D. B. Zeiss Ikon Cameras. 1926-39. UK: Hove Books, 1993. 190 pages. ISBN 1874707014.


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