Zeiss Super Ikonta IV focus problem

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by Worker 11811, Sep 3, 2011.

  1. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have a Zeiss Super Ikonta IV. Everything works except the meter but that's not a problem. I have a Gossen meter that does the job.

    After shooting a few rolls I have noticed that the focus isn't always sharp. Sometimes it's blurry around the edges.

    I've been reading up and have found a couple of things that could give an answer but I'm looking for some confirmation.

    I read that you should not wind the film to the next frame until just before you plan to take a picture. If you close or open the bellows too fast, you create a vacuum that pulls the film out of the focal plane. Advancing the film AFTER you open the bellows puts tension on the film which ensures it lies flat in the gate.

    I'm not 100% convinced of that but it's easy enough to prove or disprove by experimentation. I'm running through a roll of film, right now, to test the theory.

    I also read that the rangefinder mechanism needs to be calibrated from time to time. It's easy enough to send it in for a CLA but I would, of course, like to avoid spending money unless it is necessary. (The camera is near mint. Probably only had a couple of rolls through it in its lifetime before I inherited it.)

    I'm pretty sure that the lens board is opening all the way and locking fully into position. The struts move smoothly and the bellows are in good condition.

    Strangely enough, the focus seems to be more out of calibration when set closer to infinity. That's sort of counter intuitive. Isn't it? You'd think focus is less critical when the lens is at infinity. Wouldn't you?

    I don't rule out the possibility that the problem lies, not in the camera, but in the idiot behind the camera.

    Rangefinder focusing just seems a bit finicky to me. You really have to pay attention and focus very carefully. I also have the bad habit of focusing then moving slightly before taking the shot. It's stupid but it's something I have always done, subconsciously, ever since I was a kid. I just have to buckle down and pay attention. Most of the time I can deal with it but, on a camera like this, my bad habits might be making the problem worse.

    So... Is it the camera? Is it me? Or, is this just par for the course with a folding rangefinder camera?
     
  2. polka

    polka Member

    Messages:
    67
    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Yes, I do this all the time : first unfold the camera and then spool the film to the next frame and then do the settings and shoot. But not only for the reason you give, also because the "wind" generated by unfolding could sometimes lift some "dirt" inside the camera and settle it on the film (yielding "black" spots - opposite of white spots due to dirt on the neg under the enlarger - or the scanner).

    As for "focusing errors", are you sure that these actually are ? i.e. that what you want in focus isn't but some other plane is ? Because my experience of such MF folders (a Moskva V - russian copy of the Super Ikonta) is that most often, lack of sharpness is due to "microscopic" movements caused either by "my nervousness" or by tiny vibrations of the lensboard on shutter release (paradoxically, these vibrations may have a strong effect at the fastest shutter speed of 1/250, because the shutter springs of these old compur designs are then pulled very taut). To damp these vibrations, I use to hold both the lensboard (with one hand) and the body of the camera (with the other).

    Bye, Paul
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 4, 2011
  3. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    So, if I read you correctly, you're saying that these types of cameras are just finicky when it comes to the way they focus. Right?

    I can see where that can happen. With a larger format, a longer lens and a wider film plane depth of field/zone of focus can be a lot shallower, making focusing more critical. Since I grew up on 35mm SLRs with TTL focusing, I probably need to reprogram my brain to shoot with a rangefinder system. I'll just have to be more conscious about my focusing and pay attention to the scales more often. (i.e. If what I read on the focus/DOF scales doesn't jive with what my brain tells me should be in focus, I probably need to have the rangefinder adjusted.)

    I will also consider using slower shutter speeds to test your theory about vibrations caused by the shutter springs. I have been trying to stay at 1/125 or above because common sense tells us that we should use a shutter speed that is greater than the reciprocal of the focal length when we hand-hold the camera. I can try 1/60 on a tripod. I can also try steadying the lens with the hand to dampen vibrations.

    Maybe I just need more time to grok this rangefinder thing.
     
  4. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,168
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The DOF scales may have been designed with contact prints or small enlargements in mind.

    The concern about opening the camera after winding would be more likely to affect sharpness at the centre than at the edges..

    Try it on a tripod or steady, flat surface to see if the problem is with camera movement.

    Is the edge sharpness more of a problem at certain apertures? If so, it may be an issue with the lens (excess spherical aberrations?).
     
  5. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I usually shoot at apertures between ƒ-8 and ƒ-11, avoiding ƒ-16 and ƒ-22 when possible. When shooting 400 speed film is is rarely necessary to go larger than ƒ-8 or ƒ-5.6.

    Basically, I try to stay away from smaller ƒ-numbers to prevent narrow DOF problems and I try to avoid larger ƒ-numbers to prevent diffraction around the aperture blades.

    The lens LOOKS clear around the edges. Although the camera is 55 years old, it is in good condition. It was stored in its original box with original packaging, additionally stored inside a military ammo box with the lid sealed shut. The ammo box was kept in the back of a closet in an upstairs bedroom of the house. This is probably as close to ideal as the average person can get. No?

    Unless there is something wrong with the camera that the average person can't easily detect, I'm pretty sure that it works as well, today, as it did when it was new. I have only put five rolls of film through the camera and have had very few problems at all. Counting the times I've used it, I can't imagine the thing has been fed more than a dozen rolls of film in its lifetime.

    The only thing wrong with it is that the meter doesn't read correctly. It works but reads a couple of stops low but, since I can't count on the error to be linear, I can't say, for instance, that the meter always reads N-stops low, etc. Instead, I just use a handheld. This is par for the course, given the camera's age. I don't see any reason to spend money repairing the meter unless there is something else wrong with it. At this point, I don't know for sure. As much as I would love to send the camera in for cleaning and calibration, I don't have the money to spend right now.

    If I could prove that there was something on the camera that needed to be fixed, I could see fit to give a higher priority to repairing it.

    What's a good way to test the camera? Run a roll of film through it, taking pictures of things like a picket fence from known distances, with different combinations of shutter and aperture then analyze the resulting negatives?
     
  6. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,168
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yep, that is a good method.

    As in something like the attached.

    Focusing tests should involve both large and small apertures.

    If you have access to good E6 processing, it will give you the most accurate check on exposure.
     

    Attached Files:

  7. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

    Messages:
    1,491
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2010
    Location:
    Santa Fe, NM
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    If it's the Tessar lens, then it will not be sharp until about f/11 and higher towards the corners of the 6x9 negative. You'll find that it behaves like a 6x7 when opened up and then a 6x9 when stopped down in terms of corner-to-corner sharpness. I've dealt a lot with these cameras as a backpacking companion and can say that was a very common experience with many different brands and lenses.

    Outside of advancing the film in the methods aforementioned, also be absolutely certain that the lens and shutter is parallel to the film. I've seen a many that it ever so slightly isn't completely parallel and makes both ends slightly out of focus.

    Lastly, if it is a problem with the RF, they're quite simple and I could email you instructions on that. I've taken apart and rebuilt close to ten 6x9 folders, including that model.

    Best bet: Tessar lens design.

    That's just my $.02
     
  8. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

    Messages:
    541
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    Location:
    Bothell, WA
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Super Ikontasmuse front cell focusing - when you focus, you only move the front most cell of glass compares to other cameras where the entire lens moves (or the paper moves ala the Mamiya Six rangefinders). Front cell focusing involves a sharpness compromise either in close or far away. On my SI IV (and normal ones as I understand it) the camera is shaper at infinity than it is when near focused. Mine is very soft when shot wide open with a near by subject and I haven't found a lens adjustment which can fix this.

    A few tests to narrow down you issue.

    First, when focused at infinity and looking at something really far away, do the images line up? If not, I'd take a look at why before dong anything else. The rangefinder may simply be off.

    If it is accurate, I'd move on to checking the lens. Open the back of the camera, and price of frosted glass, tape or something else which will show you the projected image in place against the back of the camera. Set the camera to B and try focusing near and far. When is and isn't it in focus? This should generally match the results you see while shooting. If this looks off , the lens itself may need to be adjusted.

    Just keep in mind that something is going to be soft due to the lens design and how they implemented focusing.

    Edit: Yes, you generally need to be shooting at a higher shutter speed than smaller formats to deal with camera movement blur or using a tripod. I try to shoot at leat as 250 when possible. Note that different rules apply for the Moskva cameras as the shutters themselves generate shake at the highest shutter speeds.
     
  9. polka

    polka Member

    Messages:
    67
    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Not only the Moskva, all the folders with old design Deckel Compurs. I own a Rodenstock Citonette : a 645 folder dated 1934, with 75mm/2.9 lens mounted on such a shutter and am often disappointed with pictures taken at 1/250, even when holding them in my special way, with both hands - 1/100 and lower speeds seem OK.

    And I agree strongly with this :

    I had several folders which I had to adjust for this !

    Paul
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 5, 2011
  10. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    So, then, it seems like you are saying that I'm expecting more from this camera than it was designed to give. No?

    That doesn't mean I am overly disappointed but I need to adjust my expectations.

    I am still doing my tests. The weather has been cloudy in the last few days. I've got a few more shots that will have to wait until it is sunny outside.

    In the mean time, can anybody tell me what I should expect? What market, what kind of photography was this camera aimed at?

    Tourist and vacation shots, etc.?
     
  11. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

    Messages:
    1,491
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2010
    Location:
    Santa Fe, NM
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I think the Super Ikontas were aimed at the travelling professional. At the time, the lens and build were really quite stunning. They weren't really cheap either when you compare them to other folders at the time (see: Kodak).

    I'm interested in seeing your test rolls. It sounds like there's enough of us folder enthusiast here to get this riddle solved. Film tight, lens parallel to film, shot the same shot at f/8 and f/22 and see if that helps.

    Enjoy! I dearly miss mine =/
     
  12. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just looking at the distance scale on the lens ring, I see that it goes from 4 feet to 48 feet, then to infinity.
    So I imagine that these distances are the range that the camera was designed to shoot. From about twice arm's length to the other side of the street. While the camera is probably capable of shooting photos somewhat closer than 4 feet (but not by much) and you can certainly shoot a landscape with it, pictures like this just seem to be outside its "sweet spot."
     
  13. polka

    polka Member

    Messages:
    67
    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Before the boom of japanese mass market rangefinder cameras with luminous lenses (the early seventies) most european mass market cameras (even the famous Zeiss and al. german P&S) had front lens focusing, and I believe that with rather compact - not very open - few elements - lenses, this kind of focusing should be "rather acceptable" within the range of focusing they allowed.

    My Moskva, like the SuperIkonta it copied, uses front lens focusing and yields to my opinion fairly sharp pictures. Idem, my Rodenstock 645 Citonette folder.

    Paul
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  16. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

    Messages:
    829
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    Shropshire,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi Randy,

    I'm a bit confused by the model you've got - there is talk in the thread about 6 X 9, but isn't the Super Ikonta IV a 6 X 6 with a 75mm Tessar lens???

    I have several Zeiss Ikon folders, but not that particular model. My Ikonta is a 'B', which is simpler.

    I am also sceptical about the 'bellows suction' idea. I have read it too - but I've never been able to demonstrate it in practice. As I type I have a Zeiss Nettax on the desk in front of me. It is similar to the Ikonta IV, I think, with a meter but a simpler Novar lens and no range finder. The film frame has rails top and bottom to support the edges of the film - and rollers at the sides. The vertical edges of the frame are recessed by a good millimetre and there is also at least a millimetre gap between these and the rollers. Consequently, there is plenty of room for air to pass - no way could the film form an air seal. So, I don't believe it - maybe on a cheaper badly designed camera - not on a Zeiss Ikon folder.

    I am usually very happy with the sharpness of the pictures from these cameras. Even the simple Novar lens can turn in a reasonably sharp picture provided you aren't expecting a 30" blow up from a hand held grab shot.

    My own experience is that people often dismantle the front element to clean it and don't check the infinity focus when they refit it.
    Rangefinders often need adjustment (I don't have any folder with a coupled rangefinder, but several uncoupled and 'accessory' types).

    If I were you, the very first thing I would do is get (or make) a piece of ground glass that fits across the film gate, resting on the film supports at the top and bottom. I made a small glass square for this purpose and ground the surface, it is a very useful tool. Took me about 15 minutes to make.

    Place the camera on a tripod and in the bright sunlight focus on an object at a measured 10 feet away at full aperture, holding the ground glass in place under a dark-cloth. A loup of magnifying lens helps. Does the lens scale show exactly 10 feet? Secondly, does the rangefinder agree with the lens scale and with your visual check on the ground glass? You then need to repeat this for infinity.

    Many of the cameras of this type that have come into my possession (I have about twenty 6 X 6 folders) have failed this test - but fixing them is usually very simple, often 5 minutes with a jewellers screwdriver is all you need to reset the focus. A coupled rangefinder would be more difficult, but first step would be to determine if this is the problem.
     
  17. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,034
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Location:
    Sweden/Germany
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I think Steves' advice is spot on. There is a lot of variables in this setup, making it difficult to source what's wrong.

    Try do a few shots on a tripod at least, as you've said that you often move the camera when you press the trigger (I know I do too). Use bigger apertures than f22, because at that point you are going to be close to the diffraction limits. At a shallower depth of field you'll see more clearly if it is out of focus, too.
     
  18. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

    Messages:
    829
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    Shropshire,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Certainly doesn't look 'too terrible' to me!

    It is difficult to tell more without knowing how far away the writing on the fallen tree is. F22 should give quite a depth of field with a 75mm lens (if that is what it is?). The hyperfocal distance is 11 ft 5 inches, according to my trusty tables. In this case - the picture should be sharp to infinity, but it appears it isn't. This might be because the focus is a bit off, but might also be because the sea is moving too much for the shutter speed, though? It's hard to tell. Is the log a bit shaper as you move to the right of the writing (nearer to the camera)? Or am I kidding myself?

    Best test shot for this sort of thing is to put the camera on a good solid tripod and shoot down the length of a road with trees or lamp posts or parked cars stretching into the distance. This way you eliminate movement of both the camera and the scenery as a source of unsharpness. A fine grain film and a bigger aperture helps, too.
     
  19. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes, the Super Ikonta IV is 6x6.

    I forgot the distance that the camera "thought" it was shooting from but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 feet. Yes, that's the thing that puzzles me, too. I thought the background should be more in focus with the aperture at ƒ-22. I should expect things in the 4-foot range to be out of focus. Right? However, the area that I noticed that wasn't in sharp focus before was nearer the left and right edges. That's why I composed it the way you see. The logs that run off the left and right edges are the focus of this test shot. Given that it was shot at ƒ-22, I would expect there to be some fuzziness due to diffraction around the aperture. It was a bright, sunny day and I was shooting Tri-X 400.

    That is the best exposure I could get under the conditions. The Synchro-Compur lens only gives you a couple-three choices to work with at this exposure. You're literally bumping up against the limits of the mechanism. I suppose I could manually choose aperture/shutter combinations but I'm not sure that will give me any more headroom. I'll need to get some lower speed film.

    Right now, 400 is all I have on hand. The local store has a limited stock of 120 film. I'll have to order it. I'll have to wait until my next paycheck comes.

    I'm not completely convinced that advancing the film after opening the bellows has any benefit, either, but there is essentially no cost to doing it that way. I'll try to keep it in mind but, if I forget, I'll won't be worried about it. Furthermore, opening the bellows and advancing the film in random order on the same roll of film would be the ultimate acid test for the theory. Wouldn't it? I'm sure that some cameras like 6x7s would be more susceptible to the problem and, if there is any effect in my camera, it would be minimal. I'm basically going to just file this idea in the back of my brain and see what happens.

    I've got one more roll of film, still in the camera. I think I'm going to use the rest of it to do set-up still life shots or something, using a tripod and cable release.

    The jury is still out on whether to send the camera for CLA. I'm sure the rangefinder could use some calibration but I've got so many cameras that need it and my funds are so limited. It's hard to decide which ones to get repaired. However, this one is near the top of the list, right now.
     
  20. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,071
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Another reason to advance film just prior to shooting... Dust from the bellows as you travel and open and close. (Solve/troubleshoot this by taking two shots).
     
  21. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,091
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2010
    Location:
    Castle Rock,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If I was D.B Cooper, I'd call you just to get a look at your camera. That pic is great.

    This may sound stupid, but my Zeiss Ikonta B (zone focuser, earlier model than yours) measures in meters, not feet. Did they change for later models?
     
  22. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Opening the bellows before you turn the knob is such a trivial thing to do. Even if there is little difference or even no difference at all, the solution is so simple and virtually without cost that there is no reason not to do it.

    I will try to remember to operate the camera in that order but, if I forget... what the hell?
    As time goes on and I get more and more pictures out of the camera, I'll see whether it makes a difference.

    It's good to have knowledge and understand the possible ramifications of doing things a certain way versus another but you have to keep things in perspective. Right?
     
  23. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    More Photos

    Scanned a couple more pictures:

    In my Flickr set:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/randystankey/sets/72157627540697735/


    I don't think there's really a problem with it, per se. It could probably use a CLA and the rangefinder likely needs calibrated but, to be honest, I don't think there's anything majorly wrong.

    I think it's just the way this camera works. It's a rangefinder camera. It just "sees" the world in a different way than I understand it to. I've shot, literally, 90% of my life with SLR cameras. I just need to learn how to see the way the camera sees.

    With that in mind, I do think I tried to push the camera out of its intended purpose. I'm thinking the same as others have mentioned. The Ikonta was made for the traveller or the tourist. Although the camera won't take great pictures in every situation, if you learn how to use it, you can take pictures in many situations.

    Would I use a pitching wedge to drive off the tee? Would I try to race a minivan in the Indy 500? Well, okay, those are silly examples but they illustrate my point.

    I need to learn how to work with the camera and not push it to do things it wasn't made to do.

    You can't use a Japanese calligraphy brush to paint a house. :wink:
     
  24. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

    Messages:
    829
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    Shropshire,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't think it is due to the age of the model - I think they stuck on a focussing ring to suit the country in which the cameras were sold.

    Most of my folding cameras are 'UK' models, so they are always in feet. A few I've bought on eBay from elsewhere in Europe are in metres. I have two Agfa Isolettes, about the same vintage. Virtually identical, except the German model is in metres and the UK version is in feet.
     
  25. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,626
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    BTW: Thanks!... If I didn't say so, sorry. I often get tunnel vision when I'm concentrating on something.

    Presque Isle is a great place for picture taking. It would be a good place to have a photography meet. I'll be sure to bring the Ikonta!

    I've got several other cameras that I still need to get out and blow the dust off.
    There'll probably be more posts like this coming along soon.

    Thanks for everybody's help, so far! It makes a big difference! :cool:
     
  26. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,071
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Doesn't the Ikonta have a double-exposure prevention? My 6x9 does, it helps make it practical to wind just before shooting.