Spot the difference…


(Answer now beneath the photos)
ONE of these was shot with Canon 5D MkII and 24-70 f2.8L lens, combined price about $4,000. The other was shot with a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 517/16 folding camera from about 1948, e-bay price less than $40. I’ve cropped the digital shot into a square but otherwise they are both processed as I would normally.

But can you tell which is which?

ANSWER: The top version is film. Orio over at MFlenses.com cleverly detected that the compression of the blue colour palette was symptomatic of UV washing out the blues on film where a UV filter has not been used. In the digital version, the range of blue tones is more realistic. The ancient camera didn’t do badly, though.

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About ambientimages

Paul Cowan is a former journalist turned full-time photographer.
This entry was posted in Cameras, Colour film, Digital Cameras, film camera, Film cameras, Folding cameras and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Spot the difference…

  1. David says:

    Nice comparison. The first one is from the folder. Even at the reduced resolution I can see the grain in the water. Also, since the old Nettar isn’t coated, it’s not the best with color. The first image has a bluish tint to it, noticeable in the background landscape. It definitely “pops” ‘tho, what film did you use? Something like Ektar or Velvia?

    Btw, I only shoot film at the moment and mostly with a Mamiya C220 TLR and a Zeiss Ikonta 520/2 folder. 😉

  2. sibokk says:

    I’ll go with the first or top image as the Zeiss camera but I really wouldn’t be able to tell the difference to be honest.

  3. Jim says:

    I prefer the top photo, so I was delighted to find out it was the film shot. Ok, sure, the top photo is a little too blue, but the water’s details are crisper and you can actually see a reflection of the boat in the water.

    • Hmmm… I’m thinking that maybe I killed the reflection in digital by using a polariser. I didn’t shoot these intending to make a comparison and a CPL would be a pretty obvious choice for the dSLR in these conditions.

  4. I had picked the top one for being the film based upon the color saturation of the image. I’ve been toying with the idea the past couple of months of getting a Zeiss Ikon 6×9 folder. This may have just made up my mind to get one. I will have to do a bit of research as to which one is best, do you have a recommendation? It is my understanding that a /16 model uses 620 film, is that correct? I would obviously prefer one that takes 120/220 film.

    • No, the /16 model is 6×6 format using 120 film. It is the /15 that takes 616 film (and the /18 takes 127). A Zeiss Ikon folder without the /xx then it is a 645 (half-frame) version. The /16 is the 6×6 and the /2 is the 6×9.

      The Nettar 515 is pre-war, with a flick-up viewfinder, 516 is 1938-43 (roughly) with a flick-up viewfinder and double-exposure protection lock. 517 is post-war with a built-in viewfinder and 1950s styling, 518 is the last model, like the 517 but with exposure lock.

      The 120 film super-ikonta coupled rangefinders follow a similar numbering system: 530, 530/16, 530/2 etc, for the 530, 531 and 532 models (there doesn’t seem to be a 532/2).

      The 520 series don’t seem to be any different from the equivalent Nettar, though they were meant to be better quality and hence cost more. The 524 Mess Ikonta does have a built-in uncoupled rangefinder, which looks cool but seems a bit pointless to me.

      It’s impossible to say which is best because, after all this time, the best one is the one which has an accurate shutter, good pressure plate, operating red windows and light-tight bellows (though the latter has not been a problem with any of my Zeiss Ikon cameras). The red window needs to be the kind with a blind that pulls across to reduce the chance of fogging – some of the earliest versions lacked that – and you want to make sure the knob for pulling it across is not damaged. The pressure plate will be OK as long as nobody has tried to take it off, in which case the retaining tabs may be broken (I’ve got a 515 like that).

      The super-Ikontas were undoubtedly the best but they are pricey (though I picked up a 1947 Super Ikonta A – 645 version – for about £50 two years back and it has perfect shutter speeds, so it was a tremendous bargain).

      Bear in mind that if you ever want to print your negs properly, 6×9 does not fit into most enlargers so 6×6 or 6×4.5 might be a better option. In addition, a Super-Ikonta A will easily fit into a pocket, whereas the Super-Ikonta C (6×9) won’t. The 645 is 4in tall, 5in wide and 2in deep, and weighs about 600g. The narrow film gate must be an advantage in ensuring flatness, so you might well get just as good definition from a 645 as you would from a 6×9. I’ve certainly been more consistently pleased with the output of 645s than 6x9s. Of course, the short 80mm lens and short bellows probably makes 645s less prone to shake than 6x9s.

      Whatever you get, you are going to need to test the shutter speeds (unless you know the shutter has recently be serviced by a thoroughly reliable technician). Most old shutters are running slowly and need a proper service – that applies regardless of whether the camera is old and battered or looks brand new … in fact, a “new” one will certainly need servicing since it will have stiffened up, while a well-used one might have a very good shutter.

      Do look for a shutter with a reasonably fast top speed, then assume that the maximum working speed will be the next speed down, since the top speed is invariably slow by quite a bit, so a 160/s top speed will probably restrict you to 1/100, and a 1/100 will very likely not beat 1/60.

      The Moskva 5 is certainly worth consideration as an alternative to a Super-Ikonta, though I have had trouble with light leaks from the rear window when shooting at 6×9. On 6×6 mode, the troublesome red window is locked shut, but then you are basically shooting a short telephoto (110mm) compared with a standard 6×6 Nettar with an 80mm lens.

      • Thank you for all of the great information on folders. A 6×9 is what I am looking to get as I already have two cameras of 6×6 format and I’d like a bigger piece of film without having to break out the 4×5. I’m not worried about 6×9 not fitting in most enlargers as I now scan everything on my Epson V750. If I can find one with a fresh CLA, that would be great. However, I’m not opposed to getting one that is in need of a CLA, as I would take it to ICT in Mountain View and have them go through it with a fine tooth comb. In fact, I would almost rather get one that needs a CLA and have ITC do it. That way, it is done by a shop that I know and trust and that does top notch work.

        I just saw a couple of Moskva 5’s on eBay this past week and one even had the 6×6 mask with it. I’m just not sure about getting one with the hit and miss quality control that was in place when they were made. Especially with the light leak issues through the red windows when shoot in 6×9 format.

        I just need to hurry up and win the lottery so that I can get all the camera gear I want without having to figure out which one I need the most and can afford to get and that actually has a use that will generate income for me.

  5. The Moskva 5 usually has the 6×6 mask with it, unlike most other folders. Either the Eastern Block users were economising on film so they went with 6×6 or, perhaps, the problem I found with light getting in when the 6×9 window is in use meant that 6×6 was really the only option. Either way, I wouldn’t consider getting a Moskva 5 if it didn’t have its mask, they’re that common.

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