The New Zeiss Ikon Rangefinder 35; A Real, Traditional, High-End System Page 2

For autoexposure, set the shutter speed dial to A; set the aperture; and let the camera do the rest. It will show you the shutter speed it has selected. If the required exposure is outside the range available, the camera will set 1 second or 1/2000 sec but there is no "over" or "under" warning.

ZI vs. M2

The Zeiss Ikon looks quite a bit bigger and chunkier than a classic Leica (this is an M2), but differences are more visual than real. At 83mm (31/4") to the top of the eyepiece bulge it is about 6mm (1/4") taller but it is 3mm (1/8") slimmer front-to-back than an M2, and 5mm (1/5") slimmer than an MP, at 34mm (15/16"). Length is almost identical: the Zeiss Ikon is 1mm (1/25") longer than an M-series at 141mm (51/2"), excluding strap lugs for both cameras.

Exposure Compensation
There is, however, a very clever exposure compensation system, again shared with the R2A/R3A. Either side of the shutter speed index, there are 1/3 stop gradations running from +2 stops to -2 stops. To dial in any compensation within this range, simply move the "A" to the appropriate index. The shutter speed will then flash, to remind you that you have selected compensation. This allows easy 2/3 stop brackets, arguably the ideal for color slide film because it gives you an exposure that is within 1/3 stop of perfect across +/-1 stop.

There is a clever, simple autoexposure lock. Press the little chrome button immediately below the accessory shoe and the speed is locked: the letters AEL appear at the bottom of the shutter speed column. There's an auto-off feature if the camera isn't used for a while, or you can turn it off manually by pressing it again. The button is handy for your thumb. You can still dial in exposure compensation after setting the AEL.

The eyepiece to the range/viewfinder is rubber-armored (no scratched eyeglasses) and user interchangeable for dioptric fittings, at $44 each. The fitting is common to the interchangeable viewfinders and to the Bessa R2A/R3A (and several old Nikons). One eyepiece (on the 15mm finder) came adrift and had to be screwed back in; we then noticed that the 25/28 finder was missing its eyepiece, which had presumably been lost earlier. This does not affect the functionality but a dab of Loctite or similar might be a good idea.

Another security concern, rather more serious, is the accessory shoe. This is no tighter than on a Bessa, and distinctly less tight than an MP. Given that finders are occasionally lost even from Leicas, this is worrying. Consider dipping viewfinder feet in clear Plasti Dip (www.plastidip.com), which is normally used to make tools more "grippy."

The standard 1/4" tripod socket at the end of the base plate is set in a little plinth so that the rewind crank does not tip the camera sideways when you set it down. The bearing surface around the socket is small but just about adequate in use. As well as the hot shoe there is a standard PC sync nipple, and the shutter release accepts a standard PC-tapered cable release. Unlike current Leicas (but like Bessas) there is a focal plane registration mark on the ZI.

Because the rewind is on the bottom, it goes counterclockwise (anticlockwise). Frances had no trouble with this at all, but the first time Roger used it he wound the wrong way and jammed the film in the cassette. If you are used to auto-rewind, you'll never notice; if you're used to other manual rewinds, LOOK AT THE ARROW.

Viewfinder Comparison
Taking the Zeiss Ikon as 100 percent, the following are linear (magnification) variations: + means the other finder showed more, - means less.

Note: 85mm and 90mm have been lumped together: an asterisk means a 90mm frame. Figures for both distant and close subjects are given for the Tewe and 90mm Voigtländer finder.
 
28mm
35mm
50mm
85mm
Leica M2 - 8% identical *+3%
Leica MP +3% +6% -5% *identical
Voigtländer Bessa R2 - +3% +2% *+6%
Voigtländer Bessa R3A - - +2% *-3%
25/28 Zeiss finder +3% - - -
28/35 Voigtländer finder +3% - - -
28 Voigtländer finder +6% - - -
90mm Voigtländer finder - - - *+12/-6%
Russian "Turret" finder +12%
+10% - +9%
Tewe 35-200mm finder - +7/+5% +8/+5% +20/+12%

Evaluation
So what is the bottom line on the camera? If you are not already committed to a system, and want a rangefinder camera, the ZI body warrants very serious consideration indeed. Otherwise, there are three kinds of buyer: those trading up from Voigtländer (or Rollei), those looking for a second body for a current Leica system, and those looking for something more modern than an older, non-metered Leica.

As a trade-up, there is no contest. The Voigtländers are good: this is even better. Frances, who has been using Bessas since they came out, finds the ZI better in almost every way. It is easier to hold steady; quicker and easier to load; better in the finder department; and much easier to focus accurately, thanks to the long rangefinder base. Her only reservation is that she prefers the "traffic lights" meters in her Bessa-T and Bessa R2.

As a second body in an M-System, the ZI is obviously more of a competitor for an M7 (exposure automation, battery dependency) than for an MP, but either way there are significant differences from a Leica, most notably the rewind crank on the bottom and the meter read-out. These might make it hard to use both an M-series and a ZI side by side: better, we suspect, to choose one system or the other.

As for the choice between an older, non-metered Leica (M2-3-4) or a new ZI, we'd both be inclined to go for the ZI, Roger marginally but Frances without hesitation.

Ultimately, of course, the only possibility is to get your hands on one and see if you like it. You'll know within seconds if you do. We'd be surprised if you don't.

For more information, contact Hasselblad USA Inc., www.hasselbladusa.com.

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