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Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Icarex 35 and 35CS

 Update March 7th 2023

Icarex 35CS

This is a quite neat camera from the mid-'60s made by Zeiss Ikon, but the project was originally from Voigländer. Some people say that this camera is not so reliable, but mine is working perfectly except for the light meter (built-in on the CS prism).

It's a bulky and heavy all-mechanical camera with a very good viewfinder. Not exceptionally large, but very, very clear and it has a 45 degree split image focusing aid and a plain matte area.

The body finish is supperb !

The shutter speeds are from 1/2s to 1/1000s and it's very smooth and reliable compared to the Contarex and Contax rangefinder cameras from Zeiss, much more simple and less prone to jams. 

The Icarex was sold with finder options: A plain waist-level (like the ones found on TLRs), a simple prism and the dreaded CS prism-meter

The last one has a so-so CdS light meter very prone to problems. The exposure setting is very awkward. First you need to set the speed on the top dial of the prism assembly and set the same speed on the shutter speed selector. Then you need to step down the lens by pressing the DoF/iris button near the lens mount and adjust the aperture until the light meter needle stays at the center. Not very practical. To make things even stranger the meter needle is at the TOP of the viewfinder area, along with the aperture number. At its top, we can see an exposure guide calculator. It uses a dreaded PX13 (625) mercury battery. Do yourself a favor, forget about it and use a handheld meter.

I prefer it with the simple prism (no meter).

Icarex 35

Note that the Icarex 35 and the 35CS are the same camera. The difference is the detachable prism model.

Icarex 35 with the standard prism

At this time I have four lenses:

- Skoparex 35mm F3.4 (6-elements, 5-groups)
- Tessar 50mm F2.8 (4-elements, 3-groups)
- Dynarex 90mm F3.4 (5-elements, 3-groups)
- Super-Dynarex 135mm F4 (4-elements, 3-groups)

I have an ad at Mercadolivre.com for this lens

I have an ad at Mercadolivre.com for this lens

All are single-coated and designed by Voigtländer (besides the Tessar). They take a very odd filter, Icarex B50 (different from Hasselblad's B50 !). They are quite sharp when stopped down, but flares like crazy. A light hood is a must.

To be honest the greatest complication for this camera in the present time are the lenses. They are not that rare but they are odd. The lens mount remembers a cross between a Canon FD (lock) and an M42 screw mount (pin) ! 

There is an M42 Icarex 35 TM that have a normal 42mm screw mount.

The lenses are more than adequate for film photography but they are tricky for digital cameras due to the poor coating on the rear faces of the lens elements, remember that the camera sensor is a highly polished device and reflects quite a lot of light. This can cause strange reflexions between the lens elements resulting at least in strange effects if you point the lens to strong light sources. Better avoid and use with more favorable light conditions. 

All the four above-mentioned lenses have this problem.

Icarex camera lens mount

Icarex lens mount

The good:

- Not expensive
- Well-made
- Small but excellent viewfinder
- Reliable mechanics
- Good, but few lenses available

The bad:

- Light-meter wiring on the camera body not very reliable
- Light-meter prism-finder very clumsy
- Limited set of lenses for the Icarex mount, but plenty of them for the M42 version.
- Very stupid filter bayonet mount, with a misleading designation.
- Hard to find lens caps and filters