Photographica Pages

An online guide to collectable cameras and related stuff

Zeiss Ikon Super Nettel and Super Nettel II

Zeiss has always had a tendency to try to build a camera for every possible niche of the market. 1932 saw the success of the Contax, a top quality 35mm rangefinder camera with a series of interchangeable lenses. Zeiss felt not everyone needed interchangeable lenses, and that there would be a market for a less expensive 35mm rangefinder camera with a focal plane shutter. The single focal length made it possible to be a folding camera, making it very compact, although it was still bigger than the Leica with a collapsed Elmar.

In 1934 they introduced the Super Nettel. It was a combination of the Super Ikonta folding rollfilm cameras, and the Contax. The shutter was a vertically running focal plane shutter very much like the Contax I, except the wind knob was on the top, a preview of things to come on the Contax II and III. The rangefinder was a rotating wedge design found on the Super Ikonta. It had separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows, and a removable back.

Initially offered only in black finish, with nickel trim, the front of the camera has a slightly Art Deco look. It was available with 50/2.8 or 3.5 Tessar lenses until 1936. In 1935 until it was discontinued in 1937 it was offered with a 50/3.5 Triotar.

With the introduction of the chrome finish Contax line, the Super Nettel was available as the Super Nettle II. It was made only until 1938, and reportedly less than 2000 were built. It was finished in bright chrome (including the front door, which was leather covered on the Super Nettel), and was only available with the 50/2.8 Tessar. There is speculation that this model was a limited, special edition.

What caused the demise of the Super Nettel? I have read that the demand for Tessar and Triotar lenses used on the recently popular Rolleiflex and Rolleicord cameras were taxing Zeiss' production capacity. And I don't believe the cameras sold that well, as you see far more Contax I cameras than you do Super Nettel cameras today.

The Super Nettel with the 50/2.8 Tessar.

The Super Nettel II.

The Super Nettel II with the special lens shade.

The the special lens shade for the Super Nettel and Super Nettel II.