Zeiss Ikon

Design Philosophy:
“If you are busy thinking, you are not seeing”. This camera is designed to help you quickly switch off your brain, and elevate your senses so you can start seeing. It is simplified down to the minimum, with usability in mind, yet it maintains all aspects of photography.

Design Concept:
Small form, full frame, ergonomic, manual operation, simple to operate, and excellent image quality. These are the main properties which drove the design. Note that this is a conceptual design, which means that there might be some technical or financial challenges which do not allow for the conception of such a product.

External Design: (Click on image to enlarge)





I am a fan of small powerful cameras. A camera should be small enough to be invisible but yet it has to be ergonomic, easy to use, functional and it should yield good results. This design is inspired by the Leica M series, the Fuji X series, and the Sony RX1. Why Zeiss Ikon? To start with, I wanted to design an M-Mount camera. That left me with 3 options (Leica, Zeiss, and Voigtlander). I set a price range for the camera between the Sony RX1 and the Leica M due to the wide gap.  Zeiss was the choice, and since Zeiss  does not have an M-Mount digital camera, I decided to make one. Hence the Zeiss Ikon. Note that the Zeiss Ikon is a registered trade mark of Carl Zeiss Group. (disclaimer)

Camera as a Tool:
This camera is designed for the professionals due to its manual control and due to the price range. It cannot have an automatic mode because of the aperture ring on the lens and the lack of communication between the camera and the lens. However, manual control is the way to go if you really want to sculpt your photo the way you envision it. After all the camera is just a tool. It is your eye, your emotions and your life experience which influence you when you take a shot. The process of taking a photo should be as simple as possible to keep the emotions in place, otherwise the shot is gone.

Manual Control:
What I mean by manual control is two settings on the camera. The aperture priority mode along with exposure compensation mode, and the shutter speed mode. These are the same mode but with different knobs on the camera!

Missing Knobs:
One thing I decided to improve is to remove the ambiguity of the legacy design. The exposure compensation setting simply changes the shutter speed which is exactly what the shutter speed mode is about. So why have 2 knobs?! This camera has one. Another ambiguity is that on most cameras the exposure compensation in the view finder has a rectangular representation or < > signs, whereas the knob is cylindrical. Therefore this camera has a slider which works in coherence with the view finder. Sliding up will overexpose, and sliding down will underexpose the shot. It has a toggle switch to switch between A and S. In reality it is between A and M, but in this case it is only affecting the single slider which is controlling the shutter speed. If the switch is in S mode, to keep it consistent, the shutter will slow down when the slider moves up (overexpose) and will get faster as you slide down (underexpose). The difference is that when in S mode the slider will set the shutter in full stops (hence wider range). A photographer would operate in S mode when shutter speed has higher priority than aperture. Freezing a motion is one example. In this scenario a precise depth of field is not very important, therefore fine tuning the light in 1/3 stops can be done in the aperture.
One important decision I made was to split the back into 2 zones. The right side is for operation, and the left side is for previewing.  I find this interface to be more usable and natural for handheld operation…
Should the photographer require extreme precision and control over the scene. The camera can be put on a tripod, and the dial on the left side can be used to control the shutter speed in 1/3 stops without touching the aperture when in operation mode. Pressing the magnifier during focusing will zoom the focus rectangle to full screen.

B, 15s, 8s, 4s, 2s, 1s, 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/8s, 1/15s, 1/30s, 1/60s, 1/125s, 1/250s, 1/500s, 1/1000s, 1/2000s, 1/4000s

Light Metering:
Large diameter central spot meter similar to the 12mm sensor on the Leica M7. The meter is locked once the shutter button is half way pressed (In A Mode). This setup works between a spot meter and center weighted meter.

ISO Settings:
This camera has a dial to instantly change the ISO setting without removing the camera off your eye. I find the ISO setting to be as important as aperture and shutter speed. This setup will make photographers conscious of it and will use it for fine tuning. The ISO setting ranges from 50 to 6400 usable.

20 MP Full frame CMOS sensor without low-pass filter.

Focus Points And Indicators:
This camera has a single focus point in the center and uses phase detection. Focus confirmation beep is important in case of a use of an optical view finder mounted on the flash shoe. If you know your lens(es) and you have taken enough shots with it, you start to build some sort of visualization of the depth of field of the lens at every aperture. Moving the subject around the focus point should not be a problem. I do like the range finder focusing system and I believe that an electronic simulation of a range finder is possible using a split beam (Fuji has done it but with a bridge camera. There might be a technical issue here due to the flange focal distance). The advantage of a range finder is that it tells you how close you are to perfect focus. This helps in taking photos with soft focus. The focus point is red when out of focus and turns light green when in focus.

Electronic View Finder:
Clean view is essential to photographers. A cluttered view prevents the photographer from connecting with the subject. The view finder sticks to the essentials (battery power, one focus point, rule of third markers, Exposure compensation,  number of photos taken/remaining, ISO settings, and finally the shutter speed). Colors should be faithful to the scene with no shifting or over saturation.  Along with a good lens on the camera the EVF should produce an inspiring almost 3D feel to the scene. See picture bellow.

View Finder

This camera is designed to be small and not threatening. However it is small enough to be usable and ergonomic for people with large hands.

Full Frame:
Full frame translates to better quality, better ISO, and better Depth of Field. Since this camera is targeted to the Pros, it would not make any sense to have it as a cropped sensor especially since all M-Mount lenses support full frame.

USB connector, PC connection as well as flash shoe mount. The USB can be used for charging too. Battery still can be removed and replaced easily.

Sketches And Quick Manual: (Click on image to enlarge)






5 thoughts on “Zeiss Ikon”

  1. noisejammer said:

    I agree that there’s a huge opening between the Leica M and the RX1…. On the other hand, I do not think this is a segment that many pro’s play in – they are too busy trying to get the shot reliable. I’d prefer to suggest that the user of M-mount lenses is an advanced enthusiast.

    Secondly, I don’t think this means you should dispose of the rangefinder experience. I own a ZI and an X-E1… as of mid 2013, the best available electronic viewfinders do not give you the same experience achieved by precision optics. Of course, first prize would be a Fuji-like hybrid, but that’s probably impossible for several reasons. Instead, it would be easy to mount an electronic viewfinder on the hot shoe for those who want (or perhaps need) one.

    I’ve given a bit of thought to this. Part of the ZI rangefinder mystique is _not_ being able to chimp your images. Instead, you wait until the end of a spool, process them and see what you got. I’d submit there’s a segment of the market that would simply like to replace the film with an electronic sensor….. and forgo all the power-hungry display electronics – after all – generations of rangefinder users have shown that you don’t really need it.

    In any case, I would be astonished if CZ and Cosina did not have a clear plan to offer such a camera, assuming they believed the market could sustain it.Time will tell.

    • Many photographers would love to have a digital Leica M but cannot afford it, yet there is more demand than supply! There is no question that a good affordable replacement will take off easily. This camera is not a replacement of DSLRs. It is a camera a traveler or street photographer would take along (a pro or an advanced enthusiast). A small camera is always easier to pickup and go and does not give you trouble when crossing borders in some parts of this world.
      Till this day an optical viewfinder is better than an electronic one, however this may change if we reach a high degree of resolution (ultra small pixels with low power consumption and natural colors) which is currently an issue at least for my taste with existing EVFs (over saturated cheesy colors). With a proper lens (Zeiss or Leica) and a non linear sensor (or post processed signal from a linear sensor) an electronic viewfinder should provide the viewer with an almost 3D view. A hybrid Fuji style might be an option if the quality of the EVF is not jeopardized. You could still mount an optical viewfinder on the shoe and rely on the focus confirmation (beep) to set the focus. However seeing through the lens is what made rangefinder almost obsolete with the creation of SLRs. Since M mount lenses’ aperture is always active, unlike SLRs, you always see the true DOF. Along with the emulation of shutter speed and light metering, what you see is what you get on this camera through the EVF.
      I love film. I hate it when I look at the display for every picture taken. I agree with you. I like to have an option to turn off the display when I am shooting. The good news is that most old film cameras work for me, and I own a handful of them. it is the digital ones which I am suffering with.
      This exercise is simply a reminder to the industry that there are enough photographers who do not care about their modern trends (a camera making crucial decisions for us using AI and CV) and hopefully to give courage to CZ to not kill the Ikon after its failure in the latest film camera developed by Cosina. In case you don’t know as for now the Ikon is dead…
      Thank you for taking the time and commenting. I wish more photographers do this. Feel free to share the link with your friends and colleagues.

  2. Looks like an interesting camera with some nice ideas. I am not a rangefinder fan but this is worth looking at. Reducing cameras to essential features must be well thought out. For instance, what I like about this camera, is the flash shoe and the pc socket. A great interchangable lens is always sweet. How can a pro use such a camera on a job such as a wedding? You must be able to see, somehow, in various light/low light situations and respond in a minimum amount of time. The DSLR is not the only solution I hope.

    • This camera is designed with travellers in mind. Small, compact yet full frame. The closest commercially available camera to this one will be the Sony a7 or a7(r). The advantage of this camera over a DSLR besides the size is the lack of mirror slap since it is mirror-less, and the availability of exotic lenses like the Noctilux f/0.95. This will provide the photographer the ability to shoot at extremely low light handheld. As for the flash shoe mount it is standard which allows you to trigger slave flashes should you need to.

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