Ica Ideal 225
Ica Ideal 225

This camera, rescued from an antique store in Niantic, CT, is an Ica Ideal 225, a German camera from the 1920s, which uses 9x12cm sheet film. Here is the page from a 1922 catalog of Ica cameras listing this model. This example has an uncoated yet wonderful Zeiss Tessar 135mm f/4.5 with a Compur shutter offering speeds of 1 sec. to 150th. Since obtaining this camera, I have seen this same lens/shutter assemby elsewhere, but the front and rear elements were single-coated. Here's a nice page on this camera.

Film stock in 9x12cm is at this point appears not to be available anywhere but can be cut down from 4x5" if you are feeling intrepid. Film holders that fit the back are more of a challenge to find, since the camera was originally designed to be used with glass-plate negatives. I mostly used Ilford FP4+ but Ilford has stopped making B&W films. So when my stash is gone, it's gone!

The lens gives a distinct "old" quality to the images and is very sharp if carefully focused (the large format necessitates much smaller aptertures for decent depth of field when shooting close, such as with portraits). When the right lighting conditions can be found, i.e. where flare can be avoided, I've been impressed with the image quality produced by this instrument. Here are some examples. In using the camera, I've had to re-learn many aspects of photography since none of the functions are automatic, or even ergonomic (by today's standards, anyway).

The tripod mounting threads are the European size, so I purchased an adapter from Calumet photo and then fashioned a wooden washer to make it all work... A bit of DIY effort was required, but worth it for the results. For film development, I've found that most 4x5 sheet film tanks have adjustable film holders that also fit the 9x12 sheet film. I purchased a Yankee tank on eBay that works, however I had to seal a crack in the side to keep it light- and water-tight. I suppose if there weren't a few challenges, this would all be quite boring!

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