Zeiss Ikon Universal Juwel

The Universal Juwel was Zeiss’ most expensive and advanced camera between the wars.

There were two models, No. 275 and No. 440, in 9×12 cm and 13×18 cm formats respectively.

The advertisement below shows the different lens and body combinations available.

Initially manufactured in the early 20th century by Huttig, then Ica, eventually Zeiss Ikon inherited the Universal Juwel line as the result of company mergers.

After the second world war, Zeiss discontinued all large format cameras, and so the Juwel was no longer. During its lifetime it was the favourite camera of many great photographers, including Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, due to its compact dimensions and enormous flexibility.

The mantle of German large format cameras was passed to Linhof. The Technika line owes an obvious debt to the Juwel, with many evolutionary improvements added over the decades, but still clearly a descendent.

The Juwel features:

  • Interchangeable lens bayonet mount
  • Rotating back
  • Triple extension bellows
  • Brilliant finder
  • Sports finder
  • Sprit level
  • Movements:
    • Forwards and backwards tilt
    • Rise
    • Swing

My particular Juwel has a custom mounted coupled rangefinder made by Kalart, seems to be quite similar to the one on my Graflex Speed Graphic. The beam splitter coating has sustained some damage, so I have ordered a replacement. [I will detail in a future post the process of fitting it.]

My Juwel has the serial number XXX. The Zeiss Tessar 4.5/150 serial number suggests it is a 1930-31 Zeiss Ikon Universal Juwel.

This camera is incredibly well engineered, and is fully functional almost 90 years after it was made. The only issue with it that I have found is that the front standard is quite stiff to pull out from the body. I have lubricated the tracks but it’s still a bit too firm.

The Compur #2 shutter fires on all speeds and sounds reasonably accurate. The uncoated Tessar is clean and clear without any fungus, separation or other issues.

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