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The Sonnet is a range of strut-folding plate cameras made by Nettel Camerawerk from about 1908, and later by Contessa-Nettel and Zeiss Ikon until about 1930.[1] It is a wooden-bodied vertical folder, similar to the metal-bodied Kibitz. Both cameras might be seen as poor cousins to the Nettel strut-folders with focal-plane shutters. The Sonnet has a simple metal folding bed and a metal lens standard which runs out on this bed, positioned by pantograph struts (i.e. scissor-struts with a hinge half-way along). As in the Nettel cameras, the strut extension is adjustable with a focusing knob on the camera body, giving a focus control, and in some examples, the end of one of the struts acts as the pointer on a focus scale on the body. In addition, the camera can be focused using a ground-glass screen.

Unlike the Nettel cameras, the Sonnet has a dial-set Ibso, Compound or later Compur in-lens shutter rather than a focal-plane one, offering a much smaller (and slower) range of speeds. Available lenses included Nettel's own Anastigmats and Rapid Aplanats, Goerz Dagors and Carl Zeiss Tessars.[1] McKeown notes that cameras sold in France often had French lenses (by Berthiot), and Early Cameras shows an example with an (English) Cooke Anastigmat.[2]

The Sonnet was made in several sizes: 4.5x6 cm,[3] 6.5x9 cm,[2][4] 9x12 cm and 10x15 cm. Standard black and tropical models were made; notes at Pacific Rim Camera suggest that only the two smaller sizes were continued by Zeiss Ikon, and that these were only made in tropical finish.[5] In fact, most examples seen of the camera of any age are tropical; this may be because these command higher prices and so are more likely to appear at auctioneers.

Most examples have a wire frame finder, with the wire frame hinged on the front standard, and a folding eye-pointer on the body. Some also have a brilliant finder. McKeown shows examples (one under Nettel and one under Contessa-Nettel) with a folding Newton finder on the body instead of the frame finder.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). p715 (Nettel), 216 (Contessa-Nettel) and 1058 (Zeiss Ikon).
  2. 2.0 2.1 6.5x9 Tropical Sonnet, about 1915 (from lens serial number), with 4-inch f/4.5 Cooke Series-II Anastigmat and Compur shutter, at Early Photography.
  3. 4.5x6 cm Tropical Sonnet by Nettel Camerawerk, about 1915, with 7.5 cm f/4.5 Tessar and Compound shutter, sold at the sixth Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 6 November 2004.
  4. 6.5x9 cm Tropical Sonnet by Contessa-Nettel serial no. 589565, about 1920, with 12 cm f/4.5 Tessar and Compur shutter, and both frame and brilliant finders, sold at the 21st Westlicht auction, on 23 May 2012.
  5. Notes on the Sonnet, with a picture of a 6.5x9 cm Contessa-Nettel example, at Pacific Rim Camera's Photographica pages.