An Exposure Time Calculation Table by Zeiss Ikon from Decades Ago


Want to estimate proper exposures without a light meter and don’t mind doing some simple arithmetic? Check out this wonderful Exposure Time Tables pocket reference that was published Zeiss Ikon.

There are 5 steps (i.e. things you need to consider) on the path toward determining your proper exposure time: time of day/year, lighting, object to be exposed, dryplate/film, and aperture. Each step provides you with a number. After the 5 steps, add up all your numbers and then look it up on the chart to figure out your exposure time!

The process was apparently developed by a photographer named Dr. Max Leo. Here are the detailed instructions:





You can find a PDF version of his manual in Michael Butkus Jr.’s online PDF library for camera manuals.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Olivier!

Image credits: Images by Zeiss Ikon AG/

  • Tavis Dunn

    1986? style and typography looks more like 1966. But it could be Zeiss just didn’t update this for decades…

  • Julian

    (Insert geek comment:) There is no way this was published in 1986. That number, “1986” on the last page must refer to something else. In 1986, for instance, the brochure would not have said “Printed in Germany”. It would have said something liked “Printed in West Germany” or “Printed in the DDR”, or something like that. This is certainly pre-WW2, wouldn’t you think?

  • korman

    Are you sure the date was 1986 and not 1968?

  • Michael Zhang

    Hmmm. We’ve removed the references to 1986 for now. Thanks Tavis.

  • junyo
  • Joseph H

    There’s one of these for sale on Amazon claiming to be from 1937

  • Dave Allen

    That makes sense Joseph H., this is likely circa 1936

  • DamianM

    Pre-war for sure.

  • Leonardo Abreu

    Man, this is crazy.

  • Duke Shin

    Too long:
    didn’t read.

  • Fabrys

    When you look at the photo, it’s sure it’s in the 30 ;)

  • Cy Leow

    Madness! Guaranteed to drive you away from photography ;)

  • AntonyShepherd

    My brain hurts. I can just about manage Sunny 16 but this one is madness!

  • Crabby Umbo

    Leave it to the Germans to turn something fun into a chore…and I oughta know after years of living with them in Milwaukee! Thank God for light meters…

  • Yves Lagache

    F16 rules are simplest. But with the new cam, ISO and ASA are not exactly the same….

  • DamianM

    The science of photography at work.

    Light meters have made oh so easy. But it won’t hurt to learn this.

  • Zos Xavius

    Some manufacturers lie more about iso than others. My k-5 is pretty close to reality near base iso and only deviates slightly by 6400. I use the sunny 16 rule often with decent results. In good light I can tell what my shutter speeds should be and it follows the rule well. You still have to be mindful of highlights and the sky…but I digress.

  • AC

    It is very likely printed pre WWII. The city of Dresden was in east Germany post WWII. The women’s hair style is 1930s and as other posters have pointed out printed in Germany is either per WWII or 1990s onwards. Zeiss Ikon closed in the early 1970s. Zeiss is still going though.