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Contax IIa/IIIa CLA recommendations
Old 07-29-2006   #1
JohnM
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Contax IIa/IIIa CLA recommendations

I have purchased a Contax IIIa which while it is in usable condition, could really use a CLA.

Now, I understand that Harry Sherer is considered the cream of the crop in terms of Contax technicians, but his waiting list is measured in years and that's a little longer than I would like to wait. (I may put this camera on the waiting list and have it CLA'd elsewhere in the interim - who knows.)

Does anyone have any experience having older Contax repaired/serviced in the US? Someone mentioned to me that CameraQuest or Essex may do it - other recommendations?
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Old 07-29-2006   #2
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Essex charges around $170 for the IIIa and very short turn around time, measured in weeks not years. I have used them for a couple of Canon P CLA's and am well pleased. I actually have a Contax IIIa that I am going to send to them this week.

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Old 07-29-2006   #3
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I have no experience with this place but it may be an option: http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...ad.php?t=26179
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Old 07-29-2006   #4
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I thought there was a guy out there that only CLAs Contax rangefinders, including replacement of the light meter for the IIIa. I once had the link, but lost it. Sounds like he's expensive, but people recommend him.

Anybody know?
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Old 07-30-2006   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gabrielma
I thought there was a guy out there that only CLAs Contax rangefinders, including replacement of the light meter for the IIIa. I once had the link, but lost it. Sounds like he's expensive, but people recommend him.

Anybody know?
It sounds as if you're thinking of Henry Scherer - he only works on Contax rangefinders and Contarex. And he replaces selenium light cells.

Another option is WW Umbach. You should be able to Google his address and phone number. He did nice work for me on a Contaflex.
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So far, so good
Old 08-03-2006   #6
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So far, so good

I was intrigued by Rich's reference to Camera Care in his linked thread
http://camera-care.com/
Camera Care has Buy-It-Now eBay auctions for rebuild service on the selected cameras he knows well. Interesting marketing approach. The Contax IIa/IIIa service BIN is only $119.95 so I "bit". Here's a link to the eBay listing:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...MEWN%3AIT&rd=1

So I sent him the IIIa that I bought from RFF member Stu W, which had a stiff focusing helix and was not exposing at 1/1250 shutter speed. There was no clear mention of lens service in Camera Care's offer, but I sent the 1.5/50mm Sonnar along too though it seemed ok.

I can recommend Steve on the basis of good communications so far! He noted the "Zeiss bumps" and asked if I wanted them removed, no charge. He found it needed work on the shutter and the focusing, but was basically sound and could be made to work as new. But the meter cell is dead, and he offered to replace it for an additional $45. He has them made on order as needed, so they're fresh. He noted that the lens was fine except for lack of lube between lens body and diaphragm ring, and offered to completely clean and lube the lens for an additional $25.

So we're up to $189.95 now but it's still sounding very economical. Except for the meter cell, he would have had the job done and shipped back in less than a week, he said, but having the cell made up will add a week to the schedule.

I'm looking forward to trying out my "new" Contax IIIa!
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Old 08-03-2006   #7
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Doug, let us know how it turns out.. I'm currently at number 21 on Henry's list (after a year wait) and I know it'll be 6 more months before the work is done.. if Steve can do comparable work, he might very well get my business.. especially since Henry will charge nearly 3X as much

EDIT: a quick check on Henry's site shows that his rate is actually $235.. not 3 times what Steve quotes
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Old 08-03-2006   #8
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Wolf Umbach of Z-V Camera Service (252-249-2576, wolwalu57(at)pinelink.com). Mr. Umbach was an official Zeiss Ikon-Voigtlander repairman back in the day.
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Old 08-03-2006   #9
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These are good options. We have discussed Contax Service folks other than Henry but having names, addresses, with links. This may be the best so far. I am going to sticky this thread for reference.
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Old 08-03-2006   #10
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Doug, do let us know what your thoughts are om camera-care's work once you get it back. I'd love for there to be a 'Henry' ou there - but without his backlog.
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Old 08-03-2006   #11
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I will followup later after it comes back and I run a roll through it. Steve apparently has the experience and the expertise, but I expect being able to say "CLA by Scherer" would have an effect on resale value. But I didn't want to suffer that backlog!
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Old 08-03-2006   #12
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Even Henry was once a Steve
I got my fingers crossed that it comes back working and looking great - as if it does..I may well send off my Contax IIIa to Steve.
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Old 08-04-2006   #13
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Richard, where else have you had your stuff CLA'd? Have you sent your VT out yet? The slow speeds need work on mine.
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Old 08-05-2006   #14
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I'd posted a query about Steve Sirota to rff before to see if anyone had any luck with him before I sent my contessa for repair, no one from the list replied but I sent it anyway. He seems like a reasonable guy and said he repaired it, shot a roll and depending on results would ship it after the 4th of July. He later said he was out of town for a bit and shipped it on the 10th. Now it's over three weeks later and my camera has yet to arrive. I sent an e-mail to Steve a few days ago asking if he has any tracing number for the package and so far no reply. It's still a little early to panic, but I was wondering if anyone else has heard from him lately?
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Old 08-05-2006   #15
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Odd that I couldn't sell my Sherer-restored Contax IIIa here. I sold it on EBay to a guy in France. Maybe part of the Scherer allure is the wait.
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Old 08-05-2006   #16
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Steamer, I had emails from Steve on Wed and Thurs... Try phoning him?
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Old 08-05-2006   #17
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Thanks Doug, guess I'll give him a call.
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Old 08-05-2006   #18
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I have pulled apart a few cameras, they don't work any more.....you would think I would learn from the first repair disaster, or maybe the second, but no ! once bitten twice bitten thrice bitten, I hope I don't try it again....
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Old 08-06-2006   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rover
Richard, where else have you had your stuff CLA'd? Have you sent your VT out yet? The slow speeds need work on mine.
Funny you should mention it - no I haven't fixed the VT yet..but I really should. I was actually going to check to see what feedback camera-care receives and see if he does Canons...
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Old 08-06-2006   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steamer
Thanks Doug, guess I'll give him a call.
Do let us know what happens...
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Old 08-06-2006   #21
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Talked to Steve on Monday (Japan) Sunday (US), he said the the package was insured for several hundred bucks and he would check with his local P.O. on Monday to see what can be done to trace the camera. Just want to emphasize that he seems like a decent enough guy, looks like some kind of mail or customs glitch. So Rich, if you are prepared to publicly admit that you not love your own Contessa, you've got a buyer here,
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Old 08-07-2006   #22
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Thanks for all the input thus far - I've sent an email to Mr. Umbach to inquire whether he is still in the business of attending to Contax rangefinders. (I understand he was in semi-retirement as of several years ago.)

If he is unavailable, and if Steamer's saga with Steve continues the way it has been, I will almost certainly send the camera to Essex for a CLA. That should hold it for the three years it will take for it to get to the head of Harry's list :-)
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Old 08-07-2006   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steamer
Rich, if you are prepared to publicly admit that you not love your own Contessa, you've got a buyer here,
Steamer
I don't love it - yet...I'm hoping I will grow to like it though
We'll see....it's a really nice, well made camera..hmm...
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Old 08-07-2006   #24
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I am in the same boat with the Contessa - I love looking at it, I want to love using it and sometimes I almost think I will...and then it blows it somehow.

Between the Russian Roulette of loading film into it (gear teeth suddenly decide to go through the film after half a roll of trouble free advancing) and the just plain fiddly nature of having to work through three rings that feel exactly alike at times, it's just not something I want to use all that often.

Whenever I use it, I can't help thinking I just should have taken the M3 and left the Contessa to pretty up the camera shelf.
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Old 08-08-2006   #25
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That's real scary John - what you wrote above is almost an exact recap of what I feel about the camera
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Old 08-08-2006   #26
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I've actually just about given up on the Contessa - I love to look at it and I appreciate how well it was made and how well it was thought out for its time, but there's no compelling reason to use it. It's not great to handle, there's no great user experience and the lens is a good, but far from special performer.

I consider it to be the polar opposite to my Contax-knock off Kiev 4a. The Kiev was made by a blind guy on a three-day bender - the tolerances are way off, sharp edges hit your fingertips and forehead and the whole thing gives off a pulsating aura of crappiness. It's junk with a lens that I have never even heard of - a Menopta. But it has a bang for the buck ratio that is off the charts and it is a stellar picture-taker - sharp, contrasty, just great.

The Contessa is a jewel to look at and was designed and put together by craftsmen. But its performance and operation didn't stand the test of time, from my vantage point. If I could combine its worksmanship and the Kiev's performance, I would have a great camera. (I probably just described the M3, didn't I?)

Anywho - I have two rules. First, never keep a camera I'm not going to use and second, never sell filters because the day after I do, I will buy a lens that needs those filters.

Rule #1 probably means that I am going to give the Contessa to a friend who admires it.

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Old 08-08-2006   #27
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John,
once again your words echoes my thoughts when it comes to the Contessa.

I really appreciate it for how it looks and for its build quality..but as a user..it is sometimes 'fun' in that quirky kinda way..but for photos that really matters...not so much.

If I'll sell mine is still up in the air. I think it 'deserves' another film or two through it first. I wish there was a small, beautiful, well made folder out there with a lens that is closer to 'exceptional'. I have to say that the Tessar on this one isn't.
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Old 08-11-2006   #28
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doug,

Just a "bump"to see if you have received your IIIa back from its cla, I am hoping for good news.

Wayne
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Old 08-11-2006   #29
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Doug
Another bump, my beloved Contessa has disappeared into the ozone, no email since my phone call. Looks like I'll be sending my Contax IIIa and oily 85 sonnar elsewhere for repair. Hope you are having better luck with your Contax.
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Old 08-15-2006   #30
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Just as a brief update - Mr. Umbach has not replied to several emails. This is a big vacation month, though, and perhaps he is away. Given his reputation, I would advise people to give him a shout if they are looking for a CLA for their Contax.

I did contact Steve through his Ebay auction and he did respond to me in several hours - he says his turnaround time is still five days, although steamer's experience is a little troubling.

All things considered, I will be sending my Contax to Essex camera - Brian Sweeney always spoke highly of their service, so in the end, that is good enough for me.

On the Contessa - I've officially thrown in the towel. The gear teeth locked onto another roll of film and I've done the last changing bag film rescue I am going to do for it. I've given it away and I will not miss it.
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Old 08-15-2006   #31
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I was interested in getting a CLA for my Contax IIIa and wrote Steve about this thread urging him to comment in it - his reply back was as follows:

"Hi,
Thank you for contacting me. I am not quite sure how to comment as there really is no problem. Steve AKA "Steamer" was a bit concerned because he thought I had shipped his camera via EMS (Express Mail Service) unfortunately since I include the shipping in my fee of $84.95 and I am in the USA and Steamer is in Japan a $40.00 shipping fee was not practical. His camera was shipped via insured airmail parcel post. After speaking to Steamer and explaining the situation he was very understanding.

After speaking to the Postmaster at my post office I was told that although most Air Parcel Post to Japan takes 7~10 business days this summer reports and complaints of packages taking 21~25 days have been quite common. It was explained to me that increased security has caused a lot of delays.

Cheers, Steve S."
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Old 08-15-2006   #32
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Sounds like good news for those looking for a faster/cheaper service than Henry Scherer's. Thanks for the info Rich.
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Old 08-15-2006   #33
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My Contax IIIa is now back from Steve Serota / CameraCare, and looks great. Faint odor of light machine oil, mmm. Everything moves silky smooth and quiet. He put in a new meter cell ($45 part), and it's great to have that working. He found lack of lube on the lens aperture ring, so gave the Sonnar a CLA too for $25 extra. Zeiss bumps are gone, no charge. He replaced several missing screws too, so it seems someone has been in there before... I've put a roll of Fujicolor in it so will have something more to report and show about its operation later. So far so good, and he packed it very well with protective tape and tissue over optical surfaces.
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Old 08-15-2006   #34
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Great news,

I have had mine boxed up and ready to send; I just had to slap a mailing label on it, but I wasn't sure which label I guess Steve can be expecting another package real soon.

Wayne
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Old 08-15-2006   #35
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Great updates - looks like we have another option after all!
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Old 08-15-2006   #36
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That is good news, I may have to send him my Contax IIIa after all. Like I told Steve it wasn't his fault that the package went missing, I just wanted to be kept posted on what was going on. Hope he doesn't wind up with a Henriesque wait list now, fyi he also works on Vitessas and a lot of other cameras.

Rich, have you shot any color with your Contessa? More than any design or construction points, I love the camera because of the sharpness and color rendition of the tessar, it is especially nice with Fuji superia.
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Old 08-15-2006   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steamer
Rich, have you shot any color with your Contessa? More than any design or construction points, I love the camera because of the sharpness and color rendition of the tessar, it is especially nice with Fuji superia.
No colour film through the Contessa yet...based on your comment above I may actually put one through. I got some Provia 100 or 400F lying around somewhere.
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Old 08-16-2006   #38
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FWIW, I've had better luck contacting him by phone in the past.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnM
Just as a brief update - Mr. Umbach has not replied to several emails. This is a big vacation month, though, and perhaps he is away. Given his reputation, I would advise people to give him a shout if they are looking for a CLA for their Contax.
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Heads up on camera care Serota--long
Old 10-03-2006   #39
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Heads up on camera care Serota--long

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich Silfver
I was interested in getting a CLA for my Contax IIIa and wrote Steve about this thread urging him to comment in it - his reply back was as follows:

"Hi,
Thank you for contacting me. I am not quite sure how to comment as there really is no problem. Steve AKA "Steamer" was a bit concerned because he thought I had shipped his camera via EMS (Express Mail Service) unfortunately since I include the shipping in my fee of $84.95 and I am in the USA and Steamer is in Japan a $40.00 shipping fee was not practical. His camera was shipped via insured airmail parcel post. After speaking to Steamer and explaining the situation he was very understanding.

After speaking to the Postmaster at my post office I was told that although most Air Parcel Post to Japan takes 7~10 business days this summer reports and complaints of packages taking 21~25 days have been quite common. It was explained to me that increased security has caused a lot of delays.

Cheers, Steve S."


Sorry for the long quote but there is actually a big problem with Steamer and Serota.
I sent him my contessa and on June 22 Steve Serota of Camera care received it and sent this message:

Hi Steve, I received you Contessa today and I proceeded to perform an evaluation on it. It can be serviced under the $99.95 overhaul fee + $20.00 for return shipping to Japan. The camera can be completed by Tuesday 06.27.06.

He finally claimed to have done the repairs and sent the contessa back to me around July 9th. I sent an email on Aug 2 telling him my camera had not arrived. he said he would check it out. I asked him for the customs number or an insurance number which he did not provide, but said he would file an insurance claim because he had insured the package for several hundred dollars. From that time the weaseling began. E-mails went unanswered and he could or would not provide any evidence that the camera had ever been mailed or that any work had ever been done. Still I didn't think I was being puposely swindled and when he told me he had been out of action with an e-coli blood infection, I told him take care of himself and handle this claim when he felt better. Another three weeks went by and now he is not replying to any e-mail. Is Serota in the hospital or in somekind of trouble? No he continues giving feed back to other customers at the Bay. Meanwhile another RFFer sends a camera to serota, Serota doesn't answer any e-mail from this fellow either, but this guy's contessa has great sentimental value and he contacts the local police who pay serota a visit, serota produces the camera when the police show up and claims it was all a big misunderstanding, and he had been answering the email all along.

As it stands now, I have to waste my time and contact the police in Pennsylvania and waste a bunch of time dealing with the swindler.

You don't have to because you have read this heads-up. Some of you will say I screwed up--I did, I trusted the guy to do the job I paid him to do and to send back my camera. Some of you will say there are two sides to every story, Well I've done my best to get Serota's side of the story, but he doesn't reply to my enquiries or deal with problems until the police show up.

Rant over
Steamer
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Old 10-03-2006   #40
JohnM
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JohnM is offline
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Hudson Valley, NY
Posts: 580
Egads - that is not a good story. Usually, I'd take these things with a grain of salt, but you've certainly done all you can do and I think I'll avoid this particular shop.
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