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Zeiss Contax Forum for the classic Zeiss Contax I, II, III, IIa, IIIa , G series, and if you want to push it, the nice Contax point and shoots. Some spill over from the Kievs, the Soviet copy of the Contax II/III can also be expected. Plus the ONLY production camera ever made in classic Zeiss Contax Rangefinder mount WITH TTL metering ... the Voigtlander Bessa R2C.

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... and one or two things that are less fun
Old 10-08-2019   #1
Philip Whiteman
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... and one or two things that are less fun

... about Contax IIs & IIIs. (I am discounting reliability, because - as I and others have detailed in many posts on this forum, they can be fixed by amateur tinkerers like me and once they have been, they just work.) No - the real disadvantages are, I would say:


1) that non-brightline, non-parellax corrected finder (no wonder everyone took to Leicas and Nikons in the 1950s)


2) the not-so-fast bayonet mount (I'd agree with the Head Bartender here - it's functionally no great improvement on the old Leica screw mount, and


3) the sheer weight of a Contax II or III outfit. The post-war As are supposed to be better, but a II plus the (lovely sold brass) 35mm F2.8 Biogon feels like a lump hammer on a cheese cutter wire around one's neck.


All said tongue in cheek, before you start unpacking the brickbats...
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Old 10-08-2019   #2
Dralowid
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I notice that you fear to mention the Contax I!
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Old 10-08-2019   #3
TenEleven
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I found it's less the weight for me (maybe I'm just used to my heavy Rolleiflexes) but the fact that a good and wide strap is crucial.

I sometimes carry not one but two or three Contaxes since changing lenses or film in the field can slow you down and is a pain. You get used to it. However I have to admit that usually when I carry that many it's the IIa's. It also makes changing lenses back and forth much easier as the different types of rear caps can be a pain in the behind to keep track of when shooting.

I generally tend to avoid the metered Contaxes (III and IIIa) because to me the light meter is just added weight with little extra benefit. However I do see the merit in getting those if money is tight since they are usually cheaper.
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Old 10-08-2019   #4
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I'm a long time, very long time, Leica user. Starting with a screw mount model than and M model in the early '80's. Somewhere a long the line I picked up a couple of working Kiev copies of the Contax II models. I held on for them for maybe 20 years years. I had a number of Contax lenses and they worked well. I liked the lenses. But the cameras. The focusing mechanism, the rangefinders, the lens attachments. I rarely used them. As ungainly as the Voigtlander Prominents.
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Old 10-09-2019   #5
Philip Whiteman
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I cannot comment on the Contax I as I have never handled one. I have owned a screw thread Leica for (dear me) 46 years - the IIIC in my signature image - and an M6, which is of course superior in every way to the Contax II or III, if not as 'historic'.

I forgot to mention the lens back cap issue - although you can let the 50mm Sonnar rattle around in the 35mm Biogon's rear cap. (I was lucky enough to get hold of an as-new Stuttgart back cap for the 50mm lens - ain't that a thing of beauty!)

Funnily enough, both the lens back caps - which appear to be metal pressings - and the 35mm finder - which is exquisitely well made - are very light. Compensation for those heavy lenses?

And yes; two bodies, fitted with different lenses is the way to go. But wasn't that what the pros did with M Leicas when they were being used in earnest?
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Old 10-09-2019   #6
Cascadilla
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I put deep wide angle plastic rear lens caps on all of my Contax WA and tele lenses so that they are all interchangeable except for the 50 mm lenses. I usually work with one body at a time since I don't like to partially shot rolls of film sitting around for months. Agree that changing lenses isn't quick or convenient but the Zeiss and Nikkor lenses that I have are worth it.
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Old 10-09-2019   #7
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beemermark View Post
I'm a long time, very long time, Leica user. Starting with a screw mount model than and M model in the early '80's. Somewhere a long the line I picked up a couple of working Kiev copies of the Contax II models. I held on for them for maybe 20 years years. I had a number of Contax lenses and they worked well. I liked the lenses. But the cameras. The focusing mechanism, the rangefinders, the lens attachments. I rarely used them. As ungainly as the Voigtlander Prominents.
Ungainly? Best not mention the delights of loading a screw mount, or the separate viewfinders for framing and rangefinder then. How quaint. But hey, Leica eventually got there with the M3 in 1953. It only took them nearly twenty years to catch up.

The point is no rangefinder is perfect. I'd use a Contax over a screw mount any day. Or a Prominent for that matter.
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Old 10-09-2019   #8
TenEleven
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
Ungainly? Best not mention the delights of loading a screw mount, or the separate viewfinders for framing and rangefinder then. How quaint. But hey, Leica eventually got there with the M3 in 1953. It only took them nearly twenty years to catch up.

The point is no rangefinder is perfect. I'd use a Contax over a screw mount any day. Or a Prominent for that matter.
Yeah I'd sign all of that.

More than once the film loading gods frowned upon me when loading a Barnack Leica II and the film somehow snagged the pressure plate or something else went wrong (I can't check the inside and see what's up) and everything was out of focus for those rolls.

Besides, it is not just about functionality, because taken to its extreme why wouldn't I just get a Fuji or whatever digital camera and enjoy all the comforts and none of the drawbacks from shooting film. I just enjoy handling these cameras and - at least for me - a deliberate process often leads to better pictures than run and gun.

I've found that I just get as many 'hits' with my Contax (II or IIa) than I do with my Leica Ms, but I do know which camera I usually enjoy shooting more.
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Old 10-11-2019   #9
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I haven't used my Leica IIIC since I got my first Contax II (and the Contax bug). However, when I went to NY for my son's wedding I took my M6 and used that alongside the latest Contax I'd repaired. I have been looking at the pictures and the only way I can distinguish which camera they came from is that I only took a wide-angle for the M6 (a 28mm f2.8 ZM Biogon, funnily enough) so any of the wides had to have been shot on that.

I didn't see many people using film cameras in NY, other than one guy using a Kiev or Contax (didn't get a close enough look to be sure).

I have never found the Contax to be quick to load - but then again, I have never had a film not take up, something that's not guaranteed by the M6's fidddly 'quick loading' take up spool.

The M is lovely - but there's just that extra bit of challenge and yes, a thrill in using the Contax. But then I have always been a sucker for over-engineered, quality stuff.
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Old 10-11-2019   #10
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I find the Contax iia to be a great travel camera. It is compact, fits in my computer bag or backpack (along with 2 lenses and a few filters) quite nicely. Any other camera I use other than my Konica Big Mini is too large to be practical for work related travel (couple times this year I brought the Fujifilm XT-2, but I required a separate bag for it). The iia is not super light, but it is not heavy and sure feels dense (which I like). My Fujifilm XT-2 with 18-55mm zoom lens bother my neck, but the Contax iia with either the Voigtlander SC Skopar 21mm f4 or the Zeiss Optron 50mm f2 Sonnar (and a viewfinder) do not. I just got a Zeiss Jena 135mm f4 Sonnar, and that is really heavy! I suspect it has a steel barrel and it has a huge glass element plus a large on and two thinner ones (4-elements total).

(M42 version, but same design)

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Old 10-12-2019   #11
Philip Whiteman
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I think it's plated brass, Mark - lovely lens (and the bargain among interchangeable Contax rangefinder lenses).

I do agree that a II with 50mm Sonnar feels solid, without being too heavy. And that Voigtlander 21mm f4 is beautifully made yet light (and super sharp) too.

It's only when you add the lovely, but weighty 'revolver' finder, and those brass-bodied Zeiss lenses that the mass of the whole outfit becomes enough to make the shoulders ache.

It is also true that the results are worth the pain!
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Old 11-12-2019   #12
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The 135 f4 Sonnar (1937), I suspect uncoated, is not super contrasty (like the 21mm Voigtlander), but that is ok for some shots. Here are a few of the first ones I took.



Coastal Cactus by Mark Wyatt, on Flickr


leaves by Mark Wyatt, on Flickr


road by Mark Wyatt, on Flickr
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