Original Contax I how unreliable is it?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by randy6, May 16, 2013.

  1. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    I've read many things about contax on the internet. I like to get some personal views not one regurgitated from website I bought contax I ver C somewhat working I'll send off to be cleaned. I've owned many cameras over the last thirty years I have leicas and contax both. I actually prefer contax II and IIa over leica screwmount cameras I think there simply better. I have a contax II I used for a long time and never snapped a ribbon yet. And you can get contax body and lens much cheaper then Leica. Anyone out there with personal experience with A Contax I ?
     
  2. Pioneer

    Pioneer Subscriber

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    I don't have a Contax I, but if it works anywhere near as reliably as my Contax II, I would be happy.
     
  3. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Just like the previous post I can only say the same, as one of my cameras is a Contax II, which although I never use seems to be a very nice camera. However, I do note you title your original post in a negative way. Would not how reliable be better, or are you inviting negative comments about the Contax I?
     
  4. pstake

    pstake Member

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    I'm no help. I could regurgitate what I've read, but you are not wanting that.

    I would be interested to know your experience after you get it CLA'd and use it for a while.

    Congrats on the new toy!


     
  5. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    Sorry I read all these nagitive things so I was expecting something negative from user's Thanks
     
  6. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I have two of these cameras. The first is a very early model with no slow speeds. I replaced the shutter straps when I bought it. It has been reliable since, although not the easiest camera to use and a bit crude. The second is a later model, is more refined and easier to use. It needs new shutter straps. I look forward to loading it with some film and shooting with it.
     
  7. Simon Howers

    Simon Howers Subscriber

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    Hi Randy
    I've owned several examples of this camera over the years, mostly using them for reportage. They are solidly built and reasonably robust. The one area where I think you should take care is in the shutter mechanism. This is a 'roller blind' arrangement made of interlinked slats. These are more inclined to fail than the more common Leica-style fabric blind type shutter. Repairs (here at least) are expensive, so it is best to ensure that the camera body is in full working order before buying. (Or negotiate an appropriate price).
    The other point to watch is the lens mount. They are a bit prone to damage if handled clumsily. The Contax and Nikon cameras I've owned (same lens mount) required the adjustment ring on the body to be set correctly before offering the lens up.
    Don't forget that although Nikon and Contax shared the mount rings, the focussing is different so some lenses are not interchangeable.

    Good luck

    Simon
     
  8. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    Nice observation thank you Simon. Do you think the shutter is fragile to the touch of a thumb or fragile in general use?. I know it would not be a good thing to poke a finger at a fabric shutter either. What is fragile about about the mount? I seen Nikon lenes stamped with a C meaning it was made to use with a contax different foussing then nikon without the C stamped I could be wrong. Lets talk about repairs for a moment not to get off the subject. I would think Russian repair people would have a great deal of knowledge on these cameras. Just trying to keep poorly made kiev 4s just running. I should be a breeze for them to work on a nicely machined contax. I'm sure in most cases ribbons are rotted and the camera just needs cleaned not really requiring parts I understand the russian kiev uses thick shutter ribbons and inferior parts for poorly machined kiev 4 cameras. (not all bad I hear) The one I had was. The shutter would open while changing the shutter speeds. I think there could be a savings with the right ribbons and repair person instead of a pricey 2 year wait here in the US. I don't think contax camera can never be recreated today in a modern factory to the same qaulity of the past. Once the older skilled repair people disappear this will spell the end of some of these great creations.
     
  9. elekm

    elekm Member

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    There's nothing overly complex about the Contax shutter. The same shutter is used in the Super Nettel and Nettax, and you don't read about those being fragile cameras.

    Camera repair isn't that much different than other mechanical repairs. You really have to have an understanding of hand tools and be able to work fearlessly.

    The guy with the two year wait isn't a magician. And when he passes from the scene, there will be others to fill the void. There already are. He simply is the most visible, although some of his claims are false, particularly the one regarding the Kiev shutter being found in most Contax II cameras.

    Getting back to the Contax I, the early cameras are crude. I will go into detail later when I am using a proper computer and not an Android tablet.
     
  10. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    If you need any camera that's around fifty years old to be a reliable working tool you need to add to the price you pay the cost of a full service by a professional not just a CLA, I have a Contax 11 that I've had for 60years that's been serviced twice in that time. The roller blind slatted metal shutter is held by two silk cords that over the years tend to perish over time and probably will need replacing.
     
  11. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    I had one, and used it quite a bit. I had no trouble with it, the fellow I got it from was a good technician and had gone over it. Here's what it comes down to with any old mechanism (assuming it's well designed and well made in the first place): How it's been treated. Have hacks got at it? Has it been properly maintained?
    The Contax I was and still is a world-class camera. It will be just as good today as it was the day it left the factory if it has been properly treated and maintained.
     
  12. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    To elekm great reply on service techs

    I collected most my cameras over time through local auction and sales Most things I find have not been touched in decades or since new. I don't buy many cameras from #bay because of possible butchery not to say all sellers are passing something off I just don't want to take the chance. I don't think this contax has been fiddled with much over the years should come out nice. And it sounds like other users had little to no problems with this model.
     
  13. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    In reply to elekm I don't think kiev shuttters are replaced in many or any contax cameras either it would seem to be a ridiculous effort on a forger or repairers part. there's not a lot of money in contax II cameras.
     
  14. elekm

    elekm Member

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    OK, I'm on a real computer now.

    I get the impression that the first Contax I model was rushed to market. The rangefinder arm rides along the barrel of the lens helical, and it's a bit of a bumpy ride, meaning that the secondary image does not move smoothly.

    The tab for the lens lock is too thin on my camera, allowing a lens to unlock itself. As I mentioned, there are no slow speeds, and it requires to much effort to advance the film and tension the shutter. It uses mirrors in the focusing system, and the secondary image is rather dim, despite careful cleaning of all components. Yes, I was very careful with the semi-gilded mirror.

    The later model that I have, which has slow speeds, is a better camera - more refined, as I mentioned earlier in this thread. Everything seems more positive. I think this model uses prisms in the focusing system, and the secondary image slides smoothly to and fro. Lenses lock securely, and it just seems like a better made camera.

    I need to replace the shutter straps -- the old ones gave way about six months ago. It's a shame, because this camera came with a clean and very beautiful nickel and black f/1.5 5cm Sonnar, which of course can be used with any other Contax. I like the idea of using the very classic Sonnar with its original camera.
     
  15. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Zeiss started making the Contax 1 in 1932, so how reliable can any machine be that could be up to 81 years old that may have never never been serviced ?
     
  16. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    I've been using contax I for a while now. I had a problem rewinding film the first time I used it. I had to unload in the darkroom. I had not had a problem since. Two prongs push the film away from the spool while rewinding. A funny system for rewinding. I have a f2.8 tessar perfect shape and f1.5 sonar also perfect shape both nickel plated and uncoated The tessar preformed much better with a lens hood. Camera works well.
     
  17. elekm

    elekm Member

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    What is nice about the Contax is that you can use the Zeiss Ikon film cassette, and it eliminates the need to rewind, although you probably should unload the film in a darkroom or camera bag.

    The Zeiss Ikon film cassette can be used in many Zeiss Ikon cameras: All Contax models, Contarex, Super Nettel, Nettax (35mm rangefinder), Tenax II and all of the Contaflex models. In the early days of eBay, you could buy these quite cheaply (less than $10, as I recall).

    I think that you'll find that the Contax I, properly serviced, is a fine camera. There are some shortcomings: two viewfinders, a very tiny rewind knob and sort of a quirky way to advance the film and tension the shutter.

    However, I think the shutter release is about perfect. And Zeiss Ikon, at the time, liked to point out that there were no spinning dials when the shutter was released - a clear shot at Leica.
     
  18. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    The collectors recognize a lot of variations within the Contax I production, the later ones may have no problems as shooters, the collectors have inflated prices, they were real cheap at one time.

    A parts Kiev can be got real cheap and if you need to fix a Contax II, the Kiev shutter module is nearly a straight drop in, saves a lotts money as stripping the crate can be difficult, and parts impossible, it is not that Contax II are expensive, to make counterfeiting worthwhile.

    The Contax II and III are real nice cameras for shooters and real cheap, early Kiev's arnt a lot different in price or utility, either can be very reliable as shooters but are slow handling.

    The J12 (35mm) and Orion (28mm) can need fettling before they mount on a Kiev or Contax II but are nice performers, the Orions are distressingly rare.

    The Kiev and Contax II concentric cassettes are interchangeable. the Kiev ones are real cheap.

    Some of the Kievs are being scrapped to make Contax and (Nikon) lens to M body adapters, so Kiev parts are readily available, except for the lens panel.
     
  19. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    I've got a jupiter 9 85mm Made in about 1962 I only used it once so far seems fine thats the only russian lens I got for it. I was looking for a nikkor 85mm but I need to find it at the right price. I have nikkor 35mm f2.5 early made of chrome and brass I bought with a contax iia I also got a 135mm nikkor "c" with it. I have two f2 sonnar 5cm optons one nickel f1.5 sonnar and 13.5cm sonnar and I have a iia body thats been cleaned works fine
     
  20. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    I also have two f2.8 tessars both nickel one has a black front the other is all nickel. Would thes both be the same formula?

    I did get a contax film cassette and two kiev film cassettes. Only the contax cassette works in the contax model I the kiev would have to be modified a hole would need to be drilled in the tab at the bottom of the cassette.

    From what I understand a kiev shutter crate cannot fit in a contax and the shutter tapes are not the same size. Too bad someone can't come up with a better material for shutter tapes. Maybe a flexible piece of titanium?
     
  21. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    Our early Kiev cameras same or simular? Maybe the first three models.
     
  22. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    The Kievs are very similar to the ContaxII, some ContaxII have Kievs parts, as there are no Contax II spares.
    The Contax IIa ribbons are rather different, the Kiev ribbon is not exactly the same as the Contax II ribbon but can be bodged to fit a Contax II.
    This may be variation in Kiev ribbon!
    Early Kievs are expensive.
    There is some variation in Kiev cassettes but all mine fit in Contax II and IIa.
    A Nikon wide should fit and work ok on most Kievs, Kiev wides normally (25%) need rebuilding to fit on Kievs! The J12 won't fit on any IIa.
    Interchangeability (parts) is not warranted Kiev to Kiev, Swiss files are useful.
    Same is true of Contax I...
    If you get an early Kiev it is just as good for photos as a II or IIa most meters still work ok even 70s are nice shooters.
     
  23. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    contax

    contax.jpg
     
  24. elekm

    elekm Member

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    There are two important variations in the Contax I. The earliest model has no slow shutter speeds, and its rangefinder assembly uses mirrors and prisms.

    The later Contax I had slow shutter speeds and uses only prisms in the rangefinder system.

    Both cameras have two eyepieces - one for focusing and one for composing your photo. However, the focusing-composing eyepieces are reversed in the two cameras. In one camera, the focusing eyepiece is on the left, and on the other camera it is on the right.

    The later camera also feels more refined and more solid. The early camera, feels -- to me -- a bit rough in operation.