Stumbled across a Contax IIIa with a 50mm 1.5 Sonnar

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Brian Legge, May 20, 2010.

  1. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    I apologize in advance for this overly long post. I promise not to do it again any time soon.

    On Tuesday, I checked out a collectors storage rooms filled with cameras, fishing reels, video cameras, etc. Starting in the last 80s, he went by thrift stores and Goodwill, picking up cameras. Ballpark estimate, he had amassed about 2000 of cameras. Over almost four hours, the three of use who had responded to the ad sorted them. About a dozen interesting pieces, many scooped up by one of the more knowledgeable buyers. I ended up with a box full of rangefinders - Canonet 17s GIIIs, a Pax 2, an Olympus 35 SP and RC, a Canter Beauty, a Minolta A, a Fujica Ger, etc.... and the Contax IIIa.

    Unfortunately, most of the cameras weren't in great shape. Decades in a storage facility - after time in a thrift store - was killed many of the cameras.

    The Contax shutter doesn't seem to cock (or it is stuck - I'm not sure which). The Sonnar looks like it had fungus or surface abrasion over a quarter of the front element. I assume the Contax may be salvageable but the lens likely not.

    My conundrum is that I'm not sure what to do with the camera at this point. I may be a bit of a collector, but I don't have any cameras I can't shoot.The repair costs I've seen for Contax IIIas have been in the $250-700 range, more than I can really justify for a camera that seems like more of a collection piece than anything.

    Don't get me wrong here, I'm thrilled to have found it. Simply sorting through that pipe of cameras was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. I also have a bunch of other cameras I've been wanting to try (Olympus RC, Ricoh 500G, Auto S2, etc).

    As a photographer use to shooting $20 rangefinders though, it was eye opening to hold a camera like the Contax and realize what quality construction (and a quality rangefinder) looks like. Its also a little frustrating to be so close to such a nice camera but so far from having a functional one.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2010
  2. BobD

    BobD Member

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    Seems like you answered your own question. :D

    Contax RFs of that period, as great as they are, are often found with
    nonfunctional shutters and other problems unless they happen to have been
    serviced in recent years.

    The same goes for many cameras from the 40s-50s or earlier.

    There are lots of nice RFs that wouldn't cost nearly as much to service,
    even some German ones.
     
  3. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    If you look around on sites like Collectible Cameras, Igor's, etc. you can find nice working copies of the IIa/IIIa for decent prices. Forums like the Rangefinder Forum and APUG are also good marketplaces (though the ads on RFF are more geared toward such material) to find one.

    Don't despair, the nice Contaxes are out there! I got mine via a forum transaction, and never regretted it. In the meantime, you may want to get a Kiev II or 4a to fool around with.
     
  4. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    Thanks for the practical suggestions. You're both right - I made up my mind, i just needed to talk through it to be sure i wasn't missing anything.

    I appreciate the suggestions. I should sell it and save whatever i get on it toward something nice.