Zeiss Contaflex

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by ronlamarsh, Jun 28, 2009.

  1. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    I just scored one of these at an estate sale for $30 it is in mint condition, the shutter is a little hesistant at 1 sec. Got the case the manual anda copy of "The Contaflex Way" and the tele-lens with shade with it. Sn is81715 with a 45mm tessar lens. What can you folks tell me about this find? I couldn't pass it up.
     
  2. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Member

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    Well, they are beautiful and they have an interesting history and the lenses are old Zeiss classics, but as far as practical picture-takers are concerned, they can't cut it compared to your average Japanese manual 35mm SLR from the '70s.
     
  3. elekm

    elekm Member

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    They don't have many of the modern conveniences of later cameras. No rapid-return mirror. Early models had knob wind, rather than a lever. The back was removed to change the film. It uses a simple fresnel screen with a ground glass collar and split image.

    If you can get past the lack of modern conveniences, you'll find that the coated Tessar lens is very sharp.

    It's a small camera. It has a leaf shutter, which means you can synchronize the flash at any speed from 1 second to 1/500.

    Take your time, and you'll be rewarded with excellent photographs.

    By the way, the shutter probably should be serviced.
     
  4. Robert Budding

    Robert Budding Member

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    Nice cameras, but it's hard to find anyone who will work on them because of the overly complicated design.
     
  5. jime11

    jime11 Member

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    "By the way, the shutter probably should be serviced."

    I will second this one. BUt where & at what cost can this be done?
    I had a Contaflex Super & liked it. Yes it is quirky by "modern" standards but when the shutter worked right it produced uniquely appealing results. I'm talking family photos - not professional work here.
    The problem I had with mine is that the exposures were somewhat random. I sold it on ebay with full disclosure & the buyer reported he liked it very much. I would like to have another in "perfect" working order but at this late date I don't think I could get one overhauled for a reasonable price.
     
  6. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    contaflex

    I found a repair place online in New Jersey that lists these as cameras that the work on. Am waiting for a CLA quote.
    I know that not having a lever wind and some other modern convienences make it rather quirky as does the non-return mirror. But I find it feels good in the hands like my M3 did and the Tessar lens intrigues me. I have an F3 if I were to need to do "professional work" but the lenses just don't give a black & white image the way that the Tessar or Xenars do on my Rollei"s.
    Since I don't do professional work per se I am rather excited by its possibilities.
     
  7. DTC

    DTC Member

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    My father has had a Contaflex Super B for over 40 years. It is a nice looking, very solid, pretty heavy camera. It does lack certain modern conveniences like an instant return mirror and the loading of film is a bit cumbersome, with the back having to be removed. However, the camera does take very sharp pictures and the unusual optional back allows you to change films mid-roll using a dark slide. The worst fault of the camera is the battery compartment door, which is poorly designed and made of plastic. The door often fails to remain closed, necessitating the use of unsightly tape.
     
  8. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    The Contaflex SLR, not the TLR, right?
     
  9. mhanc

    mhanc Member

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    My father also had one -- that his father brought back from Germany. It is what I leaned on and I remember reading "The Contaflex Way" in school rather than paying attention in class. This camera is probably why I MUCH prefer an all mechanical camera. It just makes the whole process so pure and instinctual. I hope you enjoy this camera as much as I did.
     
  10. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    Yes the SLR
     
  11. Towermax

    Towermax Member

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    I think that's the Contaflex Super BC. The Super B doesn't use a battery--it has a selenium cell. The Super BC uses a CdS meter and a mercury battery.

    I have both cameras and just checked to be sure. Beautiful cameras, though a bit quirky.
     
  12. budrichard

    budrichard Member

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    You have what was my first 35mm camera purchased used in 1960 for $80. The Tessar lens is excellent and its a little slow as you have to use a wind knob to advance the film and lower the mirror but so what! The ability to synch at any shutter speed is very useful but getting the shutter worked on requires experience. After 20 years mine needed work for about $35 if I remember correctly. If all that's wrong is the 1 sec speed, have the speeds tested and if OK, just use it! Very very nice camera that still has a soft spot for me.
    Of course as soon as I purchased my first Nikon F, it never got much use after that.-Dick
     
  13. r-brian

    r-brian Member

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    Since the Contaflex has the 45mm lens, it could be either a Alpha or Beta, depending if it has a meter or not. These models were the cheaper model with the 3-element Pantar lens, not the 4-element 50mm Tessar. They also had their own specific wide and tele lenses that would not fit any of the other Contaflexes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contaflex_SLR Still a cool camera and still complicated as all get out to work on.

    However, if it's a fixed lens model and the 'tele' lens is the Teleskop 1.7x that attaches over the fixed lens, then it's either the Model I or II, again depending if it has a meter or not. And the lens is a Tessar.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 29, 2009
  14. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    Model I

    Its definitely a Model I as it has a fixed 45mm Tessar lens f2.8. I have also noticed that there is a longer than stated(in the contaflex way book)delay between the mirror flipping up and the shutter firing. I would asume this is related to the 1/2 and 1 sec settings on the shutter being slow. Funny though the B setting works perfectly.
     
  15. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    The shuttermay be a major problem. I suggest you pack it up and send it to me to get it off your hands.

    Seriously, what a fantastic find!
     
  16. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    Can you fix it for me for less than $130? Actually I have been in contact with Essexx camera repair and they say they can do a CLA for $130. To all you folks out there.....am I getting a deal or the shaft? Worth it......it is to me at this point as I really like the way the camera handles, much more natural than my F3.
     
  17. r-brian

    r-brian Member

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    The standard repair cost when I worked in a camera store 12 years ago was 2 hours labor. At $130, that's just $65/hr for 2 hours, fairly cheap. Most hourly rates are more like $75-$80/hr.

    Being that the Contaflex (and the old Bessamatic and Retina Reflexes) is one of the most complicated cameras to work on (and difficult to find anyone even willing to work on it), that doesn't sound excessive.
     
  18. elekm

    elekm Member

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    That's a reasonable estimate for the work. Nearly all older cameras, especially those with leaf shutters should be serviced. After all, 50+ years is a long time for any mechanical device to run without being serviced.

    It's once-in-a-lifetime work that should restore the camera to excellent condition.
     
  19. Marc Akemann

    Marc Akemann Subscriber

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    Back in 1997 my father-in-law gave me his mint black Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super BC and 50/2.8 Pro Tessar lens. He purchased it 30 years earlier and put through only about ten rolls of film during the first 5 years he owned it and then put it in a drawer. So, because it sat for more than 20 years I sent it to Wolf Umbach who owned Z-V Service in Oriental, North Carolina. He CLA'd it and my Super BC still works beautifully today. I just called Wolf just a few minutes ago and, unfortunately, he no longer works on cameras. He also didn't know of anyone else still working on ZI Contaflex cameras these days (reliably).

    I've heard good things about Essex but I didn't know they tackle Contaflex cameras. The price, $130, is right but I would ask them what their CLA involves and how they go about it. As mentioned above, these are complicated cameras to work on.

    Good luck!

    Marc
     
  20. Marc Akemann

    Marc Akemann Subscriber

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    One more thing. If you would like to attempt working on the camera yourself, take a look at a book entitled "Restoring Classic & Collectible Cameras" by Thomas Tomosy, ISBN 0-936262-59-1. There's a detailed section on taking apart and working on a Contaflex I and a Contaflex Super, complete with photos.

    Marc
     
  21. elekm

    elekm Member

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    There are two complex things when servicing the Contaflex I and II:

    1) Removing the prism to clean the viewfinder. It's held by wire clips.

    2) Replacing the shutter. You must retension the aperture spring that is done by a star screw inside the mirror box. There are some notes on the Web regarding this. It's actually a bit easier than it seems.

    I've worked on several of these, and while more complex than your average camera, they aren't impossibly difficult.
     
  22. cmo

    cmo Member

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  23. ZorkiKat

    ZorkiKat Member

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    One more thing: the helicoids on Contaflex Tessar lenses are very soft brass. Easy to distort them, and once damaged, even by a bit, will make lens reassembly almost impossible..... Anyone know of a trick to fix a slightly damaged thread?

    Mike Elek is right about the Contaflex I/II: may look a bit complicated, but if one stays clear of the complicated stuff, servicing the camera isn't as hard as it looks or sounds.

    The Contaflex I (first version) had a soldered flash synch connection. This makes the disassembly a bit more difficult. Do not try to cut the wire. The later versions used pin contacts on the mount.
     
  24. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I was going to say ... the TLR goes for about $2000 over here - if you can find one to begin with.
     
  25. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I have a Contaflex I, which my father bought new from Sears in the early 1950s. It's a nice camera, but mine doesn't match the image quality of an FM2, for example.