Zeiss Contarex Bullseye

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by cliveh, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Does anyone own one of these? I have always thought it a very interesting design, but never owned one. What are they like to use?
     
  2. Someonenameddavid

    Someonenameddavid Member

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    There is a reason Zeiss went out of the camera business: exquisite cameras that were grossly over-engineered. Compared to Nikon, they are slower and more diddly to use : loading an interchangeable back is a nightmare.

    But the lenses of the Contarex were considered by many to have been the best ever made for 35mm.

    David
     
  3. Pioneer

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    I have never owned the Contarex Bullseye but I did own the Contaflex Super BC for quite awhile. I absolutely loved those lenses, but loading film in that interchangeable back made loading film in my Leica III seem like a walk in the park. I almost wish I had it back when I look at the images again. Almost, but not enough to go buy another.

    I do suspect that if I had used it more I would have gotten more adept at loading it and probably would not have minded as much. Ah well.
     
  4. jochen

    jochen Member

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    Hello,
    the CONTAREX "Bullseye" is the heaviest 35 mm camera I know. From a technical viewpoint it is one of the most complicated cameras and a wonder of german craftmenship. If there were several ways to solve a technical problem, Zeiss Ikon always took the most complicated one (see the shutter of the CONTAX). Some camera repairmen got grey hairs working on a CONTAREX. The built in selenium cell is dead on most cameras. The exchangable magazines are seldom light tight due to old seals. It is not possible to focus on the whole fresnel viewing screen, only in the middle. The lenses were superb, especially the 25 mm Distagon, and built like a tank.
     
  5. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    Back in the 60's I would have given my eye teeth for one of these beasts. I was able to handle one at a photo equipment exhibition and was smitten. But oh the weight! They was probably heavier than my Nikon F4's.

    The non instant return mirror made the use very slow and deliberate act which would suit my photography today but in my youth as we all did we wanted SPEED!
    Then about 2 months ago I had the chance to handle one again. It was in exquisite condition almost unmarked with a case that could have been unwrapped only yesterday. There was the same silky smoothness that was there all those years ago, the original Zeiss Planar F2 lens was attached and was as smooth to focus as any I have ever used. The meter still worked, although bit slow to respond. The price was reasonable too, so I pondered and thought about it, but eventually decided to give it a miss, a decision I will regret for a good while.

    I am quite sure that all today's electronic wonders will never last a fraction of the time. They just lack craftsmanship and sheer build quality.
     
  6. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Thanks for this and interesting to read.
     
  7. jime11

    jime11 Member

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    pic from my Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super -- wonderful lens but inconsistant shutter made me sell it.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    What a wonderful smooth grades at her face. Nobody makes this kind of lenses anymore. Her cheeks will pop up from the picture. Leica is little bit colder and gives more detail that I like it very much. Bokeh is not pleasant at that lens.
     
  9. carbon_dragon

    carbon_dragon Member

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    The Bullseye was the prettiest camera I ever had, but the most difficult and annoying to use I ever had. Great lenses, but horrible cameras to use. Everything about them said luxury and well built though. On the other hand, the Leica M2 and M3 also had that feeling of extreme engineering but their user interface was a masterpiece and the lenses were nearly as good. Which is why I didn't keep the Bullseye for long and why I still have both my M2s.

    And the lenses had some design problems too in retrospect, and were difficult or near impossible to adapt to another camera. I think this camera WAS the reason why Zeiss gave up on the camera business. It's a camera you can only love till you use it. And I agree about the interchangeable backs. Great idea, lousy execution.

    And then there was Yashica/Kyocera. The RTS I was a nightmare for its electronics, but they got it more right in the subsequent cameras. The RTS's user interface was a dream, it had the same feeling of quality and the same superb lenses that the Contarex had, only the contrast was better. Delightful to use, marvelous interface, superb quality in both body and lens. The RTS III is the Contarex Bullseye done right.
     
  10. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    Connie

    I do agree Mustafa, the Zeiss Pro-Tessar lenses render some beautiful images.

    I just picked up another Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super B (Uufta, what a name for a camera. I think I'll call her Connie for short.) with the full set of lenses. I love how those Zeiss Pro-Tessar lenses render colors so much that I decided I needed to be able to work with them again. It's a real shame that Zeiss Ikon never built any more lenses for it. Connie's meter works outdoors just fine if you shut it off once in a while and let it rest, a bit like myself. :smile: Indoors it is not very accurate so I don't even try and just use my little Voigtlander VC-1 instead. Connie does NOT have the interchangeable film magazine, which was a definite selling point for me after having fought with the two magazines on my Super BC for a year. And believe me when I say that loading film in Connie is an absolute dream compared to loading film in those film magazines, or my Leica for that matter. :D

    Another thing I have noted with this camera, the viewfinder is absolutely beautiful to look through and it is clear and bright. I have always thought that the viewfinder in my LX was wonderful, but this is the first SLR I have ever used that matches the clarity of that LX viewfinder. Focusing with a viewfinder that you can see through is so much nicer.

    I have taken a few shots and as soon as I get some printed and scanned I'll have to post some. Unfortunately the 85mm is showing some separation so I have sent it off to John at Focal Point, Inc. to be repaired. A bit pricey but nothing like these lenses cost when they were new. And certainly worth it for the image quality. At today's prices everyone should have the opportunity to work with these. It is a very under-rated camera in my opinion. I know that Zeiss went out of business but I think a large part was because they spent so much money making these cameras there was no way that they could operate at a profit. It certainly was not because they made inferior equipment, that is for sure!
     
  11. Knjy

    Knjy Member

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    Go for it, the more we preserve the better

    I Have one that has just become useable. It had a fault that hung the shutter on release, now fixed. As those above have mentioned, this camera is an engineering masterpiece, rock solid, ambitious at the time and impossibly over complicated. When considering it next to a contemporary Nikon F it seems that the Japanese asked the question "how do we make this work as fast as possible?" and the Germans asked the question "how do we make this as expensively as possible?"

    The aperture interface has 9 internal gears, two full sized ball races that skirt the lens mount opening - one in the camera and one in the lens - a spring loaded gear driven aperture control ring that engages as the shutter is released. All totally bonkers compared to every other mechanism I have seen. That said, all of these components are beautifully made and once returned to factory state - that is without the old grease and cleaned of atmospheric grime - they work perfectly!

    I also find it quite good to use, the viewfinder is very bright even with the aperture closed down. It is easy to focus once you get the hang of only using the micro-prisms and split image. The shutter makes a satisfying sound as if all that money you paid is worth it and for a 1958 design the meter can work in decent light and can be read in the viewfinder. On this latter point I find my guesswork much faster and more accurate, especially at any time before 8.00am and after 5.00pm.

    The ergonomics are quite good for all photography except street work where the slow shutter-cycle, the noise and the size is distracting. Not a Nikon or Leica. I have only the 50mm Blitz Planar which is superb, very well balanced on the camera and quick to focus right down to 20". I have seen inside this and a 50mm F1.4 Nikkor of the same vintage - even though the nikon is very well made, the Zeiss is several leagues up in build quality - think 1960's Mercedes vs Ford.

    Probably the best 'vanity' camera you could acquire. People stop and ask what it is, it looks like a 60's Rolls Royce, it makes a sound that says "there is plenty going on inside here and it cost me a lot of money" and it represents the greatest of Zeiss' ambition.

    Caveat
    I would not buy one without trying it with a lens attached and held by the thumbwheel at the largest of it's aperture settings. This is the setting that will promote shutter hang and cost you either time or loads of money to fix. You can mimic this by depressing the lens button seen at 11.00 o'clock on the camera bayonet flange if you do not have a lens available. This fault does not show itself otherwise - a camera alone fires easily and seems totally fine - it may not be once you fix a lens to it.
    2. A lens that is frozen up (see Henry Scherer's pages) can be unfrozen by stripping it down to components and heating the lens helicals in the oven. Now you may be audacious to this degree, I am not.
    3. I think the cloth shutter curtains will not last as long as the camera and guess that there will not be a cottage industry kicking off to save them like there is for old Leica and Contax models.

    I set myself an ambition to acquire as many of the great mechanical cameras that I reasonably could. I have always owned a Leica and have 3 Nikon F/F2, a Rolleiflex F2.8F, Contax ll, lla, llla. An now, more a peccadillo, a working Contarex. Maybe a Hasselblad in my future, otherwise I'm done.
    Further information here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/31778846@N05/16466293858/
     
  12. Knjy

    Knjy Member

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  13. AgX

    AgX Member

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    It is an old camera, give her time to do the cycle...
    It is an interesting test, but concerning cycle time pure academic. At least I don't see practical implications.
     
  14. Hatchetman

    Hatchetman Subscriber

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    this thread may have cured my Contarex lust forever, though I wouldn't count on it.

    Regardless, how do those legendary lenses perform for you?