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  1. #1
    cliveh's Avatar
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    Zeiss Contarex Bullseye

    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?

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  2. #2

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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. #3
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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. #4

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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.

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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. #6
    cliveh's Avatar
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    Thanks for this and interesting to read.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  7. #7

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

    "If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time." G.K.Chesterton

  8. #8
    Mustafa Umut Sarac's Avatar
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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. #9
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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. #10
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    Connie

    Quote Originally Posted by Mustafa Umut Sarac View Post
    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.
    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. 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.

    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!



 

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