I strongly suspect there was something else going on with that camera. I have 3 Zeiss Ikon Contax cameras, two Contaflex's and a Contarex. None of them smell any different than any of the rest of my MMM cameras. If you still own the camera you may want to have it cleaned and lubed.
Originally Posted by 250swb
I feel the selenium meter adds a noticeable amount of weight, and so I leave my IIIA on the shelf while I use the IIA and a handheld meter.
It took me only a few minutes to get used to the Zeiss Ikon Contax, and I love the camera, love the lenses and love the results.
I like the IIA better than the II, simply because it's a smaller camera.
As for an odor, that sounds like some other issue. Zeiss Ikon cameras have no untoward odors, aside from what happens with leather.
another vote for the (ahem post-war) IIa and IIIa Contax
Originally Posted by MDR
A lot of people like old Leicas but I like old Contaxes. I used to use Contaxes quite a lot back in the 90's. I never had one break on me. At one point I had four bodies I think. I eventually stopped using them since I only used them as a carry around camera for citiscapes or when I was traveling. I still have one IIIa Black Dial body but I barely use it. I use Leicas now, but that doesn't mean I don't like Contaxes. The lenses were better than Leica back in the day. I still marvel at how good the lenses are still. I had a 35mm Biometar, 50 and 85 Sonnars. I still have both an uncoated pre-war Sonnar and a coated post-war Sonnar that I use occasionally on my Leicas with an adapter. They are amazing lenses. I would love to get a Contax I someday that worked. Not very practical, but just fun to use. The viewfinder is a bit of a bummer since it only gives you the field of view for the 50 but accessory finders aren't bad. I remember reading that Zeiss had a prototype with framelines but it never came out because of some shakeup or another. Too bad.
Contaxes can be wound super fast if you do a twist with both wrists. Assuming you are holding the camera with your left hand under the camera, just pinch the wind knob between your right thumb and forefinger knuckle then twist your left wrist upwards towards your face and your right wrist away from your face. Takes less than a second.
Here is a link to some images all shot with Contaxes back in the day. Sorry, no Flickr for me- http://www.patrickrobertjames.com/contax
I bought a pre-war Contax III from a Camera dealer in Berlin in about 1956 when I was there in the British Army -- it was £38 with the 50mm f1.5 Un-Coated Sonnar and I paid it back monthly -- when I was sent to Iserlohn in the British Zone I got a NEW 85mm f4 Triotar from a Camera dealer -- then when I was out of the Army I had the chance for a mint IIIa with the 50mm f1.5 Coated Sonnar -- I had much trouble with flare on the un-coated Sonnar and when I got into local Press Photography I was often cutting off the head of VIP's such as the Mayor because of the small viewfinder -- well, one of the Partners I worked with had been in the RAF in Singapore and brought back these 'weird-sounding Asahi PENTAX' cameras with funny lenses called 'TAKUMARS' but the RESULTS were far better than the Contax and NO parallax problems !! One day a local Camera Dealer had an ASAHI PENTAX S3 appear in his window, attracting a small crowd of Camera - Starved Brits pressing their noses to the glass -- I rushed in and offered my Contax IIIa and got £35 for it paid the rest of the £85 and rushed out the proud owner of an ASAHI PENTAX -- and THAT ( so they say -- ) is where the story really begins ----
An 'Old Dog still learning New Tricks !
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Contax is first class but inspect the post war examples with more care, those were tough years for Zeiss.
Originally Posted by Steve Mack
Yeah, Zeiss lenses are bad, that's why ARRI is in bed with Zeiss for almost a century.
Originally Posted by pentaxpete
Great story Pentax Pete. You are certainly an SLR man. I love my Pentax cameras as well. Shooting an SV now and having a ball with it. You are certainly right, don't have to worry about parallax error with an SLR.
Originally Posted by pentaxpete
But I still shoot my Contax II almost daily and I can't say that about the SV. I think it has something to do with the lenses.
I thought the story was interesting and tells what happened to the camera market in the 1960s as Japanese-made SLRs began to take over.
The Japanese offerings were less expensive and of very good quality. It's been written that the Germans were too slow to market an affordable SLR with comparable features, notably a rapid-return mirror and TTL meter. They were right.
I had a Contax IIIa with a Sonnar 50/1.5 a few years ago. It gave me some trouble because of a weird light leak that eventually went away. Also lenses would rattle slightly in the mount, but I never found out what that was. I'm pretty sure it was isolated to mine, and it never affected pictures. Ergonomically it was okay - not wonderful - but it was fun to use. The viewfinder is very small by today's standards, but usable. Advance was done by a knob which took a little effort to turn, but was smooth. Rewind was annoying because my fingers would bump-up against the meter block. The meter in mine worked, but I believe most now are either inaccurate or dead (they can be fixed if you really want to.)
Originally Posted by Steve Mack
It took some fantastic pictures - the Sonnar 50/1.5 is a killer lens. Mine had severe balsam separation that had people running for the hills, but it worked great - even in direct sunlight, and produced nice color photos, too. Contax lenses are hard to come by, and of course on eBay many are extortionately priced. Voigtländer (Cosina) made some good lenses, and Russian KIEV mount lenses are good, too - especially the Jupiter-12 35/2.8. You could also try Nikon rangefinder mount (S-mount) lenses, as long as they're wider than 50mm.
Check to make sure that Bulb works properly, and that 1/1250 actually opens - I believe those are the two speeds that can give trouble. Also see if you can run a test film through it, and check the fast speeds to make sure they're exposing the film properly.
Those who know, shoot film
I have a pair of IIIa bodies---both with accurate meters, incredibly---that have seen quite a bit of "regular camera" use. I haven't really had a problem with the ergonomics, though clearly some people do---OK, knob rewind is a pain in the butt, but otherwise, no issues. The fixed viewfinder means that with anything other than a 50mm lens, you effectively have a separate rangefinder and viewfinder, which is livable but intrinsically slower than a combined window. I mostly use 50mm anyway, so it hasn't been an enormous issue for me, but someone who favored other focal lengths would have more trouble.
The meter adds bulk, but I suppose less than carrying a separate meter would. There aren't going to be a lot of working, accurate meters out there, though; unless you can confirm meter accuracy before buying, it probably makes more sense to go with the meterless IIa.
The big thing is, OH MY GOD THE LENSES, especially the 50/1.5. There are technically better-performing lenses for 35mm, but to my taste that lens has the perfect balance of technical virtues and "character", especially in color. The 85/2 is also a real winner. I don't have any of the "native" wides, just an oddball third-party 28mm, but people say wonderful things about the 35/2.8 Biogon (however, the prewar version and the Soviet/fSU copies are reported NOT to fit on the postwar bodies).
I'm moving away from 35mm a bit lately, but the Contaxen are on the short list of cameras I'm pretty confident I'll never unload. I'm actually rather tempted by the Voigtlaender R2C; it doesn't have the giant rangefinder base, but it has TTL metering and framelines and would provide a modern, less eccentric platform for the lenses.
San Diego, CA, USA
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