Contax IIIA Lenses
Hi Forum Members, I am new to the forum. I have learned much reading the posts. Thank you.
I am about to buy a Contax IIIA Camera. The question is this : Where can I buy lenses that are made for this Camera. The Zeiss lenses seem to be only on E- Bay. Is this correct? Camera Quest sells Voightlander lenses but that is not what I would like. The original lenses would be nice. I am trying to buy a 35mm and a approx. 90mm Zeiss lens for the Contax. I use these two focal lenghts most in my SLR Cameras. Some times a 24mm as well. I am not a collector good user lenses are just fine. Unless the Russian lenses are superb they are not an option. I like to stay as original as possible. Thank you for reading. Do you have any advise? Regards Peter
If I had to fill the bill as you state it, I would turn first (I live in the UK) to
If, on the other hand, I wanted lenses for practical use, I would go for Voigtländer every time. I have a 50 mm and 28 mm with Leica mounts, they're good. The 50 mm f1.5 in particular is well ahead of a Leitz Summarit. Do you have any experience of vintage 35 mm lenses? Even if you can find some in really good usable condition, performance can be very disappointing by modern standards.
I had a Kiev (4a?) once, didn't think much of the 50 mm lens, although I have a 135 mm Jupiter lens (Leica thread) which is good. If you decide to go for vintage, I would test the lenses and look hard at the results before you spend a lot of money!
Thank you David, I was under the mistaken impression that the newer Contax G series Zeiss lenses would fit. I gather they do not. Thanks also for asking the question do I know the old lenses? No I do not. The thinking was that the Zeiss lenses would be OK. Not necessarily multi coated but very good. It really does not have to be a Contax just a rangefinder with interchangeable lenses. I have a Voightlander Vito BL but it has a fixed lens. The Leica III's are too old I thought.
Nikon rangefinders are priced beyond reason. That leaves the Conon P and 7's also not cheap. The Fedka's and Kievs I was told to stay away from as the quality is not predictable. A friend is a collector and goes to all the Camera swap shows here in the Toronto area he says even if you get the Russian Cameras fixed this month next month something else or the same thing will break again. In other words you can't rely on them. That is no good. One good Camera should be enough to take on an outing to take pictures, if lucky even photographs. A user rangefinder in good shape is what I am looking to buy. Regards Peter
I cannot really understand why you are limiting yourself to earlier cameras, where dubious reliability and parts availability are part-and-parcel of the deal. Since, as you said, you have no particular reason for demanding a classic camera, but a camera for day-to-day use, with reliability and consistancy, you can hardly go past the current Voigtlander (no "h"!) system; for the cost of acquiring a Contax IIIA with a couple of matching lenses (preferably post-Opton period), the cost of the equipment would be just te starting point as you would need to get them expertly serviced; that will be considerably more than having a brand new Voigtlander Bessa kit which will at least give you peace of mind as long as the warranty lasts.
But if you have already factored in the cost of a complete service/rebuild of camera and its lenses, I do not really think the ex-Soviet cameras are as bad as they're made out to be. Sure they're assembled with less care than those from Germany and Japan, but I am convinced that if properly assembled or reassembled with the care they deserved in the first place they can indeed be fully dependable, as demonstrated by a number of "hot-rod shops" who rebuild Kiev 60 and 88 cameras. Stories of product unreliability are by nature self-perpetuating so you have to treat them with the right dose of scepticism.
Thank you Seele, you are correct in your statements. I just thought that the money spent on an older Rangefinder would be less than a new or used Bessa 2. Factoring in all the likely repair costs it will probably come out the same. Currently I am watching on E-Bay a Contax copy from the eastern block and a Contax from East Germany with a Zeiss Jena lens. They appear to be Contax II's not the A models with the better shutters. Also a Canon 7 but that one is going to be too expensive. here is one of them http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...e=STRK:MEWA:IT here is another
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...e=STRK:MEWA:IT I will watch to see what happens. Thank you again for the reply and suggestions. Regards Peter
Thank you for considering my observations.
There are a few more considerations though:
If you are not familar with operating an earlier camera such as a Contax-based one (that includes the pre -war and post-war Contax models, and the so-called "copies" made by Kiev Arsenal), it would be very easy to trash it due to improper handling. A new camera like the Voigtlander Bessa would be a lot more user-friendly as it is based on a tried-and-tested chassis.
In addition to that, a new camera such as the Voigtlander Bessa will carry on be supported for years to come, in terms of parts availability, and the easy access to repairers. If you have stripped a gear in a Contax it would be less convenient to say the least, and lots more expensive as the part would have to be sourced somehow.
Availability of accessories and lenses is a factor that I have outlined in an earlier post so I see no reason to repeat here.
Anyway, I see the vendor of the black Contax copy is Arax, one of the (if not "the") most respected of hot-rodders of Ukrainian cameras, so I think it should be a safer bet than the one in the UK.
Whatever your decision, I wish you good luck.
Thank you Seele for the advise. I will see what happens. And I will let you know. Regards Peter
These Contax and Kievs are best left to collectors, here in Germany original Contax RF will be around 500€. I own two Kiev copies but they hardly see the light, handling with the focus wheel is cumbersome - at least.
A Bessa might be your best bet, as a new Bessa will be cheaper than a old Leica M. For working a Bessa R/R2 should be fine. Just for trying out RF, cheaper options are available with fixed lenses.
If you're looking for inexpensive, use a Bessa R or R2.
For a camera that has been out of production for more than 40 years, the Contax IIa and IIIa continues to be relatively expensive. A properly serviced Contax is a thing of beauty and precision.
There were only a limited number of postwar West German lenses available for the Contax -- in general, all were excellent. On the wide end, there are the 21mm and 35mm Biogons and the 35mm Planar. The 50mm offerings included a Tessar and two Sonnars (f/1.5 and f/2.0). The telephotos included the 85mm Triotar, the 85mm Sonnar and the 135mm Sonnar.
The 85mm Sonnar will cost at least $400 and possibly more. The 21mm Biogon often costs about $700. The 35mm Biogon and Planar are usually at least $350. The others will cost from $100-$200.
So, the Contax IIa is not an inexpensive camera. Excellent photographic tool? Definitely.
Contax IIIa as a user
I use a Contax IIIa regularly. The Contax cameras are far too nice to just sit on a collector's shelf. They should be used. And the lenses are wonderful!
I buy all of my Contax rangefinder equipment from Henry Scherer. He can restore a camera to like-new condition, and he will even select your gear for you. See his web site: