Near mint, 1938 Zeiss Ikon Contax, CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!
35mm Coupled rangefinder, Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted. Ready for immediate use!
This is the world famous Contax III produced in Germany prior to WWII. It was one of the cameras that truly demonstrated what a quality 35mm camera was capable of and helped launch the 35mm format to a preeminent role among serious photojournalists.
This is the top of the line Contax III, the serial number
The Contax III was the worlds best 35mm rangefinder camera at the time and the certainly the most expensive. Historically significant, it also featured one of the first, truly successful built in light meter. The Contax camera was so highly regarded that in the United States the Contax was specified for use by 35mm photographers working for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in their vast program to document the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930’s in America. Many of the timeless photos taken in the 1930’s were shot with a Contax. On the other side of the Atlantic the Kriegsmarine, the navy of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945, equally impressed with the performance of the camera, issued the Contax III for use on ships and submarines as part of their standard gear.
Understandably an all original, functional Contax III is a desirable and significant camera. But what makes this camera extra desirable is the fact that it’s been carefully serviced and ready for use. This camera is in full working order and in case you wondered, it uses normal 35mm film. I should also mention that the serial number on the body matches the serial number on the removable back. This of course indicates that it still has its original back as delivered from the factory.
The camera has recently been carefully cleaned, lubricated and adjusted. Everything works. The original Zeiss shutter has received special attention and all speeds (B & 1/2 sec – 1/1250th) are appropriate. The self timer was cleaned as well and works correctly. The coupled rangefinder internal optical array has also been cleaned. It’s bright, accurate and smooth and a real pleasure to use. Even the 80 year old selenium light meter, it still responds actively to light. However not surprisingly the readout is no longer accurate. So just as with any other prewar camera, we recommend a modern handheld meter. The shutter speed and aperture settings on this camera are easy to set.
The lens is a 2.0/50mm Carl Zeiss Sonnar. Generally recognized as one of the finest 50mm lenses of the prewar and wartime era. The lens on this camera is an exceptionally fine example and it’s in near mint condition. It’s serial number 2397366, indicates that it was also produced in 1938 and it’s probable that this lens is original to this camera. There are no scratches, no polishing marks . There is no crystallization, separated elements or other problems. and it’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W films.
It comes complete with a film take up spool.
All in all this is a well maintained, freshly serviced camera and a joy to photograph with if you are so inclined. If you’ve been looking for an exceptionally fine, useable Contax III, you’ve just found it…
A user’s perspective
These classic, top of the line 1930’s 35mm cameras don’t really need an introduction. Most collectors are familiar with them and many modern photographers still enjoy their delightful characteristics, their relatively quiet shutters and their ability to capture striking images. Combine this camera with some wonderful Zeiss glass that may be lurking in your display case (or easily available on ebay) and you have a real winning combination. The Contax is top quality camera sporting a precision die cast chassis wrapped in fine Moroccan leather, topped with satin chrome covers, and equipped with the widest, most accurate, 90mm rangefinder to have ever been fitted to a 35mm camera. It was an expensive camera that only top photographers or affluent individuals could afford. It’s a classic combination of Zeiss lenses and a superb camera that works to delivers fine results even by today’s standards.
If you’ve ever collected or used screw mount Leica, then you’ll also appreciate the fact that the Contax uses a sophisticated arrangement of prisms rather than surface coated mirrors which tend to oxidize and degrade, so that are no problems with weak, faded, inaccurate or misaligned rangefinder images. Focusing is also noticeably more accurate when you’re in close for portraits or using longer lenses. There’s also no problem with pin-holed shutters since the Contax’s shutter curtains are made of metal rather than fabric.