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Near Mint! 1938 Zeiss Ikon Contax with Sonnar lens. CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!


Near Mint! 1938 Zeiss Ikon Contax with Sonnar lens. CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!

$ 775.00 USD

35mm Coupled rangefinder, Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted. Ready for immediate use!

This is the real deal, a Contax III produced in Germany just prior to the second world war. This was the top of the line camera and its serial number (G16908) indicates that it was produced in 1938 in the Zeiss factory that was ultimately destroyed in the final years of the war during the massive fire-bombing of Dresden in February 1945.

At the time this was the world’s best 35mm camera. It was the highest spec’d 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 camera.  On the other side of the Atlantic the Kriegsmarine, the navy of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945, was equally impressed with the performance of the camera. They issued many Contax III cameras for use on ships and submarines as part of their standard gear.     

Understandably an all original, functional Contax III from this era 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 chrome finish is in exceptionally fine condition for a camera that went through WWII. (Many show extensive wear.)  

It comes complete with a film take up spool.

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. Amazingly even the 80 year old selenium light meter, it still responds actively to light. However not surprisingly the readout is no longer accurate. (The selenium solar cell was not intended to survive that long.) 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 and operation is identical to the Contax II.

The lens is included. It’s a 2.0/50mm Carl Zeiss Sonnar. The glass is very clean and clear. Very surprising for a Contax lens this old, there are no scratches, no cleaning marks. As usual for these lenses, there’s a touch of oil on the aperture blades. However this is never a problem because the aperture doesn’t have to move rapidly or suddenly as it does in an SLR lens. It’s a beautiful lens and it’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W films.

All in all a wonderful freshly serviced Contax camera. Perfect for photographers with a historical interest and WWII reenactors. So, if you’ve been looking for a fine, fully functional Contax, then you’ve just found it. 

Please feel free to visit for more information about these cameras. Or google “Robert Capa” (Many famous WWII images were recorded by him with a Contax, including the D Day invasion of Normandy.)

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 fine camera that works to delivers fine results even by today’s standards. Contax mount lenses are still easy to find on eBay.

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