Near Mint! 1940 Zeiss Ikon Contax III with a 1.5/50mm T coated Sonnar, CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!
35mm Coupled rangefinder, Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted. Ready for immediate use!
This is the real deal, a Contax III produced in Germany during the second world war.
This is the top of the line Contax III, its serial number (M34804) indicates that it was produced between 1940 – 1942. It’s difficult to be more exact than that because the Zeiss factory and records were largely destroyed during the massive fire-bombing of Dresden in February 1945.
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 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 distinctive coarse grained chrome finish is in exceptionally fine condition for a war time camera. (Most show extensive wear.)
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 the top of the line T coated 1.5/50mm Carl Zeiss Sonnar in war-time trim, which has a more roughly finished aperture ring than the prewar versions. The lens is unusually beautiful for a WWII lens. The glass is very clean and clear with just some light internal specks. There are no scratches only some light cleaning wisps. As usual for these lenses, there is usual oil on the aperture blades. (Never a problem because the aperture doesn’t have to move suddenly as it does in an SLR lens.)
Over all it’s a beautiful lens. If I didn’t already have one of these lenses, I’d keep it. The serial number (2676752) indicates it was produced in 1940. It’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W films but as with all prewar and wartime lenses we recommend keeping the sun behind you for best performance.
It comes complete with a custom film take up spool.
All in all, an exceptionally fine wartime camera. I think it would be very difficult to find a more beautiful museum grade example. It’s ready to be used. Just load it with your favorite film and you’re good to go.