Superb! 1953 Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa with coated Carl Zeiss 1.5 / 50mm Sonnar lens. CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!
35mm Coupled rangefinder, Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted
This is the last version of the classic Zeiss-Ikon Contax 35mm camera. This was Zeiss Ikon’s most expensive, top of the line rangefinder camera and it is popular among collectors and photographers alike. Many owner cherish & enjoy these cameras because of their delightful handling characteristics, their quiet shutters and their ability to use the fine Carl Zeiss Contax lenses produced before and after the second world war.
The serial number (A57967) indicates that this camera was produced sometime between June 1953 – Oct 1953 in Germany by Zeiss-Ikon Stuttgart. It’s in excellent condition and fully functional.
Fine Contax cameras have always been a desirable and this one is even more so because it’s been carefully cleaned, lubricated and adjusted. The coupled rangefinder image is easy to see and works well. The shutter works smoothly and all speeds (B & 1 sec - 1/1250th) are appropriate. The slow speeds buzz along smoothly and the fast speeds are clean and snappy.
The uncoupled selenium light meter works smoothly and reacts actively to light. However the meter is not accurate. Selenium solar cells were not designed to last 67 years. The camera controls are identical to the Contax IIa and shutter speed and aperture are quickly and easily set to your desired setting. (By the way, the the Contax IIa & IIIa use the same camera case, so there size difference between these late models is actually minimal.)
In case you’re wondering, the shutter speed dial is on the upper right of the camera just below the film advance knob and the aperture control is of course on the lens.
It comes complete with a beautiful chrome plated Carl Zeiss f1.5/50mm coated Sonnar lens & film take up spool.
The 1.5/50mm Zeiss Sonnar is well known and is recognized as a design master-piece. It was the absolute top 35mm lens of its day. A title it held until well until the end of the 1950’s. This is the lens that inspired numerous copies and variations and helped launch Nikon and Cannon to greatness. For years and years it was the benchmark of speed and sharpness. But its greatness is not simply defined by high resolution. What artists and photographers love about the lens is the beautiful rendition in the fore and back ground. It’s something the Japanese refer to as bokeh. Simple said this lens has an absolutely gorgeous bokeh. Open up the lens or narrow the depth of field by getting closer and the focus rolls on and off silky smooth as cream… Soft out of focus foreground moves lovingly into sharp focus on your subject matter and then off again into gently blurred background. There are few lenses that do it as nicely as this. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, well then you’re in for a treat….
The serial number on this Zeiss lens indicates that it was produced in Germany in the early 1950’s and is in all probability it’s the original lens supplied with this camera. I should mention that although this lens is intended for use on the Contax IIa & IIIa cameras, it also fits and functions correctly on the earlier Contax I,II & III cameras and various Contax copies. Always good to know, in case you have them in your collection.
The lens is in superb condition. The glass is extremely clean. The aperture blades adjust smoothly and has just the usual touch of oil on them. (Normal for these Sonnar rangefinder lenses. The blades on a rangefinder camera don’t need to move instantly as they do in an SLR.) The glass is beautiful! There are no separated elements. No haze, crystallization. There are no scratches or cleaning marks and it’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W films.
All in all, a very lovely, very enjoyable rangefinder camera. If you’ve been looking for a freshly serviced post-war Contax, then you’ve just found it.