1940 Zeiss Ikon Contax with a 1.5/50mm T coated Sonnar. CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!
35mm Coupled rangefinder, Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted
This is the real deal, a WWII Contax III produced in Germany in 1940.
This is the top of the line Contax III, the serial number (M31098) indicates that it was built in 1940 when the world looked incredible different than it does today.
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 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 82 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 be used 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 was more roughly finished than the prewar versions. The 1.5/50 Sonnar was considered the very best 50mm lens money could buy, a title it would retain until the middle of the 1950's. The lens is unusually clean for a lens produced and used during WWII. The glass is clean and clear. There are a couple of very minor nicks of the front element (near the edge where it has no effect). Other than that, it’s in great shape. If I didn’t already have one of these lenses, I’d keep it. The serial number (2859736) indicates it was produced in 1940. There are no scratches or cleaning marks and it’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W films.
It comes complete with a custom film take up spool and an original brown leather case.
All in all, an exceptionally fine wartime camera. Freshly serviced and ready to be used if you are so inclined.