Excellent! 1939 Zeiss Ikon Contax II, Freshly Serviced!
Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted. Ready for immediate use!
This is a 35mm prewar Contax rangefinder camera produced by Zeiss-Ikon. If you’re familiar with the Contax and the legendary performance of its lenses, you’ll know that it’s considered a cult classic by many fans all over the world. It was used by professionals throughout the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s and was often seen in use until the middle of the 1960’s. Today the Contax camera is still recognized for its excellence and is considered an design classic. These cameras and their superb Zeiss lenses have inspired countless designers. A few years ago Zeiss produced a new 35mm Contax rangefinder camera with a very similar look as a homage to the design philosophy and unique styling of the Contax II.
This Contax is in exceptionally fine condition. It’s not mint but it is considerably nicer than many I’ve seen over the years. (I’ve been collecting and using vintage cameras for over 40 years.) This camera was produced in 1939 as German forces invaded Poland and triggered the conflict we now call WWII.
The Contax rangefinder camera was that era’s testament of genius, of pride and faith in precision mechanics. It was at the cutting edge of photography at that time and it was always very expensive and always in high demand. The high purchase price reflected the time, money and effort that went into the design, production and patient hand assembly of each camera. Now holding this Contax nearly 80 years after it was produced, I see that the effort did not fade into the darkness of all the passing years… it is still a thing of beauty.
Understandably a Contax II is a desirable and significant camera. But what makes this camera extra desirable is the fact that it’s been carefully serviced and it’s fully functional. Additionally the serial numbers match. The serial number, K55502, on the body is identical to the number on the removable back. (This indicates that it still has the original back supplied with this camera.)
The camera has recently been carefully cleaned, lubricated and adjusted. The original Zeiss shutter has received special attention, new shutter ribbons have been installed and of course it’s been cleaned, lubricated. All speeds (B & 1/2 sec – 1/1250th) are appropriate. The slow speeds buzz along nicely and the fast speeds are clean and snappy. The self-timer has been cleaned and works correctly. The coupled rangefinder optical array has also been carefully serviced. The image is easy to see and focusing is smooth and accurate.
The camera comes complete with a Carl Zeiss 2.0/50mm lens, a film take up spool and a used original Zeiss-Ikon brown leather case.
The Zeiss 50mm Sonnar lens is recognized as a master piece of design. It was hands down, one of the best lenses of its day. This is the lens that inspired numerous copies and variations and in the post-war era helped launch Nikon and Canon to greatness. For years and years the Sonnar lens 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. Simply said this lens has a lovely bokeh. Open up the lens or narrow the depth of field by getting closer and the focus rolls on and off smoothly... Soft out of focus foreground moves lovingly into sharp focus on your subject matter and then off again into gently blurred background.
The interchangeable lens is a good useable example. As is often the case, it does have numerous cleaning marks to the front element but you’ll need a magnifier to see them. The glass is quite clean and clear The aperture blades adjust smoothly with just the usual touch of oil on them. (Normal for vintage lenses. The blades on a rangefinder camera don’t need to move instantly as they do in an SLR.) There are no separated elements or other problems and it’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W films. As with all prewar and war time lenses, we recommend keeping the sun behind you for the best performance.
All in all a wonderful Contax rangefinder camera. Perfect for photographers with a historical interest or WWII reenactors. So if you’ve been looking for a fine, useable example, then you’ve just found it…
Please feel free to visit Petrakla.com for more information about these cameras. Or google “Robert Capa” (Many famous WWII images were recorded by him with the Contax II, 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.
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.