Superb! 1939 Zeiss Ikon Contax II Body and 50mm Zeiss Sonnar lens. CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!
35mm Coupled rangefinder, Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted
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 uses normal 35mm film and 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 a 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.
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 some 81 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 for a photographer who wants to shoot with a vintage camera regularly.
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, J69614, 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.) This serial number indicates that this camera was produced in Germany in late 1938 or early 1939.
This Contax is in exceptionally fine condition and fully functional. It’s also 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 smoothly 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 clean, easy to see and focusing is smooth and accurate and it’s a real pleasure to use. (Not hazy like the average Contax.) In case you wondered, this camera uses normal 35mm film.
It comes complete with lens, a take up spool and a used brown leather case..
The lens is a 2.0/50mm Carl Zeiss Sonnar, serial number 2274407 which indicates that it was produced in 1938. Cosmetically the lens is in beautiful cosmetic condition, the front lens element does have numerous cleaning marks due to the soft glass that was utilized in this design. It will take nice pictures if you follow the 1930’s practice of avoiding backlit compositions. However if you intend to use this camera regularly, we recommend you replace it with a better one. (If you don’t have a Contax mount lens in your collection, it’s nice to know that there are thousands of lenses available on eBay. Many of them are very inexpensive and perform well.)
All in all a wonderful 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 Petrakla.com for more information about these cameras. Or google “Robert Capa” (Many famous WWII images were recorded by him with a 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.