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Contax IIIa Rangefinder Camera


Zeiss Ikon

Categories: Reviews: Equipment : Cameras : 35mm Film Cameras : Rangefinder Cameras

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The Contax IIIa Rangefinder Camera


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2 Reviews  

Average Rating: 5 out of 5

5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras
 
Michael 

member since: 2/23/2011
4.5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 4.5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 4.5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 4.5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 4.5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
This was the rolls-Royce of cameras in it's day. Leica's were a poor-man's Contax. I love this camera, but the shutter is just too fragile.

You can't beat their lenses. Simply the best in the world.

2/23/2011 4:21:45 PM
 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras 5 out of 5 BetterPhoto Golden Cameras
Rating: 5 out of 5
I've rated this camera a "10" as it truly deserves it as a professional grade rangefinder from its era (1950's). It was one of about three or four camera bodies of choice for professional 35mm work. There were two post-WWII versions, the "black dial" from 1950-1954 and the "color dial" beginning in 1954. Production continued until about 1961 when the professional grade 35mm SLR (Nikon F in 1959) overtook the professional rangefinder and Leica finally introduced the "M" system rangefinder (M2 and M3). The Contax IIa (without light meter) and IIIa were favorites among photojournalists, especially war correspondents, who needed a reliable, rugged 35mm camera that could withstand heavy, continuous field use under all manner of weather and climate conditions.

The Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa concept dates to the mid-1930's, 10 years after the founding of Zeiss Ikon in 1926, with the Contax II and III being manufactured until the end of WWII. The IIa and IIIa are the post-war resurrection of the original concept with some redesign, primarily in the shutter mechanicals. It remained a rangefinder camera well ahead of its time through most of the 1950's, with a built-in light meter, vertical travel, all metal focal plane shutter and a blistering top shutter speed of 1/1250th second. The "color dial" has built-in electronic flash X-sync at 1/50th second (the black dial required an adapter cord to X-sync).

The lens most often sold with the body wa the 50mm f/1.5 Carl Zeiss Sonnar, a legendary lens that still holds World Class status among the very finest lenses made today. The only reason the original Sonnar formulation is not found today is the exceedlingly precise and expensive manufacturing that would be required to make them. A true "system" camera, fifteen additional Carl Zeiss lenses were offered for it spanning a focal length range from 21mm through 500mm. Zeiss Ikon also made copy stands, microscope adapters and close-up macro attachments (that included viewfinder parallax correction) for the Contax system.

An example in excellent cosmetic and working condition is a mechanical marvel to behold and gives the user a feel for what it was like to use a world class small format camera 50 years ago. There is no reason one cannot make superb photographs with one today.

-- John

8/5/2003 9:05:53 PM
 

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