Bodies, Lenses and Photography
The Carl Zeiss Foundation (Zeiss is not Zeiss is not Zeiss . . .)Carl Friedrich Zeiss founded the Carl Zeiss firm in Jena (near Dresden) in 1846. As with most very old camera manufacturers, the original product was microscopes. Zeiss eventually partnered with one of the finest minds in optical theory, mathematician Dr. Ernst Abbe who subsequently recruited one of the finest minds in optical glass, chemist Dr. Otto Schott. Abbe and Schott pioneered optical theory and optical glass chemistry. The combination of the three created the world's finest optics and microscopes. With Carl Zeiss' death in 1888, his interest was left to his son who sold it to Ernst Abbe. The Carl Zeiss Stiftung (rough translation: Carl Zeiss Foundation) was founded by Abbe in 1889. Eventually the holdings of Abbe and later Schott were added to the Carl Zeiss Foundation. Various portions of the Carl Zeiss Foundation were virtually autonomous. Care must be given when discussing "Zeiss" and "Zeiss" products to distinguish between the nearly autonomous parts of the Carl Zeiss Foundation. A Zeiss Ikon camera has a body from Zeiss Ikon and lens(es) from Carl Zeiss, the raw glass for which is from Schott Glass. All three were different parts of the Carl Zeiss Foundation integrated into a single product marketed and sold by Zeiss Ikon.
Zeiss IkonCarl Zeiss Jena formed Zeiss Ikon in Dresden as a separate entity within the Foundation in 1926 by combining five camera companies: Ernemann, Contessa-Nettel (Contessa had previously merged with Nettel), Ica, and two Goerz works. This was accomplished under the direction of Emanuel Goldberg who headed Zeiss Ikon until he was kidnapped by Nazis in 1933 and forced to leave Germany. The Zeiss Ikon name had been used to market movie cameras from Ernemann (since 1913?) and the new Zeiss Ikon A.G. began making box cameras in 1926 using Carl Zeiss lenses. Shortly before the disappearance of Emanuel Goldberg, Zeiss Ikon entered into a partnership with several other companies to form Fernseh A.G. for the development of television. Prior to W.W.II, Zeiss Ikon was the European giant in photography and imaging and second only to Kodak in the U.S. Following W.W.II Zeiss Ikon restarted its Dresden manufacturing at the Stuttgart Contessa Works. There was a very short period of time prior to realization that the Soviet Sector would not be reunited with the other three sectors (U.S., French and British). Some manufacturing was done using surviving Dresden/Jena stockpiles of existing parts during 1947 (see Contax II/III below). The Soviets seized surviving Dresden and Jena manufacturing equipment and hauled it off to Kiev as part of war reparations. This resulted in the post-W.W.II Kiev clone of the Contax II/III (see Contax II/III and Contax IIa/IIIa below). Zeiss Ikon never reemerged as such in East Germany following W.W.II.
Carl ZeissCarl Zeiss was formed in Jena for the production of microscopes and microscope optics. In 1890, following establishment of the Stiftung, Dr. Paul Rudolf produced the first Carl Zeiss camera lens, the Protar. In 1896 Dr. Rudolf created the Planar, derivatives of which live on today most notably in the legendary Rollei TLR. The original symmetric Planar suffered from flare (lens coatings were not invented yet), but was free from spherical aberration and astigmatism. Reducing the flare issues with the symmetrical Planar resulted in the design of the assymetrical Tessar in 1902. The Tessar quickly became known as "The Eagle Eye" because of its extremely high resolution and excellent contrast with very low distortion. The Tessar is a simple lens with four elements in three groups and yet remains one of the finest lens formulations of the 20th Century. Camera lenses used glass developed by the Carl Zeiss Foundation's Schott Glassworks. The legendary Sonnar lens was developed specifically for the Contax I in 1932. An asymmetric lens similar to the Tessar, it had seven complex elements in three groups. The Sonnar allowed much wider apertures while retaining the high resolution, contrast and very low distortion of the Tessar. The Sonnar is noted for its extremely flat field even in the corners. Following W.W.II, Carl Zeiss resumed its Jena manufacturing in Oberkochen (near Stuttgart) initially using an "Opton" marking and ultimately just a "Stuttgart" mark to distinguish it from the East German state owned Carl Zeiss Jena which was restarted by former Carl Zeiss workers. Within the period of post-W.W.II until the reunification both VEB Carl Zeiss Jena (owned by the East German government) and Carl Zeiss (Stuttgart) both used the "Carl Zeiss" name resulting in lawsuits over intellectual properties including trademarks in various countries. Most notably, VEB Carl Zeiss Jena was ultimately prohibited from using "Carl Zeiss," "Zeiss" and various lens names as a trademark in the U.S. but continued to do so in many European countries up until the reunification of East and West Germany. They were allowed to continue using pre-W.W.II lens designs. Consensus among purist historians and collectors is the West German Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen is the true post-W.W.II Carl Zeiss. It was part of the Carl Zeiss Foundation reorganized in West Germany following the war. In the realm of camera optics, Carl Zeiss will be remembered for producing the three finest lens formulations of the 20th Century: the Planar (its derivatives), the Tessar and the Sonnar. Among them, the Planar and especially the Tessar are the most copied lens formulations in the world (original patents have long since expired). Reformulations using developments and improvements in glass and coatings are still used by Carl Zeiss.
Contax I (1932-1936)The original Contax I started production in 1932 by Zeiss Ikon of the Zeiss Foundation in answer to the runaway success of the "Leica A" manufactured by Ernst Leitz starting in 1925. It was intended to be the flagship of the Zeiss Ikon product lines. The Contax I is, along with the Leica II, the first 35m system camera with interchangeable, bayonet mounted lenses and Leica's first serious competitor. The Contax I had one of the longest 4" rangefinder bases ever made on a 35mm rangefinder camera making the focusing incredibly accurate. Innovative features of the Contax I:
- Single shutter speed dial with speeds up to 1/1000th second
- Metal, vertical focal plane shutter
- Completely removable camera back for much easier film loading (especially compared to a Leica)
- Bayonet lens mount (not as convenient as current bayonet lens mounts but still easier than screw mounts)
- Long 4" rangefinder base for very accurate focus, especially close focusing, using prisms versus mirrors
- Accessories which included viewfinders for wide angle and telephoto lenses, ground glass back, copy stand and microscope stand
- Fastest, sharpest lenses in longest and shortest focal lengths for the industry made by the premier lens manufacturer, Carl Zeiss, including the super fast standard 50mm f/1.5 Carl Zeiss Sonnar (one of the finest lens designs of the 20th Century conducted specifically for the Contax; the Tessar is another of the other great Carl Zeiss lens designs, and perhaps most copied, of the 20th Century).
Carl Zeiss Lenses for the Contax I 28mm f/8 Tessar (uncoupled) 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar 40mm f/2 Biotar 85mm f/4 Triotar 50mm f/3.5 Tessar (collapsible) 85mm f/4 Sonnar 50mm f/2.8 Tessar (collapsible) 135mm f/4 Sonnar 50mm f/2 Sonnar 180mm f/6.3 Tele-Tessar
Unfortunately for Zeiss Ikon, their answer to the Leica A of 1925 and Leica II of 1932 had a notoriously unreliable shutter mechanism. For all the innovation in the Contax I, it suffered several recalls (Zeiss Ikon cared about its reputation) but this was the death knell for it.
Contax II/III (1936-1945; 1947)With the debacle created by an unreliable shutter on the Contax I, Zeiss Ikon redesigned the shutter, made other improvements and added more innovations. With shutter reliability problems solved, production of the Contax II and III began in 1936. They were, for their day, truly reliable and dependable cameras. The Contax II and III sparked the first 35mm Holy War. It was the only truly serious competition seen by Leica for the professional 35mm camera market. Debates as heated, if not more so, as those seen now about Canon versus Nikon SLR's ensued. Tracts were published in a number of languages extolling the virtues of one over the other. The III had a Selenium match-needle light meter on the top deck. A concentric ring around the rewind knob allowed adjusting the match-needle to find proper shutter speed and aperture combinations. The user matches the needle to the mark and then transfers the desired shutter speed and aperture combination to the shutter speed dial and the lens aperture ring. The II was nearly identical without the meter on the top deck More lenses of additional focal lengths were added to the system and existing ones were updated with faster apertures. Production of the II and III stopped by the end of W.W.II however a few II's were assembled in 1947 using stockpiles of parts that survived the war. An unknown number of the Carl Zeiss lenses for the Contax II/III were coated starting in 1943 during W.W.II (most are 50mm focal length). Carl Zeiss had invented a practical method for effective lens coatings in 1935, but this was classified as state secret. These are likely the only coated lenses for consumer and professional cameras before the end of W.W.II. Both the II and III had all other features in common, some of which were well ahead of their time. In addition to the innovations in the Contax I, the II and III included:
I will not enter into one side or the other on the Leica versus Contax debate. Suffice it that the Contax II/III was technologically more advanced and easier to use in some respects. The Carl Zeiss lenses were definitely sharper. On the other hand, the Leica II was smaller, lighter, had a slightly quieter shutter (cloth) and Ernst Leitz lenses were also world-class. Although the Leitz lenswork was not as sharp as Carl Zeiss, it created unique images with a softness and appeal to artistic photographers unmatched by anyone else since. Which one a professional 35mm photographer chose and used depended on features and type of results desired.
- Shutter speeds ranging from 1 to 1/1250th second, including a B and T position. The 1/1250th speed made it the fastest 35mm focal plane shutter on the market
- Self timer with three timing positions for varying lengths of time delay
- Rangefinder combined with viewfinder (Leica had a separate viewfinder and rangefinder)
- Integral light meter on the III (albeit uncoupled from the shutter speed dial and lens aperture ring)
- Super fast 180mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar telephoto
- Longest telephoto at 500mm focal length
Contax IIa/IIIa (1950-1961)
Black Dial (1950-1954)After the end of W.W.II, the Zeiss Foundation was in disarray (see its history above) due to the split of capital resources between East and West and seizure of surviving capital equipment by the Soviet Union. Other major German camera manufacturers such as Leica and Rollei recovered faster. The Contax and its Carl Zeiss lenses had been manufactured in what became East Germany. In 1950 Zeiss Ikon began production of the post-W.W.II Contax IIa/IIIa after relocating and reconstructing design and manufacturing facilities around Stuttgart in West Germany. The IIa/IIIa kept all the concepts of the pre-W.W.II Contax II/III with further improvements in design details and remained the flagship of the Zeiss Ikon camera lines. One of the drawbacks of the Black Dial is its proprietary flash connection. An adapter cord must be used between the flash connector and the flash unit. Two cords were made, one for M-sync and the other for X-sync. A working X-sync adapter cord in decent condition is getting rarer and more difficult to find as it is the one designed for electronic strobes and can be used with modern electronic flash units. A third FP-sync adapter cord was planned, but it was never produced. The Color Dial in 1954 overtook the need for it. The Carl Zeiss lens lineup was almost the same as before the war with a few adds and deletes. All of them were coated and reformulated as necessary for the coatings.
Color Dial (1954-1961)In 1954 further refinements were introduced into the IIa/IIIa including minor changes in the shutter tracks and slight redesign of the shutter timing mechanicals to allow integral flash synchronization. This eliminated the need for a separate flash adapter cord. The IIa/IIIa "Color Dial" were the zenith of Zeiss Ikon Contax and their most significant feature for current users are their flash synchronization. The proprietary flash socket was replaced by a standard PC socket. No adapter cord to provide correct sync timing is required. The shutter speed dial numbers were marked in three colors: black (T, B and 1 - 1/25th), yellow (1/50th) and red (1/100th - 1/1250th). The colors identify one of three flash synchronizations: M (black), X (yellow) and FP (red). With a PC socket and X-sync at 1/50th second, the IIa/IIIa Color Dial was designed to use electronic flash. A modern strobe with PC cord can be mounted to the camera and used easily. If the flash is mounted on the Contax accessory shoe, ability to turn off the hot shoe connection of the flash is required! Otherwise the metal accessory shoe on the Contax will short it out. The alternative is to mount the flash on a separate flash handle. Most current SLR's with focal plane shutters X-sync at 1/60th second. A very, very few will now X-sync at slightly faster shutter speeds. Thus, the 1/50th X-sync still falls within the realm of current technology. The Color Dial was also one of the very, very few cameras with an FP-sync allowing the use of special long-duration flash bulbs and shutter speeds up to the fastest 1/1250th. Unfortunately, FP long-duration flash bulbs are no longer made, not easily found, and are consequently very expensive! FP-sync electronic flash is only found the most expensive SLR's and requires the use of an OEM flash unit capable of FP flash output. The post-W.W.II line of interchangeable lenses for the IIa/IIIa eventually grew to a total of sixteen lenses:
Carl Zeiss Lenses for the Contax IIa/IIIa 21mm f/4.5 Biogon 75mm f/1.5 Biotar 25mm f/4.0 Topogon 85mm f/4.0 Triotar 35mm f/2.8 Biogon 85mm f/2.0 Sonnar 35mm f/2.8 Biometar 115mm f/3.5 Tessar 35mm f/3.5 Planar 135mm f/4.0 Sonnar 50mm f/3.5 Tessar 180mm f/2.8 Sonnar 50mm f/2.0 Sonnar 300mm f/4.0 Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar 500mm f/8.0
Demise of the Zeiss Ikon Contax Rangefinder (1961)The end came about in 1961 with pressure from three sources:
Zeiss Ikon had poured its 35mm development into its SLR's (Contaflex and Contarex), perhaps for good reason. In the process, further refinement of the Contax rangefinders languished beyond the 1954 IIa/IIIa Color Dial models. The SLR was the future market. Leica did continue refinement of its rangefinders with introduction of the Leica "M" series and finally provided features in a professional 35mm rangefinder that had almost exclusively been the domain of the Zeiss Ikon Contax. The Leica "M" series body eventually overtook the Contax IIa/IIIa in features and technological improvements. Introduction of the Nikon F SLR in 1959 provided a SLR camera system embraced by professionals world-wide. Unfortunately, Japanese production costs were significantly lower and price pressure all but drove the German 35mm professional camera manufacturers under economically. These three events in rapid succession resulted in the demise of the Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa/IIIa in 1961. Further economic pressures, principally from Japan, eventually resulted in the demise of Zeiss Ikon altogether circa 1972. Various portions of Zeiss Ikon were sold off to other camera manufacturers (some to Voigtlander) or dissolved entirely. This did not mean the end for the Zeiss Foundation. It continues to this day. Of interest in photography is the continuation of Carl Zeiss world-class lenses for various cameras.
- Leica's M3 and M2 rangefinders
- Introduction of the Nikon F SLR in 1959
- Competition from Japanese camera manufacturers
Rebirth of the Contax Rangefinder (circa 1982)The Contax name did reemerge in 1974, but note the "Zeiss Ikon" name is missing. Under an agreement made between the Zeiss Foundation and Yashica during the early 1970's, Yashica began making SLR camera bodies under the Contax name. The Zeiss Foundation retained rights to the Contax name and lenses for the "new" Contax were made by Carl Zeiss. This agreement stands today. The SLR's began production in 1974. Eventually, the Contax T rangefinder was produced circa 1982, twenty years after its Zeiss Ikon predecessors ended production. It had a fixed Carl Zeiss 40mm f/2.8 Sonnar, rangefinder and automatic exposure control. In 1994, the "G" series rangefinders with interchangeable lenses were introduced bringing back a 35mm rangefinder camera system. All of the current Contax "T" and "G" series (as well as the SLR lines) have bodies made by Yashica (Kyocera is now Yashica's parent company) and Carl Zeiss lenses. While different in many respects from the Zeiss Ikon predecessors, these 35mm cameras remain world-class in both body and lens. Their presence provides renewed, fierce competition for Leica; a competition that began in 1932.
I have a Contax IIIa Color Dial with coated Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar. The Selenium meter still works smoothly. It was recently recalibrated when the shutter was cleaned and adjusted. No, it's not for sale and likely never will be! Its Sonnar lens is one of the sharpest and highest contrast I have ever used. The shutter on it, although noisier than the Leica III from its era, is still quieter than any SLR I've used with less vibration (no diaphragm stop-down or mirror slap noises).
Type of PhotographyI do nearly everything with the Contax IIIa Color Dial that I do with the Olympus OM SLR system, albeit a little more deliberately. It is my utterly manual, total control camera. Furthermore I have only one lens for it, the 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar. A firm believer that nearly all photography (other than specialized wildlife and macro work) can be done with a standard 50mm lens, the Contax forces deliberate control and careful, thoughtful composition. Carelessness or laziness quickly shows in the results! It is my method for staying acutely attuned to all aspects of creating a photograph. Photography using it covers a range of general photography including scenic/landscape, urban/architectural, and informal portraiture of people and pets.
Films UsedAs I strongly prefer chromes over negatives, this camera is normally loaded with Elitechrome 100 (or E100S), although sometimes I will use Elitechrome 100 Extra Color (or E100VS). Very occasionally I will use Royal Gold 100. This is a very good general use color negative film with very tight grain. No problem with the negatives, but recent use color negative has reaffirmed previous experience that most print processors do not do a very good job on the prints.
Elitechrome 100 is the consumer equivalent of E100S. It is a well balanced general purpose E-6 film that handles skin tones very well. It saturates more easily than Kodachrome so the color rendition is not as exacting, but still close, and the bright colors are appealing. Elitechrome 100 Extra Color is the consumer equivalent of E100VS, Kodak's answer to Fuji's Velvia. It is a very high saturation film more evenly balanced than Velvia and is not recommended for photographing people in the foreground and perhaps middle-ground where a lot of skin tone will be in the photograph. Caucasian skin especially can saturate too easily resulting in a red or orange tint. The Elitechromes seem to have slightly more latitude than Kodachrome, but still noticeably less than any color negative I've used.
ExperiencesUsing the Contax takes a step back in time to how professional 35mm photography was done 45-60 years ago in the era before the 35mm SLR and TTL metering. The Contax IIa/IIIa and its competitor Leica IIIf, IIIg, M2 and M3 were the 35mm system cameras of the 1950's. The middle through late 1950's was the zenith of professional, interchangeable lens, rangefinder systems before the Nikon F SLR in 1959 turned the professional 35mm world upside down.
The viewfinder is very excellent by 1950's standards but small compared to an SLR's. It lacks brightlines showing the frame at infinity or parallax at closest focus. For its size it is bright. Without brightlines, parallax marks or parallax correction, care must be taken when trying to tightly frame on a subject. The small size also makes alignment with horizontal or vertical lines more difficult too. I have not tested this thoroughly, but the viewfinder image seems to represent a tight frame at infinity. One must use Kentucky windage to adjust for parallax on close subjects and is something I have found more difficult when holding the Contax vertically.
Unlike the Leica III series, the rangefinder is integral to the viewfinder and consists of a bright yellow rectangle of about half the dimensions of the viewfinder in its center. It has good contrast and is easy to focus. A contrasty vertical edge (or at least somewhat vertical) on the subject helps although bright points can be used also. The long four inch rangefinder base (one of the longest ever in a 35mm rangefinder) also facilitaes highly accurate focusing, especially on close subjects under ten feet away.
The standard 50/1.5 Sonnar lens is small by SLR standards. My guess is since the focus helical is on the body, the lens only contains only the diaphragm and aperture ring allowing a much more compact design. The front lens element is nearly the diameter of the outer lens ring. It is probably one of the very best, if not the best, lens of all that I've ever owned with exceptional contrast and resolution.
Metering with a IIIa that has a working, accurate meter is an art that requires some practice and some thinking about the subject and meter reading. This is not something peculiar to the Contax IIIa. Metering with 1950's Selenium meters in general required this. The meter has a wider angle of view and will be influenced by strong highlights, backlighting, and direct sun even if from the top or side. The cover does tend to shield the meter from excessive sky influence. I have learned that using my hand or turning my body slightly to shade the meter from direct sun makes it more accurate. Under other conditions it can be useful to meter the palm of the hand and stop down by one stop provided one's hand is illuminated the same as the subject. Using the meter does not mean one blindly use its reading(s) and stop thinking about exposure. Selenium meters from the 1950's were intended to aid the photographer in deciding exposure, not set it.
Winding and rewinding is done with a knobs versus an advance lever and rewind crank. There is a trick to winding quickly by turning both body and knob using both hands, but this cannot be done looking through the viewfinder. The removable back makes film reloading infinitely easier than with its contemporary Leica's which have a removeable bottom. As with many cameras from its era, the take-up spool is loose which makes loading a little more difficult than current camera bodies that have fixed spools. There was a reason for this, however. The removeable spool allows not only a reloadable cartridge to be loaded on the supply side, but on the take-up side as well. A reloadable take-up cartridge can be unloaded for processing in mid-roll while only losing the same number of frames that are lost on a film leader. One must remember to shoot and wind a couple of blank frames however to get the last exposure into the take-up cartridge before opening the back and cutting the film to remove it. Replacement take-up spools can be found and are not horribly expensive. They are sturdy but made of plastic; the usual problem is dropping one while reloading film in a hurry and someone stepping on it. If the camera back is removed with the body level or slightly tilted with the bottom higher than the top, the spool will stay put.
Finding a UserThis is not intended to be a general guide about what to look for in a used camera. That is covered in depth extremely well elsewhere on various popular web sites. It is, rather, intended to highlight specifics to look for in finding a good post-W.W.II Contax IIa/IIIa for use (versus collection).
Finding a useable post-W.W.II Contax IIa/IIIa is not all that difficult with a modest amount of patience and searching. The majority of them will have a 50mm/1.5 coated Sonnar, the most desirable standard lens. The first decision is which model:
The most desirable body is the Color Dial with its PC socket, but if you hardly use a flash or do not plan to use the Contax with one it does not matter. The Color Dials are harder to find and command a higher price. If you are thinking of a Black Dial and the adapter cord, finding a Color Dial will be less expensive. The adapter cords for X-sync are getting rare and working ones are getting expensive; the combination of the two often totals to more than a Color Dial. Many of the Selenium meters on the IIIa's do not work or are not accurate. As the meter elements age, they either quit working or lose accuracy. Working meters will command a higher price among collectors, but accuracy is not generally expected. Meter elements can be replaced and the meter recalibrated, but at some cost. Given equal clean cosmetics and clean optics in excellent condition, the most desired and most expensive is a IIIa Color Dial with working, accurate meter. The least expensive is a IIa Black Dial. If separate metering will be used, considering even a IIa Color Dial will bring the price down.
- Black Dial vs. Color Dial
- IIa vs. IIIa
As with all mechanically shuttered bodies, they should be periodically exercised. Inspect the metal shutter curtains for damage from being bent or otherwise damaged. All speed should work and be reasonably accurate. The fastest (1/1250th) and slowest (1 second) are among the first to go and normally indicate a need for cleaning the mechanical timing mechanism. The Color Dial in particular has a release delay for FP sync that operates at all shutter speeds. If the shutter on a Color Dial seems to hang and does not travel when the shutter release is pushed (sometimes it can be intermittent), this is an indication the release delay is hanging up and requires cleaning or adjustment. On a focal plane shutter at the higher speeds, the closing curtain is released before the opening curtain had finished traveling causing a slit to travel across the film gate. Both curtains must travel at the same speed for the slit width to remain the same and the exposure the same across the entire frame. One can check the high shutter speeds (1/100th to 1/1250th) by taking the back off, holding the body vertically (so the curtain travel is horizontal) and firing the shutter with the lens wide open and aimed at a computer screen. At 1/125th and higher, one should be able to see a diagonal band through the shutter and lens as the shutter travels. The band should be the same width along its length, and should become approximately half as wide each time the shutter speed is increased (from 1/100th to 1/250th to 1/500th to 1/1250th). The shutter may have to be fired several times to get a capture a diagonal band across the center of the film gate. If the band is wider at one end or the other, the curtains are not traveling at the same speed and shutter cleaning or adjustment is required. X-sync at 1/50th on the Color Dial or 1/25th on a Black Dial with the correct adapter cord is checked first by hooking up the flash and firing the shutter while looking through the back. The gate should appear to be wide open when the flash goes off. This will only find gross sync problems. Shooting some film using a flash and examining the results to ensure the entire frame was exposed to the flash will verify it is working correctly. A thorough shutter overhaul (CLA), provided major parts are not required, costs in the vicinity of $200.
The rangefinder should show infinity focus at the infinity lock on the focus helical. Unlike other rangefinders, the Contax uses a prism versus a silvered mirror. A comparatively dim rangefinder usually indicates cleaning is required versus degradation of silvering found on other old cameras. Look to see if the horizontal convergence also aligns vertically. This will make accurate focusing much easier. Some slight rotational play when the helical is in the infinity lock is to be expected. Also, unlike new camera bodies, the focus helical and lens aperture ring can be expected to turn comparatively easily with little drag, but should not have excessive play in them.
Finding and using one of these gems in good working condition has been very rewarding by demanding more thinking about composition and exposure than with newer cameras. The precision mechanicals and optics have produced some technically stunning results.
Links to Zeiss Ikon SitesThe Zeiss Ikon Collectors Group Mailing List
[information about the mailing list and how to subscribe]
Clayton Rye's 35mm Zeiss Ikon Data
[tabular data about various 35mm Zeiss Ikon's]
Alexander Lee's Carl Zeiss Lens Design Page
[information about Carl Zeiss lens designs]
Stephen Gandy's Zeiss Ikon Contax Pages:
Zeiss Ikon Contax I Page
[information and photos about the original pre-WWII Contax I]
Zeiss Ikon Contax I Accessories
[information and photos about pre-WWII Contax I accessories]
Pre-W.W.II Zeiss Ikon Contax II/III
[information and photos about the pre-WWII Contax II and III]
Post-W.W.II Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa/IIIa
[information and many photos about the post-WWII Contax IIa and IIIa]
Zeiss Ikon Contax vs. Leica "Holy Wars"
[information and photos about the Leica II/III vs. Contax II/III/IIa/IIIa Holy Wars]