Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A dream come true - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa

After the bombing of Dresden in World War II, most of the Zeiss Ikon production facilities were destroyed. Everything was lost: machinery, tools, parts and plans. Gone was what had been Zeiss Ikon's 35mm flagship for the last 15 years, the Contax.

After the war, one branch of the story went to the Ukraine, where the Soviets took a rebuilt Contax production line for what was to become the Kiev camera. The other branch went to Stuttgart, where what remained of Zeiss Ikon in the West started anew in the old Contessa-Nettel production plant.

Zeiss Ikon Stuttgart soon started making finest and ingenious 35mm cameras (Contessa, Ikonta, Contina, later Contaflex, ...), especially thanks to Hubert Nerwin's genius. The Contax IIa (and its light metered sister IIIa) was a complete redesign of the prewar Contax II.

zeiss ikon contax IIa

My Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa was built in 1952 and belonged to a gentleman from Berlin, who was a professional musician and passed away only recently. The camera was found in his broom closet after decades of oblivion. Since in the eBay auction the word "contax" was nowhere to be found, it flew under the avid collectors' radars and allowed me to get it for a tiny fraction of its true value.

A little reluctant in the slow speeds at first, some exercise soon helped it fire more and more reliably, like the purebreed it is. Film transport and shutter tensioning has a buttery smooth quality to it that is a joy to operate. The lens, a coated Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm 1:2 shows pretty bad separation of the cemented glass elements (as revealed by the iridiscent reflections along the borders) but so far I haven't been able to see any serious impact on the pictures.

When it comes to vintage 35mm rangefinders, it hardly gets any better than this. I'm really happy :)

Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa
My Contax IIa flickr set

Maker Zeiss Ikon
Model Contax IIa 563/24
Type rangefinder system camera
Lens Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2.0 (No. 1890778, 1953-1959)
Shutter Contax, 1 - 1/1250 + B + T
Film type 35mm 24x36
Year January-May 1952
Country West Germany

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