A word of caution: As the Contarex cameras/lenses are now over 50 years old they should be serviced before use. It is my understanding that due to the Zeiss use of what they thought at the time was the best available lubrication grease, it became apparent in the past decade or so that it needs replacement. This is true for the Camera and even more so for the Lenses, especially for the older original 35, 50, and 135mm lenses. All of mine will/have been CLA'd so it will not be an issue after completion. On the lenses, it is possible that they can be "Friction Welded" as the old grease basically fuses the focusing threads to the aluminum mount. Should you have a 'frozen' lens, it is difficult at best, and nearly impossible to get it back to usable condition in a cost effective manner. If you have a lens that begins to feel 'stiff' during focusing, it should be put aside until the grease is replaced. Once frozen, which can happen suddenly and without much other warning, it is too late to get it repaired easily,
Second, for the camera body, if the camera was stored for decades with the shutter 'cocked', the springs (for which there are no replacement parts available) may be stretched which can cause some drop off in the shutter speeds, especially on the high end (1000,sec).
But don't let the above scare you off of these masterpieces, the same or similar cautions could be said of many of the vintage cameras from the pre 1970's. A bit of service on them will go a long way to insure that they will be useful for decades, if not centuries to come.
If you are interested in a brief history of Zeiss Ikon, my new friend Ian has a nice blog with many great photos of many classic cameras also: CLICK HERE
The Zeiss Ikon Contarex I, fondly called the "Bullseye" or "Cyclops" by some, is a beast of a camera that weighs about 1.2Kgs with the standard lens. Zeiss went all out with this camera, designing it for professionals and using their very best lens making technology, which for them meant that the lenses they made for this masterpiece were some of the best ever made! Zeiss management had reportedly challenged their engineers to make the best camera ever, money was no object, and perfection was the only goal. The "Rex" in Contarex was from the Latin for "King". Unfortunately for them, they released it in 1959, the same year Nikon and Canon also released their SLR's, and even worse, due to the intricate detail of the internals, this model, which they had hoped to be their flagship achievement, had some problems when used hard, with modifications coming late, and with the high price this led to its place in the market shrink. You can find many worn out or damaged cameras on eBay for very cheap prices, most are the early version, and none of them will have been CLA'd.
At the time of its' introduction, Zeiss Ikon was the worlds leading camera maker, 10 years later, they were out of the camera making business, and some point to this model as one of the main reasons, not to mention the Japanese competition. Note that all 3 of ours are the "Second Version" on which upgrades were made to the original design to make them more reliable. We would recommend that you avoid the 1959~First Version cameras/lenses, or any that have not been CLA'd as it would be a gamble at best.
The above said, the quality that Zeiss poured into this camera cannot be denied. Most that you find will 'appear' on the outside to be Mint or Near Mint due to the very heavy chrome plating and extra strong vulcanite covering. CLA work on them is not something that your local camera store repair guy is likely able to perform, they are extremely complex on the inside. Fortunately, I have access to an 'old timer' that loves working on these old beauties. On the outside conversely, they are quite simple, well designed for ease of use. All controls are well laid out and ergonomic. One unique aspect of this camera is that the aperture is controlled on the camera body, on the front and just below the shutter button, which takes a bit of getting used to, but works quite well. They also have interchangeable backs for those that like to swap film types quickly. They were the first camera to have direct meter coupling to the shutter, aperture, and film speed-settings; they are interconnected by cords, a true innovation at the time. The viewfinder is bright and clear and makes focusing a breeze. Finally, the Lenses were exceptional for close focusing, much better than Leica or any others of the time, true masterpieces that people still find useful on even the most modern cameras, with an adapter, and they produce brilliant images.
While this camera may not be as practical for daily use as some, its beautiful design and outstanding build quality makes it a great addition to any collection. We have 3 of these at the moment, and all (cameras and lenses) have been/will be CLA'd as time permits. Enjoy...
The above Contarex I, SN: E93445 (Circa 1965) 2nd Version with Data Strip device comes with its' standard Planar 50mm f2 lens and its beautiful original case with neck strap. All functions seem to be working. The lens is showing some slight edge separation so I have sent it off to John at Focal Point in Colorado for re-cementing and Lens CLA. Camera also in the capable hands of AV Camera for CLA.
Condition report will be updated after the completion of the CLA's. Additional photo's upon request.
Currently at CLA, price TBA
Ed White, First American "Space Walker" 1965
Can you recognize the camera that he brought along for a few "capture the moment" photos? Yes, it is a Black Zeiss Ikon Contarex I. It was modified with a special top plate since with his space helmet on the normal viewfinder could not be used. A true Classic.
The above Contarex 1, SN: Z16663 (Circa 1963), also 2nd Version but without the Data Strip device, comes with its standard Planar 50mm f2 lens plus much more. All functions seem to be working, including the Light Meter and feels smooth as though it has already been CLA'd however as I'm not sure it will be sent in again to be safe. Comes with 1) Planar 2/50 mm, Chrome, No. 3249885. 2) Distagon 4/35mm, Chrome, No. 3260137. and 3) Sonnar 4/135mm, Chrome, No. 3594795. In addition: Lens hood "50–135mm" black and "21–35mm" chrome and 3 lens caps. Comes with a small original Zeiss Icon System case.
Condition report will be updated after the completion of the CLA. Additional photo's upon request.
Price TBA, Camera and the lenses currently at CLA.
Zeiss Ikon Contarex I, "Bullseye" & Ikoflex "Coffee Can" are some new additions to our collection. Interesting design concepts!
Carl Zeiss Planar 2/50mm SN-2615290 for Contarex, Circa 1960
A beautiful prime lens for the Contarex camera system, came standard on the Bullseye cameras. This example is Near Mint with very little signs of use. It will be CLA'd in the near future but is here now at a lesser price in the event you would rather have it done yourself.
Currently at CLA
The above Contarex I, SN: D23525 (Circa 1964), 2nd Version with Data Strip device comes with its standard Planar 50mm f2 lens with cap, plus its original case (about EX++) with neck strap and 2 extra film backs. CLA was completed on both the camera and lens in May 2016 and both are working perfectly, including the coupled light meter. They are both in MINT condition and AV Camera gave it 99.99% of new condition on their CLA report. A beautiful example of this classic.
$1,225 with Case & 2 extra film backs
I also have a fair sized collection of Filters, Film backs, Hoods and other accessories for the Contarex system that I will get around to photographing and putting up here someday. In the meantime, should you require anything, drop us a line and we may well have it!
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Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex, “Coffee Can”, Second Version of Model 850/16 with Taking lens Novar Anastigmat 80mm f4.5, Shutter Derval 1 - 1/100, Circa 1935~7
We have not yet tried film in this beauty but it is sitting in a prominent place as we love the Art Deco look of this 30's camera. Zeiss began making these due to the popularity of the Rolleiflex and were attempting to gain some market share. The first 2 versions of the Ikoflex were the most unique of the series, at least in our opinion. Our is in great shape and comes with its original case. All seems to be functioning well and the glass, while a bit cloudy, is in good shape. It will get a CLA someday to get it back in top shape.
$375 prior to CLA
Zeiss Ikon Contarex-Tessar 50mm f2.8, SN-4815481, Circa 1969
A beautiful prime lens for the Contarex camera system. This example is fully Mint with almost no signs of use. It will be CLA'd in the near future but is here now at a lesser price in the event you would rather have it done yourself. This was the prime lens for the Contarex "Special". I will be adding one of the Specials to this page in the near future, currently at CLA.