Contax II [pre-war] Rangefinder: replaceable or repair-worthy?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by ? rj, Mar 6, 2006.

  1. This is a pre-war Contax II with the rangefinder system separated by
    the furthest distance across the rangefinder base. I'm guessing that
    this is also a specialised question which will require some background.

    My experience with this Contax II is a little strange. On the surface,
    its veneer is beautiful and the chrome is unmarked with excessive
    elegance befitting a modern classic. Otherwise, beyond its superficial
    appearance, it is in a complete internal mess.

    When I looked at the shutter system, shutter ribbons were shot,
    everything seized up with 60+ years of dried oils. I decided to pay
    for a shutter overhaul after taking several hours just to strip down
    the camera.

    The shutter now works perfectly, although the repair technician stated
    there was nothing he could do with the rangefinder. (This wasn't my
    own repair technician who was on holiday at the time btw). I'm not
    sure why he proceeded with the shutter repair in this instance. The
    shutter overhaul cost $180US.

    I've now stripped down and cleaned the rangefinder system again to
    identify the problem. Basically the rangefinder patch is dim. When the
    direct viewfinder is covered, a maze pattern of translucent yellow
    appears. I've cleaned all the surfaces of the direct viewfinder (4
    surfaces) and (5 optical surfaces) of the rangefinder base. This seems
    to bring out a dim ghosted rangefinder image for bright objects only
    which is slight progress.

    I guess the problem is rooted in the rangefinder prism itself: the
    mirroring within the long black tube-like prism isn't amenable to
    cleaning. I haven't dissected the camera further down beyond this
    level to ascertain what can be safely dismantled for cleaning.

    Is it worthwhile or possible to graft another rangefinder prism from a
    donor Contax II onto this one?

    Thanks for any suggestions.
  2. Read all about it here:

    Henry's answer is "yes", they are worth restoring and repairing.

  3. Vick,

    Many thanks for the suggestion. I'm not sure you've understood me.

    It's already been serviced at $180US to fix the shutter and the technician has already stated to me that the rangefinder prism is unworkable.
  4. RJ, ignore sunk costs. At the moment you have a camera that's not as useful as you'd like. For the cost of a rangefinder overhaul, if feasible, you'll have a useful camera. Question is, will a Contax II in good order cost less than the overhauling the RF?

    To answer that last one, you'll need a estimate from an expert. I'm in the US. I once asked Charlie Barringer (co-author of The Zeiss-Ikon Compendium) where to send a Contax (III, I think) that was old and gunked up and needed a CLA. He recommended Essex. I've no idea who your local equivalent is.

    If you don't want to finish fixing the camera, you should be able to sell it, with full disclosure.
  5. You're in great luck. It sounds like all you need is a prism swap, which is not that hard - the only problem is where to get a new prism. This is where your luck gets really good: the Contax II prism (like much of the rest of the camera) is identical to the one in the Kiev 4 series, which sell for bunches less than even a ratty Contax and are much newer besides. Best news of all is that the later ones tend to have less collectors' appeal, so a newer prism costs less than an older one! You should be able to pick up a Kiev with cosmetic problems, wear or an unreliable shutter for a pretty attractive price and end up with a beautiful Contax.
  6. "Make my day!" Great answer as always Rick, you have, in the words of the iconic Clint, to the orginator of this thread ,
  7. Somewhere under the pile of unfinished projects on my workbench is the carcase of a Kiev that I lifted the focusing mount from to make an adapter for using Contax lenses on my Leicas. You are wellcome to what I can sweep up for just the cost of packing and mailing. Let me know if you are interested and then we can work out the expense. Regards, Dan
  8. Sounds like separation in the prism. Follow Rick's advice and take up Dan's very generous offer and you're in business.

    I got a Contax II for next to nothing because someone had ripped out the focus mount to make a Leica adapter (rather than use a Kiev...). I've fitted a Kiev mount and now have a working "Kontax".

  9. You might try sending an email to this guy:

    I have a camera in for total reconditioning (IIa) and it's taken a geological age but he's got a very good reputation for the work he does. He'd be a good source for information. Also Mark Hama in Atlanta, Georgia has worked on a lot of my older cameras and got them working well.
  10. RJ, Check out Rick Oleson's page "Brighten your Rangefinder" He suggests cutting a small piece of black adhesive tape and sticking it in the centre of the viewfinder window (front), the same size of the rangefinder patch. I've just done it to a dim camera and it works! Cyril Lowe

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