Contax IIa Rangefinder

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by rajmohan., Aug 27, 2015.

  1. Hello folks,
    I just bought a Contax IIa with Sonnar 50mm f2 for a very good price.
    The camera looks pretty good, shutter fires at all speeds and the speeds sound fairly accurate. The shutter curtain is intact and tight.
    The only problems are
    1) The focus ring on the body is tight (actually only moves in one direction), but the lens can be focused using the helicoid on the lens.
    2) The rangefinder appears out of alignment - at infinity, the images are not coincident.
    From my reading, rangefinder misalignment in these cameras is uncommon - is this correct? If so, is it possible that a problem with the lens could lead to an apparent misalignment, or it is more likely that the RF mechanism in the body needs attention?
    Lastly, I imagine that the minor problems (and anything else that might be lurking) would be best solved by a service from a skilled technician. I've read about a few options, but many of these threads are out of date and some of the people are no longer in the game. I'd be interested to know if anyone can recommend a skilled repairperson with a reasonable turnaround time.
    Thank you very much!
  2. I had my Contax IIIA totally overhauled by Henry Scherer several years ago. It's a beautiful piece of precision equipment but is not cheap. He also had a couple year waiting list when I signed up. It may be shorter now. It was well worth the time and expense.
  3. Chances are very good the shutter, while it may fire at all speeds and sound "right", the curtains almost certainly are either not opening at the higher speeds, from 1/250 through 1/1250, or they are not exposing the entire frame correctly due to tapering. You can tell by winding and firing with the back off, lens aperture opened up to f2 and camera pointed at a bright light source while you look through the back. It's common and will affect any of these cameras that have not been serviced, which this one has not been from the comments about the focus wheel.
    If the rangefinder it out vertically, there's no adjustment for that. Vertical misalignment means the prism is bad.
    It's a beautiful camera to use when working right and I have a pretty sweet copy that's fully functioning, but it wasn't cheap.
  4. Michael and Greg,
    Thank you for your input. I agree with all your points, and having it serviced by someone skilled at handling these gems is key (and something I'd like to do). But I understand that Henry Scherer (who has a sterling reputation) might have a waiting list that could run into the years - I've contacted him to see if perhaps this is no longer the case. If I strike out, hopefully there are other people who can service these cameras with a quicker turnaround!
  5. You mike drop a line to Mark Hansen..
  6. I, too, recommend the above: Henry W. Scherer. The turnaround time, however, will not be quick as he is the best and has many clients.
  7. Thank you, Steve. I just heard back from Henry - the wait time is ~5 years. But I'm on the list - just need to be patient :)
  8. Wow.....he might not last that long, LOL...

    He's got a cherry-looking IIA Color Dial and 50mm Sonnar for an equally cherry price, LOL. But if it works as
    good as mine, you'd be set.

    Bought mine from him, as well as an 85mm f2 Sonnar and a 21mm f4.5 Biogon, all sweet looking and equally sweet operating.
  9. "If the rangefinder it out vertically, there's no adjustment for that. Vertical misalignment means the prism is bad"
    Greg C.
    Sorry, but this is incorrect.
    As can be seen in the provided image, there is a way to correct issues with alignment.
    In fact, if you're correcting this plus correcting "focus ring on body is tight", then
    you must get to (at the least), this much tear-down.
    Pictured is the early stage of a full-fledged complete C L A to a Contax IIa (Body shell must next be extracted to view all shutter & transport mechanism to be serviced).

    If the OP's Contax has not been tampered with, then confidence is high that this cemented RF element has released it's bond causing it to be loose.
    Usually re-seating then re-applying cement will correct the vertical misalignment.
    If not, tedious shiming with a final bonding makes your readjust hold fast...
  10. Thank you Greg and Gus. Certainly looks like the job calls for a specialist - not just any old tinkerer :)
  11. Yes, it takes someone willing to take the thing apart, then accurately cement back together to fix the vertical, no easy
    user-doable adjustment, and I don't think there's a lot of people out there doing it. Back in the mid 80's when I first caught
    the classic camera bug after reading Ivor Mantanle's book, it was his comments about avoiding Contax post-war IIA and
    IIIA bodies with rangefinders out vertically that always stuck with me.
  12. Raj
    Some years ago I sent my Contax IIA
    to a well regarded repair house in Los
    Angeles Ca for CLA.
    Upon its return, on the first roll of film,
    it locked up when I attempted to use it
    with self timer at 1250 shutter speed.

    I refused to send it back and I ended
    up sending to John at Focal Point in
    Colorado. They were polishing several
    lenses for me so I decided to ask if
    they would CLA the Contax. They
    agreed to perform the work so I sent it
    in and got it back in several weeks later
    and it still works perfectly six years or
    so later. They reported that the reason
    that the camera locked up was
    because the previous repair party tried
    to adjust the shutter without a thorough
    cleaning and they ended up adjusting
    the shutter too tight. I would give these
    people a call and see if they would
    consider repairing your camera sooner
    than your previous estimate.
  13. Thank you for the information, Robert. Sadly, Focal Point no longer service cameras, per their website. I have read good things about Ed Troszka in the UK, and in the interests of being able to use the camera sooner rather than later, I might send it to him.
    Thanks everyone for your help!
  14. Hi Raj, you may have solved this by now but for future info, Newton Ellis in Liverpool are confident on Contax lla cameras.
    I have restored two of these cameras and found them responsive to methodical treatment, cleaning and light lubrication. The shutter tensioning is important and Henry Sheerer's site has info about how tight or loose the springs should be. I adjusted mine for speed and sonic footprint by using audio recording software, all speeds are within 1/2 stop at worst. On both occasions I did not have to adjust the rangefinder at all,
    If the rangefinder is horizontally mis-aligned then it appears that the lens helical may have been mis-assembled and has become un-synschronized with the rangefinder mechanism, vertical mis-alignment has been covered above.
  15. Thank you, Kevin. Not wanting to bite off way more than I can chew, I sent the camera out for servicing, and hope to have it back in the next few weeks. Fingers crossed!!

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