Contax IIA with Tri-X and some thoughts

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by carbon_dragon, Sep 19, 2018.

  1. I took my sad, neglected IIA out to take some pictures in our local square. I appear to have picked up some trouble with my shutter (probably from not using the camera much) that results in the top of the frame dark at some shuttler speeds, 1/500 I think. Oh well, anyway, Thought I'd try to show some of the images. Also it kind of reminded me of the good and bad shooting film.

    To the good, I do like using these old cameras, but I don't miss the processing, scanning, and dust removal (or the problems associated with any old camera (with the possible exception of old Leica Ms). I feel like it might be fun, but doesn't really help to give me the best images I can create. That said I'm going to try to use some of these cameras. All pictures the the 50/1.5 Zeiss Opton lens.




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  2. Ah, 'the dust, the dust' (to paraphrase Conrad's heart of darkness: 'the horror, the horror'). They are good, carbon_dragon; the zeiss opton shines. As does your framing: the fountain and railway tracks shots are good. From recollection, was the zeiss f1.5 a sonnar design?. Perhaps the shutter lag will resolve itself with exercise. I have never used the contax, but have a couple of kiev's stored away with a selection of clone lenses. Will have to try them someday (at the moment, still stored away). Regards, Arthur (apiarist1)
  3. Chances are the shutter is starting to show the signs of needing a service. Some of the first symptoms will be it not opening at all at the 1/1250 second setting and/or tapering/uneven travel in the upper speeds.
  4. AJG


    The f/1.5 Zeiss Opton he is referring to is the Sonnar design. As for exercise fixing the shutter capping that some Contax IIa and IIIa cameras are prone to, unfortunately that isn't likely to do it.
    brett_rogers likes this.
  5. It had a very good service, but that was years ago. The truth is that these kinds of cameras don't take lack of use well.
  6. Yeah, I bought mine from Henry Scherer around 5 years ago. I exercise it regularly, all the way across the shutter speed range and even the variable delay action. Everything still works fine, but the 1/1250 second setting falls well short of that speed at this point and probably should go back to Henry for the 5 year "touch up" service he has.
  7. That’s worth thinking about. I might try the other IIA and see what it looks like. Maybe it’s worth sending the other one to Henry.
  8. I took the other IIA out around the house to see what I could see. Here's a few shots using the 35mm f/2.8 biogon. I also took a shot of the camera with my iPhone 6sPlus. I think I am going to send the first one back to Henry. Now as a user camera, the IIA has some issues. First focusing with the wheel for the 50 and on the lens for every other lens is awkward. also, using the wheel means my finger is often blocking the rangefinder. Loading isn't too tough but the takeup spool in this camera requires a special leader for the film. And then taking lenses on and off the camera requires some care because everything has to be lined up just so or it won't work. Lastly, the viewfinder (not shown) required for non 50 lenses is beautifully made, but gives you a kind of tunnel vision and a very small sight picture. I wouldn't give up my Leica Ms for the IIAs but they're really well made, effective cameras. This IIA seems to be functioning normally.





  9. AJG


    A couple of points: you don't have to focus the 50 with the wheel on top of the camera--once you release the infinity lock you can turn the lens directly just like the other focal lengths. As for loading film, I have always used standard Kodak or Ilford film and have had no problems with loading it. In fact, I wish that the Pentax K 1000 rental cameras that my students use loaded as easily. I assume the viewfinder you're referring to is the post WWII Zeiss #440--it isn't that bad compared to other multifocal finders from the same period, and has the great virtue of having a diopter adjustment built in so that I can use it without glasses and see the full frame. None of this is to say that the Contax is the equal of a Leica M in convenience--it isn't, being the product of different engineering and design philosophies. But the unique lenses available at relatively reasonable prices make it worth it to put up with its foibles for some of us.
  10. Well if I HAVE the 50 mounted, I might as well use the wheel. You just need to get used to an arch in the finger. The takeup film spool in THIS IIA is the one with the slot in the center for the film. I have to cut the other side of the leader or it won’t feed.

    For the time, the lenses are excellent and I expect some of the modern Zeiss lenses are descended from these designs. I’m going to mount the 85 next. I have a 50, 35, 21, 85, and 135. They are all in good shape.
  11. I have been using Leicas for 65 years, (and still prefer the little Barnack cameras to the large and heavy M series).
    When the Contax II was designed, it was intended to "fix" every concern about the Leicas, from the screw-in lens mount, to the impossible subterranean loading, and had far better lenses. IMO the Contax was better on paper than the Leica in every respect -- until, that is, you pick them up and try to use them. My Leicas fit the hand perfectly and are a joy to use, while even after 50+ years my Contax IIA is by comparison a mechanical nightmare, from the focusing wheel to the square corners.
    Both are capable of making superb pictures.
    But no doubt about it, the Contax IIa has to be the most beautiful camera ever made -- nothing else even comes close (except, perhaps, the original Contax II!)
  12. I was once told by someone that the Contaxes were designed to function as lab equipment where the Leicas were designed for people to walk around and use them as cameras. I've also heard that Leica took patents on a number of mechanisms that made designing the Contax difficult. I don't know if any of these things are true, but it certainly seems as though ergonomics wasn't a prominent branch of the Zeiss business in this era. Despite all that, they're fun to mess around with, and are capable of very good performance. And it has a sort of overengineered beauty only exceeded by the Contarex Bullseye IMHO. Here it is outfitted for the next use with the 85 along with a rival. Sadly, Zeiss shoes are non standard and I'm going to have to put a bit of tape on the double shoe to keep it from sliding backward.

    ContaxIIA 2.jpg
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  13. Then there was Zeiss Kiev, whose technicians were willing to make up for deficiencies in the Dresden offerings.
  14. Gorgeous cameras! Don't know if I prefer the black or the standard chrome.
    Wish I still had the 85mm I loaned to a friend, who then lost it in his divorce.
    Interesting about your accessory shoes, my IIa fits perfectly with both Zeiss and Leitz accessory finders.
  15. JDMvW, is that a Jupiter 9? It has that blue/purple glow. The aluminium seems far too clean, though. Regards, Arthur (apiarist1)
  16. And that's a Contax II too rather than a IIA. You have to be careful about Contax lenses, because the old 35s (and the russian versions as well) protrude too far back to work with IIAs. They'll hit the shutter and damage it. The post war 35 has a much shorter protrusion. And you're using the Leitz multifinder too. Do you like that one better? I've always gotten chrome cameras but I wonder if I should consider the black chrome.
  17. Robert Capa used a pair of Contax II's on D-Day, so I would argue that they were not confined to Lab use. Horace Bristol shot with a Contax. I seem to remember Bristol used a Nikkor telephoto on his Contax, the cam being custom cut for him before 'C' lenses were in regular production.

    [​IMG]contax_jupiters by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    [​IMG]contax_lenses by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    I have a unique solution for the wide-angle lens for the Contax IIIa and IIa... Wollensak 35/2 Fastax optics mounted in a J-12 focus mount.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
  18. Hey, that looks pretty cool. What is that big finder mounted on the left side II in the top picture? And the big black lens on the bottom right of the 2nd picture, is that a Nikon lens?
  19. Here's a shot from the 85/2 short roll and another iPhone shot of the 21 Biogon mounted on the IIA for the next test. Not sure if there is a lens hood for the 21? Has anybody seen one that doesn't end up in the picture? I'm tempted to use the 21 brightline finder instead. I also have the Contax/Yashica 21mm lens, shown in the third picture. One would presume these two lenses are related, but you sure couldn't tell it by the size!

    IIA 85 scan0006.jpg


    charles_escott_new likes this.
  20. AJG


    I've never seen a hood for the 21 (I have a reprint of the 1956 Contax price list and there isn't one listed there) and Tiffen 40.5 mm color filters vignette on my 21. I doubt that your Contax/Yashica slr lens has much in common with the original Biogon for the Contax RF--it is a retrofocus design to accommodate the flipping mirror, while the rear element of the original Biogon sits within a couple of millimeters of the shutter.

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