Out with a Contaflex IV

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by royall_berndt, Oct 5, 2018.

  1. A year ago, I loaded up my Contaflex IV, took a few shots, and then forgot about the roll until recently. I finished it, but the results show the effect of a warm room on year-old film. Still, some of the interesting feel of the Tessar lens comes through, as well as some of its sharpness. I think the ceiling shot is the purest Tessar look. The sharpness came through for the last shot. Thank Goodness. 21145C1-R01-007.jpg 86620015.jpg 86620013.jpg
  2. I had one of those once upon a time. The lenses were very good, but somehow it seemed more clunky than it's sibling the IIAs and IIIAs. That said, it was really quite a decent little SLR and very high quality. I like the first shot the best.
  3. I liked that first one too....or the same reason.... I read er heard they made a new formula for these Front element
    Tessars. They do Seen To have a unique rendering. Heavy and klunky compared to a Contax . I am hexed by the focus dometimes with the fresnel screen. These pink distractions are a benefit to symmetry in the Tessar lens design.
  4. The best of the Contaflii is the II. It is lighter, and focuses faster than the others. My II has a dirty viewfinder system. Where could I have it fixed?

    When the film is fresh, you often get a slight pastel quality in the Contaflex shots. And the sharpness is the Leica type, not clinical. Here's a frame where I boosted the color saturation. 8ed6620005.jpg
  5. Nice work. At worst the effect is slightly "LOMO".

    My only Contaflex is the Prima (LINK).

    Never cared for the focus in the center only feature. I think they were stuck back in the pre-war rqngefinder tradition.
  6. A more-or-less contemporary ad
    Mike Gammill likes this.
  7. I would linke to find the source instead of repeating heresay...but I have read in other places that the Tessar was newly formulated for the seines and this series is widely expanded over a production of 10+ years. It seems to make sense and was necessary due to the need for a Front focussing element.
    I find the rendering unique for these lenses and offen surpised by their sharpness. I have the Super B. The auto exposure with trap needle shows acceptable resultseven when then operation is erratic.
    I think the symmetry of the Tessar design is obvious with pink abberations demonstrated Here.
    I find the only drawback is the fresnel lens.....seems to trick me offen. I rely on the very good splitt RF in the center of the screen
  8. There’s an access port on the rewind side where the cassette resides. You could try cleaning the mirror and screen via it. It’s fiddly, but doable. If any of the contamination is on the top of the focus screen or prism then obviously, you’ll have to take the top cover off to access the affected surfaces.
  9. Over the years there was a lot of conversation about precisely when re-computed versions of the 50mm Tessar were fitted to Contaflexes on the Zeiss Yahoo list. It involved people who know (or knew) far more than I ever will about matters Zeiss including the late Charles Barringer and Marc Small. Being somewhat obsessed with Contaflex cameras for a while I think I searched and read every single post in my quest for knowledge. But my takeaway after all that was, whilst some had intelligent and worthwhile information to impart, no one could document an actual model, or point in time.

    What (as I recall, and it’s been a while) everyone seemed to agree on was that it involved the unit focus models and probably from the Super onwards.

    At the risk of side tracking, the Contaflex III and IV are really in a category of their own, because they are the only unit focusing Contaflex models which cannot be fitted with the magazine backs made for certain Tessar Contaflexes (and also for the Pantar-equipped Prima, I believe). Of course, Zeiss also produced film magazines for their Contarex SLRs which function the same way as the Contaflex ones but due, not least, to the noticeably larger size of the focal plane shutter cameras, their magazines must be rather longer than the Contaflex type. (Because loading and fitting the magazines backs to either SLR family is done in precisely the same way, Zeiss issued only a single set of printed instructions covering Contaflex and Contarex magazine use, leading many online sellers to either conflate the two types, or opine that they’re interchangeable between the two camera types, which is most assuredly not the case. But now we really are off topic, apropo the lenses).

    So most of the conversation between various Zeiss luminaries revolved around which of the successive Super series of Contaflexes got examples of the re-computed lens fitted.

    Some claimed it happened very late in the day, indeed, and that only the last few thousand specimens of the S model received it.

    Others suggested it coincided with the change in the size of the bayonet mount used for the removable front element of the 50mm Tessar (sneakily, whilst all unit focus models from the III inclusive onwards will mount the 35mm, 85mm and 115mm Pro Tessar lenses, you cannot Eg. take the front 50mm cell of the standard lens from your Super B or Super BC, and fit it to the bayonet of your Contaflex III or IV—the mounts are just different enough, not to interchange—early and late versions of the M1:1 Macro Tessar were also produced, for this reason).

    Yet others suggested it coincided with the introduction of the Super B and Super New (arguably the best of all the later Contaflex models in expert hands). Ivor Matanle for instance suggests as much in his well known books.

    All that I can add is, after reading too much about the subject, I had a mission to track down a really late S model to ensure the use of this fabulous but mythical re-computed Tessar. And I eventually found a “U” prefix serial number from the last thousand or so of nearly a million Contaflexes produced in all (including the Pantars and 126 variant). Actually a friend did even better, and bought one of the last 100 Contaflexes ever made from late 1971 or 1972 (another very late S model).

    I have shot a few rolls through my late S model Contaflex including lovely high resolution films like Pan F Plus and Acros 100, (always processed in ID-11 1 + 3, which Ilford themself inform yields maximum sharpness with their own films). And its 50mm is super sharp. But I’ve also used Super, Super B, Super BC, I, II, IV and Rapid models. And whilst that late S lens is sharp as a scalpel, I can’t really say it’s better than my Super BC or Super B. So it’s very nice to have a late S, but I’m dubious it actually matters, at all.

    What I have noticed is all the Tessars, 45mm included, are good, sharp lenses, but from the Super B/Super New onwards, they seem to have even better sharpness than previous models. Does this make them “re-computed”? Not necessarily. Perhaps the coatings improved. Certainly, on colour film later models seen to have slightly better contrast in my experience. But that doesn’t mean the optical pieces themselves were changed prior to coating, perhaps only the coating process may have altered?

    You can be confident of excellent quality from any Tessar Contaflex in good condition, if absolute sharpness is important personally I suspect a decent example of any Super B, BC or S is probably a safe proposition. Sharpness of course whilst nice to have is only one of many features which might make a lens desirable.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
  10. Based on my limited experiences with the Contarex film back, you'd probably have to change the seals on the back to use it. Mine had light leaks when I tried to use it. I sold them on with the Contarex eventually. Beautiful but awkward. I thought the Contaflex IV was a great little camera.
  11. This is probably a good idea in the long run. I've got the fitted half case shaped to accommodate the interchangeable magazines and keep the camera in it most of the time when shooting with it. But I have always used a small strip of black electrical tape over the dark slide slot whenever one is fitted to a camera and in use. When not loaded it is a good idea to leave the dark slide out of the magazine. Unfortunately given that I suspect a lot of owners couldn't get their heads around how to correctly load, fit and remove the magazines, when they are acquired the slides have likely been resting in their slots for four or five decades, making compressed seals and light leaks a distinct possibility.
  12. Interchangeable backs are a great idea. If I were doing it today, I'd probably try to send the darkslides to someone who could service them very well and then I'd get the instruction book and very carefully figure out exactly how to use them. As nice as Contax rangefinders (and older SLRs are) I feel like they're cameras that need regular servicing. The idea that this includes the backs is certainly not an insult to their quality. Maybe I would have done better using your electrical tape trick, not sure.
  13. I’ve had mostly good results from the three I have (one each for black and white, E-6 and C-41). Main point is they’re intended to facilitate mid-roll changes without wasting frames. So everything has to happen with the body cocked. Want to fit a mag to the body? Have to cock the camera first. Want to take it off? Have to wind on. Interlocks prevent removal or installation of the mags without winding on first. No blank frames (or double exposures, for that matter) this way.

    It does necessitate a little lateral thinking occasionally however. Eg. You shoot the last shot on the roll. Can’t remove the back until you wind on, but you can’t wind on...because it’s the last frame. So you find yourself having to rewind the film into the cassette first, so you have the slack needed to actuate the wind lever to cock the body and take the mag off. I have seen mags with broken back latches, no doubt the result of frustrated owners who failed to join the dots.

    There can be other issues. The small spring clip in the take up fork that engages the removable Contax style take up spool (in itself, dispensed with, obviously, when using a magazine) is vital to successful coupling of magazine drive to body film wind. They do fatigue occasionally, and this can lead to overlapping frames or haphazard frame spacing if defective. The backs are reasonably durable but the drive sockets that engage the take up fork can wear and eventually slip. Dodgy clip springs as above will accelerate the process. But magazines are still largely unloved, readily available, and cheaply priced for the most part.

    Notwithstanding these points, it’s been over five years since any film I’ve shot in any Contaflex that can accept a magazine wasn’t loaded in one. I can’t remember the last time I used a Super series with a standard back. Loading a film is a whole other art but it’s only practice, I can generally get one started inside a minute these days, but I have used the magazines a lot.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
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  14. I’ve noticed this as a trait of the earlier lenses. For instance there’s an image of a French icebreaker in the linked album of around thirty photos, all Contaflex, which was made with the 45mm Tessar on a Contaflex II and colour negative, and the colours are rather soft. On the other hand, later models can yield quite vibrant colour rendition even with consumer C-41 films (some of the colour pics included were made with Velvia which is definitely *not* lacking in vibrancy of course). But the photograph of the centre arches of the old Richmond Bridge in Tasmania was made with Sensia 100, and, whilst I had some delightful Autumn light that day, the colour is simply gorgeous, straight off the slide. Apologies for not adding the images directly onto the site and linking externally, but this is composed with my phone, and I don’t have access to the original image files via it.
    Zeiss Ikon Contaflex 35mm SLR by BRogers

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