Why are Contax IIa / IIIa cheaper compare to Leicas?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by alfred_alfred, Jul 25, 2005.

  1. Contax also has/had collapsible lenses! What you said about the plethora of models is very true. I often think of David and Goliath ..Leica appeared on the scene promoting less is more. They committed to the 35mm format and realized the lenses would make or break the concept. The slow moving conglomerate Zeiss Ikon AG....realized the market shift ..practically too late and struggled to be competitive. IF you read Henry Scherer's site (The Zeiss Ikon Contax Camera Repair Website - template) they modeled their Contax to be the anti Leica.. vertical shutter instead of horizontal .... bayonet mount vs screw, different RF design as well as integrated finder..all to avoid any cries of patent infringement. So they brought their weight to bear. Though the public gave them the benefit of the doubt especially in the optics department, they struggled with the Contax I. Only the II model finally brought them in the arena. And if they didn't learn their lesson... after the war..instead of innovating (although the Eastern Zeiss read the writing the wall) , they went back to re-creating the same camera albeit smaller..over engineered, again, this time to distance themselves from themselves as the Russians were now building the pre-war model and still struggled to keep market share. Hubris and conservative thinking!! Tsk Tsk.. What could've been a post-war success with EAST and WEST Zeiss... was lost in the rusting of the Iron Curtain. Maybe the Japanese would've won anyway, but the once dominance of the German camera industry is now history. Some want to say Leica won... They've proven Chameleon-like and capitalized on their own conservative approach...need I mention the Glass... ohh and Zeiss Ikon still makes some of the most coveted glass.. they just don't (can't) make cameras anymore... I guess if you ask them... it was always about the glass anyway right??
  2. BTW...despite my criticism of etc ... I am a Contax disciple!
  3. I have 2 Contax IIAs and a selection of lenses and 2 M2s as well that I used for years. I still use a Leica M9. There are two ways to look at this — one way is to compare the two at the time they were both new, and the other is to look at what you are likely to get out of the arrangement today.

    At the time, they were both works of art (the Ms and the IIAs and IIIAs). The lenses of the time were great for the time in both of them. However, in use, the viewfinder system is much easier to use in the M than it is to use the IIAs with their wheels for the 50mm lenses and focusing the lenses for the rest of the lenses. It’s tricky to carefully insert and lock the Contax lenses in a way that Leica lenses are not. Film loading is actually easier with the Contaxes. The available lenses were not that extensive with the Contaxes but they had an adequate range (whereas everyone made leica Screw mount and M lenses and you can use them all on the M today including modern very fine optics indeed). In short the IIAs are great, but the Ms feel more like a modern camera that is easy and a pleasure to use. The IIAs are more like useful works of art.

    Today, 60 years after the fact, most Leicas still work great. Those that don’t can be pretty easily repaired by a fair number of repair agencies for reasonable prices including Leica for the Ms (at least to some extent). That’s pretty amazing really given their age. It’s something of a tribute to their reliability and design as well as their popularity that they still exist today in digital sensor form, yet they feel pretty much the same in use. The design of the IIAs and IIIAs was not as long lasting. Mine were stiff when I bougfht them with sticky lense focusing, an out of alignment rangefinder, and it’s tough to find anyone who really knows them well enough to repair them. I sent mine to Henry Scherer (hope I got the spelling right, it’s been a while). He seems to be the best there is for reconditioning these cameras. Today they work perfectly, they’re clear to focus and everything is in perfect alignment. They work great, but they need care more than the Leicas (though Leicas need a service now and then too).

    I suspect they sell for less used because they tend to need expensive, hard to find servicing to work well, and even when they are working well, believe me you’d rather be using an M2 or M3.
  4. original post: Jul 25, 2005

    I have both a Leica M3 and a Contax IIa, not to mention many Soviet versions of Leicas and Contaxes

    I don't believe you.
    Both are superb cameras with rather different "feel". It depends on how I feel on a given day as to which I'd rather use that day.
  5. I think Contax gets a bit of a bad rap, because there aren't many people out there servicing them.
    So any Contax camera you pick up will likely need servicing.
    A well-serviced Contax is just as good as a well-serviced Leica.
  6. I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon per se... I personally don't own a real Leica.. but servicing is servicing. Frankly the RF design ..ie typical over engineered is a stalwart of dependency. Both the II and the IIa use a very neat, but different design than Leica and it rarely goes out of alignment. That said, the Leica is simpler and easy to adjust. They're both fantastic works of art.. form meets function.
  7. That's the trick. Finding that person. I just know of one. The Zeiss Ikon Contax Camera Home

    Note that my local tech, who is very good managed to restore one of mine to function (though it was really just barely functional). He just didn't have the necessary specialty and parts to really do a thorough job. On the other hand, he restored my IIIf to perfect condition. There are lots of options for Leica, not so many for Contax. And yes they're ALL going to need a service (Contax or Leica). And I think personally that the Leica screwmount (and especially M) design is a bit more likely to survive in better condition, but no argument that a service is a good idea regardless. But there are more Leicas out there so more people who work on them.

    I'm not saying they're bad cameras at all, or inferior. Far from it. I wouldn't have 2 of them if I thought so. Just that TODAY, they're harder to get fixed and it's likely to take MUCH longer. My IIIf took a couple of weeks at my local guy. My IIAs took more than a year each. That said, they're beautiful cameras.
  8. I have:
    2 Contax I cameras that I've replaced the shutter straps on
    3 Contax II cameras. 2 were repaired by friend who specializes in Zorkis and Kievs.
    1 Contax III, that has a crack in the shutter housing which makes it unreliable and not worth fixing.
    1 Contax IIa color dial, that worked great out of the box.
    carbon_dragon likes this.
  9. I shot a Contax IIa for several years. It was an excellent camera, but I prefer the larger finder of the Nikon S2 and S3. Leica? I passed, because I couldn't decide between the Hermes Edition and the M6 25th Anniversary Accession to the throne of Sultan of Brunei Edition.
  10. I've never had a Nikon rangefinder but my understanding is that the Nikons looked like Contax cameras but were actually a blend of Leica and Contax tech (in a good way). Supposedly the lenses aren't compatible due to focus differences though they fit. I'd like to use one one of these days and was tempted by the S3 2000 that Nikon put out -- an actual NEW copy of the S3! Very collectable though and thus expensive (both new and old ones). The Nikon S cameras and the Leica cameras share this collectability issue boosting the price.

    And yes Leica does a lot of "special editions" with ridiculous prices, but the standard M2 (which has actually risen in price since I bought mine) is a great camera to use, as are the other manual Leicas.
  11. What a GREAT thread. I just happened on it again after these nearly 20 years, and am even rather proud of my own contributions.
  12. I've somehow picked up 8 or so Contax bodies. A couple ridicuously low, $100 for a Contax IIIa with 5cm F2.8 Tessar- inop shutter. Opened it up, flood cleaned, and lubed - works great now. They are not that bad to work on. The shutter is amazing- but, the viewfinder is "squinty" compared with the Nikon S2. I shimmed the helical of an S2 to use Zeiss lenses.

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