Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by MTC Photography, Dec 30, 2017.
Zeiss Ikon IIa rangefinder camera with Sonnar 50mm F2 lens
Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa leather case
Wonderful camera if it is in great condition and properly restored. I have the same lens mounted on a "no name" Kiev copy of a Contax. The comparison between an actual Contax IIa and a "no name" Kiev body is like a Mercedes-Benz to a Soviet era Lada copy of a Fiat. Look up Henry Scherer as he is the guru of Contax restoration and will tell you why on his site..
While I am pretty sure a Contax will be put together much better than a Kiev, the Kiev is *not* a copy - the original Kievs were build by people trained by the Zeiss engineers which built Contax cameras before the war, on machinery that came from the factory where the Contax cameras were built before the war. The older the Kiev, the better it is, basically.
Nonetheless, a good Contax II is certainly more worthy of envy than my Kievs (even though the oldest of the 2 works just fine).
Wouter, as related to me by H. Scherer, the Zeiss tolerances and quality control practices were not followed by the Kiev factory although the same tooling was used. The Zeiss factory workers had a very high skill level not matched in the Kiev factory. Although a copy of the Contax, Scherer does not accept repair work on Kiev bodies. The parts are not interchangeable, especially shutter assemblies. Scherer's postings are an interesting read.
I thought the Russians exported the factory and technicians to start with, thus initial quality control was good. Although the later Kievs have a few minor changes, I can't see how they aren't copies of the pre war Contax II and III.
I was told that the British importer of Russian cameras in the 1970's examined each carefully and made corrections to avoid having a high proportion returned through flaws.
Of course the post was a Contax IIa, a totally different beast, so we are straying a bit. Pretty camera, but unremarkable for the 1950's?
1947 :A Contax II rangefinder camera was selling at Saigon for about 1500 Vietnam dollars
My Contax IIa is in mint condition, rangefinder accurate, shutter works smoothly. Sonnar 50mm F2 is
I shall load up ASA100 film, and try out this Contax in next year spring.
Lens coating looks good.
Photojournalist Robert Capa made many of his iconic photos using Contax cameras before, during and after WWII. In addition to the f2.0 Sonar 50, the pre-war Contax was also available with the Zeiss f1.5 Sonnar 50. At the time of its 1930's introduction, it was a breakthrough both for the f1.5 speed and excellent image quality. Nice to read that MTC is actually going to use his to make images. It had probably the best rangefinder prior to the M3.
I dig out a Kiev rangefinder from my basement.
Put these two cameras together, the Kiev is slightly taller, looks 95% like a Contax IIa, same metal bar type shutter.
although in operation, the Kiev is not as smooth as Contax
I don't use mine nearly as much as I should, but I have a pretty darn complete, buttery-smooth and 100% working correctly Contax IIA outfit, much of which I purchased from Henry, the body 3-4 years ago. I take it out regularly and exercise the shutter, but I should be running more film through it than I do. What I need to do, is buy one of those Amadeo Contax to Leica M adapters so I can at least play with the Sonnars on the Digital Leica M.
The 21mm f4.5 Biogon is truly magnificent.
Many parts are interchangeable between Contax II/III and the Kiev cameras, I know that first-hand while repairing a Contax II. The Contax IIa and IIIa are very different designs from the II/III. The older Kiev 2 and 3 are closer to the Contax cameras, the Kiev 4 was redesigned. I have a 1957 Kiev that is nice, but not as smooth as my Contax II and III bodies.
contax_jupiters by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr
Of course the Russian lenses work well on the Contax bodies, the J-12 fits the II and III.
I have two Contax IIa cameras that I use regularly. Have several 50mm Sonnar lenses 1.5 and 2 and 35 Biogon. 90mm Sonnar beyond my budget but was able to acquire Nikon ‘c’ 90mm and 135m lenses at good price. Based upon US occupation policy and post war political situation in Asia, I suspect that these lenses are Identical to Zeiss lenses, but with improved focusing mounts. I would be interested in any comments regarding this assertion.
May I add that while engineering and build of Contax was superior to Leica ltm cameras of that time, my own experience is that Leicas fit the hands better. I always felt that Contax (and Contarex for that matter) were designed by engineers but Leicas were designed by photographers.
I just don't like the "bottom feeding" of the film on older Leicas, but I do have a Kiev 4A that works as smoothly as my real Contax IIa and produces excellent images with its Helios lens. I also have a Kiev 4A "relabeled" as a Contax II - it works very well as well.
A tale of two cities - "not all that glitters is gold"
One thing you have to give the Kiev-- they managed to make the finicky original Contax shutter work on a mass-produced camera.
The shutter release on my Kiev "no name" Contax II is worse than my 60's Kodak Instamatic. Aside from the shutter release that now works better with a softie release button, the Kiev is a nice camera as the rangefinder is quick, accurate and easy to use. Additionally I've had good results with a Contax/Nikon mount f1.4 Nikon 50 used wide open with a Nikon hood and the shutter speeds seem to be accurate even after 55 years. I believe the Kiev was built in 1963; the serial number is 6306353. Aside from the serial number no other markings are on the body. Dad bought it through Cambridge Camera with a Carl Zeiss Jena f2 50 for $67.50 plus tax.
Not the least of the perils in buying pre-war Contaxes is the possibility that failed parts (like the shutters, for example) may have been replaced with Kiev parts.
The danger is emphasized at
The Zeiss Ikon Contax Camera Repair Website - template
Contax vs Kiev and the debate goes on. Kiev design was essentially the pre-war Contax II / III using machinery and technology moved to Russia after the war. The first generation Kiev bodies were rebadged Contax bodies...in fact collectors have turned up Kiev labeled bodies where the original Contax engraving was replaced. Parts from these and other early Kiev bodies are interchangeable with Contax bodies. As Kiev production moved farther away from the end of the war, tolerances changed, new parts were introduced, and gradually the Kiev become a design in its own right (for better or worse). I believe Kiev production began in late 1946 or early 1947. Bodies made for the first year or 2 are interchangeable with Contax. By 1950 or so, enough variation existed that interchangeability could no longer be assumed.
And Contax cameras being polluted eith Kiev parts today should be avoided, making eBay a real crap shoot.
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