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Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa (563/24) favori envoyer Print
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Manufactured in Germany from 1945 until 1956.
Index of rarity in France : Infrequent (among non-specialized garage sales)
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Inventory number: 12069

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Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa

Traduction de Manuel M

Zeiss reappears of its ashes!

1945: Dresden is destroyed by the bombardments: the plans, the studies, the tools… and the majority of human resources which had made it possible to produce the Contax II pre-war period come through the other side of the iron curtain, and take again its service under the Kiev brand.

A handful of engineers decides to continue the prestigious Zeiss production in Stuttgart. First challenge: to remake a Contax II, but in better.
The Contax IIa is rather similar of appearance with its predecessor (see the comparison of both a little below), but practically shares no part with this one: the engineers of Zeiss went back to work starting from an almost white sheet.

Picture 1 : First version of IIa. The window of left does not have a screw.

If the Contax IIa starts again the system of bayonet of pre-war period and the principle of the vertical metallic curtain, its mechanism is appreciably improved and simplified.
Thus the mechanism slow speeds is accessible easily by removing the higher hood, and its adjustment infinitely less delicate than for the versions of pre-war period when it was necessary to venture in the middle of the camera.

The Contax IIa is an interchangeable lenses camera with bayonet mount. But it has two bayonets, one with internal ramp and one with external ramp. If the rangefinder is well coupled, it is coupled only with the internal mobile bayonet which exclusively receives the three lenses 50 mm, the two Sonar which open to 1.5 and 2, and the Tessar which opens to 3.5. The other lenses, wide angle or telephoto are mounted on the external fix bayonet, they include their own scales of distance and are not coupled any more with the rangefinder. The three above-mentioned lenses 50mm do not have scales of distances, that one being then interdependent of the body and being engraved of 0.9 m ad infinitum or 3 feet ad infinitum for certain bodies in version of export.

The roller-blind shutter out of aluminum, with ring of adjustment, gives a range of speeds going of the 1/1250 of second up to one second, as well as the pose B and T. It has on the back a synchro flash socket dedicated Zeiss which requires the use of a special cord for the use of the standard flash. It has lastly on the hood, a standard accessory shoe and a self timer. There existed two types of cords synchro flash, for the lamps flash synchronized to the 1/25 of second and for the electronic flash synchronized to the 1/50 of second.

The Zeiss Contax IIa was produced from 1950 to 1961.

The film used is the 35 mm cinema which one puts in a special loadable magazine for the Contax. The modern films in cartridge 135 are usable.

The version of 1954.

Without speaking of variants like the inscription in m or feet on the ring of the distances, or the second window of field of the electronic viewfinder a little smaller and without the two screws on the bodies of serial number earlier about to the 25,000, Zeiss Stuttgart will launch in 1954 a version which the Anglo-Saxons will call “colour dial” as opposed to the previous version “black dial”. In this new version, speeds of the ring of adjustment are coloured, they remain in black from 1 second to 1/25, becomes orange to the 1/50 which is the speed of synchronization flash and become red from the 1/100 to the 1/1250. Moreover in this new version, the socket synchro flash is standardized, making useless the use of the cord synchro flash. In the following picture, the version/translation “color dial” is on the left.

Basic comparison with Contax II prewar.

The Contax IIa is slightly smaller and lighter. It does not have any more a shoe of support under the sole since more no device is prominent there. The telemetric base plate is shorter but still respectable with 73mm. The marking “contax” is curved around the lens and either right. The mechanism is simplified and more judiciously arranged, making easier maintenance. The viewfinder is wider. But the most appreciable difference is the cocking. On the contax II prewar, a followed incomplete cocking followed by of an attempt of change of speed led to a dysfunction sometimes generating of breakdowns. In the contax IIa this problem disappears and the shifting of speed can be made before or after the cocking without any risk.

Lenses of Contax IIa

As soon as its launching, the Contax IIa had a respectable range of lenses. But in this domain again the bursting of Germany after the second world war left some traces.

If Carl Zeiss Jena continued after war to produce optics at Iéna in East Germany, it was founded a factory of optics in Oberkochen in West Germany to satisfy the needs for Zeiss Ikon AG. Stuttgart.
The lenses provided by Carl Zeiss Jena bears serial numbers in the continuity of pre-war without distinction between the types of lenses, and still with the engraving “Carl Zeiss Jena”. That is to say about from 3,000,000 after war. Oberkochen indistinctly started to number its production from 10,000. But there where that becomes complicated, it is that a close cooperation existed at the beginning between the two factories. The optics coming out from Oberkochen are initially engraved “Opton” then later, in result of various trials, simply “Carl Zeiss”. All the optics came out after war from Iena or Oberkochen are treated of origin and bear engraved one red T in capital letter for the denomination “tranzparenz”.

Were thus available in standard in 1951 for Contax IIa:

Biogon 2.8 /35 mm
Sonar 1.5 /50 mm
Sonar 2 /50 mm
Tessar 3.5 /50 mm
Sonar 2 /85 mm
Sonar 4 /135 mm
Sonar 2.8 /180 mm
Sonar 4/300 mm

And some other special optics like the later Tessar 3,5/115mm to be used with the “panflex”, the lens macro 3,5/50mm mounted on the head of focusing of the “Contaprox” or a later/ 8/500mm too.

The 180, 300 and 500 mm were some productions of the east, Carl Zeiss Jena, marketed by Stuttgart, more for questions of cost than know-how and who were used with the special centring device with mirror “Flektoscop”.
All the lenses of prewar Contax II adapt on Contax IIa except the Biogon.

The basic documentation of time for well using the Contax IIa: the manual, the book] of Otto Croÿ of 1953 “Das Contax Buch” and tables of the characteristics of the lenses:

The macrophotography in the Fifties according to Contax.

Zeiss Stuttgart manufactured a very complete and very precise set for the micro and macro photograph. While going from the tables of reproduction to the bellows and extension tubes and via a special lens, the Tessar 1: 3.5 50mm which is the first macro lens never manufactured.

The Macro Tessar, sold like belonging to the unit “Contaprox”, could be used directly on Contax IIA but required the use of a telemetric system of focusing with correction of parallax not very practical, the “Contameter” which be mounted on the accessory shoe of the camera. Better was worth to use this macro Tessar with the system of centring on glass ground of the “Contaprox” or of the “Panflex”, with or without extension tubes.

The book in German “Das Contax Buch” lengthily describes the use in macrophotography of the Contax IIa. This book be published into 1953 with the editions Heeiring Verlag and he is written by Otto Croy who had already signed “Contax Buch” in 1942 but concerning the Contax II prewar.

The Contaprox

The Contaprox is a unit made up of a head of focusing, of an extension tube carrying a ground glass and of a magnifying glass of centring with dioptric correction. The extension tube carrying the ground glass has the exact length which exists between the lens and the plane film of the Contax IIa, the ground glass being instead of plane film.

The special Tessar 50 mm is mounted in the head of focusing on a helical system to large clearance. This head is mounted on a standard bayonet of type of external ramp and has a scale of distances going from a little less than 20 cm until the infinite. With the scale of distance, a scale of correction of exposure is. The adjustment makes it possible to exceed the infinite one for a simple matter of minimum overall dimensions and storage. No lubrication is necessary on the helical part. The scale of diaphragm go from 1/3,5 to 1/22.

The magnifying glass of centring is straight but it existed also angled with an internal mirror on another version of the Contaprox.

The use of Contaprox could be done directly, by making the focusing on the glass ground with the magnifying glass of centring, then by replacing the ground glass/magnifying glass of centring  by the camera at the time to take the cliché. With or without the use of extension tubes or bellows.

Otherwise, one could use Contaprox with a turret “revolver”. Still with or without extension tubes.

The focusing with a contaprox mounted on turret “revolver” with a extension tube x 1:

The taking of view:

The Macro Tessar presented here is a lens engraved “Carl Zeiss Jena” thus manufactured in East Germany, and marketed by Zeiss Stuttgart in a Contaprox system made in Stuttgart. Later these same lenses will be engraved “Opton” thus manufactured with Oberkochen, and even later “Carl Zeiss”, still manufactured in Oberkochen

Another way to proceed was to use Panflex.

The Panflex

This accessory was also initially provided for the macrophotography and it would have been rerouted towards the portrait with the use of a lens of 117 mm, of special construction being considered the extension provided by the Panflex. The Panflex consists of a system of centring reflex camera which one interposes between the Contax and the head of focusing of the tessar macro 50mm. The action on the flexible cord/string initially makes to raise the mirror, then activates the release of Contax. Mounted on the Panflex, the infinite position of the Tessar macro 50mm is not usable any more because a thrust in the Panflex prevents the excessive re-entry of optics in order not to obstruct the movement of the mirror of the Panflex and to damage it. The Panflex would have been manufactured only to a one thousand of specimens.

Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa