Friday, May 04, 2012


When the Contaflex I appeared on the market in the early 1950's the company's ads made much of the idea that the camera's single lens reflex viewing system allowed you to see just what the film would see.  It is true that the view through the finder is bright and clear and -- unlike the twin-lens reflex or view camera systems -- the image was not reversed or upside-down. Most importantly, perhaps, there was no parallax discrepancy as one inevitably got with rangefinder cameras.

The Contaflex ads did, however, promise a bit more than the camera actually delivered.  The split image spot at the center of the viewing field makes it easy to focus precisely, but the only part of the view which actually shows the focus at full aperture is a small doughnut around the central spot.  The rest of the screen shows the image nearly fully focused.  For the 'fifties tourist shooting chromes under the bright sun at small apertures, there was no evident problem.  In low light and at large apertures, however, there is quite a difference between what is presented in the viewfinder and what the film sees.

Focusing nuances aside, the coated Tessar f2.8 lens always delivers nice images to the film, and the Contaflex is still one of my great favorites.  


Jim said...

My favorite online inflation calculator says that this camera's 1953 price tag is equivalent to $1,452 today. That's in the ballpark of a mighty nice modern DSLR.

Purple's my favorite color, so naturally I'm drawn to the flower. That's a mighty nice purple, and I love how the background has a complementary purplish caste.

Mike said...

Zeiss Ikon marketed the Contaflex as a camera for the advanced amateur, but it was really unsurpassed in terms of design, materials and construction.

Dirk said...

Is also on my wish list.
But they warned me that you must have luck to get a working Contaflex.
"You can not do much to it, if it is defective."

Mike said...

The Contaflex is very solidly constructed and I would guess it is actually rare to find one with something broken. What is more likely is that dirt and lubricant residue has gummed up the works. The first model is easier to work on than later ones, and a competent repairman familiar with the peculiarities of construction should be able to put the camera into good working order. You can pay a little or a lot for a Contaflex, but nearly any of them will need a visit to the shop.