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Contax IIIa

Contax IIIa

Manufactured by Zeiss Ikon AG., Stuttgart, West Germany
design: c.1956, color dial, serial no. L 76078,
all L series produced between 1956-61,
all Color Dials produced between 1953-62,
all Contax IIIa produced between 1950-62,
Dating as to PhotoForum and Contax IIa-IIIa serials
35mm film Rangefinder camera
Lens: Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 50mm f/2, collapseable, uncoated,
Mount: special built-in type Contax rangefinder bayonet mount of 50 mm lenses,
filter thread 39mm, interchangeable
This type lenses have not their own focusing ring,
serial no.1984874, Surprise: according to this serial no. and some other features, this lens must be a prewar production (c.1936) of original Dresden factory
Dating as to Frank Mechelhoff , and Contax rangefinder lenses
There is a second outside bayonet mount on the focusing helicoid of the body for other than 50mm lenses
Lens release: pressing spring catch with the red dot on the lens flange and simultaneously turn the lens clockwise
Aperture: f/2-f/22 (no click stops),
setting: ring and dial on front of the lens w/ two smaller handles for easy turning
Focusing: by a thumb ring on the left-front of the camera via helical built in the body,
the yellow rangefinder images must be match in the viewfinder,
scale and DOF scale on the focusing helicoid on the body
Focus range: 1-20m +inf
Shutter: all metal focal plane shutter, vertical traveling, speeds: 1-1/1250 +T & B
setting : ring and dial beneath the winding/cocking knob, lift and turn to desired setting
for T: the shutter closes by turning the speed dial to B wo/ lifting
Shutter release: on top of the cocking knob, w/ cable release socket
Cocking knob: also winds the film, on the left of the top plate
Frame counter: on the cocking knob, advance type, manual setting
Viewfinder: coupled view and rangefinder
Exposure meter: Photo-electric Selenium cell exposure meter (no battery), uncoupled,
w/ a lid on its light taking window, working accurately !
Film speed range: 9-30 DIN (6-800 ASA), setting: by inner thumb ring on the meter settings dial knob Exposure setting: matching needle and black diamond mark in the window on the top plate, adjusts by turning a big, complex dial knob on the left of the top plate, shows DIN scale, aperture and speed scales, speed setting possible from 60 sec. to 1/1250 sec.
Re-adjustment of exposure meter is possible by a screw on the back side, close the meter lid, turn the meter dial counter-clockwise as far as go, the meter needle must point the black dot in the window, if not, adjust it by turning the screw
Re-wind knob: on the meter setting dial,
for easy handling it can be lifted about 1cm, turns when winding
Re-wind release: a knob on the bottom plate, film rewinds by pressing the button and simultaneously turning winding knob
Flash PC socket: on the back side of the camera, synch 1/50 (orange on the speed dial) for electronic flash and 1/100 and over (red) for bulb flashes
Engravings in the cold shoe: Zeiss Ikon, Stuttgart, Germany and serial no.
Self-timer: possible three delay times setting
Back cover: removable with the bottom plate, open by two folding lever on the bottom plate
Relief on the back cover leatherette : Zeiss Ikon logo
Tripod socket: old 3/8”
Strap lugs
Body: metal, Weight:800g
serial no. L 76078 (Stamped inside of the camera also)
+Original metal lens cap

Contax I was a high end 35mm rangefinder camera made by Zeiss Ikon to compete with Leica models. It was released in 1932.
Contax II was released in 1936 and was the successor of the Contax I. It was the first camera with a rangefinder and viewfinder combined in a single window.
Contax III, also released in 1936, was a Contax II with an exposure meter. It was one of the first cameras with a built-in exposure meter.
After the war, the Soviet Union captured the tooling and drawings of the Contax as war booty, and transfered them to Kiev, where they began the production of the Kiev rangefinder camera, as such a continuation of the Contax.
At the same time, the Western part of the Zeiss Ikon company, based in Stuttgart, completely redesigned the Contax and launched the Contax IIa in 1950 and Contax IIIa in 1951.
Contax IIIa is the same camera with Contax II with a light meter. Compared to the prewar Contax II and III, the IIa and IIIa used the same lens mount with a completely re-engineered shutter mechanism, fresh body, and much improved chrome finish.
Earlier variation IIa and IIIa cameras, all the shutter speeds on the dial in were black, and called, Black Dial. like early Leica cameras.
The Color Dials were in production longer than the Black Dials, 1954-62 vs. 1950-54
The earlier black dial Conrtax IIa and IIIa have a peculiar flash sync connection then they have standard PC socket.
Contax IIa and IIIa is a professional quality system 35mm Rangefinder with large system of lenses and accessories, that some considered the best 35mm lenses during the 1950’s.
Contax IIa and IIIa has a superb mechanical fit and finish, many believe better than even the legendary Leica M3.
The lens 50/2 Sonnar, produced in West and East Germany, has excellent reputation.
Also made in uncoated pre-war Jena variation, black or chrome,
the latter variation is on my camera.
West German variation has nicely finished chrome barrel, East German variation has OK finish aluminum barrel. The color and engravings on the front of the lens of the West German post war versions are chrome with Zeiss-Opton, black with Zeiss-Opton, and black with Carl Zeiss.
more info about Contax: camerapedia and
Stephen Gandy’s CameraQuest

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