Contax II - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Contax II

1936

Zeiss-Ikon A. G.

Dresden

Germany

Image of Contax II

Lens:
f2, 5 cm Zeiss Sonnar, iris diaphragm to f22. Bayonet mount. Serial no. 1863717 .

Shutter:
Metal vertically running focal-plane, speeds 1/2 - 1/1250, B. 1 second could be obtained by releasing the delayed action with the shutter set to B.

Construction:
Leather covered metal body.

Format:
36, 24 x 36 mm exposures on 35 mm cine film held in special or standard cassettes. Two cassettes can be used or one with the film being re-wound. Could also be used with Contax Day Light loading spools having paper leaders.

Focusing:
Helical, scale to 3 feet.

Attributes:
Coupled swing-wedge rangefinder. Central double image, gilded surfaces to give colour difference. Direct-vision (lens/lens) view-finder.
Film advance by sprocket wheel. Auto-stop on film advance coupled to shutter. Double and blank exposure prevention. Film advance tensions the shutter. Exposure counter.

Serial Number:
B21882 (c. 1936) .

With:

  • f4.5, 3.5 cm Orthometer, iris diaphragm to f22. Helical focusing to 0.9 m. Depth-of-field scale. Plastic rear cap and suede bag. Serial no. 2392289 (1938).
  • f4, 8.5 cm Triotar, iris diaphragm to f32. Helical focusing to 4 feet. Depth-of-field scale. Front and rear caps. Serial no. 2140934.
  • f4, 13.5 cm Sonnar, iris diaphragm to f22. Helical focusing to 1.5 m. Depth-of-field scale. Front and rear caps. Serial no. 2189139.
  • f6.3, 18 cm Tele-Tessar, iris diaphragm to f45. Helical focusing to 2.5 m. Depth-of-field scale. Version without 'K' on the bezel. Front and rear caps. Serial no. 2073855.
  • Universal Finder. For: 3.5, 5, 8.5, 13.5, 18 cm lenses. In plastic case. serial no. 7215.
  • Albada Finder for 5 and 13.5 cm lenses.
  • Direct Vision Finder for 3.5 cm lenses.
  • 42 mm push-on mount filters: G1, yellow, in Wallace Heaton box; G2, yellow; VG6, graduated filter; GR55, Yellow/green in brown case, box; Light red, in brown case.
  • Bernotar Polarizing filter, 42 mm push-on mount. Serial No. 7597.
  • Lens Hood. 42 mm push-on fitting.
  • Contameter. Comprises: Rangefinder; 3 view-finder wedges; 3 close-up lenses, 20, 30, 50. In box.
  • Plate Back Adapter. For 3 x 4.5 cm plates. With two slides. Box.
  • Focusing Screen. For use with the Plate Back Adapter.
  • Zeiss Cable Release.
  • Three cassettes, in black plastic cases.
  • Panchrom Contax Spule, empty tin with Zeiss-Ikon label.
  • Film Cutting Template.
  • Universal Outfit Case. Space for: camera, four cassettes in containers, 13.5 cm lens, 3.5 cm lens, lens hood, two 42 mm diameter filters, Universal finder, Albada finder.
  • Lens cap for 5 cm lens. Ever-ready case. Neck strap to attach to camera.
  • Box for camera with lens, a compartment in the lid holds a neck strap.
  • Instruction book. Depth of Focus Tables for 2" lenses. Contax photography, 3rd ed.
  • Zeiss small tripod.
  • Lilliput Printing Frame, two examples.

After the Contax I Zeiss-Ikon needed to bring to market a camera that was easier to use and more aesthetically pleasing. The outcome was the Contax II and III. These were new designs that inherited the Contax I lens mount and other accessories Unfortunately they also inherited the vertically running focal-plane shutter composed of metal slats. With an f2 lens the camera cost £50.10.0, the Contax I remained available priced at £41.0.0. An upgrade service was offered where a model II was converted into a model III.

The Contax II appeared in 1936 and remained in production until the middle of the war. Apart from the general look of the camera, improvements were the placement of the film advance knob on the top plate, delayed action was added, combined viewfinder/rangefinder window and swing-wedge rangefinder optics. The grouping of shutter speeds was abandoned in favour of a single dial showing all speeds. The main control knob on the top plate advanced the film and set the shutter, it also housed the shutter speed setting ring and the shutter release.

The Contax I had been criticised for introducing many changes over its life time, the Contax II was much more stable with just a few differences:

  • Shutter speeds on early versions were 1/100 and 1/200 rather than 1/125 and 1/250.
  • Knurling on the film advance knob was at first vertical then square.
  • The camera serial number was later placed on the accessory shoe.
  • There were minor differences in engraving.

Lenses
The Contax II was able to take the full range of earlier Contax I lenses which were re-issued in a chrome finish. In many focal lengths two lenses of different speed were offered, the slower lenses being cheaper and often smaller. The tele-photo designs, as opposed to long focus, favoured by Zeiss resulted in shorter, compact, lenses but also ones that were very heavy. The f4.5 Orthometer, shown above, was a cheaper alternative to the f2.8 Biogon, it was issued in 1937.

Universal Finder
This was first produced in a black/nickel finish. later in black/chrome. Normal focal lengths included were 2.8 or 3.5, 5, 8.5, 13.5 and 18 cm, the 18 cm focal length could be replaced by a wide-angle or, at an extra cost, other combinations could be included. The field of view is displayed by interchanging optics on a rotating plate, this has the advantage that the image remains roughly the same size, on the equivalent Leica finder the field of view is shown by a mask.

Albada Finder
This was produced in two patterns - Folding (1932) and Rigid (1937). In both cases three models were made: for 5 cm; 5 and 8.5 cm; 5 and 13.5 cm lenses. The folding pattern was originally available in black finish for the Contax I and later in chrome finish.

Wide-angle Finder
These were simple direct-vision finders produced for each of the three wide-angle lenses.

Contameter
This allowed hand-held close-up photographs to be made at the set distances of 20, 18 and 8 inches. The device consists of a rangefinder with parallax adjustment to which one of three small prisms is attached and three close-up lenses that fit the standard 5 cm lens. With a prism and corresponding close-up lens in place the camera is moved backwards and forwards until the rangefinder image coincides. Early versions had the close-up lenses held flat in the case one above the other, later they were held vertically in slots and lastly flat in individual recesses.

Plate Back
A surprisingly popular accessory, judging by the number extant, was the plate back for 3 x 4.5 cm plates or cut-film. The plate was held in single metal slides having a spring that pushed the plate forward when the draw-slide was removed. The plate had the same register in the camera as 35 mm film.

Focusing Screen
This clips into the shutter aperture when the shutter is open and allows critical focusing, it was often used in conjunction with the plate back.

The images on the right show a small tripod, a printing frame and the film cutting template.

Swing Wedge rangefinder
Two fixed prisms are used. In front of one there are two cylindrical lenses, in the neutral position there is no deflection. By swinging one of the lenses a prism of varying angle is formed. Rather than two air-separated mirrors or prisms, Zeiss favoured a solid glass rhomboid.1

Code Names:
543/24N - Camera. 543/13 - Plate Back Adapter. 540/14 - Dark Slide. 540/11 - Focusing Screen. 2643/24 - Printing Frame. 995/34 - Contameter. 436/7 - Universal Finder. 540/1 - Cassette. 323/1 - G1 Filter. 323/2 - G2 Filter. 323/6 - VG6 Filter. 323/10 - Light Red Filter. 323/55 - Yellow/Green Filter. 432/5 - Direct Vision Finder. 541/16 - Film Template. IHWIR - Bernotar. C2206e E - Instructions. C2554a E - DOF Tables.

References & Notes:
ZI Cat 1936. ZI Cat 1937. Contax Photography 3rd ed. Contax Phot. 4th ed. Kuc, On the Trail of the Contax, Vol. 1.

[1] BP 419915/1934.

Contax II

Zeiss-Ikon A. G.

Dresden

Germany

Image of Contax II

Shutter:
Metal vertically running focal-plane, speeds 1/2 - 1/1250, B. 1 second could be obtained by releasing the delayed action with the shutter set to B.

Construction:
Leather covered metal body.

Format:
36, 24 x 36 mm exposures on 35 mm cine film held in special or standard cassettes. Two cassettes can be used or one with the film being re-wound. Could also be used with Contax Day Light loading spools having paper leaders.

Focusing:
Helical, scale to 3 metre.

Attributes:
Coupled swing-wedge rangefinder. Central double image, gilded surfaces to give colour difference. Direct-vision (lens/lens) view-finder.
Film advance by sprocket wheel. Auto-stop on film advance coupled to shutter. Double and blank exposure prevention. Film advance tensions the shutter. Exposure counter.

Serial Number:
M32416 .

With:

  • Box for camera with lens. Tie-on tag showing the serial number of the camera and the original lens - 2554236.
  • Instruction book (Italian). Depth of Focus Tables (Italian).

This is a late model of the Contax.

Code Names:
543/24 - Camera. C2561a It - Instructions. C2484 It - DOF Tables.

Contax II

Zeiss-Ikon A. G.

Dresden

Germany

Image of Contax II

Shutter:
Metal vertically running focal-plane, speeds 1/2 - 1/1250, B. 1 second could be obtained by releasing the delayed action with the shutter set to B.

Construction:
Leather covered metal body.

Format:
36, 24 x 36 mm exposures on 35 mm cine film held in special or standard cassettes. Two cassettes can be used or one with the film being re-wound. Could also be used with Contax Day Light loading spools having paper leaders.

Attributes:
Coupled swing-wedge rangefinder. Central double image, gilded surfaces to give colour difference. Direct-vision (lens/lens) view-finder.
Film advance by sprocket wheel. Auto-stop on film advance coupled to shutter. Double and blank exposure prevention. Film advance tensions the shutter. Exposure counter.

Serial Number:
C89172 .

With:

  • f8, 50 cm Fernlens, iris diaphragm to f45. Helical focusing to 5.5 m. Flektometer reflex housing. Yellow, 70 mm filter. Cable releases. Case. Serial no. 2348806.

The 50 cm Fern or distance lens was a two-element long-focus design introduced in 1934 with a black and nickel finish, at that time viewing and focusing were by a direct-vision finder and ground glass screen (the focusing screen was a regular Contax accessory). The lens was later produced in a black and chrome finish to match the Contax II and III. In 1937 the Flektometer was introduced, this was a substantial reflex housing incorporating a prism for 45° viewing. A cable release connected the Flektometer to the shutter release of the camera and a second cable release operated the mirror.

For a while following the Flektometer's introduction the lens was still available for use with a viewfinder. Older lenses could be upgraded and fitted with a Flektometer. Although the Flektometer was also produced for the 30 cm and 18 cm lenses they do not seem to be interchangeable. The Flektometer was supplied in a fitted case with cable releases and yellow filter.

The 50 cm finder had a code word of 436/13, there was also an 'adapter ring for close-ups' with a code of 543/86.

Code Names:
543/24 - Camera. 543/78 - Flektometer with lens, also marked W2199.

References & Notes:
ZI Cat. 1936, p. 41. ZI Cat. 1937, p. 56. Contax Photography (1938), p. 35. Contax Photography (1939), p. 41. Kuc, On the Trail of the Contax, p. 193.

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