This Old Camera: The Beautiful Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

This one is overdue. While I have written about the wonderfully oddball, intricate, and beautiful tele adapter that goes on the front of it I have yet to write about this beautiful camera itself. As always plenty of information can be found online with a quick Google search (here is a great one). I honestly never knew this camera existed until I perused KEH.com one day and it showed up. A few factors played a part in a quick and easy decision to purchase it.

  • Zeiss.
  • It was beautiful in the photos and bargain grade… I love KEH bargain grade. Basically means a great deal if you do not mind some scuffs. If you can find any scuffs.
  • It was $49.
  • And Zeiss. I am a sucker for anything Zeiss, especially when it has a built-in Zeiss Tessar 45mm f/2.8 lens for $49.

Then I received it. It looks even better in person. Spoiler alert. If you want a shelf trophy that actually takes pictures buy this camera. Here is where I gush a bit. This camera was made in 1954. 1954! It is not only good looking, but I cannot adequately describe the quality of its construction in word or even pictures. Its build quality is phenomenal.

This camera is a mash-up created when a post war Zeiss was looking to get back up and running.

SLR: It does have a mirror box

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so despite its small size you are actually seeing through the lens when focusing instead of matching focus patches. But once the shutter is depressed the mirror does not return

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until you cock the shutter again. I have read that it is better not to cock the shutter if you do not plan on using it a while. Internal wear due to prolonged tension on parts or the like as I understand it.

Rangefinder: The mirror black out is a side effect of the leaf shutter, which also means that this camera can flash sync all the way up to its top shutter speed (1/500s) I understand.

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Two dials on the bottom release the whole back. You load the spools directly. And the bottom looks just like the Kiev 4 I once owned, even down to the film rewind button, which itself is basically a Russian knock off of the German Contax rangefinder.

Also that is not even taking into consideration the also affordable and quite fetching Teleskop 1.7x adapter I mentioned earlier.

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Most controls are on the lens. Focus, aperture, and shutter speeds are all tightly clustered on this tiny lens.

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A bit fiddly at times, but effective. Because of this shallow lens (when the adapter is not on) and short height you get the most pocketable SLR I own this side of the half frame PEN FT (whose body is smaller, but whose 40mm lens sticks out quite a bit more). On the upper right shoulder you have the all business knob to cock the shutter and reset the mirror and pressing the shutter is a wonderfully stiff, mechanical experience.

There is the selenium meter that was added on the Contaflex II and it does seem to work, but since selenium meters usually last only a couple of decades I tend to use Sunny 16 or a light meter. I consider it to be one heck of a well built all manual camera that requires no batteries to operate.

Ok. I have covered build, feel, looks, and use. How about actually taking pictures? Image quality? Here is the thing. This is not just a pretty face. That Zeiss lens pays dividends. Sharp, great colors, and on and on are all there as one would expect from that name.

I need to shoot with this camera more.

Anyhoo. Here is a link to the ongoing gallery and sample photos are below.

Happy shooting.

-ELW

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