Eric L. Woods

Film Corner: Revisiting The Beautiful Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II and 1.7x Teleskop

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Before I begin I open with what I wrote in an Instagram post immediately after scanning the latest roll of film run through this camera.

Do not sleep on these old Zeiss film cameras or lenses. This was taken with a camera that came out in 1954. 1954! With auto absolutely nothing. Has a selenium light meter that still works. And an optional 1.7x zoom adapter. And looks the business and built like a tank.

Here is the photo shared in that post.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II  w/ 1.7x

This is amazing to me. I would put the capabilities of this lens up their with the finest film cameras I have ever used. Many with names with such rabid fan bases that I will not name them for concern of welcoming the wrath of their adherents.

Sidebar: I have really only ever met two types of photography people.

  1. Salt of the Earth, brand agnostic, pleasant regardless of skill level, light gathering pyxies with which I could go on rambling with for hours discussing the craft of such as well as any other aspects of this thing we call life.
  2. Know it all, taking this thing way too seriously, brand adherent, “but rather” blowhards that send me scrambling for the exits when a break in their cadence forms long enough for me to insert a, “Hoo. Look at the time. I have got to get going.”, into the fray.

I am here all day for the former. Not so much the latter.

What is so amazing about what I stated above?

This camera cost me less than $50. Scored the 1.7x adapter for less than that on eBay once I realized it existed.

Here is where I cut, paste, and cull my previous 2017 post on this camera and then present my latest thoughts and sample images afterward.

I 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! (I find it funny that I wrote this cadence in 2017 referencing the year of manufacture and then repeated it in the Instagram post yesterday with no recollection of this. I am consistent it seems.) 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. On par with the finest film cameras I have held.

According to the interwebs this camera is a mash-up that was created when a post-war Zeiss was looking to get back up and running.

It does have a mirror box so despite its small size you are actually seeing through the lens when focusing instead of matching focus patches. I have nothing aganist rangefinders at all, but I must admit that this camera’s split prism is fantastic. One oddity. Once the shutter is depressed the mirror does not return 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 for a while. Internal wear due to prolonged tension on parts or the like as I understand it.

It has a leaf shutter, which also means that this camera can flash sync all the way up to its top shutter speed (1/500s) if you are so inclined 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. As one would expect all are better implemented on the Contax.

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.

A bit fiddly at times, but effective. Because of this shallow lens (when the 1.7x 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 (The Contaflex released the prior year was the exact same camera sans light meter) 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.

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.

And here is where I update the post after putting another roll of film through it recently.

I had two goals this time around:

  1. Get a roll through it.
  2. Take some back to back shots with and without the 1.7x Teledskop adapter.

Contaflex II

Lomography 800 was the film of choice. Will start out with the back to back shots. Tried to keep the framing as close as possible. First shot with the native lens and the second with the 1.7x.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II  w/ 1.7x

Now on to the remaining images. Some with the adapter and some without. Only one shot did not make due to user error. I went inside with the camera and forgot to adjust the shutter speed resulting in a very dark frame that I will not be sharing.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II  w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II  w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II  w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II w/ 1.7x

I will end by saying the same thing I said last time. I need to shoot with this camera more. A great performing camera.

Anyhoo. Here is a link to the ongoing gallery and sample photos from the first post below.

Happy shooting.

-ELW

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