Contax IIa: shooter or cabinet ornament? : LUSENET : Collectible and Classic Cameras : One Thread

In addition to a bunch of Nikon F gear (which got me started in photography and the Nikon system), my father left me a Contax IIa with a 50/2 Sonnar and a 3.5cm/2.8 NPK. It's a lovely thing (and, since my dad kept everything, I have all the original receipts, hang tags, and booklets). Twice now I've had it repaired, about twelve years ago for a slow shutter and CLA (understandable, since it sat for probably 30 years) and about seven years ago to repair the rangefinder mechanism. Almost immediately after that last repair, the rangefinder again went south, so I put it in a box and there it has sat. I'd take it out and exercise the shutter whenever I thought of it, which wasn't often. I have personally put, maybe, two rolls through it over the last 15+ years; my dad presumably shot all his service days and early family pics with this camera, but evidentally didn't use it much after he bought the F in 1961. So, this is a camera that has had very little use over the last 40 years.

Well, this Forum has made me go and drag the Contax out, and it is a sweet little camera. The rangefinder mechanism is inexplicably working just fine. It's a little hard to focus (because of the squinty viewfinder and my glasses), but otherwise handles fine.

So, here's my question: is the Contax IIa something I can shoot on a semi-regular basis (say, a roll a month)? A quasi-semi-regular basis (say, a roll a year)? I had heard something about the fragility of cloth shutter curtain belts (the shutter itself is metal) -- is this something to worry about?

I'm not concerned about "resale value" - this camera (like the F) is staying in the family. So I'm not afraid of having to spring for the occasional maintenance issue. But I'd like to avoid destroying the camera if it is prone to self-destruction at this advanced age.

-- John Kuraoka (, November 15, 2000


John, AFAIK, the shutter of Contax II is problematic, but once fixed, it works for a long time. The best place to ask for advice about Zeiss Ikon cameras is the Zeiss Ikon Collector Group, ( which I occasionally participate ), where there are numerious Contax experts, including one authour of "Zeiss Compendium" Here is the URL:

-- martin tai (, November 15, 2000.

Thanks, Martin! I also found this webpage, part of Stephen Gandy's site, which has an overview of the Contax IIa: He recommends a couple modifications to the IIa as a shooter, including replacing the leather and switching the proprietary flash sync connection to a standard PC socket.

It seems that my IIa does not have the fabric shutter straps (that was the previous II model). The Sonnar lens is marked Zeiss-Opton (West German), and is T coated. Also, the NPK 3.5cm lens is an f/2.5 (I mis-read it in my post above).

I'm going to run some film behind it this week.

-- John Kuraoka (, November 15, 2000.

Hi John:

You have a very nice camera there. In the case of the IIa, your question is almost backwards: It isn't going to wear out from overuse or old age. What it is likely to do is develop sticky slow speeds and possibly fading at the top speeds if you leave it on the shelf too long; it needs regular exercise. Definitely take it out and run a roll through it every month, if you do enough shooting to make this practical, and it will probably not need service for a long time. If you leave it for once a year you may have less satisfactory results. This applies to the rangefinder as well to some extent, as it's probably dirt and dry lubricant that made it hang up before.

Check the shutter at all speeds before loading at every roll, especially if it's been sitting a long time. This was a camera made to be used every day, and that's how it works best.

rick :)=

-- Rick Oleson (, November 16, 2000.

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