This Zeiss shows signs of use. There is normal wear throughout the camera. Scuffs and wear around the dials and knobs. The lens has no scratches but it has some dust within the lens. This camera has its original Zeiss Ikon carrying case that also shows signs of wear. Everything works as it should, there are no problems with functionality.
- Zeiss Ikon Contaflex SN: 629669
- Carl Zeiss Tessar 50mm 2.8 SN: 4846151
- Zeiss Ikon Carrying Case SN: 207512
The Contaflex family of 35mm leaf-shuttered SLR cameras was introduced in 1953 by Zeiss Ikon, utilizing the newly developed Compur reflex shutter. By doing so, a completely new 35mm camera emerged, a concept probably first used in 1929 in the Mentor Compur-Reflex. The Contaflex name was made famous and became highly respected due to the spectacular 35mm twin-lens reflex Contaflex, introduced in 1935 and only produced a few years.
The Zeiss Ikon AG factory in Dresden was almost totally eradicated by the end of World War II. The remains were gathered in Stuttgart, then in West Germany. Only a few prototypes were rescued. Both the lens- and most of the camera production had to be rebuilt from scratch. This was at the same time a tremendous opportunity for the company to develop completely new products. In this situation, Zeiss Ikon was in desperate need of new camera models. Yet, it should be remembered that almost all the popular cameras manufactured worldwide, have their origins in Germany; these are typically the 6x6 TLR 1928 Rolleiflex, the 1925 Leica and the 1932 Contax 35mm rangefinder cameras, as well as the 1936 Kine Exakta and the 1949 Contax S 35mm SLR cameras.
This was the situation when Zeiss Ikon started designing the Contaflex SLR camera. Zeiss had already developed the pentaprism viewing system in the late 1930s, and being convinced the compact, reliable, and easily manufactured leaf shutter could outperform the focal plane shutter, they set out building a compact high-quality camera for the masses.
The result was the first 35mm SLR camera equipped with a between-the-lens leaf shutter. Such an arrangement requires the shutter to stay open before the picture is taken, in order to see through the reflex finder. This, in consequence, requires a second shutter behind the mirror to stay closed. When the release button is depressed, a series of events must take place very fast: Close the lens shutter, reduce the lens aperture to the preset f-stop, raise the reflex mirror, and open the auxiliary shutter. Then the exposure can take place by opening and closing the lens shutter. Note that the shutter moves three times. In later models, it was also required to open again at the end of the sequence to restore the viewfinder image, and eventually one would also have wished for the lens aperture to open fully again. This is a very complex cycle of operations to accomplish satisfactorily and reliably.
However, the advantages are a compact camera and flash synchronization at all shutter speeds. The limited number of lenses possible to combine with the shutter, and the mechanical complexity involved, was not considered a great disadvantage. Most amateur photographers at the time would seldom, or not at all, buy an extra lens for their cameras. The complexity would probably be considered more like a challenge than a problem. In the final form, however, no Contaflex model ever acquired a rapid return mirror, and as expected, only a limited range of extra lenses was available, from 35mm to 115mm focal length, deemed sufficient for the advanced amateur. Eventually, these shortcomings would be fatal for the concept.
The Contaflex family actually was quite successful, quite reliable, and performed well. A large number of improved models and new ranges of lenses were introduced all the way up until Zeiss Ikon itself was closed down.