Contax IIIa with gold serial number

Contax IIIa

Contax No1

The last model Contax cameras had gold serial numbers on the flash shoe. They also had spring clips for the take-up spool so it would not fall out. The meter rode on ball bearing and was very accurate. (list price for the IIIa (with 50mm f1.5 Sonnar) in 1960, $288) catalog number 10.1813

Contax IIa with gold serial number

Contax IIa

Contax No2

This was the non-metered Contax camera. Very compact with clean lines. (list price for a IIa body in 1960, $129) catalog number 10.1800 (the metal "dust cap" sold for an extra $1.00)


Zeiss Sample Case

Sample Case

In the mid-1950's Zeiss Ikon Stuttgart began offering dealers 'display sample cases'. Some people wrongly call these salesman's sample cases. Zeiss started promoting the full range of Contax items using these cases around April 1955. Cases were also offered for Contina III, Contaflex, and probably other Zeiss systems. The interiors were attractively lined in velvet. The inside top fabric was embossed with the Zeiss Ikon logo. The case hinges were slip hinges so the top would slide off and could function as a soft velvet display surface for the Contax equipment. Cases came with a full range of Contax interchangeable lenses, filters, viewfinders, and cameras (probably one camera came with the case). Zeiss offered the case to dealers free of charge with a 5 percent discount on all accessories. Discounts were also offered to the dealer on the cameras if they were ordered to fill out the set. Earlier cases are shown with spots for three camera bodies. Zeiss suggested dealers use these cases as an appealing way to promote Contax sales. Obviously this did not work well enough as camera production ceased in 1971. Zeiss is still in business and makes optics.

Contax Cameras and Accessories

Before WWII plants in Dresden, Jena, and Stuttgart had several thousand workers. During the war the city of Dresden was mostly destroyed by bombing. Once the war ended the remains of the plants under Russian control were reassembled. Many of the engineers and camera assembly people escaped to Stuttgart. A new Zeiss Ikon factory was set up in Stuttgart. Introduced around March 1950 in this country the Contax IIa and IIIa were beautifully made machines. The post-war cameras were more refined, better machined, and smaller than the pre-war Contax cameras. There were two versions of the IIa and IIIa Contax cameras. The black dial camera (the speed dial is all lettered in black) needed a special sync cord for the flash (1361 bulbs, 1366 electronic flash). The red dial camera (the later camera) had a modern day PC fitting for electronic flash.

21mm f4.5 Zeiss Biogon lens


Contax No3

A sharp ultra-wide lens. It had a 90 degree angle of view, 8 elements, and focused to 3 feet. (list price 1960, $209) catalog number 11.1804



Shoe mount bubble level for the 21mm f4.5 Biogon

Contax Level

Contax No4

A rare accessory which was available for leveling the 21mm f4.5 Biogon. These levels were beautifully turned on a lathe and heavily metal plated.



Zeiss wide-angle view-finder for 21mm


Contax No5

Wide Angle Finder





It mounts on the shoe and was still made to hold a level. (list price 1960, $25) catalog number 20.1500



Contax reloadable cassette with metal case

CassetteContax No6

It was somewhat more common for people to load their own film in the 1950's and early 1960's. (list price 1960, $6.00) catalog number 20.2402





Contatest close-up focusing device


Contax No7

This compensated for parallax and came with three different lenses for different degrees of macro magnification. (list price 1960, $29.00) catalog number 20.10601



Zeiss Universal view-finder

Universal FinderContax No8

This was a bright-line finder for 21, 35, 50, 85, and 135mm lenses. It had hanging frame lines for each of the lenses. (list price 1960, $96.00) catalog number 20.1502




Contax Meter Movement

Contax MeterContax No 9

Note the many fine ball bearings. If you bumped your camera too hard then the meter could be knocked off the pivots which was expensive to fix. Don't attempt to take one of these apart ever!


Contax IIa circa 1954

Contax_IIa_1954Contax No 10

This is a IIa red dial camera. The Zeiss turret finder is pictured on top of the camera.





Attempt at airplane picture

Airplane_PicturesContax No 11





Zeiss Ikon Dealer Sign

Zeiss Dealer SignContax No12

This is a rare sign that you will seldom see.

The Zeiss Ikon Logo

Zeiss LogoContax No 13









The Factory as it looked in early 1955


Contax No 14

Optics marked "Carl Zeiss Jena" were made in East Germany. Contax II and III copies marked Kiev were made in central Russia with an entire factory rail shipped from Jena. Optics marked just "Carl Zeiss" or "Carl Zeiss Opton" were made in Stuttgart. These optics are normally the ones that collectors desire.