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Superturkey! Zeiss Contaflex BC Super

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Roger Hicks, Apr 8, 2016.

  1. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    It was going to be an article about a great old camera -- but alas, it ain't great at all, at least with the awful interchangeable back. After three days I gave up. It was effectively the last and most advanced of the Contaflex leaf-shutter SLRs, the first ever SLR with TTL metering and auto exposure (1965). Unfortunately it was a hopelessly overcomplicated update of a hopelessly outdated camera, a 1953 design. You may find this review amusing. It should also discourage you from ever going near the interchangeable back.


  2. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    A good read, Roger, thank you. I do have a soft spot for hopelessly overcomplicated cameras - from an engineering point of view, rather than use. One of the first cameras I had was a leaf shutter Topcon I bought second-hand - worked for less than one film before everything got out of sync and I took it back. I also really like the Rollei 3003 (the 2000 is just too unreliable IMHO) - the backs work reasonably well. But you have hit the nail on the hear with this anachronism.
  3. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    'Twas the camera that bankrupted Zeiss, was it not? Weighed a ton, made a Nikon F with full drive & metering appear lightweight and it cost a fortune in comparison to other pro gear.
  4. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Wasn't the big Zeiss called the Contarex? I thought the Contaflex was quite small.
  5. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    Very interesting Roger, thank you for sharing. SLRs of that era are not really my bag , I have a Nikkormat EL, which is fully formed and functioning, and an EdixaFlex (I think) which is a bit if a clunker, but the Contaflex sounds like a world-class turkey.

    You must be up to your ears in Photax and Ultrafex and other Bakelite oddities with all those vide greniers... (apologies for lack of acccents).

  6. Ascu75 AKA Don Wood

    Ascu75 AKA Don Wood Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the heads up Roger I am thinking of getting a 'new' film camera once the boot fair season starts I will cross this off my list.
  7. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

  8. hotwenxynt

    hotwenxynt In the Stop Bath

    It is a proven fact that progress is not made without the odd fall now and again. Sometimes a real dog is the result of over enthusiastic design but not not enough development. It sounds a bit like this was one of those.
  9. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    No, I don't think so. It was a combination of historical accident and wrong premises. The historical accident was over-developing, not under-developing, an historical dead end (leaf shutter, interchangeable front components) and the principal wrong premise was that everyone was as meticulous as the designer(s) and would put up with a slow, fiddly system in return to excellent build quality, mechanical reliability, and the option of changing films in mid-roll.


  10. Footloose

    Footloose Well-Known Member

    Thanks for stirring up old memories of the Contaflex and Contarex camera. I think I'm correct in saying that the Contarex Electronic was probably the most expensive camera (relative to others available at the time) being even more than a Hasselblad, I gather that Leitz had taken out a huge number of Patents relating to it's SLR, which either Zeiss didn't want to pay out on, or Leitz, wouldn't let them use, so Zeiss ended up having to cobble up the cameras mechanisms to evade being collared by Leitz. If you are looking for a camera that could overcome the automatic closing mechanism fitted on doors, the Contarex, would probably be the ultimate door-stopper!
  11. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    I started 35mm photography with a s/h Contaflex SLR bought during NS in Hanover in 1958. It didn't have a meter, and its lens was a fixed 45mm F/2.8 Tessar. For telephoto shots I wasted money and bought the dedicated mounting bracket and Teleskop with a 1.7x magnification. I also bought two Contax reloadable cassettes for which the back was designed. My camera was reliable, small, and it served me well until I bought a Minolta SRT 101 11 years later. To allow use of two different film types at the same time, I bought an equally old Voigtländer Vito II.

    Naturally I was interested in the more advanced models being offered by Zeiss Ikon but which were incredibly scarce in the UK at the time, and Roger's article makes interesting reading.

    My Contaflex was good for portraits, but poor for architecture. The Vito II with its F/3.5 Color Skopar had a much better balanced lens which was sharp to the edges.
  12. AlexMonro

    AlexMonro Old Grand Part Deux

    In my opinion, the much vaunted Tessar, especially in 45/50mm form, isn't quite as good overall as other 4 element designs such as the Color Skopar or Xenar. Yes, the Tessar may be slightly sharper in the centre, but the others seem to hold the sharpness into the corners rather better. As you say, Tessars may be good for portraits, but perhaps not the best choice for almost anything else.

    I am quite fond of the Contaflex though - my dad had a Contaflex II with the selenium meter, and it was the first camera I ever took a photo with. I now have several Contaflexes of different models, none with an interchangeable back though! Considering the complexity of a between lens shutter SLR, it's amazing how many of them still work remarkably well - a tribute to Zeiss Ikon build quality. Voigtlander, with the Bessamatic series, and Kodak, with the Retina Reflex range, also seem to have lasted quite well, but perhaps not quite as well as Zeiss

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