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Monday, July 17, 2006

Zeiss Ikon Contessa 35 - Folding Beauty

Some time ago I put in a 'just-for-the-heck-of-it'-bid on eBay and ended up the winner of a beautiful Contessa 35 rangefinder camera kit. That the whole package didn't set me back more than $62 was a nice, additional bonus.

The Contessa has for quite some time been one of those cameras that I tended to hear about, look up, drool a bit..and then move on to something else. I must say that I am extremely happy that I did end up winning this auction and get a chance to play around with what is probably one of the best made - and looking - 35mm folding cameras ever made.

Here are some initial thoughts on handling one of these 50-year old machines (the camera is from the mid-50's);

Look and feel:
It's truly a beautiful camera (see below for some photos of it). What did surprise me was how small it is. More than once I've heard that it must be a camera designed for women back in those days. Now if that's true or not I have no idea..but all the photos in the original camera manual does have women showing the camera's features. Hmm.

This is my first folding camera and it is impressive how compact and small the camera becomes when folded up.
The camera oozes of quality and the fact that it works flawlessly fifty years after having left the factory is a testimony to that.

If you get a chance to see one of these beauties for yourself I would strongly recommend doing so - problem is that if it's for sale - you may just walk away with yet another camera in your hands ;)

Usability:
This is by no means a fast operating camera.
Once a photo has been taken one has to advance the film using a round advance knob located on the bottom of the camera and then cock the shutter using a lever next to the lens.
Changing the aperture and shutterspeed are done by turning metal rings on the lens.

The original leather case is brilliantly designed. Clasps on the side of the case slides up and grapples the strap lugs and holds the camera very securely. The bottom of the case has a turning wheel that hooks into the film advance knob mentioned above - which makes it possible to advance the film with the camera in the case.

The Contessa comes with a built-in Selenium meter. Mine is, as most other meters on these cameras, not working.
I am however contemplaing having it shipped off to have the Selenium cell replaced and adjusted.

Performance:
The camera is fitted with a 45/2.8 Zeiss Tessar lens that through my two test rolls performed very well (although lacking somewhat in contrast but it will take some more test shots for me to determine if that's truly the case).
(The slip-on filters for this lens are designated as S27 filters).

Using the camera exercises your memory and patience. I don't know how many times I've wound the camera and when going to take the photo realizing that I haven't cocked the shutter.
Another interesting 'quirk' with the camera is that the shutter speed adjustment ring is so closely mounted to the shutter cocking mechanism so that the top speed (1/500) can not be set if the shutter has already been cocked.

So far I have put two rolls of film through the camera and I think it has proven to perform very well.
It is actually such an attractive and 'different' camera that I in the past week has found myself grabbing it over my other cameras when heading out the door

Below are some photos of the camera in question.
Photos BY the camera is coming soon.

The Contessa in its case. Photo courtesy of MelanieC

What 62 dollars can buy you these days

The Contessa with original slip-on hood

3 Comments:

Anonymous Mikkel Tscherning said...

62 bucks? Wow. Just wow, what a beauty

September 05, 2006 4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be thankful you haven't try to set the shutter to 1/500th after cocking it. You would have ruined the shutter in the process.

November 10, 2008 7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still have mine purchased many years ago used. I still run a roll of film through it on occasion.

June 13, 2009 2:57 PM  

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