Saturday, September 17, 2016

Spotlight: Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon's Contaflex II is a compact fixed-lens 35mm SLR that first came out in 1954. The Contaflex II is identical to the original Contaflex (which came out a year earlier), except for the built-in selenium powered light meter on front of the camera. I bought this particular camera at an estate sale a few months ago for about $20, but they usually go for a bit more than that.

The first thing you'll notice about the Contaflex II is just how small it is. At only 3.5"x 5" x 2.5", it fits comfortably in the palm of my hand. The build is almost completely metal, so while diminutive, the "Flex" certainly has a heft to it. Speeds between 1 second and 1/500th (and bulb) are selectable. The shutter is of the leaf variety, and unfortunately the slower speeds will often stick on these cameras. The fixed, non-interchangeable lens is a 45mm Zeiss Tessar, with available apertures ranging between f/2.8 and f/22. The lens only focuses down to 3 feet, so don't expect to do any macro photography with this little guy. The focusing ring is extremely thin, and can be a little tricky to operate with your eye to the camera.

The viewfinder is a bit dark compared to newer SLR's, but the central split-image screen makes focusing fairly easy and quick. The camera's mirror is not self-resetting, which means once you click the shutter, the mirror will flip up and not come back down until you advance to the next frame. Advancing is performed by twisting the knurled knob around the shutter release button. The frame counter also surrounds the shutter release button, and must be manually reset after each roll of film. The meter is uncoupled, but is very easy to use, and seems to be accurate in decent light. Loading can be a bit cumbersome, as the entire back of the camera needs to come off to change film. The film take-up spool is removable, so take care not to lose it!

Here are a few photos I made with the Contaflex II this afternoon. The specs in the images are not the fault of the camera, but of the Jobo film processing, which still is giving our photo department problems. The film was Kodak Gold 200 (converted to black and white in photoshop).