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Category / Zeiss Ikon

Contax 139 Quartz – Camera Review

Contax 139 Quartz Review (8 of 11)

I recently found myself the reluctant owner of a Contax 139 Quartz 35mm SLR, a camera about which I knew little and for which I cared even less. After all, if this rebranded, electronic Yashica were anything worthwhile I’d have heard about it from my friends at the camera shop, or spied one scrolling by in my Instagram feed. Yes, surely if the 139Q mattered I’d have known about it.

Still, it was being sold with a fairly legendary Zeiss lens attached, so I bought the whole kit and awaited its arrival. Getting hands on this beautiful glass would be a big win for anyone, no matter what substandard camera so lecherously clung to it.

Luckily, this uncharacteristic bout of arrogant self-assurance was not much more than a 24-hour bug. When the camera arrived and I pulled it from its packaging my pompous windbaggery was justifiably and firmly checked.

I held the Contax, flicked its controls, squeezed off a few shutter releases, and decided my next action should be to insert into my gaping opinion hole the proverbial sock.

Just over a month later the Contax has become a constant companion. While it’s not a perfect camera, it’s surely one of the best I’ve ever shot. With objectivity (and humility) happily renewed, here’s the great, the good, and the bad about Contax’s electric wonder.

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Zeiss Ikon Contina II (524/24) – Camera Review

Zeiss Ikon Contina Camera Review 8

In shooting vintage cameras there exists something of a “sweet spot”; a kind of “Goldilocks zone” that only a certain number of cameras occupy. For many shooters, a camera needs to be old enough to have the vintage appeal we’re pining for, yet not be so old that it’s prohibitively slow and archaic in its operation.

We’ve seen it before. If a camera’s too old it puts people off. Because of this, many excellent cameras go unappreciated and unused. Think of the folding cameras of the 1950s or even TLR (twin lens reflex) cameras like the Minolta Autocord. These are exceptional machines capable of taking amazing pictures, and they’re pretty easy to use once you’ve done a bit of reading.

But these cameras look simply ancient, and it’s this old-fashioned aesthetic that causes many people to shy away. The result? They may never experience the joy of ground glass viewfinders, the calm of shooting a fully manual camera, or the exceptional image quality of larger format machines. It’s a shame, really. But just because a camera’s very old, doesn’t mean it can’t be a fun, everyday shooter.

Take the Zeiss Ikon Contina II that we’ve been using for the past few weeks. It’s more than six decades old, smells like a dusty old goat, and looks like it belongs in a museum. But guess what? It takes great pictures! Sure, it’s not as quick or as sexy as your Sony A7R, but you still love your grandma even though she’s no Hannah Davis. So cut the Zeiss some slack.

If you’re looking for a beautiful, antique, 35mm folding camera that’s actually usable, the Contina II may be it. There are some issues, but they won’t be a deal breaker for most. If you’re ready to find out what Germany had to offer photographers of the 1950s, read on.

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Zeiss Ikon Ikomatic A – Camera Review

Zeiss Ikon Ikomatic A Boston

After spending about two weeks kicking around Boston with the Zeiss Ikon Ikomatic A, it’s clear there’s something special about this camera. The number of people who commented on it was staggering. Perhaps that’s because it looks like nothing else out there, vintage or modern. Without question, it looks nothing like modern DSLRs or their smaller contemporaries, the super-compact point-and-shoots. With its clear and concise design, highly reflective body, and virtually featureless layout, this is one machine that really distinguishes itself in a crowd.

Looks aside, this incredibly simple camera (it has only two buttons), does something that a majority of far more capable cameras often fail to do – it makes people smile. I don’t mean subjects saying “cheese”. Rather, when people notice or shoot with this camera they invariably smile, sometimes laugh, and nearly always comment on it. People seem to be drawn to it. This phenomenon is fantastic to witness, and makes it easy to remember what the hobby of photography is all about; that is, connecting with people through a camera.

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