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 Zeiss Ikon Contarex - 1958                    New! WidePhotoViewer for iPhone/iPod/iPad       

First Zeiss Ikon (West) focal-plane-shutter SLR
First focal-plane-shutter SLR with coupled exposure meter
$450 with f2 lens in 1960 ($3315 in 2010 dollars)

See the Contax S and Contaflex pages for some history of Zeiss Ikon prior to the launch of the Contarex.

Zeiss Ikon continued to invent new versions of the leaf-shutter Contaflex throughout the 1950s while their German and Japanese rivals had focal-plane-shutter SLRs. Finally, in 1958, Zeiss Ikon introduced what they intended to be the ultimate SLR, the Contarex. It's a wonder of German engineering and manufacture with a weight and a cost to match. The Contarex was $450 (about $3300 in 2009 dollars), over $100 more than a Nikon F!

With all that, the Contarex didn't even have an instant-reopen diaphragm.

It did have that huge selenium cell in the front, for which it got its nicknames: Bullseye in the US, and Cyclops in the UK. Some call it ugly, but I call it beautiful. I remember gazing over and over at a picture of the Contarex in an early 1960s Sears Camera catalog. (When I acquire a copy, I'll post it here.)

I bought my Contarex on eBay in 2009, after a wait of nearly 50 years. I haven't used it, although it's in working order, so I can't say how well it works as a camera. Word has it that it's awkward, in addition to being heavy. But it's always the first camera I show visitors, and even if they don't care about the other cameras I have around, they're very impressed with the Contarex.

Zeiss Ikon brought out more Contarex models throughout the 1960s, less expensive than the Bullseye, ending with the Contarex SE. By 1970 or 1971 they had stopped making SLRs altogether.

Here are some more pictures for your viewing enjoyment. Drop by and I'll let you hold it. This review appeared in the September 1960 issue of Popular Photography: Here's an ad from the July 1960 issue of Popular Photography: And another ad from the September 1960 issue: Here's a sales brochure. Don't miss the scary innards, shown near the end. This brochure was written by a Prof. Dr. J. Stüper. What other camera needs a Professor Doctor to explain how it works? 18 pages more...



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