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Zeiss Ikon Contarex - 1958
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• 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)

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 2010 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 Montgomery Ward Camera catalog.

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 and know nothing about cameras, 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.

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Ad from Popular Photography, July 1960Ad from Popular Photography, Sept. 1960Ad from Popular Photography Annual, 1962Review from Popular Photography, Sept. 1960
Review from Popular Photography, Sept. 1960Review from Popular Photography, Sept. 1960Zeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochure
Zeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochure
Zeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochure
Zeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochure
Zeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochure
Zeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochureZeiss Ikon Contarex brochure

©2011-14 Marc Rochkind. All rights reserved.