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Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa (type 563/24)

Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa

The Contax IIa was manufactured from 1950 to 1961, this one is what is known as a 'color-dial' model, the latter type made from 1954 to 1961, this one being made in mid 1956. The earlier ones are known as 'black-dial' model, and were made from 1950 to 1954. The names refer to the colour of the engraved numbers on the shutter speed dial. On the earlier cameras the numbers were all black, while on the later ones the speeds from 1/100 to 1/1250 second were all coloured red, to signify that they are suitable for flash with FP bulb-flash, and the 1/50 second speed coloured yellow to signify the maximum synch speed for electronic flash.

Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa color-dial detail

As you might expect, that is not the only difference. On the 'black-dial' cameras the flash synch port on the rear of the camera top-plate is actually a mechanical device. To connect a flash you need either the 'synchronizing switch' adapter for bulb-flash, or the adapter for electronic flash, which fits to the flash port. On the 'color-dial' cameras the mechanical coupling has been replaced with a standard PC flash connection.

Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa color-dial flash port detail

Apparently, there were also changes made to to the shutter release mechanism, presumably to improve things.

This camera is fitted with a Carl Zeiss 50mm f/3.5 Tessar lens in a rigid mount. This is a post-war lens made in West Germany, and would have been the cheapest standard lens available at the time for this camera, and as such it is far less common than the 50mm f/2 Sonnar, or perhaps the 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar too.

Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa Tessar 50mm f/3.5

The camera back is removed completely to load film in the same way as with the pre-war Zeiss Ikon Contax rangefinder cameras, and a removable take-up spool of identical design is used.

Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa back view

The film is advanced with the large knob at the right-hand side of the top cover, the shutter being automatically cocked at the same time. The knob must be wound clockwise, no arrow to help you remember which way, but it only turns one way, so it is difficult to forget.

Contax IIa instruction manual on Mike Butkus' excellent website. This is actually for the 'black-dial' variant, but the only practical difference in use is that the 'color-dial' doesn't need a 'synchro switch' for flash connection.

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