Once I was King...
Contax IIIa with 50mm Sonnar f1.5 lens;
“Colour Dial” model, available 1953-1962
From the 1930’s, Contax and Leica were the key players and arch-rivals in the professional camera arena. The history of both companies is fascinating. In the early years, Contax had the technological advantage. The war photographer, Robert Capa, used a Contax camera for his famous photographs of the Normandy landing.
The Contax IIa/IIIa "Colour Dial" models were the zenith of the Zeiss Ikon Contax marque. The IIIa differed from the IIa in having an un-coupled selenium meter on the top plate. The shutter speed dial numbers were marked in three colours: black (T, B and 1 - 1/25th), yellow (1/50th) and red (1/100th - 1/1250th). Unlike earlier models, the IIa and IIIa had a standard PC socket at the back. The colours identify one of three flash synchronisations: M (black), X (yellow) and FP (red). The post-W.W.II line of interchangeable lenses for the IIa/IIIa eventually grew to a total of 16 lenses with focal lengths ranging from 21mm to an extraordinary 500mm. Shown here is the highly rated factory-coated 50mm f1.5 Sonnar lens.
Production of these cameras stopped in 1962 due to pressures from various sources. The introduction of the Leica M3 and M2, the Nikon SLRs in 1959 and competition from other Japanese camera manufacturers (whose production costs were significantly lower) all played a part in the demise of Contax.
For more information:
Ivor Matanle; Collecting and Using Classic Cameras, 1986, Publishers: Thames and Hudson
Ivor Matanle; Classics to Use; in Amateur Photographer 16th September 2006; pp 35-39
[Photo taken with a Canon 350D + Sigma 18-50mm f2.8EX lens]