Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2006/05/31

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Subject: [Leica] Re: Contaxi or Contaces
From: lrzeitlin at (Lawrence Zeitlin)
Date: Wed May 31 08:11:17 2006
References: <>

On May 30, 2006, at 8:37 PM, MSmall wrote:

> For starters, the accepted plural for Contax is Contaces, to follow
> Ikoflices, Ikarices, Contaflices, and Contarices.  Straight Latin, it 
> is.
> Second, the Prewar shutter is quite a bit tougher than the Postwar IIa 
> and
> IIIa shutter, which was regarded as a disappointment by Zeiss Ikon and
> which never won the reputation for durability in the marketplace.  It 
> is
> important to bear in mind that the Contax II was the accepted 
> rough-country
> 35mm camera of the 1940's and 1950's and was by far the standard 35mm
> camera used by combat photographers in the Second World War  -- Capa, 
> for
> instance, switched from Leica to Contax following the Spanish Civil 
> War due
> to reliability problems with the Leica.  The IIa and IIIa never 
> enjoyed the
> sort of reputation that the II and III enjoyed..
> The Prewar shutter is much better built from quality materials, while 
> the
> Postwar shutter was built by a company without much access to quality
> materials by a company operating on an extremely thin shoestring.  The
> Prewar shutter was designed to accomodate 100,000 exposures between
> services, while the Postwar shutter was only designed to last for 
> 10,000
> and rarely made that in practice.

Gee, Marc, I always thought the name Contax was faux Greek instead of 
faux Latin. I guess my classical education was not up to par.

But while I agree that the Contax II and III cameras were workhorses, I 
strongly disagree that the Contax IIa shutter was inferior. Indeed the 
post WW2 redesign by Zeiss Ikon, Stuttgart, eliminated the cloth tape 
weak link of the previous generation Contax II and III shutters. The 
Contax IIa shutter was entirely gear driven. In addition the IIa was 
smaller and lighter, the film counter was integrated into the film 
transport knob, the delayed action release could be set to varying 
delay times, and the tripod bushing was let into the body instead of 
being screwed onto the flimsy back. Better from a users standpoint, the 
rangefinder baselength was reduced to 73 mm (still longer than that of 
the Leica M3). This permitted faster focusing while still providing 
more than adequate accuracy for fast lenses.

If you can provide any evidence for your absurd statement that the 
Contax IIa shutter was designed for only 10,000 exposures, I would like 
to see it. In the hands of a normal working professional, a camera with 
a lifetime that short would last only three months. Even a hard 
shooting amateur would wear out a camera in a year. I have owned and 
used my own Contax IIa since the late 50's. It has worked hard and has 
only one CLA in its lifetime. Even Steven Gandy ( 
concurs that the IIa shutter is an advance and probably more reliable 
than the ones that came before. Now if you had said that the shutter of 
the Contax I would only last 10,000 exposures, I might agree.

As far as the patent chestnut goes, let me quote a 1945 article by  A. 
Kraszna-Krausz, a well known photography writer and critic of the era:

"The Leica came first, the Contax was second. The designers of the 
Leica had done much valuable pioneering work that benefited the 
designers of the Contax. At the same time, the makers of the Leica, 
having priority, could acquire a number of strategic patents, thereby 
forcing the makers of the Contax to find new solutions of problems 
whether they wanted to or not. Consequently while some features of the 
Contax may represent an advance on the corresponding ones of the Leica, 
others are just virtues by necessity."

Larry Z

Replies: Reply from msmall at (Marc James Small) ([Leica] Re: Contaxi or Contaces)