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Contaflex I

Mike Connealy , Feb 21, 2007; 09:31 p.m.

Does anyone have a copy of the manual for this camera? I've added a page to the vintage cameras section of my web site about this camera, and I have included details of my experiences with it over the past few months. It would be nice to make a scanned manual available. If anyone has a copy, I would be happy to scan it and return it. I'll also appreciate any corrections or additions to what I have written. The Contaflex I has become one of my great favorite SLR cameras.

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Manfred Feuser , Feb 21, 2007; 10:50 p.m.

Hi Mike , I have a copy of the Contaflex Way second edition 1957 Focal Press by Freytag. If you are into Contaflex you might like the book.By the way my Contaflex has a selenium meter still working. Get in contact with me I will send it to you. Its 312 pages some color photos and all of the instructions. Manfred

Manfred Feuser , Feb 21, 2007; 11:10 p.m.

Hi Mike , looking thru all my manual collections I found the original manual . My version Contaflex is the Beta . If you whish I send you the manual as well but this I would like you to return. I like your Page great stuff. Manfred

Mike Connealy , Feb 22, 2007; 12:12 a.m.

Hi, Manfred I'm mostly interested in getting the manual for the model 1 Contaflex since that is the only one I have, and I think it is different in many ways from later models. I think they are all likely great cameras, though, and I'd be very interested in your experiences with any of the Contaflexes. Thanks. - Mike

Manfred Feuser , Feb 22, 2007; 02:09 a.m.

Hi Mike , so mine is the second one it seems but the book has the whole manual for the first one as well. I dont want to sell the book to you its free if you like to have let me know. Manfred

W J Gibson , Feb 22, 2007; 02:54 a.m.

One thing that it is important to keep really clear about the Contaflexes is that there was a change in the lens mount partway through the series. therefore it is possible to buy a separate lens for a later model that wont fit on an earlier model and vice versa.

The whole complicated story is found on page 119 of Collecting and Using Classic Cameras by Ivor Matanle, Thames & Hudson, 1986, first paperback version 1992, reprinted 2000.

Contaflex 1 1953, Contaflex I (X-M shutter) 1954,and Contaflex II all had the non-interchangeable 45 2.8 Tessar.

After that it gets tricky. Some models came with a 45 2.8 Pantar interchangeable lens, some with a 50 2.8 Tessar, some with a recomputed 50 2.8 Tessar.

Even Matanle does not have it completely nailed down. I have the Super (second type) 1963 with lever wind and selenium coupled non-TTL metering with no auto exposure and the recomputed 50 2.8 Tessar and two other lenses, a 35 3.2 and a 115 4.0

Manfred Feuser , Feb 22, 2007; 03:44 a.m.

You are quite right W J, the Panthar in mine only changes the front part of the lens. I dont use the camera the Panthar is not a great lens. I find the Voigtlander range much better but then this Panthar is only a triplet. Manfred

Mike Connealy , Feb 22, 2007; 08:20 a.m.

Thanks for the additional info on the Contaflex line. My old copy of McKewown's Price Guide has a pretty clear history of the camera's development. If you count the final 126-format version, the Contaflex line endured for two decades, which seems about as good a run as any camera. Not surprisingly, it came to an end with the birth of the Pentax. In spite of some problems and quirks, I like the old slr cameras; I also have a Bessamatic and a recently-acquired Retina Reflex, which has the quietest shutter/mirror action of any slr I own.
    Manfred, thanks again for your very generous offer to lend the book. Rather than spend money on the two-way shipping, I think I'll just pick up a copy myself.
    My objective for the vintage cameras section of my web site is to share personal use experiences with the old cameras. I'm no expert with any of them in regard to history or repairs, but I feel the effort is worthwhile if I can contribute something unique to the conversation, and maybe encourage others' interest in them.

W J Gibson , Feb 22, 2007; 10:01 p.m.

Mike, you might want to think about emphasizing one point. You mention the lack of the instant return mirror and the black out. But to make 1000% clear, you might want to point out that once you release the shutter and take the photo, the viewfinder goes black and stays black until you wind the film advance which resets the shutter and repositions the mirror. That could be several seconds and likely you will pull the camera down from your eye, wind, lift the camera back up and shoot again. Big difference for someone coming from using a modern SLR with instant return mirror where the blackout period is a fraction of a second and where most people would keep the camera to their eye even with a lever manual film advance.

Once you see how long the black out period is, you begin to understand why people appreciated (and still do) rangefinder cameras like the Leica, Contax, Canon, and Nikon, etc. where you never lose sight of the subject while the shutter fires.

I remember the first time I picked up and operated a Contaflex. I think I might have thought something was wrong with the camera if the seller had not explained to me. What is absolutely clear when you see and handle one, is the quality of manufacture.

Hope my typing makes sense.

Mike Connealy , Feb 22, 2007; 10:31 p.m.

You are right, Bill. The need to wind the shutter so you can see something is probably the biggest issue for people used to later slr cameras. For me, the issue with the Contaflex and other leaf shutter slr cameras is that I like to use the camera to frame possible shooting scenes, and to do that with the Contaflex, one needs to have the film wound on and the shutter cocked. Still, it is mostly a matter of getting used to a little different pattern of use, and I think it is a fairly small thing in the overall performance of the system. In the end, if I do my part, I'm confident the Contaflex will deliver the goods.


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