Anybody here use a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super BC?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Clumsy Eddie, Sep 19, 2016.

  1. Clumsy Eddie

    Clumsy Eddie Member

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    Hello, everybody. I'm back after an extended absence, and my first question is about a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super BC i picked up at my local camera store. It has the standard back, everything works, and I've had a lot of fun with it in spite of (or maybe because 0f its quirks). I haven't bothered with the light meter, I use a hand-held meter which does me just fine. I was wondering if anybody else uses one of these cameras? I think it is a splendid camera (for me, anyway), and I plan to keep it for a long time. I read on Roger Hicks' new website that they are worth next to nothing, and I have to agree. In my case: I paid $49.00 plus tax for my copy.

    With best regards,

    Stephen
     
  2. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    does the shutter work? Lucky guy -- I gave up on those after trying two or three examples and never, ever, finding one that worked. The highly complex shutter is a wonder when it works, but doesn't age well, in my experience. The ones I tried would go halfway through the firing cycle and then hang up. Same thing for Kodaks that had the same shutter.

    Zeiss lenses, lovely things, however. Good luck.
     
  3. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    It is just a lubrication issue, same issue as in any other camera with a leaf shutter. Those cameras are actually very very reliable once serviced. Most contaflexes aren't really complex cameras (compared to for example a Voigtlander Ultramatic or the latest Retina Reflex), they are just different to a regular SLR.
     
  4. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    Hi Stephen,

    It is a splendid camera, well built and with a great lens. The only problem is that it is actually very heavy and big when you consider that you are carrying a 50/2.8 lens!!

    If you like it, keep it forever, it will outlast you and me...
     
  5. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Subscriber

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    I haven't used mine lately, but do like to on occasion. While I like the Super BC I prefer the older Super with the bubble style selenium meter on the front of the prism. Why? Cause the viewfinder is about twice as bright as the BC. Don't ask me why, it just is. I have two Super BC's and three of the older Supers. Two of the old Super's have meters that are very accurate, but not so good in low light. Both the BC meters work and seem very accurate too. Actually the nicest one I have is the "New" Super without auto-exposure. It also has a bright viewfinder, selenium meter and the upgraded Tessar lens. It's also very user friendly. If I get time tonight I might take a couple of photos of the Contaflex cameras and post them so you can see some of the differences. These are really great cameras and they take beautiful color photos. The one real drawback is finding one that works properly since you will find no one to fix it. Also, if you do find one make sure you take it out and run it through its cycles every couple of weeks or so. These cameras are like hunting dogs they have to be used or they stiffen up and refuse to work.
     
  6. GarageBoy

    GarageBoy Member

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    Please let me know who will service them
     
  7. Pioneer

    Pioneer Subscriber

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    I have two Contaflex Super B cameras that work wonderfully. I love using them. One was serviced by Henry Scherer quite awhile ago but still runs perfectly. The meters still work though they do not respond quickly to changes so it is easier and faster to work with a handheld meter.

    In my opinion these cameras are probably as reliable as anything else out there that has been around as long as they have. Just like all other leaf shutters, the shutters do need regular exercise to stay accurate. The only other potential issue is that once in awhile the film advance will slip a bit on one of mine so I get the occasional frame overlaps. It usually happens early in the roll for some reason so if I pay attention and don't try to advance the film too quickly I can avoid the problem. Everything else is very robust and steady with no glitches. I took it on vacation to Peru once and never once experienced any trouble.

    What I really love about this system are the lenses. They are very good, as are most Zeiss optics. The only gripe is with the lens mount system. It works but it certainly is not simple, much like the Contax and Contarex lens systems. But, what I get from Portra 400 and Ektar 100 is heavenly.

    As for repairs, good luck. Henry Scherer did overhaul one of mine, so he can do it, but it is a loooonnnnngggg wait. At one time I think Ken Ruth did some work with them but he has retired. There was also some fellow in Canada but I don't recall his name. Most of the people who had any inkling are retired. They are reputed to be complex. I remember seeing some threads on the old Classic Camera Repair Forum, which is now on Rangefinderforum.com, so that would be a start if you decide to dig into one yourself.
     
  8. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    Everything I read on them was that, yes, sure, it is a lubrication issue, but the type of compur shutter on them is a lot more complex than your normal compur shutter and servicing one was a lot more expensive, assuming you can find someone willing to do it.

    Some cameras age well, and aging well includes being able to be serviced at a reasonable price in coming eons. Some do not age well, and complexity/cost of service is an issue.

    If yours works well, that's amazingly wonderful. I've just never found one that did, although I admit my early experiences turned me off on trying much later on.
     
  9. Michael L.

    Michael L. Subscriber

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    Congratulations! I hope your Super BC will give you many happy years of shooting.

    I am very fond of Contaflex cameras. I am happy to own and use a Contaflex Super B, different (AFAIK) from the BC only by having a selenium meter instead of the CdS meter of the BC. It is an excellent camera that feels sturdy and reliable in your hands.

    My very first SLR was a Contaflex I from 1953, bought second-hand and newly CLA'd in 1976. Built like a tank, it served me well for about 20 years, and I was extremely sad to retire it when the shutter finally became unreliable (in spite of regular servicing). Quite apart from the near impossibility of finding a repair shop in this part of the world that would tackle a synchro-compur shutter, a CLA would have been prohibitively expensive.

    Through the years, I kept looking for a replacement, but all the specimens I came across had faulty shutters due to dried-up lubrication. A couple of years back I was finally lucky enough to secure the above Contaflex Super B at a jumble sale, surprisingly in mint condition, fully functional and a real joy to use.

    I agree with Pioneer (#7) that the shutter needs regular exercise. Apart from that, a Contaflex is very robust, and the prime Tessar lens is in a class of its own. Enjoy your camera!
     
  10. Brett Rogers

    Brett Rogers Member

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    I use a Super BC quite often. I have three magazine backs for it and 35mm, 85mm and 115mm Pro Tessar lenses as well as a set of Proxar close up lenses and various accessories. It's a good system and a very reliable one. They are better built than Eg. various Leica models. Why? How many fifty to sixty year old Leicas can you strip, clean, re-assemble and have running perfectly with absolutely no replacement parts needed? Well with the Contaflexes you usually can.

    May I clear up a couple of myths? The shutters these use are a garden variety Synchro Compur type. Yes there is an additional mechanism to hold the shutter open and release it prior to exposure (during which part of the cycle the shutter functions as an entirely ordinary Compur leaf shutter. But there is little additional complexity within the reflex version of the shutter and many (most) parts are identical to other Synchro Compurs of the same size.

    These cameras usually need a clean and lubrication to run well again and little if anything else. The shutters are no different in this respect to say, a Rollei TLR of the same age ora rangefinder. One difference, admittedly, is that they will manifest problems with dirty aperture blades as they must automatically stop down rapidly. But they're super reliable when cleaned, and not hard to work on. Well that is not a universally shared view, but I have made dozens run reliably again. There are a few tricks and points to note but the hype is worse than the reality. Front focus ones I find more tedious than later unit focus types. Jon Goodman would disagree with me there, he prefers the earlier types, I find the later ones more straightforward. Each sub model has its own little differences from the previous type, details of the main shaft drive, shutter type, actuating rings, metering etc. I own an example of every Tessar type made (several, in some cases). My faves are the II, the Rapid, the New Super and the Super BC/S. But any Tessar type can produce superb image quality. They are worth a darned sight more than people will pay for them considering the quality they feature.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2016
  11. AgX

    AgX Member

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    A good definition.
     
  12. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    This is a myth. Brett Rogers has explained it perfectly above.

    I agree this camera is better built than many Leicas. In general I find some cameras by Voigtlander, Rollei and Zeiss Ikon, better built than most Leica cameras save for the Leicaflex. But we should stay quiet otherwise prices could rise... so LEICA IS THE BEST, THERE IS NOTHING ABOVE LEICA!
     
  13. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    This could quickly become some sort of religious debate -- so, let's just say that my experience is that these shutters are difficult to find in good order and expensive/difficult to have serviced. If you find one in good working order, or like Brett says you can service them, then the sun shines on you and I congratulate you.
     
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  15. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Subscriber

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    I'm glad Brett chimed in and he is a wealth of knowledge when it come to Contaflex cameras. There is no need for a religious debate either. The prices are so low that you can own both and find out for yourself which you like better. I have worked on my own Cantaflex cameras and while not easy they are not impossible to work on. Which glass do I like best? Leica or Zeiss? I like Zeiss the best, but own far more Leica lenses. Go figure?
     
  16. bryans_tx

    bryans_tx Member

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    Have and use Contaflex I and III, both of which I bought here on APUG :smile:
     
  17. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    Interesting... I like Canon FD lenses the best, but i had been willing to spend much more money on rare Nikon lenses.
     
  18. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Subscriber

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    I was only choosing between the two, Leitz and Zeiss. When I did weddings and other stuff I used Nikon gear as "Quick and dirty" along side my medium format main camera. Now, I like Nikkor glass, but not all all of it. I had my favorites for the type shooting I did. Of course Canon FD and even FL lenses were just as good, as was Pentax. The one system I regret selling was my Konica T3 and T outfit. I had six Konica lenses from their 21mm to the 400mm, but the two favorites were the 21mm and the 80-200mm zoom. The rest were excellent too, but those two, at least mine anyway, were superb. There were a ton of great lenses in the "good old film days", but there were just as many disappointments too.
     
  19. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    +1

    I think Pentax optics are still underrated today.
     
  20. chip j

    chip j Subscriber

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    What's so great about FD lenses?? (I have a few, BTW).
     
  21. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    They are easily available in a lot of focal lengths, the 'slower' ones are cheaper than Nikkors while providing the same (or better) performance, and then some expensive fast lenses that don't exist in other systems (i.e. 85/1.2, 24/1.4, tilt-shift lenses) do exist on the FD line.
     
  22. Pioneer

    Pioneer Subscriber

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    While this really was a thread aimed at the Super BC I feel that any Contaflex is fair game.

    My Contaflex II is off to New Zealand for repair. Chris Sherlock has agreed to give it a go. Although I'm sure it is a bit different than the Kodak Retinas he usually works with I understand that there are quite a few similarities.

    This is such a wonderfully compact SLR camera in such a tidy and gorgeous package that I couldn't resist spending some money on it. This is kind of how I feel about most of my Zeiss Ikon cameras, but certainly how I feel about the Contaflex series. I mean, where else will you find a 35mm camera that allows you to change film backs in mid-roll? The flexibility is wonderful. Besides, Zeiss Ikon did such a magnificent job building these cameras that they still look like new on the outside. Surely that alone is worth a spending bit of money to have the insides cleaned up, relubricated and the shutter adjusted.

    I have a couple of Super B cameras that work wonderfully and also feature some very nice interchangeable lenses, but these are bigger, and most definitely bulkier when you add the lenses, so I decided it was time to get one of my early examples up and running again.

    I have read that the newer model Tessar 50 lenses with the unit focusing are better and sharper lenses then the earlier 45mm lenses. Now I'll get to find out if there is any real evidence for these statements. Sometimes I feel that people make these judgement calls while pixel peeping digital scans at 100%. However, if you print some photographs and then compare them side by side the differences, if really there, are not very easy to see. Photographing real world examples often reveal different results then those gained when shooting focus charts.

    Ah well, sharper or softer, it really doesn't matter all that much in the end. It is the subject matter, the light, and the atmosphere the photographer is able to capture that overcomes any lens differences.
     
  23. Brett Rogers

    Brett Rogers Member

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    Hi Dan,
    I've got a couple of IIs working and thery're not too bad. To be honest the most annoying aspect to me of doing one is the bizarre way Zeiss hid the retaining screws for the focus grip and the associated infinity stop behind the distance scale ring. So you first must remove the retaining screws for the distance scale and then, rotate it around the grip until you spot the heads of the screws for the grip through the tiny holes in the scale ring. The screws are only about 1-1.5mm in size so if there's any corrosion present or a previous repair attempt has damaged the heads, all bets are off. You always need to mark the grip and its relationship to the front lens cell at infinity so that you can get the cell mount re-inserted at the correct thread start and get the grip aligned to the cell, so that at the stop, infinity comes out OK.

    Otherwise the rest of it's easy enough, the shutter comes out without problem after the rear retaining ring is unscrewed, and it's then a case of cleaning as per any other Synchro Compur. The actuating rings that drive it usually benefit from cleaning and lubrication too, in this model problems with the shutter being sluggish may be due to the cleanliness of the shutter itself but if the drive rings are not running freely these can cause misbehaviour, too. Chris won't have any problems at all sorting yours out. I can't imagine it is anywhere near as hard as sorting out a Retina Reflex so he'll be fine with it, but I have a repair manual for the type if he would like it.

    As far as lens sharpness is concerned the earlier models are very good. I think the late lenses are sharper, but that ought not to be interpreted as suggesting the fixed 45mm Tessar is a poor performer. You will not be disappointed with the results. The late recomputed 50mm unit focus types are remarkable, though, when you've used one with a super sharp black and white film like Acros 100 for instance the sharpness is superlative. But you will already be aware of this yourself.
    Cheers
    Brett
     
  24. Pioneer

    Pioneer Subscriber

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    Thanks Brett. You make it sound so straightforward that I may need to buy another off ebay just to try tearing down myself.

    But...it will have to wait on the Pentax SV I already have in pieces on the workbench. :D
     
  25. Brett Rogers

    Brett Rogers Member

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    Well there is a little more to it than that which I didn't mention for brevity: the centre lens cell must be unscrewed to reach the front of the shutter. Unlike later models the early ones won't usually be too hard to remove, inverting the camera body onto a rubber mat and twisting will usually do the trick. And the stop down spring for the automatic aperture will de-tension itself when the shutter is removed from the body, but it's not a weak point. It won't break as the shutter is pulled, or, when it is re-installed. You just need to reach the locking screw for the adjuster wheel (sort of like a star wheel inside a corner of the body that you've got to access via the film gate). You'd quite likely want to sacrifice a cheap screwdriver or two to put some bends near the tips, because it is quite impossible to get a driver straight down onto them due to their location. But that's the only difficult aspect. Once you've pulled the locking screw and backed off the retaining screw (in the centre of the adjusting wheel) a little, you simply set the aperture control to f/22, gently rotate the adjuster until the blades have fully stopped down, and then turn it another two or three teeth, until prompt and consistent stopping down is confirmed by inspecting the aperture operation through the film gate as the shutter is fired at various speeds (notably the 1/500 and one second). You can actually leave the locking screw out while you're doing the checks, it's just a safety feature, the retaining screw keeps the adjuster fast once it's nipped up.

    When the shutter goes in the actuating rings have to mesh correctly with their counterparts at the back of the shutter. Yes, you could install them wrongly and it wouldn't fire, but, again, if you are paying attention to the location of the parts when the shutter is removed, initially (of course a few digital reference photos never go astray) it's not very hard to establish how it all re-assembles. To me it's not as hard as re-timing an overhead camshaft engine, for instance, and having done a few of those, including early desmo Ducati motors, Citroen flat fours and other ephemera I do speak from some experience there. All these things happen with the body uncocked, by the way, quite apart from any other considerations, you couldn't reach the stop down spring adjuster or the retaining ring for the shutter with the camera cocked, anyway, as the rear capping plate and mirror would be in the way. Speaking of the mirror it is of course a good idea to give that a clean when the shutter is out, and the focus screen also, if it needs it. Those clever designers at Zeiss did include a small access port on the rewind side of the body near the rewind fork, so, if you really need to you can sneak into the mirror box this way to clean a mirror but, the access is very restricted and it is much easier to attend to any cleaning through the front when the shutter is out.

    You might recall that Phil (farlymac) actually had to to do some work to a Contaflex II a couple of years or so ago, and he had a good thread with some information and photos which I added some comments to at the time over at RFF. If you were thinking of taking on a service to one (and other issues are not entirely unknown, but, servicing is almost always all that they need to function nicely) then, that thread is also worth a look. The repair manual for the C1-IV is out there on the web as a free download (KY Photo site, perhaps?) or, it was, anyway. If you need a copy of it I can arrange that and if you get stuck of course I can probably offer some suggestions.
    Cheers,
    Brett
     
  26. bernard_L

    bernard_L Member

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    Another happy owner chimes in. Had a Contaflex as graduation present back in late 60's; a few years later traded it in for a Canon FT. Never sell! Fast forward to early 21st century: vintage cameras at prices that are hard to resist. Bought Contaflex Super, 35 and 85 Pro-tessars, proxars, and yellow-orange-green zeiss filters in S27 and S60 sizes. Then a SuperBC as insurance against body failure. Did a couple films with these; very nice, but weight makes one pause before taking them on a walk.
    @ Brett Rogers: thank you for the dis-assembly tips. Nice info in that RFF/farlymac thread, with info from a certain Sarcophilus. Even nicer would be an A-Z illustrated step-by-step for the rest of the dummies.
     
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