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Zeiss Ikon Contax I

Zeiss Ikon Contax I

Style, film format   35mm rangefinder, interchangeable lens

Lens, shutter Uncoated 50mm f/2.8 Tessar, vertical metal roller blind

Photo quality Very good

Ergonomics So-so: separate windows for focusing, composing; front-mounted film advance

I think Zeiss Ikon was quite surprised by the success of the early Leicas, and it took them until 1932 to come up with a marketplace response.

This is the result. It's a box. I mean, the camera is rectangular. This is one of the earlier models without slow shutter speeds.

While the shutter release and focusing is smooth, winding the film is not. It takes a man-sized twist of the wrist to advance the vertical brass shutter curtains. And rewinding the film is no joy, either. The rewind knob is simply too short to grasp comfortably or at all.

The Contax I, like the Leica, used two windows: one for focusing and one for composing. The focusing window is tiny, and the rangefinder is adequate but certainly not stellar.

The shutter release is smooth and sits right in front of the infinity lock for the lens.

Great camera? No. But it gave Contax a foot in the door, and better things were to come for the Contax from Zeiss Ikon.