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Zeiss Ikon Contina IIa

Contina IIa

Style, film format Fixed-lens zone-focus 35mm with uncoupled dual-range selenium meter

Lens, shutter Coated 45mm f/2.8 Novar-Anastigmat, Prontor

Photo quality Average

Ergonomics Average, film advance has small sharp protrusion that had to be filed down

In the late 1950s, Zeiss Ikon closed the book on its folding cameras and replaced them with fixed-lens products as it tried to compete with the Japanese onslaught.

I think the rigid-front models weren't nearly as attractive or well-made as the folding models. The Contina changed markedly and would never again carry a Tessar lens. As cameras, they are decent enough, and the Novar lens performs admirably. It isn't a Tessar, but for the intended market, it probably was good enough.

In use, the camera used a lever wind, and that was a welcome improvement over previous cameras. This particular camera has some rough edges, including a sharp bump at the tip of the wind lever that I filed down so the mere act of advancing the film wouldn't turn into a bloody experience.

Zeiss Ikon, which tried to be all things to all photographers, had too many products on the market. This was direct evidence of their decline. They should have got out of several segments and focused their efforts on a couple of systems. Regardless, this was their camera for the amateur market.

There were a number of rigid-front Contina models, including some that had interchangeable front lens elements. All were admirable cameras.