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The Contarex of 1959–1966
Zeiss Ikon Contarex.JPG
Type 35mm SLR camera
Lens mount Contarex bayonet
Exposure 24 mm × 36 mm on 35mm film

The Contarex[1] is a 35mm SLR camera presented in 1958 scheduled for delivery in the spring of 1959, but it was not made generally available until March 1960. It is populary known as the Contarex I, the Bullseye or the Cyclops,[2] It was Zeiss Ikon's contribution to professional photography, designed to handle any photographic task whatsoever. It is quite heavy, 910 g without lens, and beautifully made.

The camera body is complex, comprising some 1100 parts, with seven principal alloy pressure castings and additional stamped cover plates to complete the structure. However, it is rugged and roller bearings are utilized in the aperture mechanism. Inevitably it requires a specialist for its repair; 43 parts has to be dismantled to remove the top plate for internal access.

The Contarex was the first 35mm SLR focal plane shutter camera providing direct meter coupling to the shutter-, aperture-, and film speed-settings; they are interconnected by cords. An aperture simulator for the exposure meter in the Cyclops window uses an iris in front of the selenium meter cell. The meter needle, to be aligned with an index triangle, is visible both in a top plate window and to the right in the viewfinder.

A thumb-wheel on the camera controls the lens aperture, and the value is shown in a window on top of the centrally located meter cell (the Cyclops window). The aperture in the interchangeable automatic lens closes when the shutter release is depressed and reopens when the camera is wound on for the next exposure. Due to the limited meter range, not every camera setting combination is possible to accommodate on the Contarex I exposure meter.[3]

The standard lens[edit]

The standard lens is the Carl Zeiss Planar 1:2 f=50mm in bright aluminium finish with a chrome 49 mm thread filter ring and an outer bayonet for ZI filters. The lens focuses to 30 cm, which is closer than the usual 50 cm. The focusing helical is remarkably smooth and precise. There is no aperture ring on the Contarex lens itself. It is set on the camera aperture wheel. The Contarex lens mount takes only Contarex lenses and accessories.[4]


  1. ^ James M. and Joan C. McKeown (2004). McKeown's price guide to antique classic Cameras, 12th Ed. Centennial Photo Service, Grantsburg. ISBN 0-931838-40-1. 
  2. ^ Ivor Matanle (1996). Collecting and using Classic SLRs. Thames & Hudson, London. ISBN 0-500-27901-2. 
  3. ^ Hans-Jürgen Kuc (1988). Contaflex Contarex Geshichte Technik Fakten - p.89ff. Hans-Jürgen Kuc, Hamburg.  No ISBN available
  4. ^ Charles M. Barringer (1999). ZEISS Compendium – East and West – 1940–1972. Hove Collectors Books, Hove. ISBN 1-874707-24-3. 

External links[edit]