The first camera by German camera maker Zeiss Ikon and the first model under the Contax camera brand, the Zeiss Contax I was made to rival the then popular Leica rangefinder cameras. Find out more about this historic snapper in this installment of Lomopedia!
Introduced by Zeiss Ikon of Dresden in 1932 and manufactured until 1936, the Contax I or original Contax was a 35mm rangefinder camera designed with the goal of surpassing the then successful Leica II camera in mind. According to Camera Quest, a statement from the 1934 Contax Brochure boasted of the Contax having “an entirely new design,” its “very simple construction is quickly understood whereupon the numerous technical advantages will be found to allow of obtaining unexcelled results under all conditions.”
The original Contax was noticeably different from its rival Leica II, sporting a die-cast alloy body with a vertically travelling metal focal plane shutter, similar to the ones found in Contessa-Nettel cameras. It also had interlocking black-finished brass slats, which were aligned by silk ribbons. Its lens, which was of Contax bayonet mount, was designed by Ludwig Bertele.
Zeiss made sure that their rangefinder camera would outdo Leica’s features; the Contax was made to have a longer rangefinder, a faster top shutter speed of 1/1000, faster handling with a removable back for quicker film loading, and a quick bayonet lens mount rather than a thread mount.