Zeiss Ikon Contax III 1936-42

Tomei Collection


The Contax III (544/24) was essentially the same as the Contax II except it had an uncoupled selenium exposure meter built into the upper housing assembly. It originally sold for between £53.0.0 to £78.5.0 depending on the lens.  This is equivalent to about £1650 to £3650 today (about $3300 to $7300) which made it a rather expensive 35mm camera.   In 1938, Contax II models could be upgraded by the factory to Contax III specifications for £13 15s although no one has yet attempted to determine how many were done.  This factor may account for the occassional Contax III serial number that actually matches a Contax II.  It is not known whether the serial number was changed following a factory upgrade.



The number of technological advances introduced by Zeiss in the Type III is indeed long although it is difficult to fully appreciate just how advanced they were by 1936 standards.  It joined Zeiss's flagship Contaflex camera that came out a year earlier.  Leitz did not respond with a similar model preferring to to keep their IIIa's size small and because pros during these times considered the meter quite superfluous.

The ability to change shutter speeds through the entire range before or after advancing was an important feature as was the uncoupled light meter.  The bayonet lens mount was continued in both the II and III having been introduced several years earlier in the first Contax model.  However, professional photojournalists still preferred the Contax II without the light meter perhaps because of the additional size and weight, but more likely because of the limited utility of a light meter mounted on the camera.


Ad taken from the 1939 World's Fair issue of U.S. Camera.