Zeiss Ikon Contaflex IV

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Classic SLRs:
Zeiss Ikon Contaflex IV

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

The Contaflex IV is a leaf-shuttered 35mm single-lens reflex camera made by Zeiss-Ikon in West German between 1957-59.The camera uses a fixed 50mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Tessar lens. The lens is coated and the photos from this camera truly zing. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

I purchased mine in excellent condition at an antique fair at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in June of 2002.The body serial number is 32671xx and the lens serial number is 23245xx.

I love this camera! It has a very nice to feel it. It's small but heavy because it's made out of solid brass and steel. There's nothing like winding a German camera. It has a smoothness that is incomparable. The shutter has a resounding click and phew! It just feels like you're working with something quality. And this was their consumer series! I can only imagine what a Contarex would feel like.

OK, enough about the mechanics. The photos taken from this camera glow. Even though they were made 40 years ago, the lenses easily parallel the ones from my Canon EOS system. Not much has changed in basic optics in the last half century, the good lenses are still good.

p.s. It makes sense that the "feel" of the Zeiss photos are similar to that of my Canon. According to one mythology I heard, Canon imitated the "feel" of Zeiss lenses while Nikon went for the feel of Leitz/Leica lenses. Even now, you can tell that they are just subtly differently flavored.


Interesting quirks

The mirror is non-auto-return. This means that when you release the shutter, the mirror flips up, the view screen goes black and remains that way. I think this is why you see these cameras going for much less than they should - most people think they're broken!

Because the Contaflex uses Synchro-Compur leaf shutter, it can flash-synchronize at all speeds up to its maximum of 1/500.

Because the German engineers thoughtfully put a steel protective cap on the selenium meters, the meter still works on my unit. It's about 1 stop out of linearity over its whole range but that's not too bad.

The front element of the 50mm lens can be removed and alternate focal lengths installed. Since the rear elements remain the same, there are limitations but this was a wonderful way to be able to retain the Synchro-Compur leaf shutter while also offering lens interchangeability.

Technical Details

Camera Name
Contaflex IV
Zeiss Ikon
Place of Manufacture

West Germany

Date of Manufacture
Focusing System

Single-lens reflex design

Lens use helical focusing

Fixed Lens

50mm, f/2.8, Carl Zeiss Tessar lens

Minimum focusing distance = 0.75 meters (~2.5 feet)

Left focusing (infinity on left side)


Synchro-Compur shutter 1 sec - 1/500

B settings

X-flash sync at all speeds

V - X - M switch for "V-Self-timer" "X-electronic flash" and "M-bulb flash"

Metering System

Selenium cell mounted on top left of camera body, protected by a flip-up metal cap.
Full manual exposure. Measure EV values from lightmeter then transfer EVs to lens body.

EV 3-18


f/2.8 - f/22


PC cable connection

No cold flash mount on pentaprism but this can be bought as an after-market item.

Film type / speeds

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

ASA 25 to 800

Battery type
Dimensions and weight
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About Zeiss Ikon

Zeiss Ikon was formed in 1926 out of the merger of five companies: Carl Zeiss/Jena A.G., ICA A.G., Erneman A.G., Goerz A.G, and Contessa-Nettel A.G.

Zeiss-Ikon was a huge corporation with offices in five cities in Germany and it offered a huge variety of cameras. Unfortunately, that was also its downfall. Various divisions competed against each other horribly and there was much, much reduplication of effort. It never really took advantage of its size.

Carl Zeiss, the main company, can actually trace its roots to 1846, to the very dawn of photography and is renowned for such designs as the Tessar and T* coating. Even now, Carl Zeiss lenses grace the very best cameras from Contax to Hasselblad.

In 1972, Zeiss formed into a partnership with Yashica Corporation of Japan. Zeiss now only does lens design and makes a small amount of photographic lenses. Yashica manufactures the Contax series of Zeiss cameras.


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