Classic SLRs:
Zeiss Ikon Contaflex III

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

The Contaflex III 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.

The Contaflex III is a simpler version of the Contaflex IV which I have written copiously about (I also have the earlier Contaflex II). The only difference between the III and IV is that the III doesn't have a light meter built-in. Given that most of the selenium meters of the IV series have died of old age by now, this is not an important distinction. I prefer the lines of the III in many ways. Why take up space with a feature that doesn't work? You'll want a detachable meter that reads out in EV, my own preference is for the Gossen Digisix.

This Contaflex came from the estate of Marion Carpenter, who was the personal photographer of President Harry Truman. She was an early female photographer who helped blaze a trail for women who followed her. Unfortunately, she died in poverty at the age of 82 in Saint Paul, MN in the winter of 2002. She was sitting on almost a hundred cameras, but was so poor that turned down the heat and froze to death in her house. It's sad and a lesson to all of us.

This camera came from her personal collection and comes with the original box and manual. The camera is in pristine condition and appears unused. I sold this to a local collector who I hope will use it in good health.



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.

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 III
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

None. Lens shutter calibrated in EVs.


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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