5 Frames with the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II and Kodak Portra 400

These images took longer to happen than I had planned. I will tell you about this in the order of the camera, then light meter, and then the film. First then, the camera.

The Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II and accessory Teleskop 1.7x adapter I hunted down as soon as I realized it existed. A stunner aesthetically. Built very well. Has a Zeiss lens. The form factor resembles a rangefinder to me, but is actually an SLR. What is not to like? Even has a built in selenium light meter that by some miracle is more accurate than it has any business being.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Kodak Gold 400 w/ Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Even shot my first test roll, only using that built in meter. But I do not trust it for some reason. So from then on I usually went with Sunny 16 winging it, brought a lightmeter along, or used an app. That brings me to the TTArtisans lightmeter.

Sony ZV-1

Having had good luck with a few of their lenses as outlined in another post I trusted that this lightmeter would be a safe bet also. There is an even better gen II version out now. Even though things got off to a rocky start with my gen I version it ended well. What happened? I am glad I imagined you asked. The lights in the meter were misaligned.

TTArtisan Lights misaligned out of the box. - Sony ZV-1

Technically worked, but this would not do for a brand new unit purchased directly from TTArtisans. I fought the urge to take it apart and DIY this thing back into shape, but reason won out and I reached out to TTArtisans to start the exchange process for a new unit. The result? As outlined in this post TTArtisans instead sent me the instructions on how to DIY this thing back into shape. At first, I was like, “This is brand new. I should get a…”. Then a little voice said, “Weren’t you about to tear this thing apart with no instructions and now you have instructions and permission to do so?” Oh yeah. Right. So I fixed it myself. Result? A lightmeter comparable to the much more expensive Voigtlander variant for much less spend. As good? Likely not. Close enough at a fraction of the cost? For as often as I plan to use it certainly.Spending far more for a lightmeter than the camera I was going to use it with made little sense to me.

Even though this lightmeter could easily be used handheld I wanted the complete package so I also scored an original Zeiss cold shoe adapter for peanuts off of eBay to complete the kit.

SIGMA sd Quattro - 30mm f/1.4 Art

Then I loaded it with film and took a couple of shots… And then promptly got distracted by something or another and forgot about it for many months.

I remembered it recently and decided to finish the roll. One issue. I had no recollection of what film I loaded into it. Black and white? Color? Who knows? The lightmeter was set to 200 so 200? Maybe? So I went with it and tried not to base my composition on the type of film. Turns out it was Kodal Portra 400. What possessed me to use that film for a test roll is beyond me. Evidently, I had a lot of confidence in the lightmeter based on my initial comparison tests with a dedicated lightmeter. And the camera always delivers. To cover the exposure difference I followed the Cinestill CS41 instructions appropriately and the roll came out just fine. Here are my 5 favorite frames from the roll with one bonus shot.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II
Normally filled with water I found this empty fountain interesting as well.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II
I really like the way this old Zeiss lens renders colors.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

And a bonus shot.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

A forgotten frame taken prior to my forgetting about this set up. It is a favorite because it was taken while helping my Mom run her errands one day and she is patiently waiting for me to wrap up my camera nonsense as we check out. Something she is quite familiar with since my dearly departed Father…

Voigtlander Bessa R2 w/ Nokton 40mm f/1.4 and (Expired) Fujicolor 200

…is the whole reason I am into photography myself.

Well. That about wraps things up. So the verdict. A win all around.

I appreciate having this opportunity to share my experience.

Eric L. Woods

I shoot a variety of new and old digital and film cameras. Industrial Engineer by education, IT is my vocation, and I really enjoy using, testing, and writing about cameras. All three of the latter are very therapeutic exercises for me. If you are so inclined my blog address is ewoodsphoto.com and I can be found on twitter and Instagram. All the best to you.

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12 thoughts on “5 Frames with the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II and Kodak Portra 400”

  1. Eric, great camera, from what you’re saying here. I have no doubt that it is that, and more, Zeiss and their Contaflex being legends in their own right. Great photographs I especially love the colours on the red thingy on the brick wall, really love it!

    I do have both TTartisan’s meters and I can tell you the model II is indeed a step up from the model I. Mine came in silver too, and the second model I bought it in black. They’re great, although the first model had a real issue with removing the battery. The second model is smaller, has a different battery compartment, uses CR1632 and it is a breeze to change it.

    Thank you for a good written piece and great photographs !

    1. Julian, Thank you very much. I agree with you about the two lightmeter versions. If I used it more often I would likely upgrade. Your kind words are greatly appreciated.

  2. With two daughters at Chapel Hill, the Clock Tower image drew me in!

    Funny I just sold this camera a month ago and your review makes me want to buy it back!

    Well done!

    1. Thank you. UNC has been my only employer since relocating here from NYC years ago. Whenever a meeting brings me to Main Campus I try and take a spin through there depending on where I find parking. This has resulted in a rather large collection of Tower pics over the years.

      I understand. I sold mine to my local camera shop years ago, regretted it on another visit, and bought it back. Will just hold on to it now.

      Thanks again for the kind words.

  3. I logged on to 35MMC this morning, to find two of my favourite cameras had been reviewed. Your review of the significantly underrated Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II, and Bradley Newman’s review of the Voigtlander Vitomatic II. Interesting cameras both, similar in age, and specification. Both are exemplars of how good the German camera industry was back then.
    I love the Contaflex SLRs, in particular my Super for which I have an assortment of lenses. The II model is something of a Cinderella version due to it’s fixed lens. This is a shame, as being a fixed lens, it’s noticeably smaller than it’s interchangeable big brothers. If I take mine out of it’s case, it fits easily into a coat pocket. 45mm is a great everyday focal length, and when it’s a Tessar, better still. The joy of using a precision piece of machinery such as a Contaflex, is a significant part of the experience, and I love the ‘tsszing’ the shutter makes.

    1. Stevie, It is a great camera. I have paid significantly more for cameras that were no better. I will have to take a closer look at the Super now. Thank you for reading the post.

  4. I have a Contaflex too, a model which came with a 35/50/90 lens set. Love the rendering of these lenses in both colour and structure. If I want to use film I want a look that I can’t (easily, or at all) get with my digitals, and for that, the Contaflex/Tessar is a reliable performer.

    If I could get that 50mm Contaflex Tessar as a standalone lens to adapt to modern mirrorless, I’d get it in a heartbeat. The 70s DDR Tessar I bought to try that just looks like a slightly unsharp modern lens in comparison, and my 60s/70s Nikons look too ‘standard’ – a result of how modern they were, so it’s perverse to complain, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

    I do wonder why you felt the need to distrust the light meter, if it seemed like it worked? If it works, it works. When I first got my Contaflex 20 years or so ago, I compared it to my F100 and later on to a Voigtlander meter, which made me think an external meter would be wasting time. And sure enough, zero issues over the last ten years shooting the Contaflex. Still works now. Why worry about it, just use it until you notice a problem.

    1. I fully agree about the image quality and consistency of this camera. Have thought of picking up an interchangeable lens Contaflex. Until then I have a lot of fun with the Teleskop 1.7x. A wonderfully over engineered solution.

      Also agree that it would be great if it were possible to adapt these lenses.

      As far as the lightmeter goes everything you stated is true. My short answer is personal preference. Using the built in meter would work fine. Admittedly I have an irrational distrust of old selenium meters. I also wanted to use the TTArtisans lightmeter with it and they made a good pairing. When I found the cold shoe adapter for peanuts on eBay that closed the deal. If compactness were what I striving for I would get over myself and use the inbuilt meter or Sunny 16 my way through the roll as I have also done in the past.

      All the best to you.

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