Two years ago I snapped-up a beaten-up CY Sonnar 85 2.8 for nothing. With a whole box of other junk attached, of course. I got rid of the junk, kept the Sonnar, but never used it. That’s because this was at about the same time my transition to a Leica M4-P as the main camera happened, and that could not mount it. So, I used my beloved tele-elmarit 90 instead. Both on Leica and Sony A7. But, I never dared to get rid of the sonnar though: the pictures which made me chase it in a first place were still in my memory! Despite being made for an SLR it’s also a small lens, and that hits another soft spot of me.
So, feeling ashamed, I finally got a Contax 139Q last week. An aperture-priority camera (with meter-assisted manual mode) introduced by Contax/Yashica in 1979, the first one for C/Y mount if I’m correct. Both the camera and the lens are sleek and light (at 500g and 230g respectively), and feature this famous “Contax” feel to it: quality materials, low tolerances, you know it.
The lens is also very small, more similar to 50 than to 85 by all accounts. The 139Q is simple camera by any standards, but execution is simply brilliant! The first roll with this combo went to junk though, because the light seals needed to be replaced. Today I went, however, for another one, and the results are the hero of today’s post.
So, the pictures below are essentially from a test roll to test the new diy light seals, the lens and the camera all together. A first date, so to say. Fresh from the development tank filled with HC110 (dilution B, 5 min at 20C, if you care), and scanned with a dia-duplicator attached to A7 (which is quite similar in size/feel to 139, btw). The film is somewhat expired HP5, exposed as 200 and developed normally, i.e. the way I prefer to shoot it.
Besides the focal length, another important limitation for this roll was that I also had to accompany kids. Today, playgrounds were re-opened in Germany, so we had to visit all of them! This means, of course, that more often than not one of my hands was busy carrying something, and large fraction of the frames are shot on the run with one hand holding the camera and another one focussing with one free finger. On a plus side, I had nice subject to shoot.
The weather also collaborated. ‘Sonnar’ is from ‘Sonne’ (Sun in German), and it was sunny. As a consequence, most of the shots are at f/5.6 or f/8 (with the exception of close-ups where f/2.8 or f/4 was used to test bokeh).
Enough said, the 34 promised frames (self-loaded, and I’m not precise enough with my cutting) are below!
Considering the circumstances, I’m very pleased with the results even if the last frame almost killed the camera. The long story short, be careful advancing last frames if you self-load film, and don’t apply excessive force to advance lever.
Luckily I was able to repair the camera with the help of Peter Robinson from contax139.co.uk who spent half of his weekend watching poor-quality videos of my disassembly attempts and was able to spot a bent and displaced cock-lever inside the camera. Peter is a very knowledgable and kind person who also keeps up the most useful 139 resource on the net. I heartily recommend his service and website to anyone who has problems with his beloved 139 or just wants to learn more about the camera. Beloved, because the Contax 139Q really is a wonderful camera, and now a new official best SLR of all time for me.
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