Camera Speed Dating – Contax IIa

Those that know Meghan and I know that we have what appears to be an on going camera acquisition problem. To remedy this but continue to try out ALL of the cameras we have decided to start borrowing cameras from our fellow camera enthusiasts instead of trying to purchase or hoard them all to ourselves. Not all are winners though and some are just easier or more fun to use but you have to shoot with them first to find out! Thus, we decided if we run a roll through every camera we are interested in, not unlike going on a 5 minute date with a bunch of strangers at a singles night, we can quickly see which are worthy of being added to our collection (or put on our list of “must haves.”) Camera speed dating!

Here is most recent camera I had the pleasure of a quick date with…Contax IIa.


A few quick facts about the Contax IIa. The Contax IIa…made in 1950, it is a 35mm rangefinder with a very impressive top shutter speed of 1/1250 for its era. My camera came with a Sonnar 50mm f2 on it.

When I got this camera I thought it was beyond repair. There was bright green corrosion covering a lot of the inside of it and its rangefinder had come unglued. However I showed it to Frank, our repair expert, and he took it away with him.  When he returned it a couple weeks later it was like new! I was over the moon. Ever since I had been loaned a Nikon S2 (a copy of the Contax rangefinder camera) I had wanted one for myself and here was the real thing! My stint borrowing the Nikon S2 was short and in winter so I didn’t get to much time to enjoy it. When I took the Contax IIa out I wasn’t expecting to fall for it as hard as I did! I am used to rangefinders being annoying…. though the Contax IIa is heavier than my Canon P I feel I enjoy it more. I found the Contax IIa extremely straightforward to use. Its neatest feature is a focus wheel, a small dial near the shutter button on the front side of the camera that is sync’d with the lenses focus. The Contax IIa has a manual exposure counter which I haven’t bothered using, the film ends either way regardless and it would seem that only happens if I’m not carrying a spare with me. On our first trip out I took the Contax IIa to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the show…

Moving Still: Performative Photography in India

Aside from being a diverse collection of contemporary photography from India this show is also neat because Beau Photo has loaned the gallery our 8×10 camera for part of the presentation display, which illustrates what an older photo studio in India might have looked like. The Contax IIa and its Sonnar 50mm f2 did well in the dim light of the VAG. I was impressed with its accurate expose and sharpness.


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2 replies on “Camera Speed Dating – Contax IIa

  • Bruce Rutter

    I have to say I’m enjoying your “Speed Dating” series. I was looking for someone’s experience with the Super Ikonta 532/16 as I came up with one on offer and I’ve always found them fascinating. One thing lead to another there was your review of the Contax IIa, one of my favourite cameras of all time. Such a delightful thing to work with and glorious results!

  • Meghan S.

    Thanks for reading the blog, Bruce! We definitely appreciate your feedback. 🙂 We have necessarily had a lot of experience with the Super Ikonta 532/16 you mention, but one thing we can tell you about these cameras is that it’s very important to do everything in the right order! Some cameras are easy and advancing, cocking the shutter, setting your dials can be done at any time, however these cameras you really need to take note which order you perform all these operations in! Nicole learned that the hard way!

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