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Zeiss Ikon Contessa 35

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Zeiss Ikon Contessa 35

This is a very fine looking 35mm rangefinder from Zeiss. Although dating from the early 1950s, it has all the classic looks of the 1930s and even in its day would have appealed to the traditionalists looking for new technology in a classic guise.

Its fitted with the high performing Tessar lens - the design of which was widely used by other manufacturers also as the original patent had expired. The shutter is the top of the range Synchro Compur which shows it was a high quality camera. It also has a built in uncoupled selenium meter and a coupled rangefinder.

Top plate showing light meter on the right

There were several different variations of the Contessa. The early versions from 1950-1953 were fitted with a Compur Rapid shutter. The 2nd version is the Synchro Compur one which is illustrated here. This was apparently in production from 1953 to 1955. Zeiss then relaunched the camera in 1961. This had a 50mm Tessar in a ridged mount and a cheaper Pronto shutter.

The apparent gap in the Contessa range can be explained by the fact the name was only used for top end rangefinder compacts. Zeiss also made a very similar but cheaper range bearing the name Contina.



Lens Type

4 element (coated) Tessar

Focal Length


Maximum Aperture


Film Type

35mm standard cassette

Picture Size



9 speed Synchro Compur + B

Flash Sync

X and M






Special note must also be made of the fitted ERC. This has a through winding knob which engages with lugs on the actual winding knob so the camera could still be wound when inside the case.The case also has neat side clips which engage with the camera strap lugs to keep it secure. Having said that - the camera, being a folding one is still not particulary quick to get ready for use


Case clip holding strap lug


Contessa 35 folded


Contessa 35 in ERC

One other notable feature is the pull out stand on the base of the camera. This is designed to allow the camera to sit on a flat surface with its lens/bellows open. The stand can be a bit troublesome as once you’ve pulled it out - it doesn’t just push in again!

Anyway - the trick is to pull it down and to the right (looking from the back of the camera). You should now find that it disengages and can be easily pushed back into the camera. The stand is probably made this way so it doesn’t retract in use under the weight of the camera.

A really good web page covering this model of camera can be found here:

and an online manual can be found at:

It is believed this camera spent much of its life in the USA and special thanks to William L. Muessig and his wife Linda from Washington State for their kind gift to us of it.

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All text and images Copyright © 2000-2011 Roland Givan, unless otherwise stated. All Rights Reserved.

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