Tag Archives: downtown

It’s a TMAX Party – Part II

The April TMax party happened to fall right into the perfect schedule with the Spring 2017 Toronto Film Shooters Meetup falling right into the shoot week! After careful consideration and having moved many of my cameras over the condo where I’ll be living before the month is up (actually next week once Heather and I get back from the honeymoon). I settled on my trusty Hasselblad 500c; it has been seeing a little less use this year after getting a lot of love with the 52:500c project.

TFSM - Spring '17
Downtown Camera where the meet started and the best spot in downtown Toronto to pickup anything film releated!

TFSM - Spring '17
A slightly sad wall, needs something more than just grey and white paint.

All through downtown Toronto, we went, taking in the various sites and sounds of the city’s core with a solid group of photographers from the little group I gathered together. This meet was the brainchild of James McFarlane. A long-time friend and the man who is going to be the photographer at the wedding in a couple of days!

TFSM - Spring '17
The man himself!

TFSM - Spring '17
St. Lawrence Hall from the park. Back in 2016 I tried to get a night shot from this angle, but failed.

Despite being a day of mixed lighting conditions with the bright cloud cover, it was great to get out with a 400-speed film so that no matter what happened I could shoot handheld which is important on a photo walk. Tracing along Queen Street and into St. James Park there were plenty of things to shoot, and because I wasn’t leading the walk, I could settle back and enjoy just shooting. And for a TFS meetup, it’s an oddity.

TFSM - Spring '17
One of the side doors of the St. James Cathedral. I would have gone inside but I wasn’t equipped for indoor shooting on the day

TFSM - Spring '17
But there’s still lots of shoot on the outside of St. James

As always big thank you to Emulsive for organizing this little party (and I look forward to the next film party, maybe a Tri-X Shindig?) and to Downtown Camera for being a big supporter of the TFS group!

Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Kodak TMax 400 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 5:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 59 – Canon FTb

While I have shot only a handful of Canon products during my reviews, they’ve all given positive results in my books. The Canon FTb is not bucking this trend as a solid match needle, mechanical SLR it is certainly a top pick for me as a student camera. Simple in its operation, and yet provides a good solid introduction to 35mm film photography. Special thanks to Bill Smith for loaning out this black beauty!

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

The Dirt

  • Make: Canon
  • Model: FTb
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36×24
  • Len: Interchangeable, Canon FD Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1971

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

The Good
The number one thing I love about this camera is the Quick Load function. Often with older cameras it takes a bit of fiddling to get the film loaded up, some cameras are easier than others, and then there’s the Canon Quick Load. It seriously makes it easy like my Nikon F5, lay down the film, close the door, advance fire, advance, fire and you’re ready to rock and roll. Everything else is fairly well laid out and in a normal place. A power switch to save on battery power, a short throw on the film advance and a pleasing weight in hand. And finally, it’s a match needle metering system very similar to my first SLR, the Minolta SRT-102, put the hole over the needle, nice and easy!

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

The Bad
By this point, reader, you will probably realize that there are some cameras that I try hard to find a fault in, and I normally will go for something petty, well the FTb is one such camera. And that fault is, of course, the battery. The camera does need a mercury cell to work, a power source that isn’t exactly easy to find these days. Now there are some alternatives such as an adapter to step down the power out of a current battery or an air-zinc battery. Then again as the FTb is a mechanical camera all the battery powers is the internal meter, so it isn’t that big of a deal.

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

The Lowdown
If you don’t want to spend a fortune to get a solid learner camera, then the FTb is certainly for you. With or without a working meter you get the most bang for your buck, and both the camera bodies and lenses are plentiful online and in reputable used camera shops. If I didn’t already have an extensive selection of Nikon cameras and lenses, an FTb would certainly be a welcome addition to my camera bag. So if you don’t like the idea of grabbing a cliche K1000 or FM, then give the FTb another look, it won’t let you down.

All Photos Taken in Guelph, Ontario
Canon FTb – Canon Lens FD 50mm 1:1.8 – ORWO UN54 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. A 7:30 @ 20C

A Cold Day on James Street

For the past several years I’ve been working on a series of photo projects that usually resulted in me going out to shoot on a regular basis but for project reasons. But this year, despite still going out and shooting film for camera reviews I’ve started just taking cameras out for the pure reason of going out to shoot for my enjoyment.

LUiNA Station

A Fountain

And while I had brought a camera to review with me, and my 4×5 along for this month’s TMAX Party I did get out and do some shooting for just me. Having shot the Hasselblad once a week every week last year I’ve been letting it sit for a bit on my shelves while I played with other cameras through the first couple months. But I thought it would survive a rather cold Saturday morning in Hamilton while Heather was at a baby shower for my future sister-in-law.

Pig in the Window

Rusted Out

So while Heather was up on the mountain, I took a wander along James Street. While there is always much to see in downtown Hamilton I, usually stick to the same box and area. So this time I wandered a bit further afield along James Street towards the waterfront. While there were many familiar sites once I got past the Christ Cathedral, they were no longer too familiar, and I finally got to see the beautiful LUiNA Station. A former train station turned event venue.

Little India

Opposing Doors

The weather it turned out was a little colder than I expected and by the time I got back to my car I was pretty uncomfortable, and so was my 4×5 that had been sitting inside the car so the other four sheets of film would have to wait for warmer weather. But I was happy with the results I got from the Hasselblad.


Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Distagon 50mm 1:4 – Fomapan 100 @ ASA-100
Blazinal (1+50) 9:00 @ 20C
Meter: Gossen Lunasix F
Scanner: Epson V700
Editor: Adobe Photoshop CC (2017)

CCR Review 58 – Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

At the very beginning of these review blogs I had laid out some rules, and now I’m going to break one of them and review a large format, sheet film camera. The Crown Graphic is my 4×5 camera of choice these days; it’s reliable camera that can take a hit and keep on taking photos. I mean that is what it’s designed to do, it’s a press camera. And when it comes to large format, I’m glad that my first experiences with the format were on a press camera rather than a field or monorail because I don’t think I would have taken to the format in the same way.

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

The Dirt

  • Make: Graflex
  • Model: Pacemaker Crown Graphic
  • Type: Press Camera, View/Rangefinder
  • Format: Multiple, Graflok Back (Roll film, or Sheet Film)
  • Len: Interchangeable, Crown Graphic Lens Boards
  • Year of Manufacture: 1955-1973 (This Model, 1968)

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

The Good
The number one thing I love about the Crown Graphic is that it’s versatile with a single camera I have both a handheld rangefinder based camera that I can just point, focus and shoot, at least when I’m using the Xenar 135mm lens, as I’ve calibrated the rangefinder for the lens. I much prefer to shoot the camera like a field camera, on a tripod, composing and focusing using the ground glass on the back. Using the glass gives me full creative control and use of some fantastic lenses, like the Symmar-S 210mm (which is the lens I use the most). Plus that’s the power of large format, your Crown will be able to use most lenses out there, and all the film holders and the Graflok back means you can attach all sorts of accessories such as roll film magazines and Polaroid Type 100 film holders. And finally, this camera has a nice fast setup, pop the front cover, drop the bed pull out the bellows. And if you’re using ‘pancake’ style lenses, you can keep the lens on the camera when you close the door.

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

The Bad
Like any large format camera, the biggest detractor to them is the size and the amount of stuff you need to bring to use the camera well. Tripod, multiple film holders, meter, and the lenses all mounted on their boards. It adds up after a while. But for me, it’s worth the effort. Another issue that only large format shooters will note with a press camera is the lack of movements, while the Crown Graphic gives more than the Speed Graphic, you are still only limited to movements on your front standard, and even then you’re relatively limited. But again this was a camera not designed for shooting that requires much in the way of movements. And finally there is starting to be a lack of spare parts for these cameras, so getting bits and pieces replaced or repaired is starting to become a problem, either you can grab ones that are already broken for spare parts or pray that you know someone who can machine the appropriate piece. Thankfully their rugged build means they are designed to last.

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

The Lowdown
If you’re like me and shoot on a mobile basis, then the press camera is certainly the best option, and often a Crown Graphic kit can be had for an inexpensive out of pocket cost. Being highly adaptable to multiple shooting situations and with a quick setup and tear down it’s a great camera for learning on. Of course, if you’re a technical shooter who needs movements then I would avoid press cameras altogether and go for something a little more expensive. Intrepid, Shen-Hao, Takahara, Linhoff, and Sinar are all excellent options. But for me, I’m sticking to the Crown.

All Photos Taken in Georgetown, Ontario
Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic – Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:4,7/135 – Kodak Tri-X Pan @ ASA-200
Pyrocat-HD (1+1+100) 10:00 @ 20C

SPUR of the Moment

There are plenty of developers out there that I have yet to try, some because they just aren’t made anymore and others because I just cannot get them in Canada. Plus I can be a creature of habit and stick to what I know and can get the results I want. So when a fellow photographer and CCR co-host Mike Bitaxi, started talking about this new developer he was working with my interest oddly enough grabbed especially after seeing the results.

TFSM - Winter '17

TFSM - Winter '17

The developer in question is SPUR HRX. SPUR, or Speed Photography, Ultra Resolution, is a company out of Germany that I had never heard of before. HRX, despite the name, is the latest developer in the HRX line, the predecessor being HRX-3, and is designed to deliver fine grain and sharpness. To me, that sounds a lot like Pyro based developers like my favorite Pyrocat-HD.

TFSM - Winter '17

TFSM - Winter '17

There is one catch to this developer, it comes in two parts, but you don’t mix it like you would Pyrocat HD because unlike Pyro developers there is just a single dilution ratio for developing. That’s right; you have to do a lot more math with it. But let’s break it down using a natural dilution. For Ilford FP4+ at ASA/ISO-100, you use a 1:20 dilution, so when using 500mL of developer you need 24mL of developer and 476mL of water. Taking that 24mL of developer and divide in half so 12mL of Part A and 12mL of Part B. It’s when you start getting into prime numbers like 1:17 that you’re going to run into trouble. But a plastic syringe with .5mL markings will make your life easier.

TFSM - Winter '17

TFSM - Winter '17

What you get from the developer is a classic black and white image, good blacks and whites and beautiful wide mid-tones. While the pictures are sharp, the grain is nicely reduced making the film easily scannable. Now I used a film that already has a pleasing grain structure and is relatively fine-grained by its nature. Does the developer behave like Pyro? I’m not sure of that yet; I have several boxes of 4×5 film to pit head-to-head using HRX and Pyrocat-HD for a later post. But for now, I’m enjoying HRX. If you want to give the developer a try, you can pick it up from either Argentix.ca (not at the moment) or Freestyle Photographic!

All Photos Taken in Toronto, Ontario Canada
Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa – Zeiss Opton Sonnar 1:1,5 f=50mm – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Spur HRX (1+20) 9:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 50 – Olympus OM-1

When it comes to the 1970s, the market was flooded with some very similar, yet different 35mm SLRs. The decade saw the rise of names like Minolta, Olympus, and Pentax to counter the big two of Canon and Nikon. The second review I wrote for this series was on the Pentax K1000, a fantastic camera, but now let me introduce to you to the OM-1. The camera that the K1000 should have been (sort of).

CCR Review 50 - Olympus OM-1

The Dirt
Make: Olympus
Model: OM-1
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 135, 35×24
Lens: Interchangeable, OM Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1972

CCR Review 50 - Olympus OM-1

CCR Review 50 - Olympus OM-1

The Good
I like the OM-1, I do. It’s a solid camera that’s great in the hands; lightweight yet has heft. Easy to carry, and even easier to use. I keep on saying you can’t beat a match-needle camera for learning photography on, and the OM-1 certainly doesn’t get the same level of praise as the school favourite K1000. And in many ways, the OM-1 is a slightly better camera for the student. The number one reason is that they are pretty cheap, you can pick up an OM-1 with a 50mm lens for under 100$. The camera is entirely mechanical, the battery only operates the meter, and the camera has a dedicated on/off switch, so you don’t need to fumble around for a lens cap like you do with the K1000. In general, the camera is well laid out with all the controls right there on the lens. Now if you’re unfamiliar with lens mounted controls, this might take a bit to get used to, I know I struggled with it on the Nikkormat FT3, but having experienced it there made going to the OM-1 easier.

CCR Review 50 - Olympus OM-1

CCR Review 50 - Olympus OM-1

The Bad
I feel I’m a broken record on this subject but the issue first and foremost is that the camera needs a mercury cell to operate. These can be hard to acquire, but they do last. Now you can use a 1.5v alkaline battery and in some cases it may work but in the case of the OM-1 I would not recommend it, the first roll I shot the metering was way off! The next trouble I have with the camera is the lack of an integral hot shoe. That’s right; there’s no built-in hot shoe but a separate accessory that you attach to the top of the prism to include that. Now the camera does have a PC socket so you can use a bracket to mount your flash. It’s almost as if Olympus had taken their idea right from Nikon. At least with Olympus, the hot shoe was a standard one, unlike Nikon where you had the weird over the film rewind mount.

CCR Review 50 - Olympus OM-1

CCR Review 50 - Olympus OM-1

The Lowdown
As I said in my introduction, the OM-1 is the camera the K1000 could have been. And sadly it’s lived in the shadow of that iconic student camera. The ultimate student camera would take the general size of the K1000, include lens mounted controls, an on/off switch, a hot shoe, and match needle metering. In all seriousness, the OM-1 is a fantastic camera with which you can easily learn photography that won’t break the bank or your back.

All Photos Taken in Hamilton, Ontario
Olympus OM-1 – Olympus F.Zuiko 1:1.8 f=50mm – ORWO UN54+ @ ASA-100 – HC-110 Dil. A 7:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 42 – Zeiss-Ikon Super-Ikonta 531/2

Indiana Jones, style, class and a taste for adventure. The 1930s were a great time save the crippling economic depression and Nazis but who needs to worry about those when you have a slick looking camera that can turn heads and take find photos as well? Two things that make the folding style of camera special. The first is that they don’t take up a lot of space, second, they look fantastic! And while I don’t use this style camera much, in fact, I don’t even own one; the Super-Ikonta is a beautiful camera and fun to operate. Special thanks to James Lee for loaning this camera out for this review!

CCR Review 42 - Zeiss Ikon Super-Ikonta 53 1/2

The Dirt
Make: Zeiss-Ikon
Model: Super-Ikonta 531/2
Type: Rangefinder
Format: Medium Format (120), 6×9
Lens: Fixed, Novar-Anastigmat 1:3,5 f=10,5cm
Year of Manufacture: 1938

CCR Review 42 - Zeiss Ikon Super-Ikonta 53 1/2

The Good
I like this camera, it’s fun to use and looks fantastic! Plus the images it produces are wonderful, aside from a bit of camera shake, the image’s optical quality is spot on. Plus who can complain when you have a nice big 6×9 negative. But one of the best parts of this size, despite producing such a large negative the camera itself, when folded, is actually fairly compact. It doesn’t take up a lot of space in your kit when it is folded up. The final key to this camera being far better than many other folders out there is right in the name, ‘super.’ Most German cameras in the era would add the “Super” in front of the name to indicate that the camera is a rangefinder. That’s right, this camera from the thirties has a complete coupled rangefinder that when you’re composing the shot makes it really handy to ensure you’re in focus. And speaking of compostion, the viewfinder on this camera, while it lacks any sort of optical qualities other than two metal frames you look through, it actually pretty easy to use and you get minimal error due to offset from the viewfinder to the lens which is a big deal!

CCR Review 42 - Zeiss Ikon Super-Ikonta 53 1/2

The Bad
Now despite actually being an excellent camera, there are some issues that I have with it. And those issues are mostly around usability. The Super Ikonta is not the fastest or simplest camera to operate. While the rangefinder is handy, the focusing window is pretty small, and unless you have superb contrast in the scene the image overlay is pretty dim, that could be due to the age of course. And don’t expect to be rapid firing this beast, not that you should, with 6×9. You’re looking at a three step process, advance the film first to disengage the double-exposure prevention lock, then advance to the next frame then cock the shutter. Trust me; I forgot this at least fifty percent of the time. Of course being a first time user it may just be due to not having the practice for the camera.

CCR Review 42 - Zeiss Ikon Super-Ikonta 53 1/2

The Lowdown
If you want more shots for your roll, this certainly is not your camera, but if you’re looking for quality over quantity than this is certainly a camera for you. But if you are looking for such a camera you have to watch out for a few things. The first being these are for the most part all timeworn cameras. The first thing to check for is the bellows, make sure they’re still light-tight. Use a flashlight inspection both on the inside and outside of the bellows will do the trick. Then check the shutter and make sure it’s working well and consistently. You may notice that there were several images included here that had a lot of camera shake, I think the shutter on this one is off slightly.

All photos taken in Marquette, MI
Zeiss-Ikon Super-Ikonta C 531/2 – Novar-Anastigmat 1:3,5 f=10,5cm – Kodak Technical Pan @ ASA-25 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. F 12:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 41 – Nikon F90

True to form, while the professionals were shooting the F4, many of those advanced semi-pro photographers were clamoring for something a little better than the entry level auto-focus SLRs. Nikon gave them the F90, in a system that Nikon keeps pretty much to this day. And what a camera the F90 turned out to be! This is a fast, accurate, and surprisingly quiet semi-professional camera that doesn’t feel like a cheap system despite the price they command on the used market (You can get a decent body for under 50$!). But don’t let the price scare you because you’re getting a whole lotta camera without dinging your wallet too much!

CCR Review 41 - Nikon F90

The Dirt
Make: Nikon
Model: F90
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, Nikon F-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1992-2001

CCR Review 41 - Nikon F90

CCR Review 41 - Nikon F90

The Good
This is one of those cameras that you really can’t say anything bad about it, or you want to wax poetic about it, so I’ll try and restrain myself. First off this camera is comfortable to handle and light weight without feeling overly cheap and plasticky either. It also packs the same matrix metering system that the Nikon F4 has inside it, which is one of my favourite meters next to the one in the F5. Next off the camera works great with both auto and manual focus lenses and AF is certainly a step up from the system in the F4 and is quick on the older D-Type lenses and the focus assist is nice and easy on manual focus lenses. As for ease of use, this is probably one of the easiest menu based cameras to operate because everything is laid out pretty clearly on the camera body and with a nice command dial even working in manual mode is nice because the aperture control is on the lens!

CCR Review 41 - Nikon F90

CCR Review 41 - Nikon F90

The Bad
While not really a bad thing over all, this camera doesn’t support the modern Nikon G-Type autofocus lenses completely. They will attach and auto focus but you can only run the camera in full program and shutter priority mode. While not a total loss, it does limit you in what you can do. And as someone who shoots mainly in aperture priority or manual, it means I can’t use my lovely 14-24mm f/2.8G lens completely with this camera. Another issue is that the F90 cannot support the vertical release that is found on the optional battery grip only the F90x/N90s can. But overall neither of these are real deal breakers on the camera, only minor annoyances.

CCR Review 41 - Nikon F90

CCR Review 41 - Nikon F90

The Lowdown
It isn’t like I need another strong autofocus Nikon SLR, I have the F5 and it is a nice piece of equipment, but it’s heavy. The F90 is the best of both worlds, it gives me a fast, accurate camera in a light weight package. Since I do most of my street shooting with the 105mm and an autofocus SLR the F90 gives me a smaller lighter camera to work with. Plus at the price point you can get these cameras at you can afford to have one in your collection! And if you already have the lenses you’re in luck!

All photos taken in Chicago, Illinois
Nikon F90 – AF Nikkor 35mm 1:2D – Rollei Retro 80s @ ASA-80 – Blazinal (1+25) 6:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 39 – Ricoh XR7

When Pentax developed their K-Mount, they decided that this, like the M42 they had used before would become the standard for bayonet mount SLRs. And while the K-Mount remains to this day pretty much untouched it did not become the standard with Nikon and Canon developing their own lens mounts. However this didn’t stop other companies from latching onto the K-Mount band wagon and several clones soon popped up. One such camera was the XR7 by Ricoh (oddly enough it was Ricoh that ended up buying up Pentax). And what a camera the XR7 is, this is a small light weight semi-automatic SLR that can use pretty much any K-Mount lens out there, but even the Ricoh lenses stand up to anything from the big P. Special thanks to Andrew Hiltz for loaning this camera for review.

CCR Review 40 - Ricoh XR7

The Dirt
Make: Ricoh
Model: XR7
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, Pentax K-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1982

CCR Review 39 - Ricoh XR7

CCR Review 39 - Ricoh XR7

The Good
As I kept saying as we walked through the High Falls area of Rochester New York this is a satisfying camera to use. And I would take it over any semi-automatic Pentax offering out there, hell if I didn’t have a family connection to my K1000 I would trade it for an XR7 and keep my Pentax lenses. Yes it is that good of a camera. First off the size and weight, you hardly feel this camera if it’s in your bag or in your hand it’s so compact and light weight you can easily take it on long walks shooting roll after roll without breaking a sweat. All the controls are well placed and even the film advance throw is beautifully short and can easily rapid fire without a motor drive. The view finder while a bit dimmer than others I’ve used has a diagonal split focus finder which means that you can easily get your focus nailed in both portrait or landscape without having to find a line that is better oriented to get that split screen focus locked in. And finally there’s the shutter and mirror sound, it’s a lot louder and more satisfying than you’d expect from this all plastic camera.

CCR Review 39 - Ricoh XR7

CCR Review 39 - Ricoh XR7

The Bad
No camera is perfect and while the XR7 comes pretty close there are a few things that I do take issue with. While some may light the shutter speed indicator I personally found the jumping needle distracting and often would find it hard to see if it was pointing at 1/30 or 1/60 while not that big a deal when I’m trying to compose a shot I would find my eye jumping to that. And secondly is that the body is plastic, while I’m not picky on my cameras and I do like the weight of the camera it does feel a bit like a toy at times not that it’s a bad thing in particular it just sometimes you want something a little more solid in your hands.

CCR Review 39 - Ricoh XR7

CCR Review 39 - Ricoh XR7

The Lowdown
Put a metal body on this camera and have a nice motor drive on it and honestly you’d have a serious contender for a professional camera for the early 1980s, which all the features a pro would ask for and a huge range of solid lenses behind it with the Pentax and Ricoh systems it really could have gone far. But if you’re looking for a solid budget starter camera and want some level of automation then keep an eye out for the XR7. Just don’t go driving up the price on them in the used market or Andrew would be very cross with me.

All photos taken in the High Falls Historic District, Rochester, New York, USA
Ricoh XR7 – Rikenon 1:1.7 50mm – Rollei Retro 80s – Blazinal (1+25) 8:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 35 – Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

There have been many photographers of fame that have inspired me, people like Ansel Adams to really pay attention to the details, be precise and to think first then take the photo. Stanley Kubrick for his composition and then there’s Robert Capa. Capa was the delfacto combat photographer of World War 2 in Fortress Europe, and after reading his WW2 book, Slightly Out of Focus I wanted to put together a historic impression of a WW2 combat photographer. And while many cameras of the era are in the realm of the collector and in poor functionality I wanted to go with something newer or similar. Capa had three cameras with him during the war a Rolleiflex (I got one a 1969 Rolleiflex 2.8F so check) and a pair of Contax II rangefinders. So when I was offered the chance to buy a really nice Contax IIIa kit, I jumped at the chance. This camera just clicked (sorry) for me, it’s easy to use, heavy in the hand and is a nice easy no-nonsense mechanical rangefinder that also takes amazing photos. I will be getting along rather well with this beauty!

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Dirt
Make: Zeiss Ikon
Model: Contax IIIa
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, Contax RF Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1951-1962, This model was produced in late 1953

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Good
This is probably one of the best 1950s rangefinders that I’ve had the pleasure of using, it’s built like a tank and fits nicely in my hands without being bulky. There’s two focus options a dial up on the body or the lens itself, the actual focus helical is mounted on the camera body. So most of the shorter lenses are just that, the aperature and the optics (this of course causes issues with adapting the lenses to mirrorless you need an adapter that has the helical built in). The trouble comes when you’re using say a Jupiter-9 which is a dual bayonet mount (pain to mount but worth it). It also is thankfully a single viewfinder with a split image focus indicator. While calibrated for the 50mm length you can mount an auxiliary viewfinder on the cold shoe. And probably the bit about this camera that I like the best is that it is a full removed back for film loading, none of this bottom loading that Leica used (still!). But overall this camera handles like a dream, good weight without being too heavy and plenty of good optics to back it up!

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Bad
Not every camera can be perfect and there are a couple things that aren’t exactly ideal with the IIIa. First off is the lenses, they are hard to come by these days so watch out with your glass. I was lucky and got a kit that came with three lenses (the Sonnar, a Jupiter-8, and a Jupiter-9). But even on the used market KEH/B&H and local shops the RF mount is hard to find. Another thing that isn’t so much a totally bad thing, just an annoyance to me is the infinity lock on the focus, it seems a little un-necessary to me and can ruin a good shot because I locked the focus. And finally there’s the selenium built in meter, this is actually the first camera I own that has a dead meter, at least it’s uncoupled so it doesn’t affect the camera, the read out is on the top of the top of the camera so it makes it a little difficult to meter set and then shoot. But since it’s dead it’s really a non-issue for me.

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Lowdown
Okay so the simple fact is that this camera isn’t really for everyone. But if you’re looking for a good mid-twentieth century rangefinder the Contax or Russian cousin the Kiev-3. They make a great choice if you’re going for a historic impression and want a solid camera that will actually take excellent photos or just as a prop (if you are going for a prop, get a non functioning unit). They make for great conversation pieces and if you use Sunny-16 they are a really fun camera to run and gun with.

All photos taken in Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee, USA
Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa – Zeiss-Opton Sonnar 1:1,5 f=50mm – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-32 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 8:45 @ 20C