Zeiss Ikon Contina I 35mm folding camera.

The Zeiss Ikon Contina is a 35mm camera with a set of bellows which allows the lens to be collapsed into the body of the camera making a slimmer, more compact camera. This style of design was popular in the mid 1950s when this camera was made.


These pictures can be viewed full size here.

My Camera

This camera was one I bought just because it came up on one of my regular trawls through ebay looking for cheap, old cameras. Since it’s a good make and was fairly cheap I put in a bid and bought it for a few pounds. It is the second Contina I’ve bought, although this model is earlier than the other camera I own.

When the camera turned up it was in pretty good condition for its age with just a bit of fading of the word ‘CONTINA’ on the lens cover and a bit of paint loss on the back panel. I initially thought that the shutter was faulty, but a bit of experimentation led me to discover that the camera needs film loaded in order to correctly set up the shutter release to trip the shutter.

Zeiss Ikon Contina I description

A look on the Camerapedia page for the Contina tells me that the model I have is a Contina I which was made between 1951 and 1955. Inscribed on the back of the camera is ‘Made in Germany’ and ‘Stuttgart’ so there is no doubt as to the country of origin!

It’s a fairly unremarkable, viewfinder camera although the build quality is as good as you would expect from a name like Zeiss Ikon.

The film advance and rewind are fitted to the bottom of the camera rather than the top which is a bit unusual although not unique. On the top of the camera is a film type reminder which has three settings for black & white, colour negative and colour slide film. With the lens cover closed, the unit is particularly neat and small – easily able to fit into a pocket for carrying around.

The shutter is a Pronto model offering 4 speeds of 1/200sec, 1/100sec, 1/50sec and 1/25sec + bulb and is flash synchronized with a socket mounted on the shutter. The aperture is adjustable from f/3.5 to f/22 and consists of many blades – I couldn’t actually count them looking through the back of the camera but I would say at least 11.

The shutter needs to be manually cocked with a small lever on the front of the lens in order to take a picture. As I alluded to above, the shutter release is primed to fire the lens by the film sprocket holes moving a pair of toothed cogs in the camera and my thoughts were that if you hadn’t cocked the shutter but pressed the shutter release you would miss a picture. This turns out to not be the case; the mechanics are clever enough to know that if the shutter hasn’t been cocked the shutter release is locked.

The focus is completely manual as it was with nearly all the Contina models (the exception being the Contina II which had a rangefinder). I know (because my Father had one) many people used a rangefinder accessory which plugged into the socket on the top of the camera to read the distance which was then transferred to the focus ring on the camera.

There is also no form of lightmeter on the Contina I – again later cameras in the series had an in-built lightmeter.

Zeiss Ikon Contina I specifications

  • Zeiss Ikon Contina I 35mm viewfinder folding camera
  • Pronto shutter with speeds of 1/200, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25 & bulb
  • Novar lens f/3.5 to f/22
  • Self-timer approx 10-12 sec
  • Flash sync socket on shutter
  • Shutter release coupled to film advance and shutter cocking
  • Frame counter in base of camera
  • Tripod bush in lens cover
  • Accessory socket on top of camera
  • Film Type reminder

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