Zeiss Ikon Contessa[]

Contessa was the name given to a family of cameras produced by Zeiss Ikon in Stuttgart between 1950-1955 and 1960-1971. These were mid to high-end rangefinder/viewfinder cameras.

These camera was designed by Hubert Nerwin, as part of the effort to rebuild the Zeiss Ikon name after WWII. The early folding rangefinder variants were like derived from the Super Ikonta's conception since they had that characteristic extra lens for the coupled rangefinder. The original name for the folding Contessa's camera design was Ikonta 35.

Folding Contessa[]

Produced between 1950-1955 it was a high end 35mm folding camera with catalog number 533/24. Zeiss Ikon took all detail into account for design and built, highly over-engineered by today's standard, the feel of them is different. It is not only the outside appearance, with lots of chrome used, a small screw that keeps the camera levelled when placed on a table, and a solid feel, but also the balance of the camera in the hands. The Contessas were fitted with the 45mm/2.8 Tessar lens, which is a great performer even by today's standards. Some had the coated Opton and T* lenses. Lightmeter is an uncoupled selenium meter, that covered a wide range of EVs.

The first Folding Contessa was produced between 1950-53 and had a Compur Rapid shutter and the second version 1953-55 a Synchro-Compur (1-500+B)

Folding Contessa cameras
Zeiss Nbr Model Years Lens Shutter Notes
533/24 35 1950-1953 f2.8 45mm Tessar Compur Rapid X synch, folding
533/24 35 1953-1955 f2.8 45mm Tessar Synchro Compur MX synch, folding

(See also Zeiss Ikon Contessa 35 (folding))

The non-folding Contessas[]

Between 1960-1970 the name was used again for a family of non-folding cameras that included Contessa, Contessamatic and Contessamat. Initially the same name and catalog number was used, but later it was changed to a new catalog number The letter E (entfernungsmesser) was added to the name of the cameras to indicate the presence of a rangefinder.

In the mid-60s the Contessamat line came in production, these cameras had a speed priority system that allowed for an AUTO operation. The lens was a Color-Pantar 45/2.8 or a Tessar 50/2.8

List of Non-Folding Contessa cameras
Zeiss Nbr Model Years Lens Shutter Notes
533/24 non-folding compact 1960-1961 f2.8 50mm Tessar Prontor range finder
10.0637 LK 1963-1965 f2.8 50mm Tessar Prontor 500 LK view finder
10.0638 LKE 1963-1965 f2.8 50mm Tessar Prontor 500 LK similar to LK but with range finder
10.0639 LBE 1965-1967 f2.8 50mm Tessar Prontor 500 LK range finder
Contessamatic 1960-1961 f2.8 50mm Tessar Prontor SLK viewfinder
10.0645 Contessamatic E 1960-1963 f2.8 50mm Tessar Pr SLK Spezial range finder
Contessamat 1964-1965 f2.8 45mm Color Pantar Prontormatic viewfinder
10.0652 Contessamat SBE 1963-1967 f2.8 50mm Tessar P-matic 500SL rangefinder
10.0654 Contessamat SE 1963-1965 f2.8 45mm Color Pantar Prontormatic 500 rangefinder
Contessamat STE 1965 f2.8 50mm Tessar Prontormatic 500SL rangefinder
10.0351 S-310 1971 f2.8 40mm Tessar Prontor 500 S viewfinder
10.0354 S-312 1971 f2.8 40mm Tessar Prontor 500 S similar to S-310 but with range finder

At the end of the life of the West German Zeiss Ikon company, two very innovative cameras branding he name Contessa came to life, S310 and S312. These cameras were developed by Voigtländer and after the merger of the two companies came to the market under the Contessa S-31x and the Voigtländer VF 101 name simultaneously. Auto exposure control made them ideal for the new point-and-shoot market in the 1970s.