I have obtained a good large stock of new old stock repair parts for all models of the Contaflex SLR and so am able to service these cameras. This stock of parts is the last remaining inventory from the Official Zeiss Ikon Repair Centre in Canada.
I hope to expand this page in the future with pictures and more explanations but for the moment I've had enough experience with these cameras to be able to provide you with the following information and advice about them:
A. Be Prepared to be Surprised and Disappointed:
The Contaflex SLR was a very well made complex camera. It worked reliably and took great sharp pictures because it has a great lens but all good things have to come to an end and the Contaflex SLR is no exception. These are the reasons many of them have simply been used up and worn out. A worn out Contaflex requires a lot of work and time to diagnose. It requires very expensive repair parts to restore it to like new operation. The Contaflex SLR was made out of very high quality materials that hold up well under a lot of use. The result of this is a worn out Contaflex SLR will look great. It is impossible to judge the mechanical and optical condition of a Contaflex SLR from its exterior appearance.
In 1983 the Fuji Camera Co. decided to find out just how long the life of a mechanical shutter is. They built testing machines and ran shutters until they went out of factory tolerance. This took 10,000 exposures. This is only 277 rolls of 36 exposure film. Many Contaflex SLR's have used this amount of film if not more.
I am not able to provide the required amount of time, labor, effort and materials necessary to disassemble, clean, begin to assemble and then diagnose the problems of a Contaflex SLR upon the speculation that the camera owner will, when presented with the estimate of costs for restoration, be happy to pay such a large amount instead of abandoning the camera. My experience with this camera has demonstrated to me that it is necessary to obtain payment in advance sufficient to cover the costs of diagnosis.
It is not possible to diagnose a Contaflex SLR until it has been disassembled and a lot of labor has been expended on it. I'm a small shop and my time is limited. The Contaflex SLR represents a large and significant threat to my ability to stay in business without payment for the disassembly, cleaning and diagnosis phase of the overhaul. The simple fact of life is the Contaflex SLR is a very risky camera for me to handle. I thank you for your understanding.
B. All models of Contaflex SLR cameras have the same two major problems that are labor intensive to correct.
1. The first is that all of the camera mechanisms were lubricated with a grease known today as molybdenum disulfide wheel bearing grease that can be purchased at any automotive repair shop. Back when the Contaflex were being made this was a very high tech grease. This grease releases its oil into the camera and it spreads throughout the camera and into the shutter. This oil ages and becomes thick and sticky and this is the problem. The sticky oil gums up the precision parts in the shutter that must operate freely and slows down the aperture synchronization mechanisms. This makes the camera highly prone to over exposure. In order to restore the camera to its original reliability, accuracy and performance this oil has to be completely cleaned from every single part. This requires complete camera disassembly and this is very labor intensive and time consuming. If any of this oil is left behind anywhere in the camera it will eventually find its way into the shutter and cause problems. There is no short cut. Every part and every surface of the camera must be hand solvent cleaned multiple times to ensure complete removal of all traces of the old sticky oil.
2. When the Contaflex SLR takes a picture a number of things have to happen perfectly. The shutter must close before the mirror swings up. Then the aperture must close before the shutter opens and then the shutter must open and close. There are a large number of very precise complex parts provided to accomplish all of this complex synchronization. They are all made of copper and brass. Over time copper and brass will corrode and the surfaces of these precision parts become rough and do not operate smoothly against each other. This causes a lack of synchronization resulting in over exposures. The only remedy is to ultrasonically clean all of these parts to completely remove the thin oxide film. This work requires complete disassembly of the shutter and its holder. This work is time consuming and labor intensive.
C. Many Contaflex SLR cameras suffer from simple wear out or damage from bad maintenance:
1. One of the main problems with the Contaflex SLR we are faced with today is that Zeiss used a super reliable Compur shutter in it and because of this the camera worked well and took great pictures for a long time. This leads to simple camera wear out. Back in 1983 the Fuji company decided to find out exactly how many exposures a mechanical shutter had in it before it was worn out. They designed some testing machines, put some shutters on them, and operated them to wear out. The result of this testing is the average mechanical shutter has about 10,000 exposures in it before it is simply worn out.
When it was new the Contaflex SLR was so well made and was so good a picture taker that many of them are simply worn out. With these cameras the only way to restore them is to replace the worn out shutter with a new one. It is also necessary, in some cases, to replace the aperture synchronization parts also. This is very expensive.
2. Many, but not all, Contaflexes suffer from bad maintenance damage and fatigue. This is caused by desperate workers trying to find a fix for the problem that the aperture does not close completely before the shutter opens when the camera is set at a high shutter speed and a small aperture. This causes over exposures. The problem is there never was an easy or mechanical solution for this problem. It can only be solved by removal of the old sticky oil and by ultrasonic cleaning of the aperture synchronization parts. But these were never done. The result is Contaflex SLR shutters that were worked on over and over again by workers desperate to figure out a way to fix the camera good enough so that it would not be returned to them. This leads to damage.
It would take about 15 years for a Contaflex SLR to start showing over exposure problems due to oil migration and ageing. These problems would have been far easier to see earlier if the camera owner used the old technology transparency film. It would have taken longer with a film having a wider exposure latitude like black and white film. But by 20 years of age the camera would be showing definite over exposure problems under all circumstances.
A fatal flaw in the Contaflex that has lead to maintenance damage and fatigue is that the shutter can be removed from the camera body by loosening only three screws. It's just too quick and easy to remove the shutter from the camera and to reinstall it. This invites unqualified, hasty and angry work and resulting shutter damage. Many Contaflex SLR cameras have shutters that have been damaged beyond repair or that will require expensive parts to properly restore. The problem is it is usually not possible to diagnose such a shutter until a lot of work has been invested in it. This is because it is not possible to know the true condition of the shutter until after it has been disassembled, cleaned, lubricated and assembled. It is only then, after a lot of work, the shutter will display its problems.
3. There is such a thing as "maintenance fatigue". When a high precision complex equipment is disassembled and reassembled many times the parts wear merely due to being taken apart and being put back together. The result is the mechanism becomes looser and less precise in its operation. There's no repair for this because the equipment is simply worn out. The higher the degree of precision of the equipment the more susceptible it is to maintenance fatigue.
4. You may believe your camera is in good Condition because you have been the victim of a big lie: The camera could have been severely damaged at a Repair Center in the past by a camera butcher who told you the camera was in great shape. I recently received a Contaflex SLR where the owner was under the belief it was in perfect condition. When it was taken apart it was obvious a lot of damage had been done by the worst possible bad work. The center lens was broken in two places and was unusable and the shutter had been damaged beyond repair. When the camera owner was presented with the huge repair estimate he told me the people at the Repair center had told him everything was fine with the camera. It is very important for you to understand that if your camera has been serviced in the past, and most Contaflex SLR's have been serviced at least once, you have absolutely no idea of what the actual condition of the camera is when you send it here. All of its secrets will be revealed when it is taken apart here. Then you will know its true condition.
D. Some Contaflex are Franken-Contaflexes
I recently had the pleasure of spending some time on a Contaflex Super B. Not having too much experience with this particular model of camera it became a painful and expensive "learning experience". It soon became obvious that the camera had been largely made out of defective parts. This kind of camera was manufactured at repair centers after Zeiss abandoned the camera business and privatized their Official Repair Centers. In order to make enough money to stay in business these centers had to manufacture cameras for sale and they were made out of new repair parts. But when the stock of new parts was used up parts from the repair salvage bin were used. The result is a Franken-Contaflex that is basically impossible to restore to complete normal operation. These cameras will always have small lingering issues that cannot be corrected.
It is unfortunate that a Franken-Contaflex cannot be identified by sight. It has to be disassembled and then put back together for it to be able to demonstrate all of its problems. This is because the old sticky oil will bind up the camera so that it cannot be diagnosed until it is clean.
A. Camera Appraisal for Reparability and to provide a restoration Estimate to the camera owner: $249.00
This fee is to be paid in advance prior to any work being done on the camera. This fee is to cover necessary camera disassembly, cleaning and lubrication sufficient to determine its true complete mechanical condition. It does not cover any repairs or parts. When the appraisal is complete the camera owner will be provided with a report of the camera's condition and an estimate of the costs for any additional parts or repair work that may be necessary. If the additional work and/or parts are not authorized the camera will be returned to the owner in the condition it is in at the end of the appraisal. If the camera owner does not authorize the additional work and/or parts and wants the camera returned assembled there will be an additional $100.00 charge for camera assembly although the camera will be non-operable and for display only..
B. Normal Complete Camera Overhaul: $399.00 to $599.00 depending upon the Contaflex model.. Paid after work on the camera is complete and it is ready to ship. Credit for the $249.00 appraisal fee will be applied to this amount. A normal complete camera overhaul will be performed on a camera that is determined to require no repairs and/or repair parts during the appraisal.
The general rule of overhaul cost is the simpler the camera the lower the overhaul cost.
Any necessary parts will be provided at additional cost.
A normal complete overhaul does not include a replacement photocell or any parts for the light meter.