Introduced in 1936, the Zeiss Contax II was a completely different camera from the series of Contax cameras (now collectively referred to as “Contax I”) that had preceded it. It was only four years since the original Contax’s introduction, and only 10 since the formation of Zeiss Ikon itself. The Contax II was the company’s tour de force, offering features that would not appear elsewhere for decades.
The Contax’s shutter also offered unique advantages. Based on the Contax I design, the vertical shutter used only a single pair of ribbons to carry both the opening and the closing curtain, relying on the friction of the ribbons to hold the closing curtain in its proper place during travel.
While this seems odd at first, the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. The primary problem with a typical focal plane shutter is the difficulty of making both curtains travel at exactly the same speed, as even a small difference can cause fading at high shutter speeds. With the Contax system, fading is impossible as there is only a single transport mechanism carrying both curtains.
This unique advantage allowed the Contax shutter to operate at the unheard-of top speed of 1/1250 second with perfect reliability. The shutter design also allowed all speeds to be set on a single dial, this being combined with the film winding knob to create a very streamlined package. And, unlike the Leica, the shutter dial did not rotate during exposure, eliminating the risk of a shot being ruined by a misplaced fingertip.
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