• Zeiss Ikon Contarex Bullseye

    Mr. Zeiss told his engineers that he wanted the finest 35mm ever built. The result was the Bullseye which was the finest 35mm of its time (produced through 1959-1966).

    Zeiss Ikon Contarex “Bullseye” camera with it’s original Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 lens.

    This camera is made of machined metal and is solid, and incredibly heavy! It is composed of over 1100 individual parts. It takes mechanical complexity to a whole new level! The Contares Bullseye is probably the the most complicated mechanical camera ever made, it takes something like 42 steps to even remove the top plate. This is repairperson’s hell.

    This camera used a selenium-cell meter with the needle visible both on the camera deck and in the viewfinder. Because of the huge eye for the selenium cell, the camera gained the nickname of Bullseye (US) and Cyclops (UK).

    In Action

    Adjust the knob of the exposure, tuning the desired aperture and CLACK! The Bullseye sets the aperture only when you press the shutter button and the sound is so mechanical. You can almost feel all the parts of this camera aligning together for the shot. Then you manually move the film for the next exposure.

    Original Instruction Booklet

    July 1960 Magazine Advertising on Popular Photography




    3 Responses to Zeiss Ikon Contarex Bullseye

    1. febbraio 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      I started my photography with this camera. I was in my early twenties and was appointed as the official photographer of one of South Africa’s most important museums, to record and photograph items from the collection. I knew nothing about photography; couldn’t even process film properly, but came up with some stunning ideas for photographing ancient clay tablets with incised cuniform script, which was then used by researchers to translate.
      I never did like the beast, but it went with me all over, with its lens kit, and a huge wooden tripod by Linhoff.
      I used to travel by train in those days and had to lug the entire kit myself. People always said that it looked like I was a land surveyor on the move! I photographed many fantastic portraits for friends and family, and did a huge amount of copying of old damaged photographs. My skill in the darkroom grew exponentially, and within months my work was being published in the local papers. Now, so many years later, there are people who still treasure the photographs that I took of them in the 60’s, and when I look at those pictures, I’m astounded at what wonderful lenses I had to work with. It’s a real pity that the Zeiss organization did not survive the advent of new entrants to the market. They made fantastic lenses, the bodies were too heavy, and should never have been considered for manufacture. But, it was great working with the old’ Bullseye’.It would make a great paper weight these days, and still shoot great pics

    2. Leopold Lysloff
      febbraio 28, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      Thank you for sharing nice thoughts of when photography was a craftier achievement than it is today. I have a wonderful “Bullseye” that performs even today as it did way back when. Of course the heart of any camera is the lens. The lenses that were developed for this camera were really special. I believe that Zeiss was out to do cost no object, no holds barred move towards building the ultimate camera.
      There was great competition and Zeiss needed to get back a big chunk of their old customer base. This camera and especially the lenses were build like none before them. I find it difficult to see how much the newer lenses, with all the technical improvements and especially the prices, out perform these Contarex lenses. The 50 the 35 and (also the 21 of Contax fame) the 135 are extremely sharp and accurate. They are also so beautifully built and feel like such precision instruments with the highest tolerances. They are so beautiful in their color renderings and quite frankly stand up very well to the fine Leitz product of today. Of course this is my personal finding and guided by experiences with both lens makers. I encourage the owner of any of these wonderful workhorses of yesterday to use them and enjoy the fine pictures they produce. A good condition Contarex kit can be economically worthwhile compared to several other better kits of more modern times. The bottom line is that with the older cameras you can feel the art of true photography and feel very rewarded from your results.

    3. febbraio 2, 2014 at 2:12 am

      If you know anyone in the UK interested in one of these, we just put one on ebay starting at £100, and in immaculate condition. http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261388127010&ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT