Classic Cameras; The Top 20 Cameras Of All-Time Countdown; We Begin Schneider’s List—Do You Agree? Page 2

Conventional features include the shutter, a horizontal-travel cloth focal plane with speeds of 1/25 to 1/500 sec set via a top-mounted, rotating dial, milled wind and rewind knobs, and a removable baseplate. Although rather disparagingly described as an "imitation Leica" in a '35 edition of Asahi Camera, the nicely made, fine-performing Hansa Canon was actually an ingenious combination of (mostly) Leica and Contax features, and while no lenses other than 50mm were ever marketed, it pointed the way toward the highly successful Nikon and Canon 35mm rangefinder systems of the post-World War II era that reached full fruition by the mid-50s. A Hansa Canon in good condition with original lens is not only an historical landmark, but also is rare enough to be considered a museum piece. Prices are $10K and up--much more for a pristine example.

17) Rolleiflex Automat--1937
One of the most beautifully integrated optical-mechanical creations of all-time, the landmark Rolleiflex Automat of 1937 provided the solid foundation upon which all subsequent Rolleiflex 6x6cm (21/4 square) Twin-Lens Reflexes (TLRs) were built. It also had a great influence on TLR design worldwide--the Japanese Yashica-Mat and the current Chinese-made Seagull are unabashed Rollei copies, and numerous major and minor TLRs from Germany, Japan, and the US incorporated at least some Rollei Automat features.

The Automat's impressive feature array includes:
Milled aperture- and shutter-speed-setting wheels nestled in between the lenses that read out conveniently in a little window atop the viewing lens; right-hand film-wind crank with automatic first frame positioning via an ingenious friction roller system built into the camera; waist-level viewfinder with automatic parallax compensation at all distances by means of a moving frame under the focusing screen coupled to the focusing mechanism; and left-hand focusing knob with adjacent depth of field scale. The original Automat is fitted with a Compur-Rapid 1 second to 1/500 sec plus B and T interlens leaf shutter with self-timer, and an uncoated 75mm f/3.5 Carl Zeiss Tessar lens.

Later models feature full-sync Synchro-Compur shutters and coated lenses including the 75mm f/3.5 Zeiss Tessar, 75mm f/3.5 Schneider Xenar, and 75mm f/3.5 and 80mm f/2.8 versions of the Zeiss Planar and Schneider Xenotar. The classic Rolleiflex 2.8 FX (about $3500) and the Rolleiflex 4.0 FW with 50mm f/4 Schneider Super-Angulon lens (about $5500) are still in limited production. An original Rolleiflex Automat in clean working condition is a first-rate collectible and still a reasonable user camera that sells for about $350-$400.

16) Zeiss Contax II--1936
One of the truly great interchangeable lens 35mm rangefinder cameras of the 20th century, the Contax II, made in Germany by Zeiss Ikon, was a vastly improved version of the Contax I of 1932. Its most conspicuous advances were a magnificent long-base, combined range/viewfinder, and a top-mounted, non-rotating shutter-speed dial, located directly under the film-wind knob, which sets the full range of shutter speeds from 1/2 to 1/1250 sec. The shutter release is conveniently and cleverly inset in the center of the wind knob, and there's a conventional mechanical self-timer lever on the front. The Contax I's original internal bayonet mount was retained, allowing full lens interchangeability between models, but outer bayonet lugs were added to provide a more stable platform for heavy telephoto lenses. Other classic Contax holdovers include milled finger-wheel focusing
and the roller-blind, vertical-travel metal focal-plane shutter, and removable back with bottom-mounted twist lock.

Besides being technologically advanced, the Contax II is also an exquisitely made, beautifully styled machine, so it's hardly surprising that Nikon was heavily influenced by the Contax II in designing its prestigious line of interchangeable lens rangefinder 35s (albeit with Leica-type shutters). The Contax II system included a superb line of Zeiss lenses, including the then-super-speed 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar, and numerous specialized accessories such as the Stereotar stereo adapter and reflex housings. A companion model, the Contax III of '36, was basically a Contax II with built-in uncoupled selenium meter added. In '50, updated versions, the Contax IIa and IIIa, were introduced. These excellent cameras, somewhat smaller, lighter, and handier than their forbears, and with reduced finder magnification and simplified shutter-timing mechanisms, were manufactured until '61. For collectible cameras of their era, Contax IIs are fairly plentiful. A clean, functional Contax II or III with original uncoated 50mm f/2 Sonnar lens typically sells for about $350-$450.

The Top 20 Cameras Of All-Time
20) Kodak Instamatic 100 - 1963 10) ?????
19) Reflex-Korelle - 1935 9) ?????
18) Hansa Canon - 1935 8) ?????
17) Rolleiflex Automat - 1936 7) ?????
16) Zeiss Contax II - 1936 6) ?????
15) ????? 5) ?????
14) ????? 4) ?????
13) ????? 3) ?????
12) ????? 2) ?????
11) ????? 1) ?????
Next in the Countdown 15-11
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