1other Contax camera in my collection:


JapanContax 137 MD Quartz [1980 - 1982]



Despite what you may read elsewhere, the Contax 137 MD was not the first camera with an integrated motor drive. The 1964 Zenit 5 was the first with a motorised winder, followed in 1970 by the Minolta SR-M, which was the first SLR capable of continuous shooting, thanks to a rather bulky appendage. The 1979 Konica FS-1 was the first SLR with built-in motorized auto-loading, and auto-winding (single frame or continuous shooting). However, compared to the Konica, and later Canon T-50 (etc), the Contax is a very normal size and conventionally elegant shape, with the motor drive being invisibly housed within the camera body; so in 1980, it was most likely the smallest camera with an integrated motor drive. This can be set to simply wind-on after each exposure, or shoot continuously at 2 frames per second. Rewinding is however entirely manual.

The Quartz in the name refers to the fact that the horizontal-travel cloth shutter curtain is quartz timed. It's also got an electromagnetic shutter release (very soft and smooth). All mechanical functions are controlled by micro-motors, so it doesn't work at all without batteries fitted.

The Contax 137 MD offered an aperture preferred automatic exposure with centre-weighted metering. The only directly selectable shutter speeds are 1/60th sec., (X-sync) and B. The camera selected shutter speed appears in a vertical bank of LEDs on the right side of the viewfinder display. The lens aperture and frame number are also displayed in the viewfinder. There is an AE Lock (which locks the shutter speed setting in memory, regardless of subsequent changes in light levels), an exposure compensation dial, a depth of field preview button, an electronic self-timer and a second meter cell for dedicated TTL flash.

In a 1981 edition of Amateur Photographer, the 137 MD body was advertised at £165.70, which was pretty much the same as the average UK weekly wage.




Lens mount: Contax/Yashica bayonet.

Contax viewfinderFocus: Silver-coated prism with horizontal split-image spot, surrounded by a micro-prism collar. 0.86x magnification shows 95% of picture area. Shutter speeds indicated by 16 LEDs, plus over and under exposure indications; aperture selected; exposure counter; exposure compensation warning LED; Shutter speed LEDs flash to indicate AE lock operation; effective flash range indication; DOF preview.

Shutter: Quartz-timed electronically controlled horizontal travel type cloth focal plane shutter. Step-less on AUTO from 1/1000th to 11 seconds, plus X (1/60th) and B. Electromagnetic shutter release. Quartz-timed electronic self-timer with precise 10 sec delay. Front facing body LED flashes to indicate operation, accelerating 2 seconds before shutter is released.

Meter: TTL, centre-weighted averaging metering at full aperture using SPD (Silicon Photo Diode) cell.

Exposure: Aperture-preferred automatic exposure. +/-2 EV exposure compensation button, click stops at every half EV, and is maked 1/4, 1/2, 1, 2, 4. Setting AE lock lever locks in shutter speed in effect at time of setting.

Film Speed: 125 to 3200 ASA.

Flash: Standard X-synch hot shoe at 1/60th, and TTL flash metering with dedicated flash units.

Film Advance: Automatic. Either winds-on one frame, or continuous shooting at 2 f.p.s. Includes a small film advance indicator/confirmation window.

Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.

Rewind: Via crank and release button, located under a shield on the top plate (near to the shutter release button).

Size: 143 x 92.5 x 51mm (W x H x D).

Weight: 665g with batteries.

Battery: Four 1.5v AA. The camera has a switchable battery check/tester light.



My Camera

I paid £8.50 for my 137 MD late in 2012 (body only). It was inexpensive because it had a missing hot shoe.

I didn't want to mess with the electronic side of a new hot shoe connection, so I fitted a replacement cold shoe; mainly to preserve the look of the camera. The cover was a mess, like all Contax/Yashica cameras of the period, so I fitted a new black embossed leather skin from Aki-Asahi. The light seals and mirror damper were also replaced (Contax 137 light seal replacement instructions), leading to a tidy camera, which is in good condition and full working order (save for the hot shoe).

The Contax was photographed with a Yashica 50mm f2 ML lens fitted, which it shares with my Yashica FX-D. I don't think there is any way it will ever be re-united with a proper Zeiss lens (I just don't spend that sort of money). I like the fact it runs on AA batteries, which can be bought anywhere and everywhere. It's a very nice camera: makes you want another one! And that's exactly what I've done - see the next camera - it's another Contax (click the little camera icon below).



Contax 137 MD

Contax 137 MD

Contax 137 MD

Contax 137 MD