Zeiss Ikon Contessa 35

Contessa? An Italian countess? Italian royalty horning into this delicate photographic ecosystem that is my studio?  My friend, Joanie, gave me this camera. She said, “Hey! I’ve got this old camera. Do you want it?” Like I’m going to say no? Turned out, it was this super cool little number – the Zeiss Ikon Contessa 35. It came with a classy and totally unusable leather case. Built between 1953-1955, it sports a [non-working on this particular camera] exposure meter.  I took it on a road trip across the country. There’s a little button on the top center of the camera. Push it in and down and the front slides neatly open, revealing the lens assembly. All the little workings are located here. And that silly-ass leather case? If it’s on the camera when you take a shot, you have to remove it to advance the film. The film advance / rewind is on the bottom of the camera body.

There’s this little thumbnail tab on the back of the camera. Mine is stuck, however, you are supposed to be able to move the tab down and the camera will sit upright on a tabletop.

Click on any image for a larger view:

I’ve got some c-41 in it right now. I figure I’ll send it out in an effort to remove the developing error question. But there isn’t a question, is there? Anyway, I owe Dwayne’s Photo (the lab in Kansas where I usually send film out when I send film out) four bucks. I sent in an order for develop only. I received a few processed rolls back and some prints and a letter stating I owed them $4. They charged me for the prints, but I didn’t order prints. Possibly I checked the wrong box on the order form? They’re just so freakin’ neighborly, I can’t argue. What company – upon receiving less than the amount due – simply sends the order to the customer anyway? They’re just the best. Anyway, this Contessa. She needed some sort of accoutrement to address her royal heritage. I came up with a tiara attached to a flash shoe mount cover. Now YOU can turn any camera into instant royalty!

Ah but there’s only room in this studio for one “her highness”.


Dusting and documenting weird shit in my parent’s basement.


I put some ortho film through it and here are the results:

Rural Monrana.

Pet area.




Chive flowers.


My boy, Hawkeye.

He sure is something.


  1. Robert Dobson

    Marcy…your stories and your photography continue to inspire me and motivate my life of art in the photographic world. Thank you.

    • Ski

      Hi Marcy. Loved the read. This has become one of my favorite cameras. That’s why I have two. The first was a junk store find. $25! Could not resist. Then I used it. I was hooked. The second time I came across one in another junk store. This one came with its case. Unfortunately for me I now knew how wonderful they were. I did not flinch at the $85 price tag. Still a deal. Your case may not be original. It is supposed to have a knob that links to the rewind knob, allowing full function with the case on. Can’t wait to read more of your blog posts. Thanks.

      • Marcy Merrill

        Now you got me. I think that maybe the case is missing a part! I can’t find the inside view of a comparable empty case. If it were a simple knob that’s missing, there’s nothing for it to screw into on the film advance knob. However, there are two “holes” where pins could line up. Ha! I’ll bet that’s it, because otherwise it makes no sense to have to remove the case to advance the film.

  2. Laurence Kesterson

    That camera was somebody’s pride and joy back in the day. Not cheap, that’s for sure!

    I just discovered your website and blog. Now I have a whole work day shot to hell.

    Well done!

    • Marcy Merrill

      Ha! I just love shooting work days to hell! Thanks!

Submit a Comment