1951 Classics – Contax & Tower (Nicca)


Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa and Tower (Nicca) Type-3

Two extremely different cameras that accomplish the same thing – recording an image on 135 film. The Contax is a much bigger camera and for the most part, it is an original design by Zeiss Ikon of Stuttgart. The Tower was made by Nicca Camera for the Sears, Roebuck Company for sale in the US and Canada. The Nicca was inspired by an original design by Leica and it’s often considered to be one of the better Leica “copies”.

Both cameras feature interchangeable lenses and both are rangefinders. The Contax has an attached exposure meter (non-coupled) and with the Tower, you would use a separate meter for determining proper exposures.


The Contax is a slightly larger camera and it’s a tad bit heavier due to the additional weight of the exposure meter. The Contax weighs 773 grams and the Tower weighs 591 grams.


The standard lens on the Contax is a Carl Zeiss Sonnar f/ 1.5 50mm and the Tower has a Nikkor H.C f/ 2 5cm.


What’s interesting is that back in 1951 these cameras were considered to be “miniature” 35mm cameras per their advertising of the time.

contax iia clip 1

contax IIIa and IIa

Tower Ad Page Logo

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com –¬†Chris

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Contax IIIa – 1951

My Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa is a 35mm rangefinder camera that was first introduced in March 1951. What differentiates the IIIa from the IIa is the addition of an exposure meter.

Here’s my Contax.


By the serial number of the body, this camera appears like it was made in the early part of 1951. It features the black dial and non-synced flash connection typical of the first models. This one works perfectly and the only cosmetic issue is a slight dent on the lens filter ring. Just above the Contax name is the selenium cells for the exposure meter shown with the flap open.


The camera features interchangeable lenses in a simple but sturdy bayonet mount. Exposure meter flap in the closed position.


The lens is a Carl Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 50mm.


A camera shop provided cleaning cloth featuring the Contax IIIa.

contax iia clip 1

contax lenses

contax sn

It may be a bit hard to tell from this scan but here’s a view of the camera from the instruction manual. The camera’s serial number is T 36017 and mine is T 36625. Pretty close so I’m thinking that mine is an early production model.

Thanks for stopping by! I’ll have much more about this camera soon. – Chris