Q: I own a Zeiss Ikon Contarex camera obtained during the 1940s. I find it heavy and difficult to use, although it takes lovely pictures. Has this camera any value as a trade-in on another camera, or antique value to a collector or to anyone interested in it? A: The Zeiss Ikon Contarex is a fine camera built with precision-crafted components. In its day, it was a marvelous picture-taking machine, featuring advancements that many other manufacturers incorporated into their own cameras' designs. That's the good news.
On the other side of the coin, the high quality built into the Contarex -- and the great number manufactured (including several variations on the original) -- means that, as a collector's piece, the Contarex isn't particularly valuable. Not, at least, as valuable as its quality would indicate.
Depending on its condition (which includes physical appearance as well as working order), I guesstimate that your camera might fetch somewhere between $30 and $75 on the open market, probably less if used in a trade on a more modern camera.
Most of those buying Contarex cameras appear interested in using them as opposed to holding them as collector's items. I own two in perfect working condition and use both fairly regularly. The relatively high image quality and greater portability than my complete, modern-camera system with numerous lenses, motor drives and other paraphernalia make them ideal go-along cameras.
I empathize with your finding that the camera is somewhat difficult to operate -- especially when you don't shoot every day. It's easy to forget between shootings how to set the exposurem ASA meter coupling, and other settings. In your case, I recommend that you go for a modern auto-exposure SLR and place an ad in your local paper to sell the Zeiss camera. Someone out there will be interested in buying and using it. For such a fine, serviceable camera to sit unused on a shelf is a waste. Q: In a recent column you mentioned where to send ailing cameras for repair. I have a Japanese camera that was purchsed overseas at a Post Exchange. It's a 35-mm called a Samoca. The lens has the words Ezumar Anastigmat 1:3.5, f-50 mm. The shutter doesn't work. Where can I send this camera for repair? A: You have a what? Over the years, I've seen many off-brand cameras. I think your Samoca qualifies -- in this country, at least. I've never heard of it. Nor has anyone else I've checked with. To further complicate matters, I assume from the f/3.5 Anastigmat lens that it's relatively old.
As for repair, you have two options. You can buy a round-trip ticket to Tokyo and hope that once you and your camera get there the company is still in existence. A bit more practical but far less fun, you can send the camera UPS and insured to an independent camera repair shop. Your local camera dealer should be able to direct you to someone nearby.
But be forewarned: If the camera is as rare as I suspect, there may not be parts available for repair. Often an ingenious repair shop can cannibalize a similar camera to obtain a part which will function in a rival model, but not always. If you can't get it repaired, take solace in the fact that it will make an interesting conversation piece on the coffee table.