Contax 139

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The Contax 139 Quartz is a 35mm SLR that was introduced in 1979 and manufactured up until 1987 with something over 200,000 being built in that time. It was manufactured by Yashica in Japan under licence to Zeiss. Yashica also manufactured the Yashica FX-D which was seen as a budget version of the 139 with less features but, in fact, was largely a completely different camera.

The 139Q had a quartz-timed, electronically-controlled vertical metal shutter that was very advanced for its day. It has speeds of 11 seconds to 1/1000 of a sec in auto, and 1 to 1/1000 in manual exposure mode.

The metering system is a center-weighted system with a range of 0 to 18 EV(f/1.4) using a silicon photo diode cell. The through-the-lens TTL synchronized flash with the TLA20 and TLA30 flash units. Other new features included manual or aperture-priority exposure controls and a DOF preview lever. An AE lock feature available to hold metered shutter speeds, and an improved flash sync speed (1/100th sec.). Exposure compensation is available and can be adjusted by over or under 2 EV.

The finder has a matte field with a horizontal split-image device surrounded by a microprism. The aperture information is on the top of the finder. Full exposure information visible in the viewfinder with individual shutter speeds on the right lit by LED. It is powered by two SR44 batteries.

An optional winder, powered by four AA batteries, was available for the camera.

Early examples of the Contax 139 had some reliability issues and a number of modifications were made to the camera to address these. The most common symptom was the shutter failing to release though there were two seperate possible reasons for this. The electronic shutter release causes an electrical pulse to be sent to the release magnet. The release magnet is a combination magnet that holds the mechanism in its cocked position using a permanent magnet. The electrical pulse energises an electromagnet which is in opposition to the permanent magnet and so cancels the magnetic field so releasing the mechanism. Over time, the face of the magnet becomes fouled and the armature becomes stuck to it so fails to move away when the magnetic field is turned off. In later models, the magnet was changed and a closer fitting cover fitted around it to reduce the fouling and, along with other changes to the mechanics, this largly eliminated the problem.

The second problem is caused by a switch through which the release signal gets sent. Early switches were sealed microswitch types that sometimes failed. These were replaced by an open switch which was more releiable but the contacts could get fouled and the same problem ocurred. A third type of switch was introduced that used a wiping contact action so was self cleaning and eliminated the problem.

There is no known serial number data for the 139 but available information shows the magnet problem was corrected in cameras with serial numbers above, approximately, 110,000 and the switch problem was finally rectified in cameras with serial numbers above, approximately, 150,000.