Contax 139 Quartz

35mm MF film SLR camera


Production details
System: Contax/Yashica (1975)
Imaging plane
Maximum format:35mm full frame
Mount and Flange focal distance:Contax/Yashica [45.5mm]
Imaging plane:36 × 24mm film
Model:Electronically controlled
Speeds:11 - 1/1000 + B
Exposure metering:Through-the-lens (TTL)
Exposure modes:Aperture-priority Auto
Physical characteristics

Manufacturer description #1

Type: 35 mm SLR featuring auto/manual exposure; direct TTL auto flash control.

Lens Mount: Large-diameter Contax/Yashica Mount accepting CARL ZEISS T* interchangeable lenses.

Standard Lens: CARL ZEISS PLANAR T* f/1.7 50 mm, CARL ZEISS PLANAR T* f/1.4 50 mm

Shutter: Quartz-timed, electronically operated vertical-travel metal focal-plane shutter. Speeds continuously variable on AUTO from 1/1000 to 11 sec. Manual shutter speeds from 1/1000 sec. to 1 sec. in clickstop setting, plus X (1/100 sec.) and "B". X-synch terminal on camera body.

Shutter release: Real Time Electromagnetic Release System featuring quartz-timed operating sequence; auxiliary remote release via "release socket" (electronic accessory connection) on camera body.

Self-timer: Quartz-timed electronic self-timer with 10-sec. delay; LED flashes during operation and accelerates 2 sec. before shutter release.

Exposure Control (non-flash system): Through-the-lens (TTL), full aperture light reading via SPD cell; center-weighted metering pattern. EV range from EV 0 to 18 at ASA 100 with f/1.4 lens.

Exposure Check: Exposure check pushbutton on front of camera lights LED array in viewfinder; shuts off automatically after 10 sec.

Exposure Compensation: +2 EV ~ -2 EV via exposure compensation dial (locks at X1 setting). Exposure memory via AE (auto exposure) lock lever which locks exposure reading at given reading; continuous-lock capacity.

Auto Flash Control: Via built-in direct TTL auto flash control system; couples with TLA Auto Flash unit to regulate flash output via SPD sensor. Average reading the film plane at all apertures; automatic 1/100 sec. flash synch with TLA Auto Flash unit (slowe synch possible via AE Lock); effective ASA range from 25 to 800.

Viewfinder: Silver-coated, fixed eye-level pentaprism type with horizontal split-image/microprism focusing screen; field shows 95% of the picture area; 0.86 X magnification (with 50 mm lens).

Viewfinder display: Auto/Manual LED dot shutter-speed display (a constantly-lit LED indicates the camera's continuously varied reading on AUTO; with manual operation a flickering LED indicates the manual setting, a constantly-lit LED gives the recommended exposure); aperture readout window, exposure compensation indication, LED flash data indicator (with after-flash signal to indicate subject was within flash range); LED over/underexposure warning, AE Lock warning.

Film advance: Single-frame advance with rapid advance lever, 135 deg. setting angle, 30 deg. rest. Film rewind via rewind release button and crank.

Multiple Exposure: Via multi-exposure button (disengages counter to keep accurate exposure count).

Other Features: Couplings for exclusive 139 Winder and TLA20 auto flash, interchangeable back accepts 139 Data Back; auto resetting additive-type exposure counter, depth-of-field preview button, tripod socket, memo holder.

Power source: Two 1.5V silver-oxide batteries (Eveready S76, Ucar S76, Mallory MS-76 or equivalent).

Battery check: Via exposure check button (LED sequences vary when batteries are low).


The 139 Quartz is the world's first high quality single-lens reflex camera with AE and manual modes incorporating a high precision quartz crystal for time control. Various fucntions such as continuous AE lock function, TTL automatic metering system of the flash by 2 mode exposure measurement, electronic self-timer, and the viewfinder information system are incorporated within the compact body.

Manufacturer description #2

For the first time in the history of photography, total control and absolute precision are available in a system of photographic equipment capable of meeting every challenge. The CONTAX 139 Quartz brings to photography the fantastic accuracy of quartz crystal timing - combined with the system advantages of Real Time operation.

This combination of quartz timing and Real Time operation now gives photographers the capability to capture precisely on film the image created in the viewfinder - without time-lag, exposure error or any of the variables that so often limit conventional photographic systems.

The CONTAX 139 Quartz is an integral part of the world-famous Contax Real Time System, the system that has revolutionized photography in recent years. It is a compact, lightweight, 35mm SLR camera available with a 50mm f/1.7 standard lens of the Zeiss T* line, or an optional high-speed 50mm f/1.4. Or, the 139 Quartz body can be purchased separately to fit into an existing Real Time System equipment line.

On its own or as part of an overall system, however, the CONTAX 139 Quartz offers unbelievable control over any photographic situation. Exposure factors are computed automatically in the camera body by the most advanced combination of electronics and data-processing hardware ever employed in camera design. And the 139 Quartz also offers full manual control over exposure settings.

To take full advantage of the amazing exposure accuracy of the system, quartz crystal control regulates each timing step in the photographic process. And the entire sequence progresses at the Speed Of Light! because it is fully electronic. This is the meaning of Real Time Photography - even the slightest time delay is completely eliminated. Among the major feature advantages of the CONTAX 139 Quartz are the following:

Quartz Crystal Control - A unique property of quartz crystal is its ability to generate pulses at an absolutely uniform rate of 32,768 Hz per second. This superb precision, an integral part of precision timing devices worldwide, has now become the key to ultimate accuracy and control in photography. Shutter speeds, for example, can be set to a degree of accuracy never before approached.

Two-Mode SPD Exposure Control - The 139 Quartz employs two SPD (Silicon Photo Diode) cells to control exposure factors. One SPD measures light through the lens for ordinary exposures, while the other takes reflected readings from the film surface to control electronic flash exposures.

Real Time Electromagnetic Release System - Identical to the system used in the famed CONTAX RTS, this release system is the heart of Real Time Photography. At a stroke of just 0.7mm, the release initiates shutter operation which is fully electronic, to eliminate delay and allow Real Time operation.

Automatic TTL Flash Exposure Control - Through Real Time operation with the TLA-20 Auto Flash unit, the 139 Quartz controls flash output precisely, through-the-Iens, for absolute accuracy with every flash exposure.

Zeiss T* Lenses - The 139 Quartz shares the outstanding system of Carl Zeiss T* lenses developed specially for the CONTAX system of Real Time Photography. This is, without doubt, the finest system of lenses every produced for a 35mm single-lens-reflex camera.

CONTAX Real Time System Accessories - The 139 Quartz matches with its own special auto winder, electronic flash and data back, but shares with the CONTAX RTS and 137 MD Quartz the capability to employ almost the entire range of system accessories available in the Real Time System of photography.

Micro-Computerized Control of the Photographic Process

Quartz crystal timing is the heart of the CONTAX 139 Quartz, and Real Time operation is its legs.

But the 'brain' of the 139 Quartz is the combination of an advanced Central Processing Unit micro-computer with data processing circuitry capable of achieving unparalleled accuracy in exposure calculation.

The Central Processing Unit is based on a digital C-MOS LSI chip. Expose input data goes directly to a special Bi-MOS analog integrated circuit. This circuit processes the data from analog to digital form, and relays it to the C-MOS chip. Then, the CPU processes the data, and uses it to signal all related camera functions with the precise factors needed to achieve a perfect exposure of the scene in the viewfinder.

Aperture, film speed and exposure compensation [if any] data feeds to the analog system, which integrates these factors with the raw exposure data before CPU operation determines the final, precise shutter speed to be employed. And in addition to this ultimate control over exposure values, the CPU also coordinates the operation of all accessory equipment used with the 139 Quartz, such as the Auto Winder, TLA-20 Auto Flash, Data Back, etc. And full information on exposure data is relayed to the viewfinder's 'Pulsar' LED display system.

Electromagnetic Operation of the Photographic Process

"System" - in photographic terminology - means far more than simply the availability of a few lenses and accessories; it indicates a fully integrated equipment system capable of taking maximum advantage of every photo opportunity and meeting the challenge of widely varying photo situations.

And it also implys a central control over each function and step in photography. The CONTAX Real Time System, as applied to the 139 Quartz, revolves around a unique Electromagnetic Shutter Release which controls and coordinates every step of the photographic process, instantaneously, to achieve Real Time operation.

Mechanical linkage, with its inherent time lag in operation, has been replaced with a release system that utilizes the Real Time capabilities of electromagnetics. With a stroke of just 0.7mm, the release initiates and controls the entire photographic sequence.

And this same electromagnetic system meshes fully with the operation of all Real Time System accessories, to provide, for the fi rst ti me, a true photographic 'system' capable of meeting every challenge.

As an integral part of the electromagnetic release system, the 139 Quartz includes a dial for setting the proper ASA film speed factor for films rated from 12 to 3200. The protective collar around the release rotates to allow exposure compensation (for strong backlighting or creative control over exposures without switching to full manual) in incremental steps.

The 139 Quartz features a full range of manual shutter speeds, from one to 1/1000th sec., along with bulb and X-synch settings. In the 'AUTO' position, the dial transfers full control of exposures back to the micro-computerized data processing center. One special feature of the 139 Quartz is the automatic setting of the proper X-synch shutter speed, by the Central Processing Unit, when the TLA-20 Auto Flash unit is employed.

Full Information Viewfinder Display

A special 'Pulsar' LED display in the 139 Quartz viewfinder gives full exposure data information in the AUTO mode, an indication when the AE Lock system is operating, full information on proper manual exposure settings and indication of electronic flash operation. This LED display is activated for 10 seconds at a single touch of the exposure check button. In addition, a window at the top of the viewfinder indicates the aperture setting in use. Incorporated into the exposure check button is a special AE Lock control, which freezes exposure data to allow compensation for backlighting or other varying conditions. The AE Lock can also be set for continuous operation, when the 139 Winder is attached to the camera for sequential photography.

The rugged, secure, three-claw bayonet lens mount of the 139 Quartz is the same used for both the CONTAX and Yashica FR series, allowing the full range of Carl Zeiss T* lenses or Yashica ML lenses to be used, along with all lens-mounting accessory equipment. This mount allows full automatic diaphragm operation and keeps the lens in perfect alignment at all times, while providing fast, simple, convenient changing of lenses.

The Quartz Self-Timer can be set by means of a simple lever on the front of the camera body, and activated by pressing the shutter button. The system provides a precise, 10-second delay, and operation is indicated by a flashing red LED. The LED flash accelerates during the final two seconds before the shutter releases, to warn that the actual photo process is about to begin.

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35mm full frame

43.27 24 36
  • Dimensions: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm
  • Area: 864mm2

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Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.


Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),


CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.


A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance can also be different.

The flange focal distance (FFD) is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.


The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Electronic manual focus override is performed in the following way: half-press the shutter button, wait until the camera has finished the autofocusing and then focus manually without releasing the shutter button using the focusing ring.

Manual diaphragm

The diaphragm must be stopped down manually by rotating the detent aperture ring.

Preset diaphragm

The lens has two rings, one is for pre-setting, while the other is for normal diaphragm adjustment. The first ring must be set at the desired aperture, the second ring then should be fully opened for focusing, and turned back for stop down to the pre-set value.

Semi-automatic diaphragm

The lens features spring mechanism in the diaphragm, triggered by the shutter release, which stops down the diaphragm to the pre-set value. The spring needs to be reset manually after each exposure to re-open diaphragm to its maximum value.

Automatic diaphragm

The camera automatically closes the diaphragm down during the shutter operation. On completion of the exposure, the diaphragm re-opens to its maximum value.

Fixed diaphragm

The aperture setting is fixed at F/ on this lens, and cannot be adjusted.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.


Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front and/or rear lens elements over multi-coatings.


Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.


Teleconverters increase the effective focal length of lenses. They also usually maintain the closest focusing distance of lenses, thus increasing the magnification significantly. A lens combined with a teleconverter is normally smaller, lighter and cheaper than a "direct" telephoto lens of the same focal length and speed.

Teleconverters are a convenient way of enhancing telephoto capability, but it comes at a cost − reduced maximum aperture. Also, since teleconverters magnify every detail in the image, they logically also magnify residual aberrations of the lens.

Lens caps

Scratched lens surfaces can spoil the definition and contrast of even the finest lenses. Lens covers are the best and most inexpensive protection available against dust, moisture and abrasion. Safeguard lens elements - both front and rear - whenever the lens is not in use.