Contax was originally made by Zeiss Ikon….camera dept. of Carl Zeiss in West Germany.
In 1960s, Japanese SLRs became popular all over the world and took the market from Germans.
Zeiss Ikon withdrew from camera in 1972, but they still had excellent Carl Zeiss lens system and looking for partner to make camera together.
First of all, they approached PENTAX which was most popular back then. They had small telescope business together…but they did not have agreement on cameras. PENTAX had their own lens system and having Carl Zeiss lens could disturb their business….that was how they thought in early 70s.
Then, Carl Zeiss approached to TOPCON. But again they did not have agreement because TOPCON was using EXAKTA mount which has small diameter did not meet Carl Zeiss’s standard and TOPCON refused to use new lens mount.
Finally, they approached to YASHICA which had only cheap grade SLR and poor lens line up.
To start CONTAX, YASHICA had to use new lens mount. But YASHICA was using M42 screw mount and starting CONTAX was very good timing to change lens mount.
About the same time, PENTAX which had disagreement with Zeiss was planning to start new lens mount and they were approaching many companies to make the new mount “Universal mount”.
Rumor says CONTAX was planning to use new PENTAX K mount……but again, they had disagreement and did used their own mount.
Actually, CONTAX mount looks similar to PENTAX K.
Carl Zeiss approached PENTAX, TOPCON and YASHICA……they were looking for companies which had experience in electronics.
CONTAX RTS was launched in 1975 with Carl Zeiss lens system and Porche body design.
Carl Zeiss lens were different from any other Japanese lens and they were not as expensive as when they were made in Germany.
Porche designed body was different from any other Japanese.
That was how, lots of professionals started using them. But CONTAX was famous for its unreliability too.
Although they always struggled with the quality, at least YASHICA succeeded to break into flag-ship camera market. Thanks for Carl Zeiss….!!
I will have to say CONTAX was expensive not because of its quality. The price was including license fee to pay for Carl Zeiss.
The Carl Zeiss lens were not made in Germany. They were made by Tomioka Optics who was making lens for YASHICA.
Although YASHICA was cheap camera, they were well-known for its high quality lens and that was how they could produce the world best Carl Zeiss lens at reasonable price.
Later on, YASHICA was merged by KYOCERA and kept making CONTAX until they widdrew from camera in 2005.