The initial model of Contessa was based on the Ikonta 35. It is a drop bed, self erecting folding camera, with coupled rangefinder of the rotating wedge style used on the Super Ikontas, and an uncoupled selenium meter. It has a double exposure prevention system that will not allow the shutter to operate unless it has film winding through it (or unless you trick the camera). It was fitted with a 45/2.8 Tessar in Compur-Rapid until 1953, when the shutter was changed to Synchro Compur.
It was introduced in 1950, beating the Retina IIIc to the market by four years. It was a much more elegant camera than the Retina. It was discontinued in 1955.
Zeiss re-introduced the Contessa 35 in 1960, even using the same Zeiss number as the previous model. It was a completely different design, with a rigid lens. Although it had the selenium meter, it lacked the rangefinder. It was discontinued in 1963.