I have a choice between these two cameras so I need some help deciding between the two cameras. Can anyone help?
I have a choice between these two cameras so I need some help deciding between the two cameras. Can anyone help?
Are you buying a new back as well? If yes the a Mamiya mount will give you a bit mor flexibility as it can be used on some other cameras; less so if it's in Contax mount
If you buy a new Leaf or Phase One back with either Gold Package (Leaf) or Value Added (Phase) you get one interface change so if you buy Contax you'll be able to change it down the road if needed
I chose the contax because it was more like a dslr camera than a kleenex box -- so I guess it depends on what you want to use it for
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I was planning on buying a used back to save some money but I wasn't aware that switching mounts was limited to the newer backs. For the record I was also planning on getting a Sinar 4x5 so I guess Leaf Aptus-II will be my only route.
Is the interface change limited to one time? I was hoping to switch back and forth between the two cameras.
I'd probably say the Contax is a slightly nicer camera as it stands right now, but I still chose to go Mamiya for these simple reasons. 1.) Contrary to Contax, Mamiya is alive and well and constantly being improved and expanded upon. Also, word is we'll see a completely new and much improved camera from P1/Mamiya in the near future. Then there's the issue of repairs and support going forward. 2.) Versatility, the Mamiya system has a much larger system of lenses, both new and legacy, leaf shutter lenses being one option which Contax does not offer for example. 3.) Price, this does not apply if you're buying new, but there is some terrific legacy glass that can be had for very little money used. You can also pick up a cheap older version body for backup.
My vote goes to the Contax, mostly because of the lenses and good ergonomics. The 120 Apo Makro lens in particular is one of the best I have ever shot with, in terms of results.
I now shoot with a different system but I still love looking at some of my earlier shots made with the Contax and a Sinar digiback. Key downside with the Contax for me was the somewhat suspect digital integration (sometimes, I had to press the shutter release twice to wake up the back and make an image, plus EXIF data showed wrong exposure values - this may or may not be important for you). There is no support any more but you can buy pretty much all you need second hand, cheaply, including a spare body.
The Contax has a fabulous build, really reliable and the lenses very nice. The 80mm f2 has a very unique look.
I would say that it's limitations are slow auto focusing in low light and no focus support light.
The Phase Mamiya cameras are well built, but not as relaible as the Contax, but keep in mind the Contax is a simpler camera.
The Mamiya DF does not support film backs. For that you would have to get a used Mamiya AFD III or a Phase One 645 AF.
Used Contax backs are hard to find and will be expensive, however fantastic lenses will be cheaper thanks to plenty of nice used Contax gear around.
You can also use Hasselblad V lenses on a Mamiya DF or AFD with an adapter but in manual stop down mode and focus confirmation.
Kapture Group makes some very nice digital back adapters for 5x4 and they are available in Contax mount. Leaf still makes Contax mount backs.
There is a Contax mount P45+ up for sale on ebay.
Another option is the Fuji gx680 with a kapture group adapter.
A gx680 III is an slr, but with a tilt shift lens mount. You would have tilt and shift on all lenses from 50mm to 500mm. The 180mm 3.2 is unmatched. You would also be able to shoot 6x8 film... and 6x8 Portra looks splendid.
While I like the Contax I decided to go with the Phase One due to it's flexibility and better autofocus as well as snappier focus confirmation on manual lenses.
I also use Fuji gx680 cameras with both film (my preference) and phase one backs.
I have also machined a Phase one body to Fuji gx680 lenses adapter that gives me tilt and shift on the Phase one from 50mm to 250mm lenses The "Mamuji" or "Fujiya" . I have also managed to make a semi automatic stopdown system for the "Mamuji" or "Fujiya"
I would recommend the Contax 645. That cam is wonderful to work with, the lenses (I use 35/55/80/120M/140/210/350) are not too expensive 2nd. hand, they are sharp and render so very nicely. Ok, autofocus is slow, but's ok for my purposes. Enclosed two sample pictures with Leaf II-7 and Planar 80 at f2.8 and the Sonnar 140 at open aperture. You also can use the whole range of Zeiss Hasselblad V-mount lenses via adapter.
Last edited by chrismuc; 19th June 2013 at 23:27.
You also have a vast choice of lenses with the Mamiya. The bayonet is the same as older Mamiya cameras.
For example you can use the old 6345 80mm 1.9 that is beautiful wide open and can be found for for about $ 350.
That is pennies for such a fast MF lens. However you will have to use it in manual stop down mode.
But I also forgot to mention the Mamiya RZ.
MamiyaLeaf (bless them) still makes the RZ. You can use Mamiya mount backs on both the RZ and the Mamiya DF. The RZ is a film and digital camera offering you 645 digital and wonderfull 6x7 film support.
I use the Contax 645 system. 2 bodies, 4 lenses. It is a very nice system that has (like most cameras) limitations. Manual focus is hard but I have split field diopters in my bodies so it's easier in some respects. If shooting wide open, you don't want to focus and recompose for closer portraits because the plane of focus will shift enough due to thin dof. After a bit of practice my keeper rate is very high. There's also the (overpriced) Maxwell screens that I've been meaning to look more into. The Contax Zeiss glass is quite nice and the main reason I got into the system. The way the camera handles is outstanding. The vacuum backs are a must have in my experience. I shoot Kodak film which has 220 avail which is all that works on the vacuum backs but does keep the film flatter for wide open shooting.
If you also want to shoot with Sinar LF then a Sinarback MFDB with Contax645 adapter may be worth considering.
If it turns out you don't like the Contax645 you can just swap it for a Mamiya and get a Mamiya adapter instead of having to replace your whole digital back, and same goes for if you then don't like the Mamiya and decide to opt for Hasselblad V then Hy6 then... in other words it is quite a flexible solution
However the Mamiya 645 AFD I, Mamiya 645 AFD II and Mamiya AFD III, as well as the Phase One 645AF all support film.
Re. the original question. I'm really surprised that no-one has yet mentioned what to me is the most obvious "plus" of the Contax over the Mamiya - interchangeable viewfinders. You can put a WLF on the Contax, and still have built-in spot metering. Then again, the simple WLF is very pricey - when they show up, they can go for more than a used Mamiya 645AFD body!
Price is an issue in general with Contax vs. Mamiya (especially used Mamiya). Contax stuff seems to cost 1.3x, 1.5x or even 2x the equivalent Mamiya stuff. Sometimes there is an additional factor which can partly explain this (e.g. the Contax 80/2 has AF, the Mamiya 80/1.9 doesn't). Sometimes there isn't any technical reason for the price difference, other than Contax branding (e.g. Contax 45/2.8 AF vs. Mamiya 45/2.8 AF; Kodak Proback 645 for Contax vs the Kodak Proback 645 back for Mamiya).
In principle, my design aesthetics lean towards the dedicated dials and levers of the Contax over the multifunction buttons, scrollwheels and LCD of the Mamiya body. However, the Mamiya approach does allow more refinement in the settings. For example, there are only so many exposure time settings you can fit on a dedicated dial like the one on the Contax. Want to use a 10, 15, 20, or 30 second exposure? With the Contax, you must time it yourself on B. With the Mamiya AFD, you just dial it in exactly. If you need consistent long exposures - say for panos or scientific/astro shooting - how consistent are your body's reflexes in timing and terminating a B exposure on the Contax? Similarly, the Mamiya allows a range of 13 different self-timer delays between 3 and 60 seconds; the Contax dial has just 2 (2 and 10 sec). Bracketing on the Mamiya is in 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 or 1.0 steps; just 0.5 or 1.0 steps on the Contax. The LCD backlighting button is very handy when shooting the Mamiya on a tripod in dark conditions; with the Contax you have to rely on the viewfinder readout, or use a torch to see the dials or filmback status. These are the functional prices you pay for the purity of the Contax design.
And if you are using exposures longer than 32 seconds, I find starting and stopping them manually can easily be done to within one second, especially if you're using a Phase One plus-series back with the built-in timer that's visible on the back's LCD even when it's pitch black outside.
As you know, I do quite a lot of long-exposure night photography with my Contax outfit and I personally don't find long exposures to be difficult at all.
Oh, and you don't need the costly Contax waist-level finder if you have a decent medium-format loupe handy. Although I do have a waist-level finder (bought for only $189 on eBay, thank you very much!), I much prefer to use my Mamiya 3X 645-format loupe, as it's bigger, brighter, and has less distortion than the Contax finder. You just hold it on top of the mounting rails and adjust the focus as appropriate ... works great and isn't very costly, either, as NOS loupes regularly turn up on eBay for $150 or less.
+1 for the Contax 645.
I had the entire system prior to moving to Hasselblad H ... and I also had a Mamiya 645 system with a Leaf Aptus 75s back.
Not to mince words, I never took to the Mamiya camera, and much preferred the Contax 645. I think the Contax 645 and a Phase One back are a marriage made in heaven ... they even look like they belong together.
No comparison in lenses unless you pony up for a DF and mostly Schneider optics. The CZ-120/4 macro was the best ever until Leica made the 120/2.5 Macro for the S2. The CZ-55mm is a sleeper of an optic with not only excellent rear Bokeh, but the most beautiful front OOF areas I've ever seen on any lens. Get a Nam-1 adapter and add a 110/2 FE for superb character portraits. 80/2 is great, and the 40 and 140 are also excellent with that Zeiss color and character. The 350/4 APO is to die for.
Contax 645 is much easier to travel with compared to the Mamiya 645 because the Prism detaches making it easier to pack more compactly.
AF is slow in low light, but you have to get a much more modern MFD camera to change that anyway = $$$$$$
In fact the AF and all leaf shutter lenses are the two reasons I moved to the H camera ... other wise I'd still be shooting the Contax ... at least until the S2 came along
Actually, you've given me an idea - I'll have to check my 645AFD this evening to see if it also can use exposure compensation to exceed its nominal manual timed limit (30 sec).
The Mamiya loupe is also a great idea. I did the same some years ago with a quality multicoated loupe (4x Horizon) - better than the WLFs on my 6x6 cameras. The only issue is how well the loupe sits in the available top-plate space, so it's nice to know that the Mamiya 645 loupe fits well on the Contax.
Well, I tried it. Set my 645AFD to M, 30 seconds, and some +ve exposure comp. Each time the camera took a 30 second exposure, exactly, ignoring the compensation.
I'm not at all surprised; it stands to reason really. Exposure compensation is about over-riding what the AE meter thinks. Why would you want to over-ride what you have manually set yourself anyway?
So it was either genius or ineptitude which led to Contax linking exposure compensation to their Manual shutter speeds. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt - genius!
However, if you leave the body in auto-exposure mode, the body will control the shutter out to a maximum of 32 seconds and you can use the exposure-compensation dial to adjust the meter-selected exposure by +/- two stops anywhere within that range.
So if you determine you need, say, a 12-second exposure, instead of switching to the B mode and counting off 12 seconds, you can switch to auto and then use the exposure-compensation dial to adjust the shutter speed to 12 seconds, as displayed on the LED readout inside the finder. While this method may not work for your puproses, it works well enough for me that as a practical matter, I only ever use the B mode when I need exposures that are longer than 32 seconds.
I apologize if my previous response gave you the wrong idea here.
Ah, OK I get you now. That makes more sense.
So you tweak the compensation on AE to get the shutter speed you want. Then I guess you use AE lock, which holds it indefinitely, including through Continuous exposures. Nice.