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Thread: Contax G2 information please

  1. #1
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    Contax G2 information please

    I'm considering buying a Contax G2 purely to experience 35mm RF cameras. I can't afford Leica and the Contax seems a reasonable alternative. Does anybody use one and have an opinion?
    Conversely, is there an affordable 35mm RF alternative.
    I intend to shoot Velvia/Provia and scan in on a recently acquired Minolta Scan Multi PRO.
    What I would really like to hear is ease of use, IQ, reliability.
    Just a fetish really but I'd appreciate your input.
    Many Thanks

  2. #2
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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    I used to own one (and in fact ran a website about them which lives on here, although I no longer update or maintain it, and the site design is amusingly antique by now.)

    The first thing you need to know is that it is not a rangefinder camera! It doesn't qualify because it isn't focused by an optical rangefinder. It's more accurate to call it a non-SLR autofocus camera.

    It's important to understand that because one of the biggest psychological stumbling blocks people have about the G cameras is that there is no visual confirmation that your intended focus target is actually what will be in focus! Many of us did learn to trust the distance scale in the camera viewfinder, make sure we were centering the AF frame on a "focusable" area of the subject, and various other tricks, but an occasional AF miss was something that came with the territory, and the nagging uncertainty about this made it impossible for some people to use it with confidence.

    The other major hangup about using the camera was also viewfinder-related: the zoom viewfinder is perfectly comfortable and sufficiently bright for some people, but others have trouble getting their eyes accommodated to it and/or find it too dim for easy viewing. Either of these is something that you have to judge for yourself after examining the camera.

    The limited range of lenses is another thing you have to weigh: the wide-angle range is pretty well-covered, but there's nothing longer than 90mm or faster than f/2, which means this isn't the camera you'll be using for sports, wildlife, or low-light documentary shooting, to name a few examples.

    If you can accept that, see through it comfortably, and live with the limitations of its AF and metering systems, though, it can be a very effective camera. The lenses are excellent, particularly with regard to "microcontrast" (the ability to render finely textured detail) and image quality is fabulous if you use good camera technique.

    My reliability experience with both the G1 and G2 was good, although I did have one inexplicable failure (camera wouldn't fire at all) which turned out to be a problem with a lens rather than the body. Speaking of which, the electrical contacts on the lenses are a bit fragile and easy to snag, so it pays to be careful when cleaning them and handling them off the camera.

    TTL flash (assuming you can find compatible flash units) is another plus for the G system, and works very well.

    If you find you'd prefer a true optical rangefinder and a wider choice of lenses, one reasonably affordable alternative is the Cosina-made Voigtlander Bessa camera lineup. There are various models in this line with various features, and they are a very good choice especially if you're interested primarily in shooting with wide and normal lenses (the rangefinder base length is a bit short for accurate focusing with long, fast teles, although you can get a reasonably good "batting average" with these if you use care.)

    Of course, used RF cameras are another option, and some of the models from Leica and Canon have reasonably modern convenience features such as multiple-frame finders and parallax compensation. (So do some Nikon RF cameras, but they're likely to be collector-priced.) But the problem with these cameras is that you first have to identify the model that has the features you want, and then locate a good individual specimen of that model, so shopping is a bit more complicated.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    Thanks for that "Ranger9". I don't do sport or action so ok here. The IQ confirmation was really what I sought. I used Contax (167 and RTS) years ago and loved the IQ.
    I'll go for it and see what I can achieve.
    Thanks again

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    I have owned two Contax G1s but never a G2 (one in the mid-90s and I have a G1 now.) To supplement Ranger's synopsis, although technically not an RF, they pretty much operate like RFs; i.e., you are framing thru a viewfinder, not the lens.

    The best part of the Contax G1/G2 are the lenses. They are superb, second to none. If you want really great image quality and can live with a few operational quirks, you can get great glass for a small fraction of the price of Leica glass. Yes, there is nothing faster than f/2, and nothing longer than 90, but few RF enthusiasts use anything longer anyway.

    I've owned every M at one time or another (except M1 and M8.2) and also a CL, and a Hexar RF, Zeiss Ikon, and Nikon RFs (S2, S3, SP.) I like them all. And I'd put the Contax right up there. They all have quirks in one fashion or another, but I keep coming back to that wonderful glass...which IMHO is better than the current Cosina made Zeiss glass.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    I owned a Contax G2 kit with four lenses in between owning Leica Ms. As much as I wanted to love it .. lens quality was great ... I found it a frustrating camera to use. It seemed that every time I tried to work with it the way I wanted to, it just got in my way.

    If I wanted a 35mm film RF camera today and didn't have the money for a Leica M, I'd pick one of the Cosina/Voigtländer Bessa bodies and then whatever lenses I could afford from CV, Leica and Zeiss. A Bessa body with 20, 40, and 75 mm lenses would be a near perfect working kit for me using a 35mm RF camera.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    sean reid has a comparison of the leica and zeiss ikon
    rangefinder forum is a pretty good resource, lot's of ziess lkon users there

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    Re: Contax G2 information please


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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    Consider the new Zeiss Ikon uses M-mount lenses and one of Mike Johnstons 10 best picks in cameras.


    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    Thank you everybody for your input. Much appreciated.

  10. #10
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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    I recently took the decision to go for a Contax G system, and, due to a limited budget, I looked for a G1, a 28mm and 90mm lenses on eBay. I don't know if I was lucky or what, but the camera is mint and both lenses are in great shape, and the entire kit was less than the price of a high-end point-and-shoot camera.

    The camera is great, the titanium finish is superb, the ergonomy is perfect: you can do everything with your right hand. Lenses are superb too.

    But, frankly, the reason I am in love with this camera is the look-and-feel, the whole experience of using it, that is great, in an untangible and impossible to describe manner. You can see it here.

    Go for it!

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    The prices of the G lenses are really amazing for what they offer. The 90/2.8 Sonnar is every bit as good as the Leica 90s, if not better, and they go for about $100. The 28/2.8 is reportedly as good as the Leica 28 ASPH and only $200-$250 or so for examples in perfect condition. A body and a few lenses for less than the price of a single Leica lens by itself.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    I have been using the Contax G2 with 21/28/35/45/90 lenses since it came out in late 1990’s. The G lenses are some of the best 35 format lenses I have been used, even compared with Leica’s. For film, they are better than the current Zeiss ZM line, perhaps with the exeption of the 35/2 Biogan. The only problem with the G lenses is that they don’t really have a “digital future.” But if you are plan to use film for a while, they are the best buys out there.

    I am going to keep my until either my G2 breaks down or it is really too expensive to shoot film anymore, either of which I hope won’t happen too soon.

    Kind regards,

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    Thanks all for the input. I'm encouraged by it all and now just need the camera!

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    Quote Originally Posted by ReeRay View Post
    Thanks all for the input. I'm encouraged by it all and now just need the camera!
    Don't act to hastily.

    If you want to "experience" the Rangefinder way of shooting which is quite unique to SLR photography, the Contax G1/G2 is only a partial step there.

    I have owned the G2 twice in my history. Dual black bodies and ALL of the lenses they ever made. Both times I deemed the move as a serious mistake in "creative" judgement. I would have been better off selecting a small SLR camera IMHO. The lesson was that "in-between" type cameras rarely, if ever, do either thing they are straddling very well. Unfortunately my brain skipped a beat and I made the same error twice. I also was a ardent Contax 35mm SLR fan and thought to duplicate that visual experience with the G system ... which it never did.

    For a true rangefinder experience there are a number of choices, with the best being a Leica M ... probably followed by the Zeiss Ikon with it's nice rangefinder base and more reasonable price tag. Older used Leica M lenses, and very affordable but high performance lenses for Voightlander can help keep to budget.

    Optically, the Contax lenses are clinically good, but lack the endearing qualities of most Leica optics and many of the Voightlander's. These are prized qualities for analog photography. Not to mention a key element which is aperture speed ... a Pre-aspheric M50/1.4 or Voight 35/1.2 is pure magic ... and something that can never be achieved with the Contax. Plus, should you ever go digital, the M mount lens investment remains intact.

    Not to sway you from your desire, just a clarification based on experience ... which is all any of us can do here.

    Okay, too take it to the truth of the matter, which I was reluctant to express, but what the heck it's just my opinion so take it or leave it ... I actually hated the Contax G2, it was a case of letting rationalizations sway how I really felt about it ... which I did twice! ... a way of thinking that in my opinion is ALWAYS a mistake. There, I said it ... I feel unburdened now
    Last edited by fotografz; 25th April 2009 at 02:01.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    mmmm - seems I need to do some more research. Once again (from Multi Pro thread) thank you.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    On the other hand...

    The 'true' RF experience I suppose means a viewfinder that shows more of the view than will actually appear on film; manual focusing with an optical rangefinder.

    The Contax on the other hand does not have a viewfinder with framelines, it doesn't show areas that will not be on the frame, and the rangefinder focusing is automatic (yes it's still focuses with a rangefinder, just not a manual optical one.)

    So it may not be a 'true' RF experience in the traditional sense, but they are actually more alike than they are different. After all, both systems use separate viewing systems, not through the lens.

    Both views are always sharp; if you like shooting wide open, you'll have to imagine where the sharpness ends and the out of focus area begins, as compared to an SLR where the view is through the lens and you can just view it.

    For everyone that 'hates' the G2 (or G1) (that is a very strong word, BTW) there are those that similarly find that the Leica experience isn't for them.

    Every camera has idiosyncrasies, of course. For all the wonderful 'feel' and obvious quality that Leica exudes, there is one thing that I always come back to. I've owned several M2s, several M3s, several M4s, a couple of M5s, two M6s, two M6TTLs, and an M7 ...they are all just a royal pain in the a** to load. The later ones are a pain, the earlier ones are even more of a pain. (Even the M8 is a pain, having duplicated the bottom plate loading of the film cameras.)

    There is nothing worse than fiddling with loading, while the event is passing you by... Eventually I got to the point where I would pre-load the camera at home with a roll, and if the full roll was used, I'd simply put the camera away and stop shooting. This progressed to just not taking the camera with me at all...

    And yet, over the years I kept coming back to Leica, as if I kept at it, I'd finally overcome this frustration.

    I tried the Hexar RF, which has very easy loading, and that is a great camera. The viewfinder was a problem though, difficult to focus, due to the reduced magnification. The RF baselength is very short, so very fast lenses are borderline for focus accuracy.

    I have also owned a Zeiss Ikon...great camera. The best viewfinder of an M mount camera, bar none. Easy loading! This is the one to get if you want an M mount camera. But even used the body alone is about $1000...you can get an entire Contax kit for less than that.

    Never had any interest in Bessas, so can't comment there. This would be the least expensive way to get into the M mount world.

    Now, back to the Contax. Since the Contax is out of production, the only choice is to buy used (although there are still a few essentially 'new in the box' Contaxes still out there.) If you spend a bit of time researching prices, and buy right, you will always get your money back if you don't like the camera.

    The same can be said of buying any used Leica, or a used Zeiss Ikon, or even a Hexar.

    So there really is no risk to buying whatever you want to buy (unless you buy something brand new.) This means there is no wrong decision...buy it, try it...if you don't like it, sell it and try something else...any money lost in the transaction is essentially a rental fee.

    With the Contax your investment is going to be much less than any M mount alternative. The lenses simply can't be beat. I disagree that they lack endearing qualities...there is a reason why people spend $550 each to convert G lenses to M mount. Although personally, I think they'd be much better off just buying and using a Contax in the first place.

    Hope this helps with your decision.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    Quote Originally Posted by monza View Post
    On the other hand...

    The 'true' RF experience I suppose means a viewfinder that shows more of the view than will actually appear on film; manual focusing with an optical rangefinder.

    The Contax on the other hand does not have a viewfinder with framelines, it doesn't show areas that will not be on the frame, and the rangefinder focusing is automatic (yes it's still focuses with a rangefinder, just not a manual optical one.)

    So it may not be a 'true' RF experience in the traditional sense, but they are actually more alike than they are different. After all, both systems use separate viewing systems, not through the lens.

    Both views are always sharp; if you like shooting wide open, you'll have to imagine where the sharpness ends and the out of focus area begins, as compared to an SLR where the view is through the lens and you can just view it.

    For everyone that 'hates' the G2 (or G1) (that is a very strong word, BTW) there are those that similarly find that the Leica experience isn't for them.

    Every camera has idiosyncrasies, of course. For all the wonderful 'feel' and obvious quality that Leica exudes, there is one thing that I always come back to. I've owned several M2s, several M3s, several M4s, a couple of M5s, two M6s, two M6TTLs, and an M7 ...they are all just a royal pain in the a** to load. The later ones are a pain, the earlier ones are even more of a pain. (Even the M8 is a pain, having duplicated the bottom plate loading of the film cameras.)

    There is nothing worse than fiddling with loading, while the event is passing you by... Eventually I got to the point where I would pre-load the camera at home with a roll, and if the full roll was used, I'd simply put the camera away and stop shooting. This progressed to just not taking the camera with me at all...

    And yet, over the years I kept coming back to Leica, as if I kept at it, I'd finally overcome this frustration.

    I tried the Hexar RF, which has very easy loading, and that is a great camera. The viewfinder was a problem though, difficult to focus, due to the reduced magnification. The RF baselength is very short, so very fast lenses are borderline for focus accuracy.

    I have also owned a Zeiss Ikon...great camera. The best viewfinder of an M mount camera, bar none. Easy loading! This is the one to get if you want an M mount camera. But even used the body alone is about $1000...you can get an entire Contax kit for less than that.

    Never had any interest in Bessas, so can't comment there. This would be the least expensive way to get into the M mount world.

    Now, back to the Contax. Since the Contax is out of production, the only choice is to buy used (although there are still a few essentially 'new in the box' Contaxes still out there.) If you spend a bit of time researching prices, and buy right, you will always get your money back if you don't like the camera.

    The same can be said of buying any used Leica, or a used Zeiss Ikon, or even a Hexar.

    So there really is no risk to buying whatever you want to buy (unless you buy something brand new.) This means there is no wrong decision...buy it, try it...if you don't like it, sell it and try something else...any money lost in the transaction is essentially a rental fee.

    With the Contax your investment is going to be much less than any M mount alternative. The lenses simply can't be beat. I disagree that they lack endearing qualities...there is a reason why people spend $550 each to convert G lenses to M mount. Although personally, I think they'd be much better off just buying and using a Contax in the first place.

    Hope this helps with your decision.
    LOL, you're right ... "hate" is a strong word ... perhaps a better way to say it is that I never loved the Contax G, and when it was finally gone I didn't miss it. Of course, that most certainly doesn't mean anyone else does, or would, not like it. Lots of people love the Canon 5D, and that's another camera I loved to not love.

    Changing film in an M is an art, that's for sure ... but with practice it gets a lot quicker. Its second nature to me now and I shoot weddings with Ms ... requiring very fast loading.

    No amount of words will ever convince me that the G lenses are, or were, the equal to Leica ... they just lacked that 3D snap and unique draw qualities IMO. For all intents and purposes, that is the sole reason I got out and went back to Leica ... and stayed there this time.

    But again, this is ALL subjective and strictly opinion. The Zeiss lenses are very good, and would not disappoint ... unless you are me and perhaps only me.

    The Zeiss Ikon does hold a great deal of interest for me because of it's rangefinder base and the fact that it's a M mount ... not to mention 1/2000th top shutter speed.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    Just out of curiousity, what are your opinions on a Leica CL? They are a lot cheaper than M's but problem............?

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    The CLs are very nice as a second M body, IMHO. They have very short RF baselength which means focus accuracy with fast or long lenses is a challenge.

    For reference, here is a spreadsheet listing many rangefinder cameras and their EBL (effective rf baselength.) The greater the EBL, the higher the focus accuracy, and the better ability to work with fast lenses. A downloadable spreadsheet is here.

    To read the chart, any cell under 100% means the camera can focus accurately with that focal length and max aperture. Anything over 100% is iffy. As you can see, the CL has a difficult time with normal and telephoto fast lenses. (Note that +1.3, +1.4 etc refers to eyepiece magnifiers, and COC refers to circle of confusion, which differs between film and digital.)

    I have owned a couple of CLs and they are fun cameras, especially with the very nice 40/2 Summicron C, which I think is just as good as the 35 Summicron. Easier for me to load as the entire back comes off.

    EDIT: Note the Zeiss Ikon does not appear on this spreadsheet. The EBL of the ZI is a whopping 75mm, far greater than any other RF...ergo, it'll be the most accurate RF of any M camera.
    Last edited by monza; 25th April 2009 at 18:32.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    Thank you so much. There's certainly a lot more to RF's than I realised.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    Just get the G2. Among other things that no other RF has...4fps winder.

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    Re: Contax G2 information please

    That's the way I'm swinging for sure.

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