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Thread: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

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    Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    I'm giving serious thought to jumping into MF, and would appreciate your thoughts and opinions about the Contax 645 system versus others. Yes, I understand it is no longer manufactured, but I also don't know how important this is as this camera, from what I've read sounds extremely well-made.

    I have found a number of used Contax cameras to be available. I am confident good used lenses for the camera will come up from time to time. Along with the 80 that usually comes with the camera, I am particularly intersted in one very good wide angle, the 35 sounds excellent; I am also a macro shooter, and if I could find one, the 120 sounds incredible for both macro and portraiture. And, of course, I'd like to add a digital back for it eventually.

    So, my questions:
    1 Is the Contax 645 a camera that I should be worried about related to long term support or "fixability?"
    2 Do you feel there is a compelling reason to NOT buy a used Contax 645
    3 If you have experience with the zeiss 120, have you used it successfully for portraiture?
    4 If you have or have had experience with a digital back on the Contax 645, which one would you recommend as a good all-around choice?
    5 I will likely develop BW film myself, but I will likely send the negatives out for scanning. Can you recommend a vendor who provides quality negative scanning?

    Thank you in advance for any wisdom you're willing to share.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    There are a number of forum members who are very fond of their Contax 645 gear including me. The camera is built like a tank and if it does break there are still folks out there who fix them. With regard to the Zeiss 120, which is a wonderful lens, I personally would not use it for portraiture. There are better options, including the Contax 140 2.8 Sonnar and the Hasselblad 110 2.0 FE at around the same focal length. I've used this camera on the Aptus 75 and 75S and it's a great combination. BTW, I see this is your first post so welcome to the forum... you've come to the right place to get your questions answered.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    I will pipe in also as a long standing Contax fan. In going from kodak back to P25, P45 and P45+ I still don't see the back getting ahead of the glass or the camera. In five years of use, NO problems, so I can't somment on service (and I have every lens attachment accessory and even the Auto bellows!

    One thing people don't comment on is how realatively compact the Contax system is; it actually feels smaller in my hand than the R9/DMR. I regularly trek with this.

    Oh, and it handles all the hasselblad V lenses, as well a a bunch of Leica Visoflex lenses!

    anyway a small example

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    oops forgot files LOl

    Victpr
    Last edited by gogopix; 25th January 2015 at 17:22.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    these ar wiyth the older P25
    film is great as well
    Last edited by gogopix; 25th January 2015 at 17:22.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Welcome Ray!

    Indeed, you came to the right place. If this is your first venture into MF, then the Contax 645 is the best first choice. First, it is the camera that feels most like 35mm, so it will provide a more natural transition for you. Second, it is the lowest cost entry point into digital MF with autofocus lenses, so you can get your feet wet with minimal financial risk.

    In fact, you can grab an older Kodak 16MP back on ebay right now for probably under $3K (search for "Kodak back"). That one is a good deal as it is the later 645 back that is 16-bit, and includes a removable AA filter.

    Also, on ebay you can pick up a used kit for around $1200 - $1500. Add a less expensive 45 and a 140, and you are now in the MF business for a total investment of around $6500.

    I would recommend playing with such a system until you find your own way, maybe even earn a few bucks along the way, and then upgrade someday to a larger sensor, and more lenses as needed.

    The other path of least expense is to go with Mamiya. The same system (camera, back, and three lenses) will cost you in the neighborhood of $11K, depending on your lens choices, choice of used or new ones, and ability to find a demo back/kit. Of course, the Mamiya sensor will be newer and in 645 format, as opposed to the square Kodak back (which is sometimes preferable).

    I own several camera systems, but the one I use the most is still the Contax 645. The main reasons (for me) over the Mamiya are the following:
    - least vibration mirror of ANY MF camera
    - built-in TTL flash meter
    - waist level finder (necessary for macro/copy and ground level work)
    - personal preference for Zeiss lenses
    - with WLF and 55/3.5 lens, it is the smallest+lightest option having AE+AF

    Let us know if you have other questions.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    To all so far, thank you much for your welcoming me to the forum and for your thoughts and photos too. A few weeks ago I corresponded with Jack Flesher and he invited me to have a look at the "getdpi' forum. So here I am.

    I'm pleased to hear that each of you feel confident in the Contax system, and none of you sounds at all like you've regretted your decisions to invest in the system.

    Regarding that 120 macro, any particular reasons that you're thinking the 140 would be a better a choice?

    And, did most of you who own the camera run film through it for awhile before investing in a digital back or did you jump right in. I'm thinking scanning for awhile. Any thoughts about that too? Thanks again.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    The choice between the 120 and the 140 comes down to speed, and magnification of course. If you need true macro capability and shoot small features/objects, then the 120 is your choice. The main issues with the 120 is that it has a very long throw, meaning that if you focus near, then far, then near, etc. you will be spending most of your time turning and turning the focus ring back and forth....the lens literally doubles in size (it is not autofocus). And, if there is strong backlight or sidelight, there is often flare associated with this lens.

    On the other hand, the 140 is an autofocus lens with 2.8 aperture. It focuses really fast, and has nice bokeh. So, for speed and low light, it cannot be beat. (the 120 is F4, which is a big difference at times).

    As DavidK pointed out, if it is a portrait lens that you are after, the Hasselblad 110/2 with adapter is usually preferred over the 120 macro.

    Scanning film was always problematic for me. You have to work in a really dust free environment (e.g., no pets), otherwise the scanner will pick up dust/dander particles that must be removed by software (which often destroys the resolution) or by hand (very time consuming). And, there are often water spots on the film that are residual form the film development process, which again needs to be removed in a similar fashion. For me, it was just so much hassle dealing with film, and the marginal (if any) advantage did not outweigh going digital.
    Last edited by David Klepacki; 12th April 2008 at 19:56. Reason: Address question about scanning film

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Dave, thank you. to give you a flavor of the kinds of images I make, please take a look at my website, http://www.two-hawks.com Many of the images there are indeed macros. I've become accustomed to my canon 100mm macro, a very nice lens, so I was hoping that it would give me that kind of familiarity, but even better results, of course. I have also been using the canon 100 macro for portraits too. I was hoping to get a "two-fer." I didn't realize that the 120 was a push/pull lens. Pretty sure I don't like that prospect. I'm not familiar with the Hasselblad lens but I'll do some research on it. And, if you have used the 140 for close ups, not necessarily macros, how do you like it, how close can you get, how close to 1:1 can you get with it?

    And, yes, the dust/waterspots, etc. issues you're bringing up are very valid too. I hadn't thought of that. Sometimes I wonder if I should just keep saving up until I can just get a system with the digital back on it already right from the start, unfortunately, that's just not in the budget for now.

    Thanks again.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    OK, I can see from your website that you are definitely in the macro-shooter category. Very nice pics , btw.

    From what I see on your website, I think you will be better served with the 120 macro lens. You just have to be really conscious of your lighting situations. If you do that, the results from the Contax 120 will floor you.

    I think DavidK recently posted an example on this site with the Contax 120, so have a look.

  11. #11
    DougDolde
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    The 120mm Macro is a great optic for sure. Personally I find the 140mm excellent as well, and it combines nicely with the 1.4x Mutar to give a 196mm lens. To me this is preferable to the 210mm which isn't as good optically even though the Mutar costs you a stop. It's also more compact; the 210mm is a big lens.

    A good 3 lens kit is the 35mm, 80mm, and 140mm. Add the 1.4x Mutar later if you want to go longer. A nice 4 lens kit would include the 120mm.

    I have used the Contax 645 with a film back and wasn't too impressed. The files are good but if you are looking for high resolution, 645 film is marginal. Even the older Kodak Pro back will be superior to scanned film.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    David, thank you again, and thanks for checking out my website and pics (and glad you like the pics too). Yes, I do a lot of macro work at this point. I will most certainly find DavidK's 120 photos.

    Doug, thank you, I will certainly start looking into that 140, especially as part of an entire system. The 3 lenses you're talking about would be my choice too, along with the 120. And, yes, the higher resolution is what I'm after. I've read so many times that scanning film is a great way to go, but it's informative to hear that maybe the introduction of another technology, the scanner, isn't always the best way to go.

    Thanks guys.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    ... To me this is preferable to the 210mm which isn't as good optically ...
    I have to really disagree here. The 210 is one incredible lens. Unfortunately, there is mis-leading information out there concerning its performance. This lens was designed for close-in portraiture, and so optimized for short distance shooting. It does not have a floating element design to compensate for both short AND long distance shooting. People who try to then use this lens at long distances are not satisfied with its performance. Even the MTF charts are unfortunately standardized only to infinity, which prevents a proper evaluation at close range.

    Is the Mamiya 210 "sharper"? technically yes. Is the Hasselblad 210 sharper? technically yes. Are they "better" lenses? no. No other medium format AF telephoto lens can focus as close as the Contax 210 (about 4 feet) and with this performance. At this distance, the perspective is unique, and the bokeh is as good as it gets.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    One further point regarding the 210... it actually gets sharper when used with the Contax 1.4x mutar. Don't ask me why, makes no sense to me... it just does.

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    DougDolde
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Here's an image made with the 140mm + 1.4x. Clicking on it will show an actual pixels view of the area in the red box. This is with the Kodak Pro back. Not the greatest image but it does show the resolving power of the lens and back pretty well. This is a single row stitch of 3 or 4 frames.

    http://www.painted-with-light.com/AS6.html

    I only owned the 210mm briefly so really can't compare it in terms of image quality. It's bulk was no match for the svelte 140mm + 1.4x.

    Of interest is the Photodo rating for Contax 645 lenses which puts the 210mm at the bottom of the pile.

    http://www.photodo.com/products.html...=Contax+645+AF
    Last edited by DougDolde; 13th April 2008 at 11:10.

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    Subscriber gogopix's Avatar
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    i have both the 140 and 120. the 140 is generally more flexible and faster, though for maKro the contax 120 beats the hasselblad Makro by many people's estimation.

    as for the 210mm I have been disappointed at landscape distances, but for portraitrure (being 140 equiv or so, it is really fine.
    I havent tried with 1,4x Mutar since I have the 350/4 (a really sharp lens for its size,

    Victor

    PS dont forget the little trick of using 2 sec delay. It locks up mirror and further damps vibration. Helpful for those long shots esp.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Thanks again to all of you for the valuable information you've provided me. I've given this lots of consideration and must admit that I have yet to get a good "mental map" of how this all fits together. I find that aside from my original question on the Contax 645, there are simply too many variables for me to make sense of for now:seemingly endless variations in bodies, variations in manufacturers, variations in digital backs in a time of rapid technological advances, sizes of pixels, "crop factor," individual character of individual lenses, way too many variables for me to intelligently be able to justify investing past my already competent Canon 1DsMarkII...for now. So, I'll keep reading, listening, and studying. Thank you again.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    ... Of interest is the Photodo rating for Contax 645 lenses which puts the 210mm at the bottom of the pile...
    Doug, the Photodo rating is again evaluated for infinity focus, and so grossly "undervalues" this lens (unless you are really interested in infinity focus use only). As Victor pointed out, it is not a good choice for landscape. The 140 is much higher resolving in that respect, as your photos (and photodo) indicate. The photodo rating is great for us portrait photogrpahers, since it keeps the price of the 210 lens low. Its value can only really be appreciated for portraiture.

    Also, I can indeed confirm that once you add the 1.4X mutar to the 210, you get an even better, sharper lens. With this combination, you get a 300mm lens that can focus at 4 feet. For me, this combination produced images that had more snap than the Contax 350....but the 350 has its own place in the lens lineup from Contax.

  19. #19
    DougDolde
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Something that some may find of interest, Conurus is developing an adapter for using Contax 645 lenses on a Canon. Full support for AF and exposure.

    http://en.conurus.com/index.html

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Quote Originally Posted by RayM View Post
    Thanks again to all of you for the valuable information you've provided me. I've given this lots of consideration and must admit that I have yet to get a good "mental map" of how this all fits together. I find that aside from my original question on the Contax 645, there are simply too many variables for me to make sense of for now:seemingly endless variations in bodies, variations in manufacturers, variations in digital backs in a time of rapid technological advances, sizes of pixels, "crop factor," individual character of individual lenses, way too many variables for me to intelligently be able to justify investing past my already competent Canon 1DsMarkII...for now. So, I'll keep reading, listening, and studying. Thank you again.
    DEar Ray,

    There is the old story of the donkey, midway between two piles of glorious hay, and can't decide.....

    ....so he starves!

    The world of MF is different and rewarding; whether it is better for YOU will depend on what you want to get out of it. But, make no mistake, it IS a step up and there is a significant world of tonal range, dynamic range and resolution that you will just not get from 35mm. If you look at the threads here and on luminous landscape (there is and another intersting 'should I get a contax..."there) you will see how many people find a new dimension to photography. You won't find it in just casual work, and you may not find it in one specific application (let's say, medium resolution product catalog work) but overall it is something you may not want to dismiss as 'maybe just not that much better than what I have..."

    I say this not as an evangelist, but to say that I would rather not have anyone 'just satisfied' when they could have something special.

    Maybe a rental, with option to buy would tell you IF MFDB is going to be rewarding for you commensurate with the cost (because, believe me, there IS a cost!)

    Then, even though I use Contax and Phase, I think there are many combinations that would work. I was driven by glass (zeiss design) and the Contax reliability and feel (feels smaller in my hand than my R9/DMR!)

    By all means keep looking and thinking, but it will never be like...

    ...DOING!

    regards
    Victor

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    DougDolde
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Ebay is the place to get Contax 645 gear. KEH.com is good too. I just got a very nice Zeiss 140mm for $610 on Ebay.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v2...5/_MG_6438.jpg

    I am building a new Contax kit. I sold the previous one a couple years ago mostly because I didn't like the Kodak Pro back files enough over 4x5 film. This time I am going to get a better back. That said the Kodak back is still pretty darn good.

    Yes I am a gearholic too.
    Last edited by DougDolde; 13th April 2008 at 20:26.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Victor, thank you, yes, I really do want to get on the MF bus, but the route isn't clear for me. I'm completely confident I'll eventually choose something, sooner than later. After sleeping on it overnight, I'm basically trying to choose between picking up a Contax 645 for what I think is a pretty good price and getting a back for it in the next few months, or just holding out for awhile until we see some new offerings. Last night I was leaning to just waiting awhile longer, this morning I'm leaning to the Contax now and build-it-over-time option.

    Doug, thanks for the advice on ebay too, I'll check it out. And, which specific back do you think you will be adding for your Contax 645?

    And, there's always the shoot film and scan method too, annoyances and all.

  23. #23
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    I haven't decided which back yet. Leaf or Phase.

    Scanning 645 film is not worth the bother. I already shoot 4x5 and get it a high quality scan. In fact just finding an affordable digital back that will satisfy me after 4x5 is the issue.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Hi Doug, Uncle! I'm going to get the Contax 645 and take my time figuring out which back to get for it and then save up for it. Ok, now I feel better! Thank you for your help.

  25. #25
    DougDolde
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    A tip for Ebay buying...use snipeswipe.com

    Put in your maximum price and it will bid for you in the last 10-12 seconds. Don't go too high, there will always be another one coming. Patience will get you the best deals.

    An excellent body can be had for under $600, a prism for under $300, etc. A kit is good if you don't bid too high. Beware of TMR's stuff, its good but they always want top dollar. $2000 for a kit w/ 80mm is more than you need to pay.

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    Subscriber gogopix's Avatar
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Or watch the ads in several sites;
    For me I went to one of the Photo stores; KEH, KOH, B&H, Adorama, Samy's, Henry's (CA) etc. Lots of them. I have never had a bad purchase from a syore and they will take it back.

    Also try Kurland. A little more but Eli has the best stuff.

    regards
    Victor

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Doug and Victor, good news, just found one for well under $2K, in like new condition. Should have it later this week.

    And, thanks so much too for the tip on the auto-bidding service. Amazing stuff. Now I'll start the hunt for a nice wide angle, something in the 24/28mm (in 35mm terms) and eventually a good macro, and maybe that 140 too. Thanks again. Ray

  28. #28
    DougDolde
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Here's another tip. If you only search on Ebay for "Contax 645" you may miss a few items. Looks like everybody missed this one (because of a quirky title) and it would have been a steal at the opening price.

    http://tinyurl.com/5bh79f

    Watch for it. They will probably relist it and I bet use the same title !

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Great Tip, Doug, thank you.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    just call henry's and offewr the opening price
    i have done this when I have missed an auction and all have just sold to me at the price opening without auction. Many take credit cards directly
    Henrty's is a good source
    and the 35mm is a great lens (it is actually my 'walk around' other than the 80mm

    Victor

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Were you able to get the lens? I went out to his website last night right after I read your earlier auction note and it wasn't listed. Ray

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?


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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    A tip for Ebay buying...use snipeswipe.com

    Put in your maximum price and it will bid for you in the last 10-12 seconds. Don't go too high, there will always be another one coming. Patience will get you the best deals.

    An excellent body can be had for under $600, a prism for under $300, etc. A kit is good if you don't bid too high. Beware of TMR's stuff, its good but they always want top dollar. $2000 for a kit w/ 80mm is more than you need to pay.

    I have had good experience with www.auctionsniper.com . Have been using it for a few years and rarely have lost an auciton.
    Lance Schad
    Capture Integration - Miami/Atlanta
    305-394-3196 cell | 305-534-5702 office
    Capture Integration
    [email protected]
    Lance

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Thanks Victor, I think it's already gone. That's ok though. Need money first!

    And, Lance, thank you. Great tip. When I get ready to grow the lens collection, I'll certainly dig into this one. And, a question for you, specifically, how often does your company receive items such as digital backs (like when they're coming off-lease or coming in on a trade-in, that kind of thing? Is it fairly often? Thank you.

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    Senior Member irakly's Avatar
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Quote Originally Posted by RayM View Post
    So, my questions:
    1 Is the Contax 645 a camera that I should be worried about related to long term support or "fixability?"
    2 Do you feel there is a compelling reason to NOT buy a used Contax 645
    3 If you have experience with the zeiss 120, have you used it successfully for portraiture?
    4 If you have or have had experience with a digital back on the Contax 645, which one would you recommend as a good all-around choice?
    5 I will likely develop BW film myself, but I will likely send the negatives out for scanning. Can you recommend a vendor who provides quality negative scanning?

    Thank you in advance for any wisdom you're willing to share.
    1. Well, you know... At least now if you need to fix a body it is cheaper to by a used one for $500 or so. most problems with lenses can be fixed, unless you drop it. ToCad seems to be decent, at least faster than Contax USA used to be
    2. No reason whatsoever.
    3. I use 120 a few times a week, this lens is absolutely unfit for portraiture. All C645 lenses are highly specialized. 4/120 is for product work and nothing else. 2/80 and 2.8/140 are the best for portraiture. In fact, 2/80 is THE BEST for portraiture if you use a digital back with 1.5 crop. 3.5/35 is great for interiors, 2.8/45 for landscapes. 3.5/55 is absolutely great for environmental portraiture. 4/210 is not very impressive.
    4. Shooting with a digital back since 2002. Always used Kodak DCS ProBack 645C. Recently bought PhaseOne P25. So, if you want my backup Kodak, let me know cuz I am going to put it on eBay tomorrow. I am absolutely convinced that Kodak sports the best price/performance ratio right now, and if you like square format, this is it. Files can be printed 6x6 feet with such quality that one can look at the image with a magnifying glass and be hard-pressed to tell it from film.
    5. I scan film myself with Polaroid 120. Only on very rare occasions, mainly if a transparency is slightly underexposed, I have a need for something more advanced like Imacon.

  36. #36
    DougDolde
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Irakly how do you find the P25 over the Kodak? Is it hugely better?

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    I would be curious too. In my switch from Kodak to P25 I actually missed some of the color and film-like look of the Kodak. The resolution of the P25 was there, but only noticable in blowuos.

    I am actually considering a Kodak back as backuo (I have an extra COntax body), but Ray, why don't you get youyrs settled first. They regularly come on the market and Midwest will service them for the forseeable future.

    good luck.

    Victor

    PS there is another on ebay Kodak Contax back ending in 2 days. Now at $2100

    PPS: Dear Ray; get a kadak back quickly! I am starting to like it aagain, a lot! LOL

    [PPPS Let me know which one's you bid on so I will NOT compete!]

    PPPPS take a look at some of the images on the other C645 thread,
    Last edited by gogopix; 15th April 2008 at 13:27.

  38. #38
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Irakly, thank you very much for your assistance on this. If it's not too terribly much trouble, would you please post a photo taken with the 120 of either/both a person and a thing (a flower, a detail of some kind). I'd really appreciate seeing with my own eyes what the 120 can do. I have already started to shift my thinking on this whole 120 macro-for-two-purposes thought, and I'm onto thinking about the 140 in addition to the 80. Frankly, the lens I will probably pursue once I familiarize myself with the camera is a wide angle. I have the Contax 21 f2.8 Distagon that I use with my Canon, and I'm actually thinking of leaning more towards the 45 rather than the 35. And, if it were a few months from now, I would be very interested in the Kodak back that you'll be putting up on ebay. By the way, what do you anticipate that you'll get for the item when it's all over. I'm very curious about this.

    And, Victor, thank you too, you're exactly right, I'm going to settle in for some time and get to know the camera. I'll run film through it, have it developed and scanned, and see what she can do, as they say. So, feel free to bid on those items!

  39. #39
    Senior Member irakly's Avatar
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    there is more than one reason not to use 120 for portraiture. it is f/4, so it's not that easy to focus in the dark. moreover, it has a very long throw -- not very practical for people photography.
    the thing is, i do not shoot flowers that often let me see...
    i expect to get $5500 for it. it has as little as 1200 actuations, three chargers and five batteries.

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Irakly, thank you for posting the photos. Really nice. I'm beginning to see what everybody is acknowledging as the fine quality of the lens, and of course, the photographers who use it (!). Really, very nice work. As with any of these lenses, I was hoping to get some "double duty" from them, as in macro and portraits, but yes, I see your point, especially in darker circumstances and the challenge that proper focusing would be, like on a subject's eyes. So, it looks like the 140 it shall be. And, some day, I'm sure I'll pick up a used 120 for the macro work I enjoy so much.

    Thanks too for the info on the back. Ray

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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Irakly

    Is the Kodak back adaptable to the Hasselblad V series cameras? If so I may want to make you an offer.

    Best

    woody Spedden

  42. #42
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    for the macro work you can get auto extension tubes for $450 total and use them with either 80 or 140 for different magnification ratios. oh, extension tubes transmit all auto functions.

  43. #43
    Senior Member irakly's Avatar
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    Re: Contax 645, your thoughts please?

    Quote Originally Posted by woodyspedden View Post
    Irakly

    Is the Kodak back adaptable to the Hasselblad V series cameras? If so I may want to make you an offer.

    Best

    woody Spedden
    woody, it is not. for hasselblad you need kodak proback plus, and i doubt that it will work with anything but 555ELD.

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