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Thread: Pentax 645 or Contax 645?

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    Pentax 645 or Contax 645?

    Looking to get into a 645 system for medium format film photography and I've been looking at both the Pentax 645 & Contax 645 AF systems. Seems like lenses for the Contax have a better reputation, but lenses for the Pentax are much cheaper.

    I am mostly shooting film right now for pleasure. I am running into the limits of my RF system which I use on a pretty regular basis (IE macro, exact plane of focus) and I think that either of these systems would work well as a step-up.

    Opinions on either system? Am I crazy?

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    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
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    Re: Pentax 645 or Contax 645?

    Are you looking to just shoot film?

    If not, one consideration is that both systems are now discontinued, assuming that you are referring to the Pentax 645 N system. The Pentax glass would be usable if you decided to go to the Pentax 645D in the future, although I'll leave it to the Pentax users to discuss the merits of existing non-digital glass on that body. I shot with the 645N II for a while years ago and it was a very very capable camera with most of the conveniences of 35mm SLR systems. It was a real shame that it, plus the Mamiya 645 Pro TL system, ended up without a digital upgrade path. (I still prefer the 645 Pro TL to my 645 AFD II & Phase One DF btw!).

    The Contax has great Zeiss glass and also pretty much any digital back can be found for it even today should you wish to go that route later. However, there's still the question of support in the future although there seem to be plenty of avid Contax users and community. I was very tempted to go this route myself a while back as it's a superb camera platform IMHO.
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    Senior Member mathomas's Avatar
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    Re: Pentax 645 or Contax 645?

    Between those two I'd go Contax, but I'm a Contax and Zeiss bigot (I have an RX, and all my other system cameras take Zeiss lenses). I ended up with a Hassy 500c/m, though, due to the cost of Contax gear and wanting to try the legendary square-shooting machine (am very happy with it).

    I know you didn't mention it, but if you just want to play around with 645 and can live without interchangeable lenses, you might consider one of Fuji's 645 cameras. I have a GA645Zi, which has a short zoom range, and it's a really nice camera. Very compact, versatile, a lot of automation, etc. Relatively cheap. I took it on a trip recently and came back with a lot of photos that I'm really happy with.

    Here's a video overview of my three 120 cameras:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxViNV9-Zgo

    (it's not great, but you may see something that interests you)

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    Re: Pentax 645 or Contax 645?

    I haven't used a Pentax, but I love my Contax, the 80/2 Planar is heavenly. These are still supported by TOCAD. Interest in the Contax is very strong right now, prices are a lot higher than they were when I got mine.

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    Re: Pentax 645 or Contax 645?

    Both systems are very good. It really come down to what focal length you want to work with and cost. Some of the Pentax lenses are just as good as the Contax and their are more choices. Pentax lenses and accessories will be easier to obtain and lenses are still production--I understand the new 645D lens will work on the 645N II. Many of the the film 645 lenses work well on the 645D camera.

    The Contax is a fine camera with a fine set of lenses. It could be one of the best designed and certainly the sexiest, 645 system made. It is expensive and limited. Medium-format digital back have been put on this as well.

    BTW, I am a Pentax 645D owner.

    Photographer skill is going to be a bigger influence in quality than the differences of these systems. Pick the one that is going to give you the fewer compromises in the way you work.

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    Re: Pentax 645 or Contax 645?

    I have a big Fuji GW690iii and a Rollei 2.8F, but lens interchangeability is becoming a bigger issue for me. Having only one single FL on a camera isn't so bad, as long as I can change the focal length at home or on the go.

    @mathomas: The video was informative! Thanks The 645zi is a camera I would enjoy using, but I am afraid I would use it as a point and shoot instead of a working camera.

    I'll grab a Pentax and go have some fun. Thanks for the recommendations folks!

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    Re: Pentax 645 or Contax 645?

    To say the least I am known here as a Contax fan (maniac?)
    Thyat said, Pentax can give you a nice range of lenses, though you will likely pay more than for comparable used Contax Zeiss-design lenses.

    A few advantages of the contax:
    1. Upgrade path and LOTS of backs available at good prices (including up to P65+). In future can save a lot by upgrading in the Phase line
    2. The Zeiss-design lenses are some of the best MF even made; I see little or no degradation at 60MP and assume 80MP will not strain
    3.There are adapters for the Hasselblad V series (including 500 and 2000 non-leaf shutter lenses ) The 350mm SA is likely the best lens made, ever (according to the designer )
    4.Interchangeable eye and waist-level finders
    5. REALLY reliable (I keep saying thi, but so far, and I have every imaginable accessory, all lenses, 3 flash, 2 bodies and a partidge in a ....no, I guess tha's another song FWIW, no failure of anything in over 10 years, including the film era.)
    6. A ready market, at least now (there is a large float, and prices as Monza says are firm, and likely to stay, at least for a few year. Like Rollei and the older Hasselblad and older Leica lenses, they just keep working!)

    Regards
    Victor

    Anyway, I am sure you will get really fine files from both, and the Pentax sensor is no slouch.

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