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Thread: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

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    Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Dear all,
    I'm looking for a 645 body that can be still used with medium format film. Most if not all new bodies are not film compatible! Except the tech cameras, which I have no interest now.

    Is the contax 645 worth investing or mamiya afd (ii or iii) or hasselblad h2.
    I know that lenses are amazing and comparable on all systems but serviceability and consistency is what I'm looking for.

    I'm not in rush and would like to look carefully and choose accordingly.

    Unfortunately, in Saudi I couldn't find a dealer where I can try and make an informative decision.

    Regards,
    Mohammed

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by mob81 View Post
    Dear all,
    I'm looking for a 645 body that can be still used with medium format film. Most if not all new bodies are not film compatible! Except the tech cameras, which I have no interest now.

    Is the contax 645 worth investing or mamiya afd (ii or iii) or hasselblad h2.
    I know that lenses are amazing and comparable on all systems but serviceability and consistency is what I'm looking for.

    I'm not in rush and would like to look carefully and choose accordingly.

    Unfortunately, in Saudi I couldn't find a dealer where I can try and make an informative decision.

    Regards,
    Mohammed

    Hi Mohammed -

    Tough spot, without a local dealer for hands on. But perhaps this is a project for a nice short vacation somewhere?

    The below list all take film backs (and digital, to some degree).

    *Hasselblad V Series 6x6 Format Cameras (500C/CM/EL/ELX, 501C/CM, 503CX/CW, 553ELX, 555ELD)
    *Hasselblad H Series 645 Format Cameras (H1/H2)
    *Bronica ETR Series 645 Format Camera (ETR/ETRS/ETRSi)
    *Mamiya AFD Series 645 Format Cameras (AFD/AFD-II/AFD-III)
    *Phase One Series 645 Format Cameras (AF)
    *Mamiya RZ/RB Series 6x7 Format Cameras (RB/RZ-Pro/Pro-II/Pro-IID)
    *Contax AF 645 Series Format Cameras (645AF)
    *Rollei 6000 Series 6x6 Format Cameras (6008AF)
    *Rollei AFi/Hy6 Series 6x6 Format Camera (Leaf AFi/Rollei & Sinar Hy6)
    *Fuji GX680 Series 6x8 Format Cameras (GX680/GX680-II/GX680-III)

    Of these, for film use, only the Hasselblad 503CW, Mamiya RZ Pro II D and Rollei Hy6/AFi are still in production (maybe Mamiya RB/AFDIII/P1 AF). However, service is (generally) still available for all of the other cameras, but can be limited in some respects, meaning access to parts, etc.

    Your 2 stated desires of serviceability and consistency are somewhat at odds with each other. Older camera that are discontinued can usually be repaired, but the availability of parts can be an issue - in terms of fast turnaround. But newer cameras that are still current can be more volatile in terms of reliability (and more expensive to repair), due to changing firmware, more electronics, more pushing the envelope for performance.

    A summary of your choices might look like:

    Contax 645 AF
    Pro: Pretty rock solid, they just do what they do, still often found in rental
    Con: Repair times can be impacted by replacement part availability
    Workaround: Accumulate inventory for backup

    Hasselblad H1/H2
    Pro: Use film or any digital back, found in rental everywhere
    Con: Repairs can be expensive, more potential for quirky behavior than manual camera
    Workaround: Have a good relationship with a support partner (dealer, etc)

    Mamiya/Phase AFDIII/AF
    Pro: Use film or any digital back, found in most rental places
    Con: Repairs can be expensive, more potential for quirky behavior than manual camera
    Workaround: Have a good relationship with a support partner (dealer, etc)

    The other cameras all have pros/cons as well, above are just the most common choices (and for 645 format/auto focus).


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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Dear Steve,
    Thanks for the information you provided.
    I should've mentioned that I don't want manual focus camera (I still have my Hasselblad 503CW and 3 lenses, Pentax 67 and 3 lenses, and a TLR). I want an autofocus 6x4.5 long ago and read about their lenses and the systems. Hasselblad H4X would be perfect in every way for me, but I find Hasselblad decisions questionable many times (I do LOVE Hasselblads though) but not making it available to buy instead of trade in! anyway, it's almost out from the options.

    Will the Hasselblad H2 or the Mamiya AFD (II or III) be easier to service that the Contax 645 AF, Regardless of the price for now.

    I actually passed on a chance of testing Mamiya AFD III when it was new on Dubai at their Official distributer, and I went this year to check it and they said since Leaf or so took over Mamiya they stopped distributing Mamiya (I can see why!).

    Thanks

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Rolleiflex Hy6 is likely the best medium format camera and can be used for both film 6x6, 645 and digital back. The Schneider lenses are arguably better than the others Steve mentioned. Yes it cost, but top quality.

    If you want lower cost perhaps Mamiya RZ which you can find for very reasonable on Ebay. With it you can use 6x7 film. Also for 6x7 there is the Mamiya 7 which is an excellent rangefinder system which makes it portable and with very sharp lenses, but also more expensive than RZ. RZ can be used with digital back, but not Mamiya 7.

    It depends on budget and what you shoot. I have had the above (RZ very very short time) and I now use Hy6 with 80MP digital back and am very pleased with the Rolleiflex system.

    Best regards,
    Anders

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by mob81 View Post
    I want an autofocus 6x4.5

    Regardless of the price for now.
    Above makes simple; look at Hy6 and Schneider lenses. The newer Zeiss lenses are also good. I have the Schneider 80mm Xenotar 2.8 PWS AF and it is the best lens I have owned, near glued to camera. Also have the Zeiss 50mm FLE which is also very sharp but manual focus.

    I prior had Mamiy AFD, AFDIII and was not pleased. Likewise the newer DF and DF+ are based on same old AFD body...

    You can read of Rolleiflex Hy6 and lenses here
    http://rolleiflexpages.com/Hy6.html
    http://rolleiflexpages.com/lensesandaccessories.html

    And you can order from and get service direct from DHW who makes them in Germany;
    http://rolleiflexpages.com/testsandinformation.html

    My own contact at DHW is direct with Mr. Hartje, CEO and I know some other users are in contact with Mr. Schonrock. They both speak good English on telephone. I know of no other medium format company being able to reach so direct.

    Last edited by Anders_HK; 18th October 2012 at 10:19.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by mob81 View Post
    Dear Steve,
    Thanks for the information you provided.
    I should've mentioned that I don't want manual focus camera (I still have my Hasselblad 503CW and 3 lenses, Pentax 67 and 3 lenses, and a TLR). I want an autofocus 6x4.5 long ago and read about their lenses and the systems. Hasselblad H4X would be perfect in every way for me, but I find Hasselblad decisions questionable many times (I do LOVE Hasselblads though) but not making it available to buy instead of trade in! anyway, it's almost out from the options.

    Will the Hasselblad H2 or the Mamiya AFD (II or III) be easier to service that the Contax 645 AF, Regardless of the price for now.

    I actually passed on a chance of testing Mamiya AFD III when it was new on Dubai at their Official distributer, and I went this year to check it and they said since Leaf or so took over Mamiya they stopped distributing Mamiya (I can see why!).

    Thanks

    Hi Mohammed -

    I don't think the answer to easier to service? is a linear one. But here are some considerations. All have their challenges. On the one hand, Contax is easier to service because any service would happen at a camera service center authorized for Contax servicing. Their is no Contax company, per se, so for "these repairs, for example", the camera would never be shipped back to "the factory". For Contax then, it is mainly a question of identifying a camera repair center that includes service for Contax (many do), and then the primary issue would be their access to parts and their own expertise level.

    Mamiya and Hasselblad will more commonly have an authorized distributor or company support office in various countries and cities around the world. However, some repairs can require shipment to the factory (Switzerland/Denmark), and in these cases, the turnaround could be similar to waiting on Contax parts at your local/nearby camera repair shop.

    Generally, most major rental centers around the world have inventory of all 3 systems, but in order of likelihood - Hasselblad for sure, and then Contax/Mamiya/Phase probably about even, perhaps Mamiya/Phase nudging ahead of Contax, in terms of rental availability, in recent years.

    This is my perception, world-wide, certainly there are many here who can lend more feet on the ground feedback as well.

    For clarification, Phase One has a majority stake in Mamiya Corp, Leaf is a division of Phase One, and there are various different manufacturer distributorships and arrangements with all 3 product lines that differ in countries around the world. In America, Mamiya and Leaf are both distributed by Mamiya America Corporation.


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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Steve,

    Mamiya and Hasselblad may require repair in Switzerland/Denmark ???

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    When Kyocera bought Contax, I believe they agreed to honor warranties and supply parts for ten years (through 2015). In the USA, at least, you can almost always coordinate a repair through ToCad (Kyocera's authorized service agent). After 2015, I am sure parts will still be available, but the support infrastructure will be gone and you'll probably have to very quickly find a repair shop that has plenty of parts in stock...or start to stockpile backup equipment yourself.

    I have had Hasselblad and Mamiya equipment serviced and repaired in the US by authorized repairmen (i.e. NOT sent to Hasselblad USA or MAC). My limited experience: Hasselblad parts and service are costlier and take longer than Mamiya (which everytime has proven to be cheaper and faster). YMMV.

    BTW the Hy6 never really took off in the US - I believe Graham Mitchell has used this system extensively with excellent results.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anders_HK View Post
    Steve,

    Mamiya and Hasselblad may require repair in Switzerland/Denmark ???

    Yes - but this is relatively rare, the overwhelming majority of repairs can be done locally.


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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anders_HK View Post
    Steve,

    Mamiya and Hasselblad may require repair in Switzerland/Denmark ???
    Neither are made in Switzerland/Denmark or am I misinformed ?

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Mohammed,

    regarding AF see this and my post (directly following):
    http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/458412-post36.html

    The Contax system is still suitable for 60MP-, according to "Yaya" even for 80MP-backs. The 35mm, 80mm, 140mm and Vario Zoom 45-90mm lenses are very sharp (stopped down). The 120mm macro is a dream. I found the 45mm to be too soft at the edges (on a P45), though very sharp in the center. I don't know the 55mm lens and longer lenses than 140mm. The look of the Contax lenses is very, very nice (whatever...). There's also a very nice vertical grip for the Contax 645.

    regarding service... as already mentioned: simply buy 2 camera bodies and 2 copies of your preferred lens.

    If you also shoot film its worth to look for the Contax 645 vacuum film holder.

    Bodies and 35mm, 45mm, 80mm and 140mm lenses are easy to find in mint condition.
    These pieces are not so easy to find (takes some time): 55mm, Vario Zoom 45-90mm, waist level finder, vacuum film holder, vertical grip.

    The Contax System is known to be extremely reliable. Still, it's a discontinued system, so there won't be updates, upgrades or so...

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anders_HK View Post
    Neither are made in Switzerland/Denmark or am I misinformed ?

    Aw - you know. Somewhere around there. Ok, I mean Denmark for Hasselblad, I'm not sure about a Phase/Mamiya DF camera - but I seem to have heard of an occasion where one unit was sent also to Denmark (to Phase).

    I could be inaccurate - my point was just that the units for some repairs might need to go to the factory, rather than the local distributor, who in many/most cases performs the repair responsibilities. And this being in contrast to say, a Contax repair.


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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Mohammed, how are you my brother?

    Give a visit to UAE, and if you can visit Ajman or Sharjah then we meet and we can discuss about MF, i bought my digital Hasselbald from a local dealer of Hassy in Dubai, i know another dealers, such as Sinar, or Pentax if it is available but the digital one only, also Phase One, but about film 645, the best option is to buy online, i bought all my film MF from online but none are 6x4.5, all are 6x6 and larger up to 6x12.
    Tareq

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by Professional View Post
    Mohammed, how are you my brother?

    Give a visit to UAE, and if you can visit Ajman or Sharjah then we meet and we can discuss about MF, i bought my digital Hasselbald from a local dealer of Hassy in Dubai, i know another dealers, such as Sinar, or Pentax if it is available but the digital one only, also Phase One, but about film 645, the best option is to buy online, i bought all my film MF from online but none are 6x4.5, all are 6x6 and larger up to 6x12.
    Dear Tariq,
    That's good news. I just read about hasselblad dealer in Dubai. However, no h2 used with them. Contact them regarding h4x and as I thought, no way to buy it as first camera.

    I'll come to Dubai next week for 9 days with the family. And afterward on nov 17th for business seminar for 12 days. I'll contact you via pm later.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Sorry for hijacking this discussion! I am selling my AFDIII body and 80mm f/2.8D lens + film back if you are looking for a virtually brand new camera but used a bit!

    The reason I am selling the camera is that I decided to shoot film and digital on my RZ67 Pro IID camera and save to get a technical camera for architecture work!
    Aryan Aqajani - Photographer in Melbourne, Australia
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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by mob81 View Post
    Dear all,
    I'm looking for a 645 body that can be still used with medium format film. Most if not all new bodies are not film compatible!

    Regards,
    Mohammed
    The Hy6 is film compatible, and it seems to be the only system still alive where film is an active consideration. It also gives you the option to shoot multiple formats (6 x 4.5 and 6 x 6) as well as digital. In my limited experience, it also makes most of the current competitors (I don't consider the Contax current) feel like plastic toys in comparison. If you can afford it, I wouldn't be in doubt for a second.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Based on your thread title, "Is the Contax 645 worth it?" ... the answer is yes. With careful shopping the price of most components are relatively inexpensive compared to most others, so it is possible to buy 2 of each critical components as back-up. The Contax makes for a very good film camera and digital backs are still made in Contax mount. The Contax 645 was my system for many years before switching to the Hasselblad H system.

    The main reasons I switched was 1) for improved AF, 2) I wanted all the lenses to be leaf shutter for use with lighting both in studio and outdoors with battery driven strobes, and lastly 3) the Contax was clearly a dead-end system with no further improvements possible. One other aspect I liked was that I could use all of my Zeiss 500 series CF, CFi and CFE lenses via the CF Adapter on the H camera.

    Of the H system possibilities, there are the H1, H2, H2F, H4X, Plus the H2D, and H3D cameras. The H3D usually comes with a 22, 31 or 39 meg Hasselblad digital back (and only the Hasselblad backs), but is fully compatible with H film backs ... which I used when I had a H3D. Hasselblad did not close out the H cameras from taking film backs until the H3D-II model.

    The H3D camera with digital back can be had at VERY good prices used ... literally less than a new Hy6 without a digital back! They are still supported by Hasselblad service centers worldwide ... what usually has to be sent back to Denmark is the digital back, the bodies are more serviceable locally.

    All that said, if film were my priority, I personally would not select any 645 system. My overwhelming preference for film shooting is 6X6 or better yet 6X7 ... whether scanning or analog printing in the darkroom. I still have a Mamiya RZ Pro-IID, and lots of lenses and accessories should the film bug bite me in future (unlikely, but not impossible ).

    Beyond 645, that also includes possible digital back use and AF, it narrows the down the field almost exclusively to the HY6 with 6X6 film backs. Beyond having tested one for a day I have no knowledge of the Hy6, and others here are more well versed regarding the current service experiences and availability of parts etc. However, it is a current system and seems to be receiving improvements ... which will NEVER happen with the Contax 645. Basically the optical rendering of film images will be familiar to you because you use a 503CW and Zeiss lenses.

    The drawbacks or positives depending on what you desire or need are: All lenses are leaf shutter with a limited top shutter speed (I'd find that a positive, where others would not). When compared to a 645 with 90 prism, the Hy6 is less nimble for spontaneous shooting, but I'm sure Hy6 users will disagree, so I'll just agree to disagree. For film use I would accept this debatable drawback in favor of the larger 6X6 negative.

    The only camera I personally would not select is any form of the Mamiya 645 ... AFD-II, AFD-III ... which is not modular like the Contax or H camera, has no waist level finder option and ... again personally ... is a camera I hated and would select the Contax 645 over it any day.


    -Marc

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anders_HK View Post
    Steve,

    Mamiya and Hasselblad may require repair in Switzerland/Denmark ???
    Our DF has been in Denmark for over a month now, mirror fix. Still no end in sight.
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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    When compared to a 645 with 90 prism, the Hy6 is less nimble for spontaneous shooting, but I'm sure Hy6 users will disagree, so I'll just agree to disagree.
    I prior had Mamiya 645 AFD & AFDIII, now Hy6 --- there is very big difference!!! The Mamiya was tiring to hold and very poor grip. It needed to be lift to head high to shoot. With Hy6 I use WLF and cradle hold the camera which result in steadier pictures because I do not need to lift up to head level. Instead I bend down to camera. The balance of Hy6 is superb, it is very nimble and a joy to use (perhaps because Mamiya AFD & AFDIII were not?). The Hy6 camera body is surprising low weight. With film back it will be less weight than a digital back. Indeed very nimble.

    I personally prefer the WLF because lower weight and smaller when carry camera. I have also looked/tried out the 45 and 90 degree finders. The 45 degree seem preferred over those because bigger and brighter view, but not quite same experience as the WLF.

    Hy6 is like a modern AF Hassy V camera should have been. It feels much advantage compared to Mamiya 645 system, both the camera and the lenses. Even most new lenses for Mamiya 645 look tad like toy lenses in comparison. However it is first and most the character and quality optics of Rolleiflex lenses which puts them arguably ahead of the Hassy lenses. The camera body is possibly the best medium format camera out there. Very precise AF and a sheer joy to use.

    Depending on what you shoot, if you only want a camera for film and would be happy with manual focus. Perhaps consider the Mamiya 7. Likewise it is a very superb camera.

    Best regards,
    Anders

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    Our DF has been in Denmark for over a month now, mirror fix. Still no end in sight.
    What does your dealer have to say about this?


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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    The only camera I personally would not select is any form of the Mamiya 645 ... AFD-II, AFD-III ... which is not modular like the Contax or H camera, has no waist level finder option and ... again personally ... is a camera I hated and would select the Contax 645 over it any day.


    -Marc

    Marc, what do you mean by your use of the term "modular"?


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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Even not produced any longer, the Contax 645 system ist still top notch in most areas and just wonderful to use.

    - Most lenses (35, 45, 55, 80, 120M, 140, 210, 1,4x Mutar) and the body are very reasonable priced on 2nd hand market: 600 to 1500 $ per part
    - Most lenses (35, 55, 80, 120M, 140, 350) are sharp (if stopped down a bit) even with the latest 60 and 80 MP backs (I use the P65+)
    - Especially the 80f2 and 140f2.8 lenses have wonderful bokeh, both have excellent center area sharpness from f2.8 onwards
    - The 35 is sharp corner to corner at f8 or f11 similar to a Schneider or Rodenstock 35, but without any color cast compensation! Distortion can be corrected very well with the Alpa lens corrector plug-in for PS.
    - The handling of the camara is IMO unmatched by any other MF cam (i like esp. the +/- exposure compensation wheel), all functions directly accessable by buttons, not by LCD menu
    - As one of few 645 cams it offers a very suitable waist level finder (Phase One/Mamiya, Leica S2, Pentax 645D don't offer. Fuji 645/Hasselblad H, Sinar M do offer)
    - AF is (mostly) precise but slow. But better than no AF ;-)
    - As stated before: as spare part, just buy a 2nd. lens or cam coz prices are so reasonable compared to other MF equipment
    - Usage of Hasselblad V Zeiss glass via adapter is a great option: I use the CF 50f4 FLE, CF100f3.5 and CF 180f4 lenses which give nothing but stunning 60 MP files

    and the Contax 645 is the only cam you can do such self portraits:-)

    Christoph
    Last edited by chrismuc; 20th June 2013 at 00:27.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    I had the same questions and geographical constraints but not an unlimited budget. In the end I got a Contax 645 that I have used for a few years without any problems and unlike Fotografz I am still using mine. Maybe the reason I did not switch yet is the same as his: "3) the Contax was clearly a dead-end system with no further improvements possible" since I am also a dead-end system with no further improvements possible :-)

    If you do not have easy access to the photography marketplace it is important to think hard to avoid making a wrong decision since buying is easier than selling. It also reduces the value of dealer support if the dealer is on the other side of the world in which case it may be more useful to have a camera that is strongly built without too many gizmos that can go awol than the latest and greatest product another reason to consider the Contax 645 system even though it is getting a bit long in the tooth.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Forgot to thank everybody contributed with their informative post.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Buy a Pentax 645D and a Pentax 645 film body. The 645D is the most advanced MFD body out there. And with two bodies, you can shoot film and digital at the same time.
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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    i also love my contax 645 system and the lenses give me so many jaw dropping moments. may it be wide open bokeh or stopped down sharp images.

    what i also love is the simple operation, so few buttons to push, compared to modern dslrs, which are simply overkill.

    shashin, he can also use film and digital on ONE body on the Contax 645.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    Quote Originally Posted by drevil View Post
    Shashin, he can also use film and digital on ONE body on the Contax 645.
    I never said he couldn't. The Contax is a film camera after all. With two Pentax bodies he can also shoot them at the same time without having to change a back. Since the 645D is a digital body, he gets the advantage of that, rather than a converted film body. It is simply a suggestion. The OP was looking for alternatives.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    The Hasselblad H1/H2, are designed for digital and film with seamless integration, in just one camera. H1/H2's are very reliable, and probably the most used camera in fashion. Also consider the H4x, the newest from Hasselblad that also shoots film.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    First of All, I'd Like to thank everyone for their informative opinion and sharing their experience.

    Buying a Hasselblad H1/H2 then upgrade to H4X seems strange to me! Though I'd Love to get the H4X Directly...But still can't decide for now as I will try to get my hand on some of the camera system to compare other aspect of the system.

    I read few good reads about the Rollei Hy6 and 6008AF and was amazed...6x6 and Auto Focus (The 6008AF and the AF lenses "Not AFD" Seems aforadable) with film back though which I'm After now. I'll try to get my hand on one and see how it handles. But it seems as my best option as many indicated before.

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    Re: Is the contax worth it? or other Medium format with film back compatibility?

    I tried the 6008AF before opting for the Contax 645 that handled more like a DSLR and lenses were more affordable. Found learning curve getting used to the ergonomics and handling of the Rollei very steep and cost of lenses very high. That said many report a very positive experience with the Hy6 that may be easier to handle than the 6008, I don't know about that?

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