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Which Contax System suits best to your needs



I remember wanting to do a test with the AX a few years back. I traveled 140 miles to see the it. I had cash for the entire purchase in my pocket. The camera shop (Atlanta) wouldn't let me do any testing with it. I have yet to own the AX. I feel the reason to own Contax is having the best glass available. Sure Leica is good but...
There have been situation where clients have requested large prints of approximately 1\5 of a negative. Had I been using lenses less sharp than Zeiss it may not have been possible to deliver. At least this is the way I feel.
Also, I think it has kept me in 35mm instead of necessitating medium format on some jobs. With lesser glass larger format might be necessary. I think in some cases Zeiss saves me the hassle and cost of the larger camera via its quality.
I got sidetracked. I think the reason to buy Contax is the glass as I have found the dealers to be to few and far between or less than enthusiastic as in the one I ran into in Atlanta, Georgia.
There is another Contax system that you have left out: the compact 35mm point and shoots like the new T3 which are also autofocus. For portability they can't be beat for having Zeiss lenses always close at hand.

Personally, I have a couple of Contax Y/C mount SLR bodies, a Contax G2, the Contax T3 and...just for fun...a 1960's Zeiss Ikon Contaflex super with all the pro-tessar lenses and even an Ikoblitz 4 flash with bulbs!!

I would certainly consider moving to the 645 system before the N mount because, I think, I am done buying 35mm and am now looking at different formats. I expect my next purchase will be a Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta B which uses 120 film and has a nice Zeiss Tessar.
Hi Meryl,

that sound like a die-heart Contaxian

You are right, I did not include the compact models in this comparison. I was not absolutely sure whether I should consider this as a truly fifth option.

I use my T3 and TVS III regularly, but I would consider them more as an addition to my SLR or G system.

Maybe I am wrong, but I thought that somebody new to Contax would not like to start with the compact models.

On the other hand the quality is already so good with these so called "P&S", that I ask myself sometimes why bothering with heavy cameras and lenses...

I put already a detailed review of the T3 in the appropriate thread. If I have more time in a couple of weeks, I will add my TVS III review there too.

Since you are interested also in Contax cameras of production date before 1974, I can recommend you the classic Contax site, of which I put a link in the "link-section".

I never used an older Contax camera then 1974. This is why I focused with this site on all Contax cameras after 1974. I am afraid more is just not manageable for a one-man show.

As soon as you have your 645, keep us also updated with your impressions about the "big brother". We have to few Medium Format fans here on the site

It may take me a while to save up for a 645 system but I have just purchased a Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta B 532/16 from ebay and I shall see what I can do with that. It is a 6x6 so I'm not sure how I will get the negs scanned but we shall see how it works. I expect I'll have my first shots in a week or two... allowing for shipping time..etc.
great, hope to see some nice picture then from you in this forum
Hi all

Contax/Zeiss vs Nikon
I am quite keen on a contax/zeiss system since having read so much on superior quality of zeiss lens.

I am currently using a very good Nikon system. (F100 and FM3a as backup with serveral fast prime lens. Do carl zeiss lenses really produce better quality pictures than Nikon's primes? Is it a lot more better Nikon that I don't even have to consider much further? Is the contax/zeiss better only margainally? If it is , I would perhaps live with Nikon and save the money on more Nikon prime lenses.

Contax Bodies
While the Aria is the lightest, smallest and cheapest in the contax line, would quality be compromised comparing with other bigger and more expensive bodies such as AX, RX and RTSIII? What would be the difference if I use an Aria compared
with the others in terms of photo quality? For your informatin, I am doing alot of protrait.

Thank you

Boone Wong
Hi Boone,

Some of the Contax bodies offer useful features that few (or no) other brand offers.

For portraits, if you use flashes you might consider the RTS III. This body has a TTL pre-flash meter that works with any flash system, even large studio flash units. This makes the RTS III a perfect studio camera.

A special lever stops down the lens, sends a signal to the PC socket to fire the flash, and gives you a readout in the viewfinder telling you if your shot would be over- or underexposed, showing 3 stops in either direction. The flash meter is a spot meter that occupies the microprism patch in the center of the viewfinder, so you can carefully meter critical areas very precisely. You can even use a kind of zone system, taking readings of different areas. Simply adjust your aperture or your flash units until you get a correct exposure. It works much like a handheld flash meter, except you can use it without taking your eye away from the camera or switching your sync cord to a meter.

The only other camera that has this is the Lecia R8, but Contax had it first.

The RTS III also has a switchable spot or averaging meter, mirror lockup, and a 5 fps built-in motor drive. The vaccum pressure plate ensures that the film is not curled during exposure. It's a very heavy camera, but I personally like the weight. Many of the Contax lenses (especailly the faster ones) are quite large and heavy, and the weight of the body balances well with these lenses. Another thing that I like is that even though this is an electronic camera, it has analog-type controls similar to what a mechanical camera would have - knobs and levers instead of multifunction pushbuttons and menues.

Just a general comment on the Aria versus the other bodies you mention - the Aria is not really intended for professional use - it's a lighter-weight body. The heavier bodies you mention would balance better with many of the Contax lenses, but this really depends on which lenses you use. The other bodies offer other unique features that no other camera offers - the AX can autofocus your manual focus lenses, while the RX has a viewfinder display that gives focus and depth-of-field information.

The 85mm f/1.4 is an amazing lens for portraits. While being very sharp, the out-of-focus areas at wide apertures are velvety-soft.

Hope this is helpful.

- Paul
There is much about the superiority of the rangefinder image vs. the SLR even in Contax literature. Have you ever made a comparison between a G2 image and the N1 (I believe that's what you are shooting with now) at specific sizes say 10 inches by 15 inches; excuse the inches but my metric is not up to snuff! I'm curious if there is any "real world" difference.
By the way, my first 35mm camera was a Zeiss Ikon I bought used back in 1962. Unhappily it did not survive the curious pokings of one of my children!
Pete Smith
I own a 167MT and several Y/C mount lenses. I am considering purchasing an AX so that I can have autofocus if I want to.

However, I'm not sure if the AX with Y/C mounted lenses can complete or even come close to the N1.

Basically, what is the difference in optical quality of an N1 with say lense X, compared to AX with a similar lens?

Was AX real a success? If so why?