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Why Contax and/or Zeiss at all?



I have been using the Nikon system for about 18 years before I discover the carl zeiss lens charteristics.Ever since then,there is no turning back for me.

Carl zeiss T* lenses backed up by the "zeiss" give peerless tone gradation,deepness of shadow ,high image definition and color rendition in an excellent balance to produce the atmosphere and sense of existence of the subject.

T*lenses give the color renditions as faithful as the colors of the subject as they are or as being viewed by the eyes of the photographer.The color renditions is maintained even if the lenses are interchanged.

T*lenses fully utilized the intensity of the lights to express faithfully and richly the gradations of the lights.

T*lenses faithfully reproduce the brightness and darkness of the subject in order to express the charm of the light patterns.

T*lenses with the original carl zeiss T* multi layer anti-reflection coating minimise the effects of the backlight that shows the ultimate lens performance.

T*lenses give the most attractive out-of -focus images .
I use Contax because:

1) The CZ lenses are superb and are better than Leica lenses at lower to middle apertures where I shoot at.

2) Technological innovation. I use my Leica M3 only when necessary but the G2 is a masterpiece of design. The N1 too. Leica is brilliant for maintaining tradition whereas Contax is brilliant and most superb in their technological advances. Puts Nikon and Canon to absolute shame.

3) The handling of the bodies. The camera body are too comfy. They feel like an extra limb and perfect for the hands. Certainly the bulk of the N1 helps on the balance of lenses.

4) Small lens selection. I like having a fewer lenses setup because we don't have an overkill on selection. It's better to have fewer lenses which does the job better than a lot of crap which are part of the grand marketing tools. Fewer paintbrushes with more power is superior.

5) It's Contax. Seriously they don't advertise well but their reputation as the most lovely and innovative line certainly helps. Granted I love Leica but the practicality for street shooting and lack of AF hasn't been helpful to my declining eyesight. (And sorry the Minilux is nice but it doesn't have interchangeable lenses or the optical quality of the Planar and Sonnar ones).
I was thinking of purchasing a P&S for my father-in-law but the price of the T 3 is just too much. I have read some very good reviews of the Rollei Prego. Does anyone out there have any experience with Rollei P&S and more specifically, the Rollei Prego zoom?

Thanks, Dusty
Dusty, I checked the specs of the Rollei Prego series on the Rollei web site a few weeks ago. I found that except for the AFM35, the Rollei point and shoot cameras all have very slow apertures and a very limited shutter speed range. I own the AFM35. It has a good fast lens and good range of shutter speeds. It is cheaper than the T3, but it is also larger than the T3. It also has a few handling quirks that I don't like. The T3 is a better camera. The Rollei Prego series offers no aperture priority mode, but the T3 and AFM35 do. Does your father-in-law need aperture priority mode?
Being new to this board I thought I'd mention how I came to use Contax.

I started my interest in photography back in 1990 and wanted the toughest SLR body - I opted for the Nikon F4s and bought several MF & AF lenses for it. It was and is tough, but it's weight made it not something I could put around my neck and forget about when travelling. Also, in certain circumstances I found the photo quality of the prints less than stellar. A big issue was I missed out on sponataneous candid portraiture of family and friends when travelling because the F4s with AF 85 1.8 was heavy, slow, and intimidating to the subject.

My photo retailer suggested a Leica M6, but I didn't take to it when handling it in the shop - I hated the base-plate film loading, didn't like the frame lines in the viewfinder, and it didn't sit well in my hand. So I continued using the Nikon until last year when I bought and tried the Contax G2 system.

The G2 syestem is very impressive. I had heard that the 90mm 2.8 lens had focusing problems with the G1, but found all my shots with it were in focus. I took it on a shoot to Hawaii with the 21mm, 45mm, and 90mm lenses and took candid shots of my girlfriend with the 90mm on the beach that turned out better than the nikon pics ever did, partly because I could frame and fire so fast without giving up optical quality - indeed the G lenses were every bit as good as my Nikkors and Persoanlly I think the G 90 2.8 is better in quality than either my Nikkor 85 or 105.

Lots of cameras in Honolulu, but I was the only Contax G I saw - I had it around my neck and it was so light with the 45mm that I didn't even feel like I was lugging gear around - I took a candid inside a department store wide open 2.0, 1/30 and the pics was so good I enlarged it to 8x10 and framed it. A tour guide walked past us one day and, passing a multitude of Canon and Olympus gear around people's necks, stopped briefly to look at my G2 and said "Now that's a nice camera."

Thw G2 in my opinion was superior to the M6 because of AF, built in motor wind, swing back loading, and a viwer finder that adjusts to show what the actual image size will be. I can't offer an opinion on G vs M lenses, but the G lenses are good and I myself would never have been able to pull off those candids fussing with the M6 - I wear glasses and have a -2.50 perscription.

I bought a Contax T3 to feep in my pocket for everyday shots, and it is nice too, thought I can tell a difference from prints taken with the T3 and those taken with the G2.

For medium format I had been using a circa 1961 Rolleiflex 3.5F for landscapes. I recently bought a Contax 645 kit with the standard 80mm lens - I haven't had it long enough to comment yet on the prints - I have to familiarize myself with it, but it feels really nice to hold. I bought the vacum back, but found that selection of 220 size film is limited in Kodak color print to 160 VC and 160 NC. I tried soem VC, and just shot a roll of NC. In the 120 size on my Rolleiflex I used to shoot 100 Fuji Superia Reala but they don't seem to make that in 220 size. I am presently doing a comaprison test between my Rolleiflex and the Contax 645 in terms of prints to see which I prefer - the Contax 645 was expensive (4 used 3.F's for that price) so if I like the Rolleiflex better I'll sell the 645.

The G2 is a great camera! I love it.

I was often afflicted by doubts, if end-of-the-day-results would justify the inconvenience of carrying and handling the G primes. Not to mention the price tag.
Could the whole Zeiss thing be a marketing myth?

So I recently shot a roll of Kodachrome 64 with my Contax G2 gear (28/45/90) compared to Minolta AF 9000 and Minolta AF Zoom 28-85/3.5-4.5.
Theoretically apples and oranges, but for my travel shots the actual alternatives.

The test was done with a sturdy tripod. I did the same shots at open, closed and optimal aperture.

Firstly, I learned that I'm unable to correctly expose chromes (normally used to shoot negs).
I engaged AEL, but obviously aimed it at the wrong areas: I learned that green grass is not standard grey! Unfortunately, this makes the comparison difficult for several shots.

Nevertheless, there is mostly a difference in contrast (of course the Zeiss primes in advantage). This is quite noticeable with some shots, but less with others.
Sharpness seems to be at eqal niveau. At least I never feel it severely lacking with the Minolta shots.

So from the technical point of view, there is a certain difference, but I don't rate it enormous. The Minolta zoom is not a bad lens.

However, there is something really unsettling me:
Between the ordinary ones, there are a few pictures which are emotionally enthralling (including one of the boring roof of my house).
These pictures were all done with Zeiss. They have the same crisp look, difficult to explain, which I have recognized at some prints since I took up with photography again and got the G2.
At my former Minolta SLR or Olympus stylus epic [mju-2] prints, I have never seen this.

My bottom line is that Zeiss glass is quite fine. But most important, it is capable of a specific, wonderful look which sometimes "occurs".

This is why I go on with the G. I have to discover how to let it occur more often! All my worries about clinical technical parameters have taken a back seat.

Perhaps this helps someone reasoning the purchase of a Contax G.
I like Contax very much! Anyway, I am a Leica M user because there is no doubt Leica is the highest performer. I am not sure whether Leica measures MTF based on prototype or design unit, but I have read that for some models of Leica lenses, the MTF of production unit is even higher than that of original design unit. And don't forget, MTF is only one measurement among many.

I am a strong believer in Leica (model M). Maybe something you should know, Zeiss use plastics in lenses, particularly ASPH, in order to lower the costs. Leica uses true glasses, sometimes even use ASPH technology on APO glasses, which is very very costly. Maybe you argue that the difference is only very minimal, however, this is such a realistic (and cruel) world that if you don't pay that large incremental amount of money, you cannot have that level of performance.

If you talk about creativity, Contax seems focusing on camera functionalities and zoom lenses, while Leica still pays its efforts on revising lenses design.

Sorry but, I would say, G is only a point-and-shoot with interchangeable lenses, without DOF scale and full view in the viewfinder. If you only enjoy results, it is good, but not as good as SLRs. But if you enjoy photo-taking as well as results, it can hardly be an inspiring tool!

You mention that Zeiss sometimes uses plastic in the lens optical path, and Leica always use glass only. Please refer us to the evidence which proves that glass is always better than plastic. And please explain why you think there can be no "special plastics" for optical use.
Is it true that zeiss use plastic? How do you know? If so it's annoying because various dealers assured me they were glass only. I can't find material specification on the literature that comes with the lenses.

I guess you expect on a Contax site some answers to your opinion
I use also Leica M and in the past R beside my Contax SLR and G-system.

We should compare here apples with apples: "I am a Leica M user because there is no doubt Leica is the highest performer".

This is in my own real life experience with all systems mentioned not true. There are some lenses of leica which are better, and some of Contax which are better. The biggest difference is with Leica R lenses except the new 50/2.0 and maybe the new 21-35 zoom (i did not use it yet). All Zeiss SLR lenses I used outperformed easily the Leica R lenses (til 135mm, I do not use longer lenses). With M lenses this is a different story. There you see a big improvement with the new M asph. lenses. Now these new M-lenses are either on par with the G-lenses or better. BUT the older M-lenses are NOT better then G-lenses. Having said this I still like my Leica M and use it (with the old non asph. lenses).

"I have read that for some models of Leica lenses, the MTF of production unit is even higher than that of original design unit. And don't forget, MTF is only one measurement among many."

MTF is surely not everything but at least something which is objective. As long as you do not see the results that you made with both system YOURSELF, not by comments of others, it will be only speculation. Leica does not measure MTF in the mass production. As far as I know only in design devoloppment and maybe with prototypes, but not more (remember the desaster with the R 2.8/35-70).

"Contax seems focusing on camera functionalities and zoom lenses, while Leica still pays its efforts on revising lenses design. "

Sorry, not correct. The whole industry is focussing on zooms nowadays, because the users are buying them more then FFL. So "WE" are responsible for this !!! Leica does the same. Which lenses came out in the last years? With the R system only zooms ! (except the mentiond 50/2.0). And even the M-system has a "half" zoom now, the tri-elmar.

"Sorry but, I would say, G is only a point-and-shoot with interchangeable lenses, without DOF scale and full view in the viewfinder"

The way to take pictures is different with M then with the Contax G. I apprecaite both with their pro and cons, but it might be the wrong assumption that G is a point and shoot. It is looking like one, but if you try to use it like a P&S, you will be disappointed. It is just a rangefinder with technology of the 21st century in it. The P&S argument could have someone said 6 months ago also to the plans of a Leica M7, which is in my opinion a 180 degree turn of the philosophy of the M6 which was promoted so much in the Leica advertising.

But this is a differnt discussion and as you might have seen, there will be soon a sister site of contaxinfo for Leica owners (www.leicainfo.com). There we could go more specifically in compariso between each Leica model.

Back to Contax vs. Leica. In the sixties the industry tried to convince us that rangefinder is old fashioned and not comfortable enough, because with the SLR technology you know what you get. With the G Contax tried to combine both advantages. The rangefinder design to be able to produce easier the lenses and the features in the body for the SLR advantages (with some limitations of course). I prefer personally the viewfinder of the G-system because it is easier to see what is actually within the frame.

With my M6/0.72 it is a pain to use with 21mm, 24mm and 28mm and 90mm. For a camera of today almost a shame for Leica not to come with a better solution for 3000 Euro. Film inserting is another point. BUT I still usemy M6t and like it! (Maybe I am stupid) . But I use it only for certain subjects. If someone wants to have a modern camera, I can understand that he prefers the G2 over the M6/M7. Lets see what Leica offers at the photokina.

Regarding the DOF scale: I think you are aware that these DOF scales are not very exact. I use it often nevertheless, but I do not want to giv ethe impression that this is the perfect way.

More details soon at www.leicainfo.com