Contax G issues

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by sd_woods, Sep 19, 2009.

  1. I don't own a Contax G, but what's all this I keep hearing about shutter lag, and it being "just a sophisticated point and shoot"? Is there any truth in these allegations?
  2. Hi,
    No shutter lag.
    Dream cameras, magnificent lenses, a pleasure to shoot with!
  3. Not shutter but it lags... it always resets the lens to infinity so you have to wait for it to focus first and its slow for a RF. Poor viewfinder and no confirmation of what is actually in focus. Yes the lenses are good. A G2 was my first RF style camera and it almost made me give up on this style of camera and return to an SLR. I sold it and moved to a Leica and could not have been happier. 10+ years later I'm still shooting Leica M's
  4. Thing is, I'm considering moving on up in rangefinders. I've only had my Olympus RC a few months, but already I find it limiting. My choices are Leica M mount and Contax G mount. I think I'll wait till I can afford Leica. Thank you for your help.
  5. I have a G1. I use it a lot. The lenses, the 45mm f2 Planar in particular, are just stellar.
    Before you jump in, however, it's important to understand what the G1 (and G2) isn't. These bodies don't handle like manual focus rangefinders. While the autofocus mechanism does indeed use a traditional rangefinder, there is no coincident patch in the viewfinder. As the camera confirms focus, the confirmation is only in the form of a measured distance scale in the viewfinder.
    The viewfinder itself is actually quite sophisticated. It's a zooming telescope automatically keyed to the attached lens. A camera controlled LCD shutter corrects for parallax. The viewfinder framing is thus very accurate, more akin to that on a SLR. The downside is that it is darker than the floating bright frame finder found on every other RF camera (and of course, there is no bright frame.)
    Okay, finally, about the AF performance itself. The G1 focuses no more quickly than I can a traditional RF camera, which is to say, not that quickly. It has the same problems in the same scenarios that I do, e.g., having to find a part of the scene relative to the VF patch that has vertical lines. So, what people bitch about is that the AF doesn't work as well as that found on a recent generation AF SLR, but neither is there a truly positive feedback of the quality of focus (no coincidence patch remeber.)
  6. SD:
    Leica is the right way to go based on my own and several friend's experience. Like Craig C., I had a G2 kit for some time and found it to be an elegant camera design that could take beautiful photographs. Wonderful lenses. But the AF is very quirky and especially unreliable with the 90/2.8. The noise of the AF and wind-on motors was very annoying - louder than my Nikon SLRs. I lost several rolls of film because it misread the auto-ISO code on the canister. Repairs will become an issue soon, since the company is out of the camera business. I ultimately traded it all in for an M6 setup, and have been very happy with that.
  7. Is it always AF, or can they manual focus? I've had my eye on a nice G2 and 45mm lens, but not if it's just AF.
  8. I have also heard stories about being told by the camera that autofocus was correct, yet upon seeing the negative, the photographer discovered that he had not seen eye to eye with the AF system. I don't know if I could stick that. I'm used to either SLRs or manual focus rangefinders, so I know what I'm focusing on and I like it that way. Obviously I must start saving, that beat up M3 isn't going to get here by itself, nor is a 50mm Summicron.
    I'm afraid I don't know about AF Michael, but I've heard nothing but very, very good things about the 45mm Planar, supposedly the second sharpest 35mm lens ever tested by Photodo(or whatever it's called, I don't use technical sites).
    Here it is probably a bit too off topic, but if you Rick, or you Craig, could message me with any recommendations I would be most grateful for them.
  9. Another alternative is a Hexar AF. You can set them for manual zone focus and with that there's no lag. Make sure you get a lightly used one though because they're also out of production.
  10. The first Leica I had was a beat up M2 that was really a piece of crap. I took some great photos with it. Go to KEH and you can find a Bargain condition M3 and 50mm Summicron for about $1000 with a 14 day return option and 60 day warranty.
  11. Hey Michael, you really need to try one before you buy. It's not really a MF camera, like a traditional RF or SLR where a positive focus confirmation is obvious.
    It's been denigrated as a boutique camera, or an expensive p&s, poor AF and as loud as a JT8D. It's all and none of those things on who likes or dislikes it.
    It may be the absolutely the very best platform for ultra wide shooting, period. What camera price point can you get into a 16mm Hologon?
    The 21mm Biogon is one of the best ever made, a 35-70 zoom on a RF body, does that also. So the G2 can't be buttonholed into any category and that was it's problem IMHO. Those that hate it wanted it to be something it isn't. For me it's simply a wonderful machine.
  12. Go for a Leica, my choice would be M3 or M2 totally mechanical, not battery dependent, can use thread lenses by Voigtlander/ Cosina, Canon, Leitz, M lenses by VC as well as Leitz/ Leica M lenses, plus Konica M lenses. I have M3 DS, M3 SS and M1 plus lots of Leica and Canon lenses and one rare lens a Konica Hexanon 50mm f1.9 from the 1950's which performs beautifully. The Contax and it's G lenses are probably quite wonderful but there is not the variety of the above stable of cameras and lenses.
  13. Paul, which body is your favourite? And if you could only have one lens, what would it be?
  14. I had a G1 and moved up to a G2 for quicker AF. The lenses (particularly the 45 and 21) are stellar, especially for colour and I shoot a lot of Fuji Reala. Used properly, I get as many properly focused shots (and less "creatively" exposed) as my Leica M's.
    Check this site and others for more info...
  15. Chris, if you had to choose, would you keep your Leica M system, or your Contax G system?
  16. Mr. Woods;
    People who offered the opinions you cited may have their reasons to be critical of the Contax G system.
    I have the G2 and find its workflow much faster than most of my Pentax AF rigs and previously owned Nikon AF system. The G2 can be manually focussed and metered if one wants to do so. To refer to it as a "point'n'shoot" camera sells it very short! One could use that same logic then and refer to all DSLRs as "point'n'shoots." I also use Leica and manual, non-metered SLRs in many formats. In the end, the G2 results speak volumes for its quality output. Noisy? I agree it has slightly more decibels than my Leica MP which is noisier than my Minox GTE which is noisier than my Minox LX. :) But the G2 is quieter than most DSLRs, many film SLRS and less than a whisper compared to my P67! :) BTW; the G2 with its 21mm is truly awesome in terms of image quality!
  17. The G1 and G2 can be focused manually, but it's a strange process using a little wheel on the front of the camera body and checking for an LED confirmation of correct focus in the viewfinder; since there isn't a coincident image or other image-based focusing mechanism you're basically watching for a light to go on to indicate when the camera is focused properly.
    If you want to focus the camera at infinity, manual focus is great; for other distances not so much. But the AF is very reliable and tolerably fast, so in practice it's what you'll end up using almost all the time.
  18. I owned both the G2 and a Leica M6 at the same time and much preferred the Contax. Maybe I'd just become spoiled by my Nikon AF cameras but I always had a hard time focusing the Leica. The normal lenses for each were about equal with the Contax being slightly sharper and the Leica having a better look in the out of focus areas. When it came time to trade one for a new digital Nikon a decided to part with the Contax because I had had some problems with it and it had to be returned to Contax several times for warranty repair (focus way off & oil leaking out of the lens). Contax went out of business about that time and I didn't want to be stuck with a camera I couldn't bet repaired. I also thought the Leica would retain more if its value so I could trade it in later for another digital Nikon, which it did. G2's are a very good value right now as are most film cameras.
  19. Is it always AF, or can they manual focus?​
    It can be manually focused. On the G1, the focus dial is on the top of the camera, right next to the index finger. Push in the button to release mechanical interlock for auto/manual focus.
    The dial is scribed with a distance rule marked in meters, but he AF circuitry remains active when manually focusing. A horizontal bar graph in the viewfinder indicates the amount of current front or back focus. Center the graph, and the part of the scene under the viewfinder AF bracket is what's in focus.
    I suppose it's easy enough to use the Contax in the Leica, street shooter fashion. Set aperature to f8, and manually pre-focus out to 4 or 5 meters. See something interesting? Bring the camera up to the eye, frame, then press the shutter release.
    Oh, by the way, the viewfinder image is 1:1 life size when using the 90mm f2.8 Sonnar. This makes it comfortable to shoot with both eyes open. The shooting experience is, hmmmm, different enough to sometimes give composition quite a unique feel.
  20. The Contax G series is a great system that was unfortunately abandoned. It is very different from Leica but the lenses are as good - possibly better. It has MF but this is really rather limited except for infinity or wide angle lenses. The G2 is better than the G1 for AF and I personally prefer the meteing (it is more like partial metering whereas the G1 is more average - bigger reflecting area on shutter). The lenses are great 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 45mm and 90mm - I have never used the zoom or the 16mm. The G2 is the one to buy as it has better AF and handling. You will have to accept the fact that you will lose the odd shot due to AF issues. It is really a question of what you want to do. For the price of a good Leica lens you can get a body and almost all of the Contax lenses - only the 21mm, zoom and 16mm are expensive. The camera is also good at flash photography and fill in flash. It has two ciustom flashed but can also use the Contax SLR flashes. My wife owns quite a lot of the system and is very happy with it - for $1000 to $2000 you can assemble a system that is very comprehensive and delivers results as good as the Leica. The question is can you live with it's foibles and the odd out of focus shot in exchange for a saving of at least $5000 over an equivalent Leica set up. My wife can and is very happy. None of my Canon SLR lenses (even the 85 F1.2) can produce results to match the Contax. The metering on the Contax is also very good. There is no shutter lag issue if you know how to use it - she has even taken some good ahots using continuous Af and the motor of the kids ski racing. The shutter lag issue is just the lens re-focusing but if you use the Af button on the rear - not the shutter button this will not happen. All in all it is a great but unusual system with Leica quality lenses, TTL flash, AF and a motor wind for the price of a comparable Leica lens.
  21. For the record, I never thought Contax G1s and 2s were sophisticated point and shoots, I just heard that they were and wasn't sure what to believe.
    Are there any decent Contax G repairmen? I don't like the thought of having a camera I can't get fixed. It'd be a lot of money to spend on a paperweight.
  22. Sent an e-mail to you regarding the G2
  23. And you, Dear Jack
  24. Ok, the Contax G2 is a camera without equal. What you hear negatively about it are mainly operator errors, people complain who have a hard time adjusting to a completely different way of operating a rangefinder camera, in a modern way with assists, not like a classical all fingers Leica or Bessa.
    If you can adjust, you will love the G2. Leave yourself some time such as 10 rolls and a few dozen readings of the manual, study the camera, and the advice on the internet about the little pre-focus thumb button, etc etc and you might make the grade with a G2. If not, someone else will become very happy buying it from you.
    The pics will reward you at every competition ... If you have an eye and a knack for composition, framing, ... that is. No gear, except maybe a Rolleiflex can help you as much as the G2 can. It can hinder you, however, as well if you do not learn how its focus works for example. It does focus automatically and perfectly , nay-sayers please listen, 99 % of the time when the operator understands the system. I can assure you of that.
    So good luck to you with a safe old fashioned expensive manual focus patch camera with shrinking viewfinder frames as on a Leica of great prestige or with the world's best 35 mm camera system. By best I mean regarding the outcome, i.e., the pictures, the keeper ratio, the wow effect of the pics; not the best in the sense of most advanced, heavy gimmicky 14 frames per second DSLR, of course.
  25. Contax G is repaired by ToCAD in the US. There are also a few other general camera repair shops that do work on them, including Nippon Camera Clinic in NYC.
    There's no shutter lag. And, the matter of the lens going in and out for every exposure is overstated. It does that but it still works/focuses much faster than any other manual focus camera i've used because i always reconfirm focus between shots with manual cameras. Unless i shoot a sequence with a motor, and in that case, the G2 does not need to retract/extend either.
    The lenses are great.
    The AF system is generally very good if you know how it works. If the photographer notices things aren't as sharp as he expects, he should consider getting the camera calibrated. I recently bought a G2 kit (for the third time....) and tested it. The AF was off, and test images were soft, so i sent it to ToCAD. Not much different from a manual focus rangefinder. I've owned two Leica M7s, a Zeiss Ikon, Mamiya 6, and various Fuji 6x4.5 AF rangefinders, and most of them have had to have a calibration done at some point.
  26. Hi SD,
    The Contax G system, as mention, is excellent value at the moment. I am keeping both systems for the best 35mm optics you'll ever get; the Leica, however, will endure with superior build quality and nicer viewfinder.
  27. If you manually focus a G2 it is as fast as any ordinary rangefinder camera. If you use AF it is much faster than any ordinary rangefinder camera. The lenses are superb, including the zoom. The viewfinder zooms with the lens so no frame lines are needed. fixed focus lenses included. It is really not noisey. In street shooting, you will appreciate that you know when you have taken the shot. You can lock the focus, so it is possible to pre-focus. It is very solid, built like a tank and a plesure to use. You can do continuous shooting much faster than any Leica. And all for a fraction of the price. What's not to like? Forget the Leica snobs and just get one.
  28. I have G1 and also Leica M2 and Leica CL, (also have some Leica`s R) . I can tell that G1 is a joy to use, and it is camera (with 45/2 ,21/2.8 and 90/2.8) I am using very much. If I had to decide between Leica and G1 it would be hard decision, G1 wins as it has perfect exposure measuring system and wonderfull lenses. AF issue can`t hurt so much. The only real downside is repairing problem.
  29. I've had a G1 for almost a decade, with the 28, 45, and 90 lenses. I rarely have focus issues, but I'm also experienced at using it, and know to make certain that the focus area is where it needs to be to focus correctly. Handing the camera off to somebody else is typically a precursor to bad focus. That said, the lack of meaningful focus feedback can be irritating, especially to those coming from SLRs. On the other hand, the lenses are simply superb, and in most other respects, you get the RF "experience" with the benefit of AF. And you can get a G1 with those three lenses for the cost of a used M body today.
    I find it very good for street photography, personally. Obviously, Leica users often have the worst things to say about the G series, but I think to a large extent its apples to oranges.
  30. I have been using a G2 with 21, 28, 35, 45, and 90 lenses for many years (I also have Leica M3/M5/M6). The Contax G1/G2 is truly a great system, particularly for travel and family vacation uses. The body is very well built and all the electronics are very reliable. The G lenses are among the very best for 35mm format in their respective focal lengths. The G lenses render clear and crisp image with a beautiful blue tone. For landscaping images, I prefer the G lenses to my Leica M lenses.
    Although there are many criticisms regarding dim view finder, shutter noise, and focus reliabilities among Leica users, I felt most of them came from users who really didn't have extended real experience using the G2.
  31. I had a G1 system for a while. I agree with everyone else's comments regarding the lenses - absolutely excellent. However, I found the G1's viewfinder very hard to use - small and squinty - which is why I got rid of the system. I understand that the G2's is better, but beware that there is a difference in this area between the two cameras.
  32. I've always laughed at people who say that it's a glorified p&s. It's AF with a fiddly MF, sure, but there's no green auto mode to be found. It's aperture priority and center-weighted metering are dead accurate. Others also scoff at the lens movement to auto focus when the shutter is pressed. Unusual, yes, and a bit noisy, but there is no shutter lag, and the focus is accurate. The viewfinder is small, but the superb Zeiss lenses are as good as it gets, from any manufacturer.
  33. Just to add, I've had the G2 since '96 and have also used a variety of SLRs...the SLRs got traded, sold, bought, etc., but I always hung on to the G2. Currently, a G2 and Leica M6 make the perfect street camera duo for me.
  34. The cheapest way to find out for yourself is to get a G1, not the G2, with a 28mm or 35mm lens, probably for under $400 total. If you don't like it in a few weeks, you will probably be able to sell it on eBay for what you paid. I would go for a G1, since it is lighter and smaller than the G2, and, contrary to some poster opinions, I don't think it has any discernible speed advantage in AF. Other than that, who in the world cares whether someone calls it a P & S. It's your photography, no one will care if you got a great image with a Kodak Brownie.
    For the record, I think a G1 with the 35/2 is a fantastic street camera.
  35. I have a g1 and G2, and while both are good cameras, with AMAZING optics, unsurprisingly the G2 is a far more enjoyable camera to use. You need to handle one before purchasing, as the viewfinder is smaller, and for some folks, just hard to find in a hurry. You'll also want to dedicate a few rolls of film to figuring out how the autofocus works for you - out of 3 folks I know with G's, we all shoot differently and have different ways to deal with the AF sensor:) Manual focus is not really worth it, it's nice to have for special occasions, but not suitable for all-time use.
    All in all, it's a great fun camera, i find it more useful for vacations and for when i don't want to have to pay as much attention to what I'm doing(other than focus:) And since you can get one the finest 45mm lenses in the world + camera for less than a Leica 50, it's a worth taking a look at.
  36. I think I'm experiencing that bizarre allure of Leica. Clearly the Contax is the better bet, does more for you, the glass is just as good(that is, exceptional) and it's cheaper too. I'd still rather get a Leica. Either way, this choice will be made at christmas at the earliest, so I've plenty of time to agonize over it.
  37. I agree w/ Andy. Buy yourself a G1 w/ a lens and see how it goes before deciding if you want a G2. I also recommend buying from KEH or someone that offers some sort of warranty and return services because I have had a couple of G1 cameras that had shutter problems. It costs as much or more to repair the shutters as it does to buy another body. Looking back at the photos my G1 took I am impressed w/ the sharpness of the lenses. Color especially came out very well. But a Leica lens is better for B&W, and now that I've owned both I prefer the Leica for color as well. Leica glass images differently than any other optics, and I long ago decided that the rangefinder world was divided into two camps, those who like the clean edge sharpness of Zeiss, and those who preferred Leica's way of imaging. Either way you're talking about some of the best lenses in 35mm photography, which ever one you prefer.
    For the price you can't beat the G system, and the 90 Sonnar is a fantastic portrait lens, but the cameras certainly have their quirks. I loved the AF actually. It nearly always was in focus once I figured out how to shoot the camera, and if you depress the shutter halfway before you shoot there's essentially no shutter lag at all. They're small and well engineered cameras. It was the viewfinders that finally did me in. Squinty and dark.
  38. Careful with the 35mm lens and the G1. The earlier G1's, like mine, with a green label in the film canister compartment won't support it. Look for one with updated firmware, one with the black label.
  39. My only wish is that I could rent some cameras to have a go at them and see what I like, but living in a backwater country(nevermind that I live rurally) does not allow me that privilege. Does anyone know of a shop that sells used Contax G gear(preferably in the UK or Ireland)?
  40. If you want a G1, then definitely DON'T try a G2. Although I've never owned either, I did try both several times side by side at shops. The G2 was so much better in terms of viewfinder and focus speed that I lost all interest in the G1. I think the price difference probably reflects the difference.
  41. Oh, wait, I think you're right. I mis-remembered.
  42. I have several rangefinders and enjoy all of them: Mamiya 7, Leica M7, and Contax G2. One thing that the G2 can do that I have not been able to personally replicate on the other two cameras is shoot four frames per second.
  43. The G2 has its quirks - and is over-automated - I miss manual focus - but when its good, its very very good. I think the 90mm lens is stunning. Not to say the others aren't. Here are some photos from Albania, all taken with the G2 (and generally the 45mm) lens...
  44. I think the G2 was the best 35mm rangefinder ever made. I was going to buy an M6 Leica, but after working with the G2 it was an easy decision. The lenses are remarkable at all focal lengths. The 16, 21 and 90 are as good as any ever designed. The others are excellent. And they were inexpensive by Leica standards. Only the 16mm Zeiss was $2,000.
    The Leica was dated and manual everything.
    Anyone who couldn't make the G2 perform either did not read the manual, or had ... issues. It was as easy to use as a point and shoot, or you could take control. AF was fast and accurate as was metering and advance. Used the same batteries in the small flash and they lasted for a very long time. I dream at night of a digital version...
  45. One of the reason I err towards the Leica is digital: I wouldn't mind picking up an M8 body in a while, when they're nice and cheap. Trouble, these G lenses don't go on M mounts. At the minute, the best idea seems to be buying a used G1/G2/M3/M2 from or some other place I can return it to if I don't like it, and to just go from there. In the meantime, I will have to make do with an Olympus RC.
  46. One of the reason I err towards the Leica is digital ...​
    There is a middle road.
    I bought a Nikon 5000 scanner years ago to archive old family photos. It's good enough to extract about all there is on the film. Unexpectedly, it also turned out to be a materially high throughput machine.
    The scanner is fast enough to enable shooting new 135 format material with almost digital-like abandon. A DIY modification to the feeder makes for completely unattended digitization of an entire 135 format film roll. Insert the film strip. Come back in an hour for up to 40 frames of 20MP files on the disk. The workflow after this is standard digital darkroom gravy.
    For the enthusiast, this breathes new life into the universe of the now obsolete 135 format systems. Leica M's aside, there is really good stuff out there that can now be had for mere pittance - Contax SLRs with Zeiss optics, old Pentax M42 lenses, the wonderfully diminutive Olympus OM-x SLR, Nikon/Canon übercams, and of course the G1/G2.
  47. I have access to a scanner via a photography club, although I'd never be buying a scanner anyway, I'd be completely broke after that
  48. I use Leica M cameras, and I also use a Contax G1 with 28-45-90 lenses. The Zeiss lenses for the G1 are superb. The camera is very well suited for travel photography since a quick snapshot can be easily taken and the outcome is virtually guaranteed to be a good one.
  49. What would you recommend for someone who's been at this 7 months and finds his 35RC limiting?
  50. What would you recommend for someone who's been at this 7 months and finds his 35RC limiting?​
    A low end Pentax DSLR first, and a low end Canon DSLR a close second. If you're tight on the budget, get these on the used market. If you're in the States, get them through KEH.
    The Pentax line enables easy access to 50 years of quality lenses at a small fraction of what the current equivalent would cost, and quality optics are important. The Nikon system has almost as good backward compatibility but everything tends to be more expensive; there is more of a tendency toward a collectors' premium for Nikon stuff.
    A Canon DSLR is worthy of consideration because of the EF lens mount. This is perhaps the easiest lens mount on which to adapt other manufacturer's old optics. The downside is usability tends not to be as good as the Pentax: metering is stop down, and AF confirmation does not work.
    Buy a copy of Adobe Photoshop. Versions two or three generations older than the current are fine. Other digital darkroom programs may be in principle as "good." However, you will find more available supporting material (tutorials, books, web resources) for Photoshop than anything else.
    Okay, why a digital camera and a digital darkroom? These two things lets you pick up fundamental techniques much faster than film and wet chemicals will. The key is the much shorter turn around between trying something and seeing what happens.
    Come back to film later. We'll still be here.
  51. My fault Robert. Apologies. I own a Nikon D40 as well. I have been using it since February, and in July I bought a 35RC as well, to try film. You may think it's too soon to upgrade since July, but bear in mind this will decision will be made between Christmas and early Spring, and by then the time will be ripe.
    The reason I made this thread is because I need a goal before I can work towards it.
  52. I feel I must jump in here too in support of the G2. I've been using rangefinder cameras since the 1950s and always hated the delay caused by manual focus which sometimes is very hard to find. Today the pause required while fumbling around to find focus is unacceptable and actually a bit embarissing since everyone has fast P&S cameras these days or DSLRs. Actually when this happens, typically in low light situations, I find myself wishing I still had the Kalart rangfinder light system that we used to use with Speed Graflex and could focus in complete darkness. In this context, the Contax G1/G2 is a revolutionary camera that stands way in front of any other film rangefinder camera. Not only does it autofocus, but it also provides a viewfinder that zooms to the FOV of each lens as with SLRs. On top of that it also has an excellent zoom lens, the 35-70mm f3.5 which is perfect for walking around. Further, the lens prices are affordable since there is no crazy Mamiya importer, or competition with Leica collectors that drvies up prices. This camera system is without equal and stands head and shouldes ahead of any other 35mm rangefinder system available today.

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