lens characteristics: Contax T3 versus Leica

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by maestro logos, Sep 19, 2004.

  1. I'm considering buying a Contax T3 as a carry-everywhere camera. Tried the Leica CM/
    Minilux but didn't like the shutter lag and high price.

    I'd like to know what people think of the lens on the T3. By all accounts this is an excellent
    lens, or so I've heard. But I'd like to see a comparison of the more salient characteristics
    (beyond just "sharp" and "contrasty") from discerning Leica users. Preferrably contrast it
    with a familiar lens, such as 35/2M ASPH, 50/2M, 35/2R, 50/2R, etc.

    What I'm most interested in learning about is if the lens produces a color cast. While I
    owned a Contax G system I found a noticeable "magenta" cast to the images. This is unlike
    my experience with Leica lenses, which I'd characterize as "neutral" to "slightly warm".

    A dicussion of other qualities will also be greatly appreciated. I've felt that Contax
    images are more saturated while Leica's are more transparent/luminous, Thanks!
  2. What about a T2?
  3. Francisco: I've also considered the T2 (which I'm most impressed by its solid feel) but feel
    that it is slow to fire as the lens does not pre-focus when the shutter button is half
  4. The T3 occupies a fairly unique position, I've yet to find another camera that delivers the same quality from genuinely pocketable dimensions. I like to carry a tiny camera everywhere because I work in the movie industry where there's often people wanting the inevitable photograph of themselves with a celebrity, despite a life-time of photography I guess these are the only shots I'll ever take that are truly valued! The T3's lens is close to the last Leica pre-aspheric 35mm in performance terms, but it's not as flare prone (even without the optional lens hood). I don't notice a magenta cast, and as I often use it for impromptu portraits I'd be aware if there was a bias in this direction, it's fairly neutral with perhaps a very small warm bias. The T3 shot below was taken in Moscow a few weeks ago, it's at a rooftop restaurant after the Russian premiere of "I Robot". The evening light at those latitudes is quite warm but you can see there's no magenta shift in a scan which has had very little colour correction. Good as the T3 is it has a couple of issues and limitations that you need to be aware of. The built-in flash is obviously tiny, but there's no hot shoe and the supplementary flash bracket adds a lot of bulk. The auto-focus is reaonably quick and accurate for its type, but compared to an SLR it's still quite slow and not very sure-footed if there's any subject movement. Finally, the shutter is very sensitive, good in some respects but a little jittery if you want to half depress the shutter to lock focus and exposure before re-composing.
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  5. While I don't have a Leica to compare to, the T3 is the best investment in a camera that I have ever made. Especially from size/performance point of view. Because it is small I can carry it in my pocket everywhere and so it delivers more than my SLR.

    The lens easily compares to Nikon/Canon 35mm prime lens. But I don't think flare is problem with it. The shots that I have taken against the sun and backlit situations show basically very minimal or NO flare. SLR lenses mentioned before flare much much more. But I have not done any special testing about flare, just "real world" shooting.
  6. Here are a couple of T3 samples. I should be able to provide Summicron comparisons soon, when my M2 comes back from its vacation at Club DAG.
  7. This one is a detail of the OOF background. The T3 has nice, smooth bokeh.
  8. This one is a detail of the face. Note, this is a grab shot, hand held, probably f5.6 Kodak BW400CN. The sky was medium overcast.
  9. Allow me to clarify a bit my original post. The cast I described with my Contax G lenses is
    by no means a bad trait; in fact one may argue that it gives the lens system a certain
    character. Just that I wish to know the extent of any cast, since to me color balance is
    important and does affect film choice.

    Most lenses are slightly off neutral. I've found (from very controlled tests) that the 50/2M
    is very neutral, while the 35/2M ASPH is comparatively slightly bluish. Incidentally Erwin
    Puts had a report on color balance (with respect to some ISO standard of measure) and
    confirmed my findings.

    The Contax G color cast I described is more pronounced and rather visible. Some might
    refer to it as "pinkish". Flesh tones on Provia look "rosy".

    Thus I wanted to know more about the color balance of the T3 lens. I've gathered (from
    this forum) that some people prefer flesh tones from the Minilux over the T3, and vice
    versa. That says there is perhaps a visible difference in the way the two cameras'
    lenses refer color.
  10. BTW, thanks for all the replies. (Keep them coming!)
  11. I replaced my old Nikon 35Ti with a T3. I carry the T3 in my jacket pocket all the time, which allows me to take grab shots like this one.
    One of the nicest things about the T3 is you can permanently disable flash (on most compact cameras, it is reset to on by default each time you turn the camera on). The last thing you want to see when you loaded your camera with Neopan 1600 is the "rabbit caught in headlights" flash syndrome.
    The chief annoyance I have with the T3 is that sometimes the on-off knob turns by itself in my jacket pocket, extending the lens. This only happens if the lens is facing inwards.
  12. Oh, anf of course you should also consider the Olympus Stylus Epic (fixed 35mm f/2.8 version). It lacks the snob appeal of the T3 or CM, but its lens is also excellent, the camera is light and water-resistant, and cheap enough ($70) that it's no big deal if you lose or damage it. Probably the greatest value in all of photography.
  13. Choice of film and development will have far more effect on color rendition than any marginal differences between the lenses. The lens in the T3 is superb; you will not test its limits unless you shoot Tech Pan or Velvia on a tripod (and perhaps not then? never tried..). Development and exposure will have a far greater effect on the photo. Never had any problems with the camera metering either. It's not a Nikon matrix meter, so you have to compensate for backlighting etc. and read the manual.

    The camera really excels as a carry-everywhere and gives you more control than any other camera of its size. You can preset it to remove shutter lag.

    It's the size of a pack of cigs..Go for it..
  14. Contax T3 complements Leica M and, because of its size, can be carried all the time.

    The Sonnar delivers a modern image: brilliant contrast, and extreme sharpness. The sharpness improves in the corners by stopping down, but the 2-stop drop in illumination remains. This lens is great for landscapes and groups if contrast doesn't overwhelm the scene. I must be the only person in this forum who thinks the 35 M lenses - even the asphericals - are weak in this area. However, for closer portraits, the older 35 Summicron-M are better with their rounder look and bokeh (I have v3 and v4). The Summicron have better linearity, too. For a cheaper ride on the Electric Zeiss Train, consider the Yashica T4 Zoom: not perfect but well under $200, and that zoom lens is blistering.

    Camera-wise, I use the T3 and M4 equally. T3 offers night-capable AF, inbuilt flash, and a tiny profile. Its best-case shutter lag is about 1/2 second, meaning not very good. The AF noise can be reduced by locking focus, but motorized film advance is still noticeable. There is control of aperture, but no manual exposure. There is, of course, that pesky dependency on batteries.

    In summary, my M4 is still the street machine of choice, with T3 nearby. If I'm feeling lazy, then the T3 flies solo.
  15. My only gripe with the T3 is the longish shutter lag (compared to a Leica M). However I've found a way to minimize it; when shooting street, I carry it pre-focused at 3m and the aperture set an f/5.6, playing with the DOF; the click is virtually instant.
  16. You can preset custom function 2 so that the T3 moves the lens to the focussing position when the shutter is depressed halfway and there is no lag if you hold the button at at that position. Also, if you preset distance there is no lag. I have my doubts about claims of manual focussing speed with a Leica or any other camera being faster; usually it's faster to set a distance and move to get to the right place. With a 35mm lens there's plenty of DOF anyway to cover focussing inaccuracies. A modern SLR will focus the fastest.

    There is a bit of noise due to the film rewind of the T3. But unless you get a M7, at the slower speeds a Leica isn't silent either. I've used a T3 at classical concerts between movements without problem; often too much is made of these issues.

    A Mamiya 7 is very quiet but can use only slow lenses and won't fit in your jacket pocket. A Rolleiflex is also very quiet but won't fit in your jacket pocket...
  17. I got a nice Oly XA from George Conboy a few months ago but the lens is nowhere near the T3. It's a dandy pocket camera tho and it has an aperture and distance preset for HF distance that makes it a nice fixed focus camera. Excellent for candid shooting if you like "Lomography".
  18. I bought a used contax T3 about 2 years ago and I am very happy with the results. It can really take pictures as good as my Nikon F3. Of course, if you can live with the fixed 35mm lens so there is no problem. I carry this little camera with me all the time. I have not tried any Leica but the CM seems to be the same as the T3 but with a higher price (about 1000,00us$).
  19. I've just run a roll of Kodak High Definition 400 (my new favorite general purpose color print film) through both a Contax T3 and a Leica CM. The two lenses are neck and neck in resolution based on distance adjusted shots, just hard to name a clear winner based on normal viewing or views through a loupe. They are also generally very similar in their excellent color rendition (BTW noticeably more accurate than an Olympus Stylus Epic in daylight shots). Two differences do stand out, however. First, the CM consistently gives slightly more accurate uncompensated flash exposures than the T3. Secondly, on available light indoor shots the T3 consistently handles yellow tungsten lighting much better (with far less yellow) than the CM. This is my first experience with a Leica lens (I have used Carl Zeiss lenses before in a T4 and a G2). Does anyone have an explanation for this available light difference? Could it just be the way the Leica works with that particular film? Same lab developed both at same time. I hope to try them both out with B&W soon.
  20. The t3 is a remarkable camera for the size and price. Since owning one or shall I say two....I've not even used my m6 at all. Last year I made a test between the 35mm f1.4m asph. with the t3 and found that the m lens could meet the t3 at about f4 and f11 with better contrast....at least to my taste. At f2,8 the m lens did surpass it by a hair. With a build in flash...small and fast to hide....it makes a great camera for street work. To bad it had to be cut from prodution along with the rest of the line. If I could improve it...I would make it a faster lens....have a built in data back much like the tvs iii with it back lit...push + pull - the film just for starts. But this not ever happen...should I sell my m6?
  21. An old thread but a new T3 for me tonight. Those that say that there is no shutter
    lag, even after setting custom function 2b to extend the lens when the shutter is half
    pressed, are incorrect. I can point the camera at myself, with CF 2b set, half press
    the shutter to focus the lens, and when I press the shutter fully I have enough time
    to remove my finger and stick it up in the air before I see the aperture open to take
    the shot. That's called shutter lag.

    It doesn't mean this isn't a great camera, but until a few hours ago I was relying on
    these threads for firsthand info on the T3. Now I have one and wanted to contribute
    my own. The T3 has shutter lag, and it is noticeable.
  22. Both the Sonnar lenses on T2 and T3 compare favourably with Summicron R 50. The T3 Sonnar was a later design. IMO, T2 is a prettier
    camera, with clean and elegant frontal look, T3 is uglier, but smaller, slightly better lens<P>

    <img src="http://d6d2h4gfvy8t8.cloudfront.net/5786365-md.jpg"width=500><P>

    <img src="http://d6d2h4gfvy8t8.cloudfront.net/5786356-md.jpg"width=500><P>
  23. I enjoy the T3, it still is my favourite carry-anywhere travel camera when compared to my digicams & my 40lbs of SLR equipment. Very compact and excellent image quality.

    One thing to watch out for is the parallax, after a while you forget its not an SLR.

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