NEED HELP: Contax G2 or Bessa R3A

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by diana_lorge, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. Hey everyone,

    I know there are many postings on the web for these two RFs, but I would like to hear from the
    community on these two comparisons. I am looking to purchase my first RF and being that I live in Hawaii
    there are no stores to go to "try them out". My price range is $800 or less and I most definitely cannot
    afford a Leica. Hope to hear from you! Thanks in advance!
  2. The primary difference between the two...and it's a huge difference the Bessa is a true manual focus rangefinder, a la Leica, while the G2 is an AF camera with accurate, but fiddly, MF. That said, the G2 uses those superb Zeiss lenses which are every bit the equal of their Leica counterparts. The G2's titanium body is much sturdier than the Bessa. The complaint many have about the G2 is the small viewfinder...true, compared to the Bessa and Leica M, but it never kept me from getting the shots I wanted/needed. I used the G since its inception...superb camera and can be had cheaply on the used market.
  3. I started with Leica in the mid-80s, switched to Contax G in the late 90s, and have since switched back.

    The Bessa might not be a Leica, but for many people it is an entry point into the Leica system, which is still going strong. The Leica system will be around and repairable for our lifetime, or at least until the end of the consumer film, whichever comes first.

    The Contax G system, though it has superb lenses, is an orphan system. It isn't being made anymore and, being electronic, will be increasingly hard to repair in the future.

    Both systems have the strong points and their advocates but, with an eye to the future, I'd go with the Bessa. I would recommend the G only if you are looking for a great, if large, point-&-shoot. For a real rangefinder experience, choose the Bessa.
  4. The above answer is incorrect. The G2 is also a rangefinder. It is autofocus, but still a rangefinder. It is more accurate than the manual kind, but in no way are you more apt to be right or wrong with either. You are relying on the information that the camera gives to you in both cases. With the Voigt you are trusting that the rangefinder is in alignment, just as with the G2. I for one, think that the Contax G2 is about as good as it gets. Other than the complete bs story sold on how quiet the Leica's are, the G2 can actually focus a lot closer, focus more quickly, and allow for quicker action by shooting more quickly. Plus, since it's "orphaned", you can get quite a deal on it right now.
  5. If eventually you want a Leica, or as close to the Leica experience without actually having a Leica, I suggest the Bessa for the reasons Jonathon Davis states:manual focusing, manual film advance, compatibility with Leica M mount lenses, true rangefinder superimposed/split image focussing, large viewfinder.
  6. How small of a viewfinder are we talking about? Small like the Olympus XA?
  7. the viewfinder is hard to describe...the view is smaller than what you see in a Leica or Bessa, and probably the XA. But the view is what you see according to the lens you have attached. I was never, ever put off by the viewfinder. There is a bracket in the middle of the viewfinder that you use in which to place your subject. The AF and metering are extremely accurate, and there are a lot of features not found on the other RFs, such as 1/4000 shutter speed, bracketing, 1/200(I think)flash sync, AE & AF locks, and several custom functions to fit your shooting style. Though I also use a Leica (M7), you can't go wrong with the G2.
  8. Any camera choice is difficult to make w/out handling the cameras, but I'd say this one is especially tough, since the handling/shooting experience will be so different between the two.

    Charles' initial point, seconded by Andrew, is key: the G2 excels as an autofocus camera. It's quite fast, solidly built, and has excellent lenses.

    I've not used the Bessa, but as a modern, metered, and comparatively reasonably priced "way into" the manual focus film rangefinder, it's highly regarded. And many of the Voigtlander lenses are really very good.

    No way for you to get your hands on either of them ? I don't envy you, making this choice based entirely upon the opinions of others, since we bring our own biases to the table and know nothing about how or what you like to photograph.
  9. Michael,

    I called all the camera shops, pawn shops, and antique stores on the island. Nobody has a rangefinder and none of my friends have one either. Its sad isn't it? I guess if I had to describe what I like to shoot it might fall under "street photography". My main reason for wanting to get an RF is to be a little more discreet. I have found myself in situations where people reacted negatively with me pointing my 10D with a 50mm. I also had problems when I visited a museum and some areas said "no picture-taking allowed". :p For the most part I like to shoot everyday life events and have plans to travel in 6 months or so. Thank you so much for your comments!
  10. Diana, you are actually just inside the price range of a user M3 and 40mm or 50mm Summicron at $800 with a little bit of careful shopping. I came in at $650 for my clean late double-stroke from KEH in "bargain" condition and a collapsible Summicron with ample wipe marks that is going to make the $30 trip to Arax's Lens Element Day Spa.

    Would you be comfortable a non-metered body?
  11. It's so hard to say anything against G2, it is such a nice camera. BUT, after many years I finally sold mine and went back to leica. The final nail in that coffin was Contax getting discountiued.

    If you feel you want to try RF, then go with a manual RF so you benefit from it. If you don't mind manual focus go for bessa you won't regret it, G2's is no match for manual focus of RF in adverse condition.

    Personally, I went from leica to G2 and found my way back to leica. I lost a fortune on G2. The thing about Bessa and Leica is they will have their value until the earth gets hit by that astroid. In case of G2, your investment in those great zeiss lenses is doomed already- once the G1/2 used market disappear, which it will, your lenses will worth next to nothing. My already used system depreciated more than 50% in two years.

    Find a used Bessa or leica(if you can swing it) and you won't regret.


    ps. build quality of G2 is on par with leica for most practical purposes except battery dependence and a few minor things
  12. IMHO, I wouldn't worry too much about resale value, as the Bessas aren't in the same league collector-wise as any Leica & even the film Leicas will eventually lose much of their value as film adherents die off. The G1 & G2 are excellent bargains right now. That said, you should always try before you buy. Unfortunately, in your case you might have to visit the mainland or Asia to get your hands on the cameras.

    I'll echo those who have pointed out that your choice should revolve around whether you need/want autofocus. I use both traditional manual focus RFs like Leicas & a G2, & each excels in different areas. For my photography, I mostly use manual focus (I also happen to find manual focus more fun), but the G2's autofocus & autoexposure come in handy sometimes, the build quality is very high, & the lenses rock. Both manual focus RFs like the Bessa & the G2 are great for street photography, though I think the G2 is better & faster for focusing @ larger apertures when the narrower depth of field makes it harder to zone/scale focus as many manual RF users are wont to do. The VF, while small compared to a Leica or Bessa is not nearly as small as an Olympus XA. Oh, & it is still possible to get all the Kyocera Contax cameras fixed, though that will obviously not be the case forever.
  13. I'm partial to the older Contax IIa rangefinders. All mechanical, superbly built, excellent lenses, and fairly inexpensive. There is a drawback, though: Henry Scherer, the best Contax technician that I know of, has a 2 year wait list. But there other folks who will service them.

    Henry has some good info on his site:
  14. Hi Diana: I've not handled the GA , but shoot with both the R3A and R2A, and Hexar Rfs. I
    use these with a variety of Leica, Voigtlander and Konica lenses. The Bessa bodies are well
    built, straightforward and handle nicely. They allow you to use Leica M mount lenses as
    well as Leica screw mount lenses via a screw-mount to M mount adapter. This gives you
    access to a huge number of lenses to work with -- Canon, Nikon, Zeiss as well as
    numerous Russian lenses as well as the legendary Leica glass. This is a pretty strong
    adavantage. If you want modern convenience, I personally would pass on the M3 unless
    you can deal with a separate (and therefore uncoupled) meter. The bottom loading
    "feature" of these bodies is also a tad slower than on later Leicas. They are however
    beautifully built jewels with amazing finders.

    One thing you might consider if you do go the Bessa route, is which body to get. The R3A
    and R2A are identical except for their viewfinders. The R3A has a one-to-one finder and
    has framelines for 90, 75, 50 and 40 mm lenses. The R2A is (I believe close to .85) wider
    in field of view and has framelines for a 35mm rather than a 40mm. If you like to work
    with a 35 the R2A is probably the choice. Also If you wear glasses the 40mm framelines
    on the R3A can be a pain as they are difficult to see. The R3A frameline set is however
    outstanding for 50 and longer focal lengths. (a commercial site) has extensive info on the Bessas as well as some
    pretty frank discussion on a variety of rangefinders.

    Good luck -- and have fun!

  15. "The above answer is incorrect. The G2 is also a rangefinder. It is autofocus, but still a rangefinder. It is more accurate than the manual kind"

    Beg to differ on two counts, Andrew.

    First, I never denied the G2 uses a rangefinder for focusing. What I said was that, in actual use, it behaves like a P&S since it's the camera, not the user, that does the focusing. The Bessa, like a Leica, gives the user a "real rangefinder experience" because the photographer gets visual feedback as the image comes into focus.

    Second, I don't believe it is valid to state categorically that an AF rangefinder is more accurate than the manual kind without knowing the effective baselength of the rangefinder in question, the vernier acuity of the user's eyesight and the level of illumination. In my case, I generally found focus to be at least as accurate with a .72 Leica as with the G2, especially since the actual point of focus seemed not to be at the dead center of the G2's focus patch. This was a problem with many G2's, not just mine, but only became apparent with the 90 Sonnar. (Depth of field usually covered any error with the shorter lenses.) A Leica-style rangefinder, when properly aligned, gives better feedback as to where the point of focus actually is.

    I would agree with you that the G2 could focus faster, but only under certain conditions. And zone-focusing was much easier with the Leica, as I don't recall that the G lenses had depth of field scales.

    Diana, the G2 was a good camera and took great lenses, but I stand by my opinion that you will be happier in the long run buying into a Leica-compatible rangefinder system. Good luck whatever you decide to do!
  16. "In case of G2, your investment in those great zeiss lenses is doomed already- once the G1/2 used market disappear, which it will, your lenses will worth next to nothing. My already used system depreciated more than 50% in two years."

    Looked at prices lately? How much lower do you imagine they can go?
  17. I have owned both cameras, and I would unreservedly recommend the R3A with 40mm lens combo. You can get it for what you have available or less. It's the perfect people camera. It is completely unthreatening, and best of all the superb viewfinder gives you a lot of control, you can focus manually, frame manually and view exactly what you are doing from before, during and after you have clicked the shutter. The lens is unbelievably fast, and can shoot in darkness, no kidding! The auto meter is a real asset, that you will miss with an M camera. I shot a photo of a friend's son playing with fireworks in the dark in the countryside, with just his face and body illuminated, the camera's auto meter had it perfectly, a once in a lifetime opportunity, that a Leica, other than an M7 would have missed.

    The Voigtlander body is not as tough as the Contax, but it runs much longer on the small button cells, than the G2 which will conk out after about 8 rolls or so, maybe more if you are lucky, and then rewind with a racket at the end of each roll.

    The problem with the Contax is that it has a simply awful user interface. It's just terrible. The finder is too small, to focus you need to aim some cross hairs at someone's nose then recompose, ad nauseum, the click of the lens focusing and the motors winding the film and cocking the shutter are distracting. It's superb craftsmanship miserably executed.

    The R3A is a tried and tested Rangefinder model. It has basically only two weak points. The shutter is a little noisier than one would like, and the RF has a tendency to go out in the vertical alignment. You can still use it when it does, but it is annoying. It's possible that Cosina can fix this issue permantly with some adhesive on the adjustment mechanism.

    I sold my R3A and 40mm 1.4 lens on Ebay last year for $700.00. They were like new. It is a foolproof camera, that will offer superb results.

    The Zeiss lenses for the Contax produce more saturated colors, are incredibly cheap used, and very very sharp, but the G2 just has too many flaws to be able to recommend it.
  18. also, $800 will get you a used Zeiss Ikon. plenty of reviews available. seems to me that the Ikon has some advantages over any Leica available, old or new, and definitely over the Bessas. I'm sure that's an unpopular opinion on here though.
  19. I disagree with Andy, because the Ikon is basically a souped up R2A. The R2A or R3A do all the same things, for around half the price. You can use the money you save to buy a decent lens. If you are going to spend that kind of money, might as well buy an M6.
  20. If you like to shoot the 50mm, maybe a Kodak Retina IIa is what you're looking for: compact, unobstrusive, fast. They sell on the *bay for less than USD 100. Check them out. For a 35mm fixed focus the Konica AF is hard to beat for around USD 400. Cheers
  21. Konica Hexar AF, that is. Next on my list, if you want to go the way of interchangeable lenses, is the Hexar RF.
  22. Diana,

    I think most of the comments here are relatively accurate but they're based on each individual's perspective and past experiences. You really need to handle both cameras to judge for yourself.

    I currently own both cameras and as luck would have it, I live in Honolulu. Look for my email in pnet and drop me a line if you wish to handle both cameras.
  23. Diana,

    The G2 isn't made any more. It is hard to impossible to service. The R2-3A cameras are
    being made and can be serviced.
  24. Diana,

    I used a G2 continuously for a year or so, mainly with a 35mm lens. Others have praised
    its auto-focus capability and initially so did I -- I found it incredibly fast to use and
    certainly the quality of the lenses cannot be faulted. But then quite suddenly I found that I
    constantly felt the camera was getting between me and the picture. I swapped to an R2A
    and then eventually to M7/M6. (To be honest, I wish I had simply done that in the first
    place, but sometimes you have to learn these things the hard way.)

    The thing that I was most disatisfied with with the G2 was its fiddly and frankly almost
    unusable manual focusing. It really is an auto-focus camera built to be used as an auto-
    focus camera. Now, if that's what you want, and as others have said, you aren't too worried
    about resale value, I think it's pretty hard to beat, even allowing for the squinty and none
    too bright viewfinder. (Conversely, if you like wideangle lenses, then the 21mm Biogon
    with its separate hotshoe-mounted finder is superb -- I just wish I could have taught
    myself to use that combination more successfully!)

    I think the crux of this question is not really a Leica-versus-Contax-versus-Bessa issue.
    The crux of the matter is whether you want a traditional manual focus rangefinder
    experience or an auto-focus experience.

    We can all only speak from our own experience, it's true, but eventually I found myself
    fighting the G2. What I really wanted was the fast, instinctive feedback that beautifully
    designed and well marked out manual focus lenses offer -- their speed in pre-focusing
    and zone focusing. That just suits my photographic needs/style better.

    Looking back, I think part of the problem was that I used the G2 at exactly the wrong time!

    I used it at a time when i really needed to renew my basic photographic skills and
    understanding -- and I don't think the G2 is built to provide that. I needed the learning
    that a manual camera offers -- but I didn't realise that at the time.

    Oddly enough, having done that relearning, I think I might well be quite happy now with a
    G2 as an alternative camera for occasional use. I think I would better understand its
    limitations as well as its benefits, but then I guess we all have to find these things out for
    ourselves in whatever way is open to us.

    Hope this is of some help.

  25. For those who would argue against it: The G1 & G2 do have a rangefinder method of focussing. Perhaps NOT like Bessa or Leica (or Olympus/Petri/Canon/Yashica etc), but still it is a rangefinder using coincidental information etc. Manual focus on a G1/G2 can be "fiddly" but if one practices one gets better as with all tools. The G2 has many more automated features than a Bessa RF or Leica. That does not make it BAD! It's different! The Zeiss lenses are mostly excellent! The 21mm Biogon rules and is a fraction of the Leica price. The 45mm f/2 Planar is the equal or better of the 50mm Elmar at the very least. <p>
    The Leica lenses are exceptional and usually expensive. The C/V Bessa lenses are very good values. FWIW: I have owned and used Leica, C/V Bessa, Contax G2, Yashica, Olympus, Canon and other brands of rangefinders. After many years, I still use Leica and Contax G2 for different tasks and have the desire to keep both. The C/V Bessa choice is a good one if you want a good quality, all-manual rangefinder camera with interchangeable lenses. The C/V line-up is built and priced for entry level enthusiasts! Likewise, a nicely cared for pre-owned Leica outfit is an excellent choice for the same reasons. If you think you want full automation, rapid exposure capability, lens interchangeability, in a well-built rangefinder then G1(green label) or the G2 is about the only choice. Leica/CV Bessa vs. Contax has been raging for years . . . high quality images are possible from any of these tools. How you choose to use them is up to you.
  26. Another vote for the Bessas. Try the R3A, you won't be disappointed. The G1 and G2 are not rangefinders, they're very expensive Point and Shoots!
  27. Prefocusing a Contax g2 is a cinch: put into manual focus mode (rotary switch on back); dial around with the wheeel up front, observing the distance in the top LED window. If you want ten feet prefocused, dial in 3 m, if you want 6 feet, dial in 1.80m; for 15 feet it is 4.50 m in metric. (1 foot ~ 0.30m).

    Now turn camera on or off as you like. If you see a subject at the prefocused distance: turn camera on, shoot. The lens will set to the distance previously manually dialed in.

    Piece of cake. Actually the viewfinder will tell you (with the set of bars below the picture frame) if and when your subject is just at the right distance. If not, fiddle with the dial to get focus confirmation.

    Of course, this is not in the camera manual. It is a great help for landscapes where infinity focus gives the best results. And autofocus might pick up a near tree branch instead of the horizon and muddy the horizon needlessly.

    It - mastering any camera - is just a matter of learning. If you can drive a Prius with its FOB, you can learn to manage a G2.

    Finally, the viewfinder does not change size for differing lenses, so 90mm lens portaiture is as easy as pie again! And the 28mm lens does not ask you to shift your eye around the frameline viewers of leica or bessa, instead you see the whole picture clearly for all lenses in a g2.
  28. Apparently there are opinions above that equate auto-exposure and auto-focus as "point'n'shoot." The facts that one can manually focus, manually adjust exposure, and even use the G2 for some spot-metering and selective focus, manage depth of field etc seems to elude many posters above! Oh well.
  29. Agreed, Jeff...the G2 is anything BUT a p& more so than any auto mode on any camera.
  30. I'd grab this one quickly, as it's only about $100 depending on your color choice of the R3A, and has had a $300 CLA from the best. You'll be able to pass this M3 to your children and it function fine, if film is still available. But, hey, the two choices you gave are film cameras. You know you want a Leica, you won't regret it. If you don't like RF photography, you will get your money back. Heck, if I didn't have three RF cameras and prefer 35 lenses, I'd buy it.

    I don't know the seller.
  31. Or this kit from the same seller. BTW, I paid $330 for the non-CLA'd lens with flaws. It's a great compact lens.

    Since he has had not yet had a response, maybe some small negotiations are in order.
  32. I see Dante, a guru responded 3/22, but posted a WTB 4/2.
  33. "Looked at prices lately? How much lower do you imagine they can go?"

    Yes I have looked, looked at my own money going up in smokes. As I said, I lost a lot of money selling my system. How low they can go? how about $40 for a 45mm, who is going to buy a lens that can't be mounted on anything...of course if you have money to burn this time to buy and not worry about it's cash value...
  34. I have been a Leica user for 10 years and prior to that used a G2 kit. If today I have no camera and no lens but have $800 in my pocket I would look up which I did just now and pick up an EX condition Voigtlander Bessa R which is an LTM camera for $200 and then spend another $250 for a bargain condition Red Scale 50mm f/3.5 Elmar and maybe $15 for a yellow filter and another $30 for the proper hood and call it a day. Plus shipping the whole thing costs $500. Spend the rest on film and processing. I have used this combo and it rocks. Once you have been initiated into RF photography you can decide how far you want to go from there. Have fun.
  35. "I have used this combo and it rocks." Of course you would recommend the path you chose. I'm recommending a camera I don't have, the Leica M3, which is in her budget.

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