Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Jun 20, 2014.
An impulse purchase for $80, a camera I've not laid hands on before. The Contax RTS.
It seemed a good price, since they're not particularly common in my part of the world. This example is a little worn but seems to work well, and the 50mm Planar f/1.7 is bright and clear and mechanically snappy, though the screen-printed numerals (shame on you, Carl Zeiss...) have worn away a little, to be replaced with Letraset by a slightly clumsy previous owner. One thing that's lacking is the aperture display in the viewfinder. When I point the camera at very bright light I can just discern the numerals and the green pointer that moves mechanically with the rotation of the aperture ring, but to all intents and purposes it's invisible. Can anyone tell me if this scale is illuminated by reflected light, as is the case with most cameras of this ilk, or was there some sort of electric back-lighting? Better still, can anyone suggest a fix?
I'll post something more comprehensive when I'm more familiar with the camera, but I'd be interested to hear your opinions, and of your experiences with the RTS. I banged a few frames through it this morning just to check it was working, while out on an arboriculture project I'm involved in, and post a couple of snapshots; the Planar seems adequately sharp. Kentmere 100 through Pyrocat HD, scans fom the Epson 700.
Looks like even a Contax is capable of making good photos ;-)
Yes... Who would've thought. ;-)<br><br>Great find, Rick, For a great price.<br>I wanted one of these way back when they were introduced. Couldn't afford the camera. But not as much as i couldn't afford the lenses. I guess the camera itself may now be çheap enough, but the lenses?<br>My desires switched to the Contax AX when that came out, by the way. Thought it brilliant how it solved that AF thing. But i understand they weren't very reliable, so never got one of those either.
I picked up a Contax RX (along with several Yashica bodies) a couple of years ago, along with several Zeiss lenses. Eventually sold off some of the lenses and picked up their Yashica equivalents for a lot less money....some just about matched the Zeiss, except for micro contrast. The 1.7 planar you have is a fine lens IMHO. The higher end Contax bodies, like the RTS, are really gorgeous and fwiw, very ergonomic. I'm not sure about the RTS, but the RX viewfinder lights up bright and clear with the appropriate info prominently displayed. The later cousin of your RTS, the RTS III, used a vacuum mechanism to ensure flatness of the film at the film plane.
Nice score Rick! Had the RTSII for a while. Like yours, it was bargained priced with a 50mm 1.4 mounted on it. Of course that's how one gets suckered in. Next I had to have a 28mm then the 60mm S makro. What started as a bargain kit soon became an expensive kit.
The Achilles heel of these cameras were the electronics. Mine never had any issues, but know others that did. I think if yours does not have electronic issues by now, you should be good. Your really going to like the images this camera and lens can produce.
I think that camera is beneath you but I would be willing to demean myself and take it off your hands. Enjoy.
I own one myself. Bought it new around 1976 at a time I thought I was rich. Later I found out I wasn't. Over the years I have sold most of the lenses and the RTSIII but kept the RTS and the 1.4 Planar 50 mm for old times sake. I shall check the finder but that may take a week or two. I am away from home. I also own the Real Time Winder and still have the manuals.
While I was a big proponent of starting the Modern Film Cameras forum, I think the divide between film and digital sensor is a lot more important now, especially as "time goes by". I posted my Contax 139Q here on this forum too ( http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00Xp06 ), so I have no complaints.
$80 is a good price, superb if the lenses were included, and this one is on my list of greatest looking SLRs.
Very nice work with it, though (your) color sense is nice too.
Rick, truly a steal if the $80 included the lens.
My first Contax SLR was a 139Q, a loveable camera. It led to my lust to move up the line, as it were. I chose the RST-II because the general opinion was its electronics were improved (more reliable/durable than the RST). Hope yours (and mine) continues to function, because getting electronics repaired for any of these cameras is likely impossible.
Not that I would give up my Nikon D800, but photography as a pleasant pastime is so much more enjoyable with these cameras.
On the issue of the aperture display: The 139Q uses a simple optical system illuminated by a window on the front of the prism housing. It depends on having ample ambient light. The RST-II uses an LED display which is easily visible in any light. So I guess the RST could be either, but on your photo I don't see the little window which is present on the 139Q.
Never even handled a Contax Rick, but have often been tempted as the cameras seem to have nose dived in value. Trouble is...a whole new lens system to collect...don't know if I want to go there!
I often drooled over the Contax back in the day, but never quite got there. Be very interesting to get your user opinion of this beast, and I would imagine that the lenses are all pretty good. I have been told that the Yashica lenses made for these cameras were also very good.
At my family's camera shop we stocked the lower priced Contax (along side the Yashica FR), but the RTS was too expensive for our average customers. We did carry the 137 and 139. A neat item for the RTS or a Yashica FR, is the infrared remote. We used to hook an IR remote to our display FR and lightning flashes would trip the shutter. My 137 developed curtain bounce so my Carl Zeiss 50 mm f1.7 is "living" on my Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 for now. Thanks for posting.
I'm glad the new acquisition seems to meet with approval, and yes, everything in the pic was included in the price. Thanks for the hints regarding the missing aperture display; it looks like a purely mechanical device with no LED's involved, but just how it's illuminated has me foxed. As Mike B. noted, it looks like a simple optical system but it lacks any obvious light source, such as a Judas Window or translucent strip.
Very nice catch, Rick - I paid about the same for my RTS with the 1.7 Planar. I particularly like the Real Time Shutter (which RTS is an abbreviation for) which is amazingly responsive.
I never look much at the aperture readout, but I just checked mine by looking at something which varied in brightness across the frame. It appears to me that the readout was made by making the finder slightly higher than necessary, then masking it off at the top with a band having aperture number cut-outs. So all there is to illuminate the aperture numbers is the image coming through the lens. Makes sense ??
"a whole new lens system to collect" Tony L.Oh, and what a system they are.
I recently discovered how great these Zeiss C/Y lenses are, and man am I hooked !
I remember RTS standing for "Real Time System", Soeren. Something we couldn't really understand when applied to cameras, but "hot", very high-tech, in computing in those days.
"REAL TIME" ist ein begriff aus der Computer-Terminologie und bedeutet Abwesenheit physikalischer Verzögerung bei der Disposition von Informationen, they told us. Still didn't quite make sense as far as their camera was concerned. It wasn't a computer. But everything about it, not just the shutter, but also the motor transport and even the lenses were "REAL TIME".
But whether those buzz words added to the allure, or just were a bit confusing, the RTS was a must have. A too expensive one, alas.
Thanks, Soeren and Q.G, at least I now have confirmation that the aperture scale was not electrically illuminated, and I'll investigate further. Possibly something is out of line within, and obstructing the passage of light to the display. I've found the whole "Real Time" thing amusing, in that (in retrospect) the RTS seems pretty much behind the times when it was released in 1975, and I suspect that the only truly innovative R model was the RTS III with it's vacuum system for flattening the film. While the shutter release is great, it's no better that the almost-contemporaneous Minolta skin-sensitive release, where a mere brush on the release button lit up the LED display, and a subsequent light pressure tripped the shutter.
I find the RTS's design with it's separate button to operate the display clumsy in the extreme, leaving me wondering just why this feature was adopted. While the RTS certainly has a rugged feel and I appreciate it's reputation for mechanical excellence, I know it's electronics have not survived the passage of time any better than many other models, and I'm left wondering just what all the fuss was about. Certainly, the lenses were top-class , but there are heaps of great lenses out there... Perhaps some Contax devotee can explain the charm!
I think that one of the more innovative features of the RTS was the use of a quartz clock timer to control the shutter speed. When used in auto (aperture priority) mode, I believe this permitted nearly step-less shutter speeds based on the metered light. I am guessing that this may be the reason for the "Real Time" designation, rather than the immediacy of the response to the shutter release (although I know some literature has preferred the later). I don't know of other cameras of the time that used this process.
I think the positioning of the button to activate the display was dictated by the desire to have a very sensitive and short throw shutter release, thus making a half press not practical/desirable. Based on RTS-II, the bodies of these cameras are quite rugged and hefty; the electronics, unfortunately, less so. Perhaps because of the sophistication required for the quartz timing.
Conrats Rick on a great combi price.. lens and camera. The body here alone in good condition will go
for that price sometimes but such lens are still ring cash registers in Europe. Especially the craze for
olds lens mounted on new digital gear Zeiss is Heiss (hot)
This body is on my list it fits my vanity to have a "Contax" and is likely to be lest expensive than the
later RX or II/III versions . I also am interested in the economy of design. The RTS was the original
flagship model and I recently came into a Yashica D tahtfor many is the Contax 139Q so though that
model may be cheaper to obtain I am interested in the original RTS ... THE "S" anniversary models are
also very interesting but also from price... too far out of my range!!
The FXD suffers from this same viewfinder problem that you describe and I suspect the Contax 139 ( a
later model ) had this same viewfinder though I'm speculating . The original RX is supposed to have a
Must admit when using the Contax winder (the one with the handle on the right) the meter activation button is almost impossible to use. Unless of course one has extra skinny fingers.
What a beautiful camera, Rick! Of course, the photos look great as usual. I've never owned a Contax but have often considered buying one, and this is tempting me quite a bit. I've thinned out my collection quite a bit, but I guess that only means that I now have more space to fill with more cameras, and this might be a great camera to add to my (now)spacious shelves. Thanks for sharing this!
Thanks, Andy, I'll try to do a more comprehensive post on the camera in the next few weeks. The snaps I posted really don't do it justice! Nice to hear that you have some shelf space. I don't dare build any more shelves... That doesn't sound like a very satisfactory design feature, Steve; having clumsy fingers I think I'll stick with the Yashica winder. And Chuck, that's interesting that the FXD had a similiar problem with the visibility of the aperture scale. I must investigate further, though it's not a big problem as I almost always work with my head in aperture-priority mode, and just like to see what the speeds are doing.
Fair comments, Mike. I seem to recall that "Quartz" was all the thing at that time, and I'm not sure how we ever survived without quartz crystals in our wrist watches. And Gus, what a wonderful collection of cameras!
The desirability of the name has always had more allure and I have next to no practical exposure.
While as you mentioned it was a bit late on the stage... this was for some A "Contax" that could do
what mose of the boys could do. In the catastrophe of tghe German camera industry of the mid to late
60s the a new "Mecca" was needed. Perhaps better late than never. The storied name name "Contax"
Like all the other boys.. "electonics" was it's star and achilles heel. The original RTS may have had the
quartz timed shutter though it ws never mentioned?!?. It did have changeable screens and mirror lock.
The model 139Q was a entry level successor advertised with the quartz timed shutter. It's successor the
137MA/MD ( onboard auto advance ) and 159MM+167MT were outfitted with more program modes and
MM lens support. Iwas entralled at the the RY with focus support ..never tried yet and I've heard it
ridiculed but back in the day when Contax refused to go Autofocus and abandon or rather refuse to
adapt their fixed lens mount, this seemed very interesting. The Contax S2 becaome the all mechincal
variities and still command a premium price. Taht a Japanese constrcutor releases an anniversary
"East" german model seemed a bit strange to me .. though again I'd love to have one. As already
mentioned they finally developed a autofocussing body with the AX model.
I have looked at quite a few bodies on Ebay and of course you will likely be recovering them, the all
looked pretty beat and rarely do they go below 75,00. The best price was EUR 49,00 but just too beat
up with dents in the prism. I'm holding out for the New Zealand special; Planar and body EUR 100,00
Oh I found this description for the meter on the RTS
Exposure setting: set the shutter speed Auto or manual, then press continuously the exposure check
front button over the self-timer lever, a red LED dot appears in the right of the speeds index, automatic
setting of the shutter speed corresponding the number in the index, if a second LED dot appears
automatic setting of shutter speed is between the numbers on the index; In manual speeds mode if the
red dot is over or under the setting of yours, the exposure is not correct, you must correct it by turning
aperture ring or speeds dial; Indeed, there is a line of 16-dot LED parallel to speeds index.
Very nice set of images, Rick, I'm not a big fan of 35mm -( much prefer medium format there is just something in those large negatives) but I enjoyed reading your write- up and I gotta say that for 80 bucks you got yourself a nice camera. Congrats.
Soeren, You don't post here often but when you do, I enjoy your images a lot. Your pictures always have this warm feel to it. Is it the film or processing?
The FXD doesn't have an aperture display in the viewfinder, just LEDs on a shutter speed scale (that can be a bit hard to see in bright light). I think the 139 does, though - perhaps this is the camera with a similar problem?
Perhaps the best thing to do about the display 'problem' is remind ourselves that there are cameras that don't have anything displayed in the viewfinder - neither shutterspeeds, apertures or focus confirmation - and are perfectly usable still.<br>Is it "a problem"?
Honestly, I tend to look at the lens aperture ring anyway since I learned on cameras that lacked VF display. So not a
problem for me.
Quite right, Mike and Q.G.; from an operational point of view the lack of the aperture scale matters not a jot. To "have things right" is just obsessive behaviour on the part of we collectors...Thanks for the information, Chuck, and while I'll have to say that I much prefer working in MF formats myself, Kris, I just find a fascination with the huge range of 35mm cameras.
I understand, Rick. In a Classic Camera Context "to have things right" could mean (in a collecting context it should mean) "to have things the way they made them, good or bad".
If in the present "Contaxt" the viewfinder display is unusable (or thereabouts) because of some form of damage the camera sustained during the last 40 years, it would require a fix. If it is unusable because they made it that way, it is an endearing quirk that is part of what the camera is (and that if it at some time had been fixed would have to be unfixed again).
But it's a big part of the fun of old, uhm... classic cameras, isn't it? Getting to know their peculiarities, their strong points and their weak points. Not knowing about them gives something to talk about and produces threads like this one. So isn't it good that they made it bad? ;-)
I've been the owner of a 139 with the Yashica 28ML and 135ML, as well as a Tokina 28-70 SZX (not bad BTW), and last year I stumbled upon this S2 with the Zeiss 50/1,4 ; 80-200/4 ; Mutar 2X converter ; 400/5,6 Sigma APO and Metz 40 flashgun. The whole lot in excellent condition for $120!. The Metz has let me down in the mean time (as some may have read in this forum) but I consider myself very lucky still, except that film is dying out completely in our country, Namibia . I haven't used anything except the 400 on Digital (a very pleasant lens), since I have to travel very far to have films developped, with usually bad results... Very frustrating. This is why you find very good stuff for cheap around here. You can't use them anymore! I guess there must be a few dozens film users left in the whole country.
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